MLB Position Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 Third Basemen
There might be no position in baseball more top-heavy than third base.
Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado represent four of the game's truly elite talents and the second tier of Adrian Beltre, Jose Ramirez, Anthony Rendon, Kyle Seager and Justin Turner isn't too shabby either.
Ahead, we've set out to identify the top 30 third basemen in the league heading into the 2017 season.
A few things to consider before we get started:
- League averages: For the sake of reference, the league average triple-slash line for a third baseman last season was .266/.331/.445.
- Eligibility: A player must have played at least 300 innings at third base last season to be eligible for inclusion on this list. The exception to that rule was players set to make a position change this coming season. That notably included Jedd Gyorko.
The other important thing to note is that the goal here was to identify the 30 best third basemen for the 2017 season—and the 2017 season alone.
Someone like Alex Bregman has more upside than Evan Longoria going forward, but is he going to be better this year?
Think of this as a big board for the position if the entire league was doing a redraft for one all-or-nothing season in 2017.
Note: DEF represents a player's total defensive value to compare across positions. The DEF number presented on each slide has been adjusted to show only 3B value for those who play multiple positions. Zero is league average.
30. Trevor Plouffe, Oakland Athletics
2016 Offensive: .260 BA, .723 OPS, 83 H, 26 XBH (12 HR), 47 RBI, 35 R
2016 Defensive: -4 DRS, -17.1 UZR/150, -6.8 DEF
Trevor Plouffe actually had some legitimate trade value heading into last season.
A staple at third base for the Minnesota Twins, Plouffe had quietly emerged as a solid option on both sides of the ball.
The former first-round pick posted a .746 OPS and averaged 38 doubles, 18 home runs and 83 RBI and coupled with his solid glove work, he racked up a combined 6.4 WAR between 2014 and 2015.
However, the Twins opted against trading him last winter—making the ill-advised decision to try Miguel Sano in right field instead—and his value bottomed out in an injury-plagued season.
A fractured rib and a strained oblique limited the 30-year-old to just 84 games and the Twins non-tendered him in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
He landed in Oakland on a one-year, $5.25 million deal and he's capable of providing some positive value at that price if he can stay healthy.
Honorable Mentions: Christian Arroyo (SF), Jeimer Candelario (CHC), Cheslor Cuthbert (KC), Wilmer Flores (NYM), Adonis Garcia (ATL), Conor Gillaspie (SF), Hernan Perez (MIL), Jose Reyes (NYM), Pablo Sandoval (BOS), David Wright (NYM)
29. Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
2016 Offensive: .260 BA, .715 OPS, 75 H, 26 XBH (8 HR), 29 RBI, 37 R
2016 Defensive: -7 DRS, -19.7 UZR/150, -7.8 DEF
A thumb injury to incumbent shortstop Jhonny Peralta last spring proved to be a blessing in disguise for the St. Louis Cardinals, as it opened the door for a breakout season from Aledmys Diaz.
Peralta returned to the active roster in early June as a man without a position, before eventually settling in as the primary third baseman down the stretch.
With the team committed to giving Kolten Wong the opportunity to man second base on an everyday basis, Peralta will now be forced to battle for playing time with Jedd Gyorko at the hot corner.
The 34-year-old Peralta is in the final year of a four-year, $53 million deal, and while he won't provide much in the way of defensive value, he still has enough pop to warrant at least semi-regular playing time.
28. Yunel Escobar, Los Angeles Angels
2016 Offensive: .304 BA, .745 OPS, 157 H, 34 XBH (5 HR), 39 RBI, 68 R
2016 Defensive: -11 DRS, -8.6 UZR/150, -3.9 DEF
Yunel Escobar ranks sixth among qualified hitters with a .309 average over the past two seasons.
However, he doesn't provide much in the way of power to accompany that average, he's not a threat on the bases and his defense during that span (-22 DRS) has been poor at best.
In the fantasy baseball world, he's the definition of a one-category contributor.
In the real world, he's a useful table-setter ahead of guys like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the Los Angeles Angels lineup, but that's the extent of his value.
