Reviewing the AL East Projections: Third Base


Jun 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) chases a wild throw as Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) is safe at third in the eighth inning at Rogers Centre. Toronto defeated Baltimore 5-4. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, I was way, way off here.

I had Pablo Sandoval as the best third baseman in the division. He was the worst. I had Josh Donaldson fourth, thinking he could not be quite as good in 2015 and in the AL East as he was in 2014. He was better. He was the best third baseman in baseball, and maybe the AL MVP

I had Manny Machado behind Evan Longoria. He was probably the second-best third baseman in baseball, definitely the second-best in the AL, and a MVP candidate in his own right.

Alright, without further ado, time to admit my failures. Rankings at third will include players who started at least five games at the position, since several AL East third basemen played almost every game.

Preseason Rankings

  1. Boston Red Sox – Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, Garin Cecchini
  2. Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria, Logan Forsythe, Juan Francisco
  3. Baltimore Orioles – Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty, Jimmy Paredes, Steve Pearce
  4. Toronto Blue Jays – Josh Donaldson, Danny Valencia, Steve Tolleson
  5. New York Yankees – Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Pirela

End of Season Rankings

1. Toronto Blue Jays – Josh Donaldson, Danny Valencia

Yep, I was wrong. I thought Donaldson was going to have a down year this year. And boy, was I wrong. However, I will admit that I was right on defense. Yes, Donaldson had a dWAR of 1.5, which is second for third basemen in the division (behind Machado), but I can’t put him ahead of Evan Longoria defensively, after watching many games of both.  Donaldson also had the third-most errors at third base in the AL.

However, back to what Donaldson did really, really well in 2015.  Which was pretty much anything. Donaldson was an All-Star who hit .297 with a league-leading 123 RBIs, a league-leading 122 runs, 184 hits, 41 home runs, 41 doubles and 352 total bases, which led the AL. He also led the league in sacrifice flies with 10. A complete year.

Donaldson was second in WAR to Mike Trout, and second in offensive WAR to Trout. He was top five in almost every offensive category in the league. Donaldson should be the MVP in the American League.

Valencia had a very, very good year, both in limited appearances for the Jays, but more so when he was acquired off waivers late in the year by the Oakland Athletics and had the season to play every day. Probably the best year of his career, and showed he can hit both righties and lefties.

2. Baltimore Orioles – Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty

Any other year, Machado is probably number one. The concern going into the season was whether Manny could stay healthy. Well, he only played in every single one of the Orioles games, and was in the field for each of them.

Machado hit .286, the best average of his career. With that, 35 HRs, 86 RBIs, 102 runs, 181 hits, 318 total bases. He had an offensive WAR of 5.7, fourth in the AL behind Trout, Donaldson and Cruz. His total WAR was fifth for position players, behind Trout, Donaldson, Kevin Kiermaier (more on him eventually) and Lorenzo Cain. Manny was an All-Star himself, and top 10 in almost every offensive category. All of this while batting leadoff most of the season.

It is very easy to forget that Manny is only 22 years old.

3. Tampa Bay Rays – Evan Longoria, Jake Elmore

Evan Longoria finished a hard luck third, despite having a pretty good season for the Rays. Evan played in 160 games, starting 14 at third. Longoria hit .270, 21 HRs, 73 RBIs, 74 runs, 263 total bases. Longoria also only had nine errors, much fewer than Machado and Donaldson, and the best fielding percentage at the position in the AL.

I think, from watching Longoria, that he feels pressure trying to carry too much weight in the Rays’ offense. Longoria is only one player, but with so little offense around him, and particularly a dearth of power, Longoria often has to try to hit home runs and get RBIs, and it probably affects him.

Elmore only played a handful of games, but was another young guy who played admirably for the Rays, giving them hope for the future.

4. New York Yankees – Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan

Anyone who thought that Headley would get back to putting up the numbers he did in San Diego in New York, well I have land to sell you in Oklahoma. The AL East is just not as easy to perform in, as several other AL East third basemen found out. Headley hit .259 with 11 home runs, 62 RBIs, 74 runs, 214 total bases and a large number, 135 strikeouts.

Headley also committed 23 errors at third base, the highest number of errors by an AL East third baseman. Ryan, as discussed when talking about second base, had arguably his worst year in years, and third base was a position of weakness for the Yankees, especially compared to the rest of the division.

5. Boston Red Sox – Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, Deven Marrero, Travis Shaw

Oh, it was tough for KungFu Panda. Sandoval hit .245, with 10 home runs, 47 RBIs, 43 runs, 172 total bases, and his defense is pretty bad — with a .949 fielding percentage. So much was expected from Sandoval, who the Red Sox paid 17.6 million dollars to obtain. What they got was a player who had a NEGATIVE WAR for 2015. Not at all what they were expecting, and not at all what I was expecting.

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Holt was fantastic all over the diamond, while Marrero and Shaw both only played a handful of games at third base, mostly in August and September. Shaw showed that he may have a future for the Red Sox, but the team has to be wondering if this was an aberration or whether the AL East is a different beast for Sandoval.

Orioles Outlook

Bright as can be. Manny, as long as he is healthy, will be fantastic. He was durable, hit for power, was a great defender (and can be better too) and was everything the Orioles asked for in 2015. The only way it changes is if he gets moved to shortstop, as that position has a lot more questions. Regardless, whatever position Manny plays, the Orioles will be fine.

Next: Looking back at preseason AL East rankings at 1st base

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