Ranking the Top 25 Third Basemen of the 2022 MLB Season
It's time to put a bow on the 2022 MLB season with Bleacher Report's final positional rankings.
Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now we'll finalize those rankings while expanding the list to the 25 best at each position.
Just like the regular-season rankings, past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order—this is a rundown of the best and brightest of 2022.
To qualify for inclusion, a player had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was only included at the position where he played the most innings. That notably excluded Bobby Witt Jr. (more innings at SS), Gunnar Henderson (132 PA), Mike Brosseau (160 PA), David Villar (181 PA) and Anthony Rendon (193 PA)
Let's dive into the top 25 third basemen of the 2022 season.
25. Josh Donaldson, New York Yankees
One of the most overpaid players in baseball in 2022 with a $21.8 million salary, Donaldson hit .222/.308/.374 for a 94 OPS+ with 28 doubles, 15 home runs and 62 RBI in a 2.4-WAR season in his first year in New York. The 36-year-old could be on the move again this offseason as the Yankees try to cut their losses.
24. Patrick Wisdom, Chicago Cubs
After a 28-homer rookie season earned him a fourth-place finish in 2021 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Wisdom posted a 102 OPS+ with 28 doubles, 25 home runs and 66 RBI in 134 games in his follow-up campaign. He hit just .207 and struck out 183 times, but his power production and on-base ability helped offset those shortcomings.
23. Jace Peterson, Milwaukee Brewers
A journeyman utility player with 1.4 WAR in 628 career games over eight years entering the 2021 campaign, Peterson had a 2.3-WAR season on the strength of his speed (12 SB) and elite defense (615.0 INN, 11 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150) at the hot corner. The 32-year-old could get a nice payday in free agency relative to the $1.8 million he earned in 2022.
22. Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
Muncy dealt with nagging injuries all season while also adjusting to being pushed off his natural position of first base. The 32-year-old played a career-high 84 games at third base while also seeing regular time at second base and designated hitter. He finished with a 96 OPS+, 22 doubles, 21 home runs and 69 RBI. A full offseason to rest and recover should make him a solid bounce-back candidate in 2023.
21. Eduardo Escobar, New York Mets
A first-time All-Star in 2021, Escobar signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets in free agency. The 33-year-old hit .321/.385/.596 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in 122 plate appearances over the final month to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. He'll need to produce more of the same in 2023 to hold off top prospect Brett Baty at third base.
20. Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies
Bohm dealt with some ups and downs both offensively and defensively as he continued to settle in as an everyday player in the big leagues. The 26-year-old hit .280/.315/.398 for a league-average 100 OPS+, tallying 24 doubles, 13 home runs, 72 RBI and 0.8 WAR in 152 games. Defensive consistency and tapping into more of his plus raw power will be the keys to taking the next step.
19. Luis Urías, Milwaukee Brewers
Urías missed the first 23 games of the season with a quad strain and took some time to get going once he returned, but he ultimately posted a 110 OPS+ with 17 doubles, 16 home runs and 47 RBI in 472 plate appearances. He has been a solid defensive third baseman the past two seasons despite being developed as a middle infielder in the minors.
18. Isaac Paredes, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays bought low on Paredes prior to the season, acquiring the former top-100 prospect from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Austin Meadows. The 23-year-old spent the first month of the season in the minors but wound up tying for Tampa Bay's team lead with 20 home runs in 381 plate appearances while playing all over the infield in a 2.3-WAR season.
17. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
After a slow first half, Turner rebounded to hit .319/.386/.503 in 184 plate appearances after the All-Star break. He finished with a 116 OPS+, 49 extra-base hits, 81 RBI and 2.0 WAR splitting his time between third base and designated hitter. The DH role might be where the 38-year-old fits best after the Dodgers declined his $16 million club option.