He's a good role player on a second-tier team.
27. David Freese, Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 Offensive: .270 BA, .764 OPS, 118 H, 36 XBH (13 HR), 55 RBI, 63 R
2016 Defensive: 5 DRS, 5.2 UZR/150, 3.8 DEF
David Freese had to wait until March 12 before agreeing to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last offseason.
Less than seven months later, he signed a two-year, $11 million extension that includes a $6 million club option for 2019.
Talk about making a good impression.
The 33-year-old split his time between first and third base in his Pirates debut and he could be used as a platoon partner for rookie Josh Bell this season along with his part-time duties at the hot corner.
While he may not see 500 plate appearances again, he's a solid hitter with good pop and proven run production skills and he remains an above-average defender at the hot corner to boot.
26. Ryon Healy, Oakland Athletics
2016 Offensive: .305 BA, .861 OPS, 82 H, 33 XBH (13 HR), 37 RBI, 36 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, -17.5 UZR/150, -8.3 DEF
Matt Chapman and Renato Nunez.
Which highly regarded youngster would stake the first claim to the starting third base job for the Oakland Athletics?
The answer: Neither, as breakout prospect Ryon Healy beat them both to the big leagues in 2016.
The offseason addition of Trevor Plouffe likely means Healy will see the bulk of his playing time in the DH role this coming year, and that fits, as his bat was clearly the driving force behind his value as a rookie.
Given the current makeup of the Oakland lineup, it's not out of the question to think that Healy could be slotted in the No. 3 or 4 spot in the lineup and asked to be one of the club's primary run producers alongside Khris Davis.
25. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds
2016 Offensive: .248 BA, .728 OPS, 140 H, 48 XBH (21 HR), 70 RBI, 78 R
2016 Defensive: 1 DRS, 0.7 UZR/150, 3.0 DEF
Eugenio Suarez made the most of his opportunity in 2015 when an injury to Zack Cozart opened the door for him to see regular playing time.
Over 398 plate appearances, he posted a .761 OPS with 19 doubles and 13 home runs, and when the Reds traded Todd Frazier last offseason, Suarez was quickly installed as the everyday third baseman.
The 25-year-old stormed out of the gates with an .883 OPS that included five home runs and 14 RBI in his first 19 games.
However, his performance leveled off from there and he went on to hit .240/.311/.394 with 24 doubles, 16 home runs and 56 RBI over his final 140 games.
For a natural shortstop, Suarez is a solid defender at the hot corner and he's still young enough to provide intriguing upside at the plate.
24. Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers
2016 Offensive: .242 BA, .726 OPS, 116 H, 52 XBH (16 HR), 71 RBI, 63 R
2016 Defensive: 10 DRS, 1.6 UZR/150, 2.6 DEF
Travis Shaw got off to a red-hot start last season but quickly crashed back to earth.
- April-May: 215 PA, .292 BA, .866 OPS, 17 2B, 7 HR, 35 RBI
- June-Oct: 315 PA, .207 BA, .631 OPS, 17 2B, 9 HR, 36 RBI
The Milwaukee Brewers acquired him from the Boston Red Sox along with a pair of prospects during the winter meetings in exchange for reliever Tyler Thornburg, hoping to see more of the player who turned heads last spring.
Considering he won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2018 season and is under team control through 2021, it was a chance worth taking for the rebuilding Brewers.
If nothing else, he proved to be a terrific defender and continued to show decent pop even when his average dropped off.
23. Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis Cardinals
2016 Offensive: .243 BA, .801 OPS, 97 H, 40 XBH (30 HR), 59 RBI, 58 R
2016 Defensive: 2 DRS, 8.4 UZR/150, 2.2 DEF
The Jedd Gyorko-for-Jon Jay swap last offseason looked like a reasonable move for both sides that would be of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.
Then Gyorko went out and hit 30 home runs in 438 plate appearances.
Now the St. Louis Cardinals are tasked with finding a way to get his bat into the lineup on a regular basis, as Kolten Wong is expected to settle in as the everyday second baseman and Jhonny Peralta has been pushed to the hot corner by Aledmys Diaz.
