AL East Positional Rankings: A Step Back in 2017 for Third Base

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Rafael Devers
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Rafael Devers /
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Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is a Gold Glove finalist, but where does he rank in Nate Wardle’s AL East third base rankings?

For several years, the AL East was home to the best third basemen in the game, with Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, and the Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado.

However, 2017 was a bit different. None of these guys were All-Stars. Donaldson was hurt, Machado was slumping and Longoria just had a down year.

In all honesty, that makes this year’s rankings easier.

In the preseason, the rankings were:

5. Boston Red Sox

4. New York Yankees

3. Tampa Bay Rays

2. Toronto Blue Jays

1. Baltimore Orioles

Before the season, my separator for Donaldson and Machado was Manny’s defense and his age. Let’s see if that kept him in first despite a somewhat subpar year, or if a surprising finisher took the top spot.

5. Boston Red SoxRafael Devers, Deven Marrero, Pablo Sandoval, Josh Rutledge

This one isn’t tough. Eight people started games at third base for the Red Sox, and one could argue that only one of them did it well.

It was another dismal year for Sandoval and spelled the end of his time in Boston. Pablo hit .212/.269/.354 with four home runs, two doubles, 12 runs batted in and 10 runs scored in 108 plate appearances. Add in a WAR of -1.0, and his defensive limitations and the Red Sox decided it was time to cut bait.

Marrero filled in from the time Sandoval lost the job until Devers was called up, along with Rutledge. Marrero hit .211/.259/.333 in 188 plate appearances, but his defense enabled him to have a WAR of 0.5. However, with those offensive numbers, it still wasn’t good.

Rutledge, similarly, hit .224/.297/.262 in 118 plate appearances, with a negative 0.5 WAR.

That leads us to Devers. The 20-year-old Red Sox third baseman of the future (potentially, if they don’t throw money at Mike Moustakas), Devers did .284/.338/.482 with 10 home runs, 14 doubles, 30 runs batted in and 34 runs scored in 240 plate appearances. Devers had a 1.4 offensive WAR, although he did struggle a bit defensively.

Devers had 14 errors in 149 chances, which makes for a dismal fielding percentage of .906. Clearly, his defense needs work. His range was also slightly below league average, but, compared with the rest of the options, the Red Sox took the bad defense with the good offense.

Moving forward, I expect the Red Sox to try to get a prized free agent, such as Moose, to play third base while Devers seasons a little more.