16. Josh Rojas, Arizona Diamondbacks
A super-utility player in 2021, Rojas settled in as Arizona's everyday third baseman this season. The 28-year-old hit .269/.349/.391 for a 111 OPS+ with 35 extra-base hits and 23 steals in 26 attempts. He may not fit the prototypical power-hitting third baseman profile, but his on-base ability, speed, gap power and defense made him a 3.2-WAR player in 2022.
15. Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
McMahon was a productive two-way player once again for the Rockies, hitting .246/.327/.414 with 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 67 RBI while posting stellar defensive metrics (11 DRS, 3.3 UZR/150) to earn a place among the NL Gold Glove finalists. The Rockies signed him to a six-year, $70 million extension in March.
14. Gio Urshela, Minnesota Twins
Urshela outperformed Josh Donaldson by a wide margin, so Minnesota's offseason wheeling and dealing with the Yankees proved fruitful at third base. The 31-year-old posted a 121 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 13 home runs and 64 RBI in a 3.1-WAR season. He'll move into a super-utility role after Minnesota traded him to the Los Angeles Angels last week.
13. DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees
As usual, LeMahieu bounced around defensively, spending time at third base (385.2 innings), second base (312.2 innings) and first base (265.0 innings). A foot injury slowed him during the second half, and he hit just .228/.308/.327 after the All-Star break, but he still finished with a 111 OPS+ and 3.8 WAR in 125 games.
12. Ramón Urías, Baltimore Orioles
Urías was one of the most underrated players in baseball during the 2022 season. The 28-year-old posted a 103 OPS+ with 16 home runs and 51 RBI while turning in terrific defensive metrics (14 DRS, 11.3 UZR/150) en route to a 3.6-WAR season and AL Gold Glove honors. He became the first player born in Mexico to win a Gold Glove since Fernando Valenzuela in 1986.
11. Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates
If anyone can pry the NL Gold Glove away from Nolan Arenado after 10 straight wins, it's Hayes. The 25-year-old hit a modest .244/.314/.345 for an 87 OPS+ in 136 games, but he racked up 4.3 WAR thanks to his stellar glove work at the hot corner. His 24 DRS led baseball during the 2022 season, and he has a ton of untapped offensive potential.
10. Brandon Drury, Cincinnati Reds/San Diego Padres
There was not a better $900,000 spent during the 2022 season than the minor league deal the Cincinnati Reds gave to journeyman Brandon Drury.
Injuries opened the door for the 30-year-old to step into an everyday role, and he hit .274/.335/.520 for a 128 OPS+ with 22 doubles, 20 home runs and 59 RBI in 92 games before the Reds traded him to the San Diego Padres at the Aug. 2 deadline.
He closed out the season with a 122 OPS+, slugging 31 doubles and 28 home runs in a career-high 568 plate appearances. Free agency figures to be a decidedly different experience this winter as he'll be an in-demand target for multiple teams.
9. Matt Chapman, Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2022 season, and he provided his usual mix of elite defense and power production in his first season with his new team.
The 29-year-old had a red-hot month of July, hitting .325/.396/.699 with nine home runs and 22 RBI in 96 plate appearances. That helped prop up his overall stat line as he cooled off considerably down the stretch.
All told, he hit .229/.324/.433 for a 115 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 27 home runs and 76 RBI in 155 games, matching his 2021 value with a second straight 3.5-WAR season. The Blue Jays signed him to a two-year, $25 million deal after acquiring him to buy out his final two years of arbitration.
8. Eugenio Suárez, Seattle Mariners
Who would have guessed Eugenio Suárez would be a top-10 third baseman after Cincinnati dealt him to the Seattle Mariners in what amounted to a salary dump as part of the Jesse Winker trade?
The 31-year-old led the American League with 196 strikeouts, but he still hit .236/.332/.459 for a 129 OPS+ while tallying 24 doubles, 31 home runs and 87 RBI in a 3.9-WAR season while serving as a veteran leader on a young Seattle squad.
The $22.6 million he will earn over the next two seasons looks like a solid bargain for the Mariners as they continue to build toward title contention.