Even if he doesn't see 500 plate appearances, Gyorko has legitimate power and should be able to eclipse the 20-homer mark again with no problem.
And while he's played mostly second base in the big leagues, he was drafted and developed as a third baseman, so a return to his natural position could boost his defensive value.
22. Chase Headley, New York Yankees
2016 Offensive: .253 BA, .716 OPS, 118 H, 33 XBH (14 HR), 51 RBI, 58 R
2016 Defensive: 7 DRS, 8.6 UZR/150, 8.6 DEF
Remember when Chase Headley was the best offensive player in baseball for half a season?
While still playing for the San Diego Padres back in 2012, Headley followed up a respectable first half by posting a .978 OPS with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 75 games after the All-Star break.
Needless to say, that performance was not repeatable.
In the four years since, he's posted a .713 OPS (99 OPS+) and averaged 26 doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBI per season.
On the plus side, he's been good for 19 DRS and a 9.1 UZR/150 over that same four-year span.
The Yankees' infield situation is about to get awfully crowded, but for now, he remains the everyday third baseman.
21. Eduardo Nunez, San Francisco Giants
2016 Offensive: .288 BA, .758 OPS, 159 H, 44 XBH (16 HR), 67 RBI, 73 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, 3.4 UZR/150, 2.8 DEF
As far as unlikely All-Stars go, Eduardo Nunez ranks right up there.
Over his first six seasons in the league, Nunez hit .267/.308/.388 and never saw more than 338 plate appearances in a year while posting a combined 0.3 WAR.
Serving in a super utility role for the Minnesota Twins, he earned a spot on the AL All-Star team and turned himself into a coveted trade chip, eventually joining the San Francisco Giants at the deadline.
Now he'll enter his first full season with the team as the starting third baseman.
Despite the presence of up-and-coming prospect Christian Arroyo and postseason hero Conor Gillaspie, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated recently that Nunez is still slated to be the starting third baseman.
"I thought he did a really nice job for us last year," Bochy told Carl Steward of the Mercury News. "He played a really good defensive third base and once he got settled in, he showed the player that he is."
Nunez provided a rare mix of power and speed last season with 44 extra-base hits and 40 stolen bases.
20. Yangervis Solarte, San Diego Padres
2016 Offensive: .286 BA, .808 OPS, 116 H, 42 XBH (15 HR), 71 RBI, 55 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, -0.3 UZR/150, 1.0 DEF
The San Diego Padres made a modest commitment to Yangervis Solarte this offseason as a potential cornerstone piece of their rebuilding efforts.
The 29-year-old signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal that includes a $5.5 million option for 2019 and an $8 million option for 2020.
That came on the heels of a career-best offensive season that included an .808 OPS and 42 extra-base hits along with passable defense at the hot corner.
Solarte came to the Padres from the New York Yankees in exchange for another player on this list—Chase Headley—at the trade deadline in 2014, and he's gone from an intriguing utility player to a quality everyday option.
19. Martin Prado, Miami Marlins
2016 Offensive: .305 BA, .775 OPS, 183 H, 48 XBH (8 HR), 75 RBI, 70 R
2016 Defensive: 3 DRS, 3.6 UZR/150, 5.6 DEF
The Miami Marlins had no interest in letting Martin Prado test the market.
After hitting .305 and finishing sixth in the NL with 183 hits, Prado agreed to a three-year, $40 million extension on Oct. 5.
"Martin obviously is a guy that’s been really good for our club," manager Don Mattingly told Tim Healey of the Sun-Sentinel. "I think he’s a leader from the standpoint of our young guys in—as much as anything—the way he goes about his business."
With gap power, a high batting average and steady defense, he'll be a big part of the Marlins push back toward contention in the upcoming season.
18. Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates
2016 Offensive: .255 BA, .867 OPS, 81 H, 40 XBH (21 HR), 62 RBI, 45 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, -4.6 UZR/150, -1.7 DEF
It remains to be seen when Jung Ho Kang will take the field in 2017.
The 29-year-old was sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence that will be suspended two years after his third DUI arrest during the offseason. As long as he doesn't violate the terms of his sentence over those two years, he won't serve any jail time, but at this point, he's still in South Korea awaiting his work visa.
Those off-field issues cost him a place on his country's World Baseball Classic roster and it's not out of the question to think he could receive a suspension of some sort from the league once he does arrive stateside.
The Pirates have a viable everyday replacement in the interim in David Freese, but not having Kang in the lineup is a blow nonetheless.
He's the first position player to successfully make the jump from the KBO to MLB and has posted an .838 OPS with 36 home runs and 120 RBI in 837 plate appearances his first two seasons in Pittsburgh.
While he's capable of playing both shortstop and third base, he's an average defender at best.
17. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
2016 Offensive: .255 BA, .733 OPS, 148 H, 49 XBH (25 HR), 88 RBI, 67 R
2016 Defensive: -6 DRS, -1.0 UZR/150, 1.3 DEF
The Philadelphia Phillies are a team on the rise and Maikel Franco has a chance to be one of the headliners in the years to come.
In fact, bench coach Larry Bowa views him as the biggest X-factor for the offense in 2017.
"To me, Mikey Franco is the key to our offense," Bowa told Andrew Porter of CBS Philly. "If Franco has the kind of year we all think he can have and [Howie] Kendrick and [Michael] Saunders are basically the two guys that keep everything going, I think we can have a lot of fun here. But those kids gotta improve."
Franco led the Phillies with 25 home runs and 88 RBI last season, but his OPS dropped from .840 to .733 as he failed to duplicate his impressive rookie performance.
Better protection in the lineup could go a long way in helping him reach his offensive potential, and it's important to remember that he's still just 24, so there's plenty of reason for optimism.
16. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
2016 Offensive: .236 BA, .781 OPS, 103 H, 48 XBH (25 HR), 66 RBI, 57 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, 2.7 UZR/150, 1.4 DEF
No one questions the power potential of Miguel Sano.
After posting a .916 OPS with 17 doubles and 18 home runs in 335 plate appearances to finish third in AL Rookie of Year in 2015, big things were expected from the Dominican native this past season.
However, Sano saw his OPS dip to .781 in his first full season, as he struck out at a 36.0 percent clip and only added seven home runs to his total in 160 additional plate appearances.
Luckily, he's still just 23 years old and a return to his natural position after an ill-advised experiment in right field should help him settle in.
There's legitimate 40-homer potential here and he's a better defender than you might expect.
15. Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals
2016 Offensive: .240 BA, .801 OPS, 25 H, 13 XBH (7 HR), 13 RBI, 12 R
2016 Defensive: 1 DRS, 15.5 UZR/150, 2.8 DEF
Mike Moustakas has a lot to prove this year.
The former top prospect turned in a breakout season in 2015, posting an .817 OPS with 22 home runs and 82 RBI to earn his first All-Star appearance and help lead the Kansas City Royals to a World Series title.
He was off to a nice start once again last season before suffering a torn ACL in May that ended his season.
Now the 28-year-old is entering a contract year and looking to prove he belongs among the game's elite third basemen.
While he hasn't developed into the power threat he appeared destined to be after a 36-homer season in the minors in 2010, he has the all-around skills to be worth a hefty contract if he can prove he's back to 100 percent.
14. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
2016 Offensive: .249 BA, .840 OPS, 130 H, 69 XBH (29 HR), 91 RBI, 81 R
2016 Defensive: -8 DRS, -12.3 UZR/150, -9.0 DEF
Jake Lamb is a tough one to peg in these rankings.
After drawing more praise for his glove than his bat during his time in the minors, Lamb turned in a breakout offensive season last year, accompanied by somewhat shoddy glove work.
The big offensive numbers weren't quite what they seemed either, as he cooled considerably down the stretch.
- April-July: 376 PA, .282 BA, .945 OPS, 22 2B, 21 HR, 66 RBI
- Aug-Sept: 218 PA, .189 BA, .658 OPS, 9 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI
Lamb has the potential to develop into a prototypical third baseman with the tools to be an above-average defender and a middle-of-the-order slugger.