7. Yandy Díaz, Tampa Bay Rays
It's not often in today's game that a player finishes a season with more walks than strikeouts, but that's what Yandy Díaz did in 2022, tallying 78 walks against just 60 strikeouts on his way to a terrific .401 on-base percentage.
The result was a unique season relative to what one might expect out of a 3.5-WAR player, but there's no denying the value he provided with a 143 OPS+ and 42 extra-base hits in 558 plate appearances.
6. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Alex Bregman turned in disappointing seasons in 2020 and 2021 compared with the lofty bar he set in 2019 when he was AL MVP runner-up, but he started to look like that elite player again during the second half of the 2022 campaign.
The 28-year-old hit .287/.379/.515 after the All-Star break, good for a 130-point spike in OPS from his first-half numbers. He finished the season with a 133 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 23 home runs, 93 RBI and 93 runs scored.
With two years remaining on the five-year, $100 million extension he signed before the 2019 season, he has plenty of time to return to top-tier form before he hits free agency.
5. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Rafael Devers ranked fifth in OPS+ among qualified third basemen, and his defensive metrics were the worst of those five players. For those who think he belongs higher, it's tough to justify slotting him further up this list.
It was another terrific offensive season for the homegrown Boston Red Sox star as he hit .295/.358/.521 for a 141 OPS+ with 42 doubles, 27 home runs, 88 RBI and 84 runs scored in a 4.4-WAR season.
But his defensive metrics (-6 DRS, -2.1 UZR/150) were poor once again, and his career metrics (-44 DRS, -3.8 UZR/150) point toward an inevitable move across the diamond to first base. Will the Red Sox hammer out a long-term extension before he reaches free agency next offseason?
4. Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves
One of the breakout stars of 2021, Austin Riley hit .303/.367/.531 with 33 home runs and 107 RBI in his first full season as an everyday player in the big leagues.
The 25-year-old proved that performance was the real deal in 2022, setting career highs in OPS+ (142), doubles (39), home runs (38) and WAR (6.5) while leading the National League with 325 total bases.
The Braves wisely locked him up with a 10-year, $212 million extension in August. He wrapped up the season by finishing sixth in NL MVP voting as he cemented his place as one of the best young run producers in baseball.
3. José Ramírez, Cleveland Guardians
For the fourth time in the last six years, Cleveland Guardians star José Ramírez finished in the top five in AL MVP voting in 2022, checking in fourth behind Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Yordan Alvarez.
The 30-year-old hit .280/.355/.514 for a 148 OPS+ with an AL-leading 44 doubles, 29 home runs and a career-high 126 RBI. He added 20 steals for the fourth 20/20 season of his career.
After years as a speculative trade candidate, he signed a seven-year, $141 million extension in April, the largest contract given out in Cleveland franchise history.
2. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
With Fernando Tatis Jr. watching from the sidelines, Manny Machado was the centerpiece of the San Diego Padres offense as he put together one of the finest seasons of his career and finished runner-up in NL MVP voting.
The 30-year-old hit .298/.366/.531 for a 159 OPS+ with 37 doubles, 32 home runs and 102 RBI in a 6.8-WAR season. He had a .907 OPS with 17 home runs in 67 games after the All-Star break to help the Padres chase down a playoff spot.
He posted negative defensive metrics at third base (-3 DRS, -1.1 UZR/150) for the first time in his career, but he was still a top-tier third baseman and one of the best all-around players in the sport.
1. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado may have finished behind Manny Machado in NL MVP voting, but that's because Machado had less support, not because he had a better season.
Arenado hit .293/.358/.533 for a similar 154 OPS+, tallying 42 doubles, 30 home runs and 103 RBI for the seventh 30-homer, 100-RBI season of his impressive career. His 7.9 WAR was far superior thanks to his elite defense.
With the decision to opt into his remaining contract in October, he'll be with the Cardinals through the 2027 season.