However, his brutal finish to the 2016 season makes him perhaps the biggest question mark at the position.
13. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
2016 Offensive: .285 BA, .827 OPS, 117 H, 47 XBH (18 HR), 58 RBI, 54 R
2016 Defensive: -11 DRS, -9.7 UZR/150, -5.3 DEF
It's hard to believe Nick Castellanos is still only 25 years old.
The former first-round pick debuted as a 21-year-old down the stretch in 2013 and took over as the Detroit Tigers' everyday third baseman the following season.
After posting a .700 OPS as a rookie and a .721 OPS the following season, he was on his way to a breakout season last year when injury struck.
Castellanos had an .831 OPS with 23 doubles, 18 home runs and 58 RBI on Aug. 6 when he suffered a broken left hand that limited him to just five games the rest of the way.
He may never be a plus on the defensive side of things, but with an advanced hit tool and developing power, he could still develop into a star at the plate.
12. Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox
2016 Offensive: .225 BA, .767 OPS, 133 H, 61 XBH (40 HR), 98 RBI, 89 R
2016 Defensive: -2 DRS, -3.6 UZR/150, -1.7 DEF
The good: Todd Frazier slugged a career-best 40 home runs in his first season with the Chicago White Sox.
The bad: His batting average plummeted 30 points to .225. Even with the power surge, he finished with an only slightly-above-average .767 OPS (109 OPS+) and he saw a steep decline in both DRS (6 to -2) and UZR/150 (7.5 to -3.6) in the field.
It's fair to assume his days are numbered with the rebuilding White Sox, and even if he isn't traded, he's almost certain to walk in free agency next winter.
"I've thought about it, but not to the extent where it's going to bother me the whole year," Frazier told Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. "Let's work on this year, right now. When the time comes, let's see what happens. Chicago is a nice place to play, and I'd like to play here."
The chance to be one of the headliners of next year's free-agent class should be plenty of motivation for a bounce-back season.
11. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
2016 Offensive: .264 BA, .791 OPS, 53 H, 24 XBH (8 HR), 34 RBI, 31 R
2016 Defensive: 5 DRS, -5.1 UZR/150, -0.7 DEF
Alex Bregman started his MLB career with a thud.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft raced through the minors to earn a second-half promotion, but he stumbled to a 2-for-38 (.053 BA) start upon arriving in Houston.
A 3-for-5 performance on Aug. 6 that included his first extra-base hit proved to be a turning point.
He went on to hit .313/.354/.577 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 34 RBI in 175 plate appearances over his final 39 games.
That impressive performance at the plate came while he was making the transition from shortstop to third base defensively, as he's firmly blocked at his natural position by another up-and-coming superstar in Carlos Correa.
Bregman still has a lot to prove, but his upside is undeniable.
10. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
2016 Offensive: .273 BA, .840 OPS, 173 H, 81 XBH (36 HR), 98 RBI, 81 R
2016 Defensive: -9 DRS, 0.8 UZR/150, 2.8 DEF
The Tampa Bay Rays added some pop last offseason in the form of Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller, helping support slugger Evan Longoria in the middle of the lineup.
The result was one of the best offensive seasons of his career.
The 31-year-old launched a career-high 36 home runs, and his .840 OPS was his highest mark since 2013—a nice uptick from the .744 OPS he had posted over the previous two seasons.
Longoria will go down as the greatest player in Tampa Bay Rays history when all is said and done. He's currently signed through the 2022 season with an option for 2023, so there's a good chance he plays out the entirety of his career with the organization.
While he may not be the Gold Glove defender he was earlier in his career, he's still plenty capable with the glove.
9. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
2016 Offensive: .312 BA, .825 OPS, 176 H, 60 XBH (11 HR), 76 RBI, 84 R
2016 Defensive: -1 DRS, 5.7 UZR/150, 4.7 DEF
The Cleveland Indians probably don't play in the 2016 World Series without the contributions of Jose Ramirez.
Ousted at his natural shortstop position by budding superstar Francisco Lindor, Ramirez began the year in a bench role and saw just 60 plate appearances in April.
However, the ongoing shoulder issues of Michael Brantley and a slumping Juan Uribe allowed Ramirez to hit his way into more playing time, and when Uribe was finally released on Aug. 1, he officially took over as the everyday third baseman.
By season's end, he had tallied 618 plate appearances and was one of just eight players around the league and the only third baseman to tally 60 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases.
Still just 24, he's now a vital piece of the puzzle for an Indians team with lofty expectations for the upcoming season.
8. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
2016 Offensive: .270 BA, .797 OPS, 153 H, 60 XBH (20 HR), 85 RBI, 91 R
2016 Defensive: 8 DRS, 12.2 UZR/150, 12.9 DEF
Health concerns caused Anthony Rendon to slip to No. 6 overall in the 2008 draft, and the injury bug reared it's ugly head again in 2015 when he was limited to just 80 games.
That came after a breakout season in 2014 in which the Rice University alum posted an .824 OPS with 39 doubles, 21 home runs, 83 RBI, 111 runs scored and 17 stolen bases for a 6.6 WAR and a fifth-place finish in NL MVP voting.
With the nagging knee and oblique issues behind him, he returned to standout form last season and took home NL Comeback Player of the Year honors for his efforts.
Now he's eyeing another healthy season in the middle of a dangerous Washington Nationals lineup.
"I feel like I'm doing everything in my power to stay healthy," Rendon told Jamal Collier of MLB.com. "Just want to be out there everyday."
7. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
2016 Offensive: .275 BA, .832 OPS, 153 H, 64 XBH (27 HR), 90 RBI, 79 R
2016 Defensive: 7 DRS, 17.2 UZR/150, 16.2 DEF
As a whole, it was not a lucrative offseason for free agents.
However, Justin Turner was one of the few exceptions, inking a four-year, $64 million deal to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Turner was a career .260/.323/.361 hitter with a 0.8 WAR over parts of five seasons when the New York Mets non-tendered him as a 28-year-old prior to the 2014 season.
He landed with the Dodgers and immediately became a key contributor, hitting .340/.404/.493 with a 4.2 WAR in a part-time utility role.
After replacing Juan Uribe as the starting third baseman down the stretch in 2015, he finally topped 500 plate appearances for the first time in his career last season.
The result was a tie for the team lead in home runs (27) and RBI (90), and a stellar showing defensively that earned him a place among the Gold Glove finalists.
Turner has piled up 13.1 WAR over the past three seasons, and there's no reason to think he won't be worth every penny of his new contract.
6. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners
2016 Offensive: .278 BA, .859 OPS, 166 H, 69 XBH (30 HR), 99 RBI, 89 R
2016 Defensive: 15 DRS, 3.5 UZR/150, 6.2 DEF
For me, it's a coin flip between Kyle Seager and Christian Yelich for the title of most underrated player in baseball.
Seager has long been a steady, under-the-radar contributor for the Seattle Mariners, averaging a .768 OPS and 33 doubles, 23 home runs, 81 RBI as well as a 4.2 WAR per season from 2012 to 2015.
He took his offensive game to another level last season, though.
The 29-year-old joined Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz to give the M's a trio of 30-homer sluggers, and he also remained one of the league's elite defensive third basemen—setting a new career-high with 15 DRS.
Seager signed a seven-year, $100 million extension prior to the 2015 season, and that already looks like a bargain for Seattle.
However, he still has work to do to keep pace with his brother, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.
5. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
2016 Offensive: .300 BA, .879 OPS, 175 H, 64 XBH (32 HR), 104 RBI, 89 R
2016 Defensive: 15 DRS, 13.2 UZR/150, 16.5 DEF
At some point Adrian Beltre is going to start to decline, right?
The 37-year-old was in peak form once again last season, posting the fourth 30-homer, 100-RBI season of his career and grading out as the most valuable defensive third baseman in the majors.
His career WAR now stands at 90.2, good for fourth all-time among third basemen and trailing only that of Mike Schmidt (106.5), Eddie Mathews (96.4) and Wade Boggs (91.1).
That means he's ahead of Hall of Fame legends George Brett (88.4), Brooks Robinson (78.4) and Ron Santo (70.4), as well as future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (85.0).
The question of how long he can continue producing at his current level is the only thing that keeps him out of the top tier at the position looking ahead to 2017.
4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
2016 Offensive: .294 BA, .932 OPS, 182 H, 82 XBH (41 HR), 133 RBI, 116 R
2016 Defensive: 20 DRS, 5.3 UZR/150, 8.6 DEF
To say that Nolan Arenado is a product of Coors Field is unfair, but his home/road splits are something that needs to be taken into account when determining where he fits in these rankings.
- 2016 Home: .312 BA, 1.030 OPS, 25 HR, 85 RBI
- 2016 Road: .277 BA, .832 OPS, 16 HR, 48 RBI
That's a significant split and enough to land him in the No. 4 spot, but that speaks more to the top-end talent at the position than anything else.
Arenado has led the NL in home runs and RBI each of the past two seasons, and if he does it for a third consecutive year, he'd become the second player in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
The other was Babe Ruth.
Not bad company.
3. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
2016 Offensive: .284 BA, .953 OPS, 164 H, 74 XBH (37 HR), 99 RBI, 122 R
2016 Defensive: 2 DRS, 5.7 UZR/150, 6.2 DEF
A case can be made that the 2016 version of Josh Donaldson was better than the 2015 AL MVP version.
An unexpected spike in his walk rate from 10.3 to 15.6 percent led to a 33-point increase in his on-base percentage and a 14-point jump in OPS, despite the fact he hit fewer doubles and home runs.
Any way you slice it, though, Donaldson is really good.
He's topped 7.0 WAR each of the past four seasons and his 31.3 WAR total over that span is second only to Mike Trout (37.1).
The only thing keeping him from the top spot is his age.
While the 31-year-old should still have a handful of prime seasons left in the tank, he's a finished product at this point. The two guys ahead of him could get better in 2017 and beyond.
2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
2016 Offensive: .292 BA, .939 OPS, 176 H, 77 XBH (39 HR), 102 RBI, 121 R
2016 Defensive: 4 DRS, 7.7 UZR/150, 6.8 DEF
It's been quite a run of success for Kris Bryant.
- 2013: Golden Spikes winner
- 2014: Minor League Player of the Year
- 2015: NL Rookie of the Year
- 2016: NL MVP, World Series champion
What's he going to do for an encore?
After a stellar rookie season that was slightly mired by an NL-high 199 strikeouts, he trimmed his strikeout rate from 30.6 to 22.0 percent and immediately became one of the game's elite offensive players.
An increase from 26 to 39 home runs was a nice jump, but he's still capable of more with some of the best raw power in baseball.
However, it was his defensive versatility as much as anything that earned him MVP honors.
How many other superstar-caliber players would be willing to split their time between third base (107), left field (60) and right field (14) for the good of the team?
And he could be better in 2017, folks.
It's a scary thought for the rest of the league.
1. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
2016 Offensive: .294 BA, .876 OPS, 188 H, 78 XBH (37 HR), 96 RBI, 105 R
2016 Defensive: 13 DRS, 12.6 UZR/150, 12.1 DEF
It was a tough call for the No. 1 spot, but elite defense was enough to bump Manny Machado ever so slightly ahead of Kris Bryant.
The 24-year-old (it's true, I double-checked) wound up splitting his time between shortstop and third base last season with J.J. Hardy on the shelf, so his 13 DRS at the hot corner were over just 998 innings.
He's now been good for 75 DRS at third base over the course of his five MLB seasons, an accomplishment made all the more impressive by the fact that he was drafted and developed as a shortstop.
Then there's his offensive game.
After three solid seasons, Machado raised his OPS from .755 to .861 in 2015, and he bumped it up to .876 last year when he slugged 40 doubles and a career-high 37 home runs.
His stolen base total oddly dropped from 20 to zero in the process, and that's probably more a result of an Orioles team that doesn't run than anything else.
Take your pick between the top four guys on this list; there's no wrong answer.