MLB Player Rankings for Top 25 Third Basemen of 2021 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2021

MLB Player Rankings for Top 25 Third Basemen of 2021 Season

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    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Welcome to Bleacher Report's final positional rankings of the 2021 MLB season!

    Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position power rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now it's time to finalize those rankings while expanding the list out to the 25 best at each position on the diamond, which means each position is going to get its own article.

    Just like the regular-season rankings, players are ranked solely on the 2021 season. Past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order.

    To qualify for inclusion, a player had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was included in the rankings at the position where he played the most innings. That notably excluded Kris Bryant (outfield) from the conversation at third base.

    Let's keep our 2021 MLB Player Rankings series rolling with a look at the top 25 third basemen.


    Catch up on the 2021 MLB Player Rankings series: Catchers, First Basemen, Second Basemen.

Nos. 25-21

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    Wilmer Flores
    Wilmer FloresIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    25. J.D. Davis, New York Mets

    A below-average defender who played in only 73 games while nursing a hand injury, Davis still managed to make an impact with the bat. The 28-year-old posted a 126 OPS+ with 17 extra-base hits in 211 plate appearances. He has a 128 OPS+ in three seasons with the Mets.


    24. Gio Urshela, New York Yankees

    Urshela was a breakout star in 2019 and a 2.0 WAR player during the shortened 2020 season, but he considerably regressed at the plate this year. The 30-year-old logged a 96 OPS+ with 18 doubles, 14 home runs and 49 RBI in 116 games, and he dealt with various injuries and a positive COVID-19 test. He shifted to shortstop late in the year after Gleyber Torres moved to second base.


    23. Evan Longoria, San Francisco Giants

    Longoria was enjoying a resurgent season at the plate when a collision with shortstop Brandon Crawford resulted in a shoulder injury and cost him more than two months. The 36-year-old wound up playing in 81 games, hitting .261/.351/.482 for a 124 OPS+ with 17 doubles, 13 home runs and 46 RBI in an abridged 1.8 WAR season.


    22. Jonathan Villar, New York Mets

    Signed to a one-year, $3.55 million deal to bolster the Mets bench, Villar wound up serving as the team's primary third baseman while also seeing some sporadic time at shortstop and second base. He provided a nice mix of power and speed with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 14 steals, and his 113 hits ranked second on the Mets roster.


    21. Wilmer Flores, San Francisco Giants

    A versatile infielder who crushes left-handed pitching, Flores saw semi-regular playing time shifting between third base (58 games), first base (34) and second base (30). The 30-year-old posted a 111 OPS+ with 16 doubles, 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 139 games while seeing the second-most plate appearances of his career, and his 1.7 WAR was a career high.

Nos. 20-16

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    Patrick Wisdom
    Patrick WisdomJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    20. Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Hayes homered on Opening Day, but two days later, he suffered a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for the next 52 games. The 24-year-old never quite got things going at the plate upon returning, finishing with a .257/.316/.373 line and 87 OPS+, but his elite defense (16 DRS, 9.5 UZR/150) still made him a 2.4 WAR player. His future remains incredibly bright.


    19. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

    Bregman was the AL MVP runner-up in 2019 when he posted a 162 OPS+ with 41 home runs and 112 RBI in a 9.0 WAR season, but he has failed to match that level of production ever since. He missed more than two months this year with a quad strain, and he had a 113 OPS+ with 29 extra-base hits in 400 plate appearances during the 91 games in which he did play. Still only 27 years old, he will look to return to elite form in 2022.


    18. Santiago Espinal, Toronto Blue Jays

    With Cavan Biggio slowed by a back injury, Espinal played 81 games at third base for the Blue Jays and hit a surprising .311/.376/.405 with 16 extra-base hits in 245 plate appearances. He also had terrific defensive metrics (8 DRS, 13.9 UZR/150) at third base en route to an unexpected 2.5 WAR season.


    17. Patrick Wisdom, Chicago Cubs

    A first-round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, Wisdom entered the 2021 season with 43 games of scattered MLB experience. The Cubs called him up on May 25, and he hit 28 home runs while compiling 2.2 WAR in 106 games, eventually supplanting Kris Bryant as the everyday third baseman. The power production was nice, but his .305 on-base percentage and 40.8 percent strikeout rate speak to some holes in his game.


    16. Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins

    One of the best contact hitters in baseball, Arraez struck out only 48 times in 479 plate appearances while hitting .294/.357/.376 with 25 extra-base hits and 58 runs scored. The 24-year-old saw time at third base (55 games), second base (48) and in left field (27), and his 3.4 WAR was the third-highest total on the Twins roster.

Nos. 15-11

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    15. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

    Seager set career-highs in home runs (35) and RBI (101) in what will likely be his final season with the Mariners after they declined his club option for 2022. The 34-year-old hit only .212 with 161 strikeouts, but he was a valuable veteran presence on a young Seattle roster. His 36.9 career WAR ranks seventh all-time in Mariners history.


    14. Eduardo Escobar, Arizona Diamondbacks/Milwaukee Brewers

    An All-Star for the first time in 2021, Escobar split his season between Arizona and Milwaukee and finished with 26 doubles, 28 home runs and 90 RBI while posting a solid 109 OPS+ in 599 plate appearances. The 32-year-old saw time at all four infield spots, and his versatility and run production ability should make him a hot commodity in free agency.


    13. Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins

    After an injury-plagued first season in Minnesota, Donaldson returned to productive form with a 127 OPS+ and 26 home runs while splitting his time between third base (92 games) and designated hitter (34 games). The 35-year-old has two years and $50 million left on his contract, and the Twins might be able to find a trade partner on the heels of a 3.2 WAR season.


    12. Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics

    Chapman remains one of baseball's elite defenders (10 DRS, 8.8 UZR/150) at the hot corner, but his offensive game took a step backward in 2021. He hit .210 and struck out a staggering 202 times. While he still finished with a 100 OPS+ and 27 home runs in a 3.5-WAR season, that's a far cry from the back-to-back 7-plus WAR seasons he had in 2018 and 2019.


    11. Luis Urias, Milwaukee Brewers

    A highly regarded prospect in the San Diego Padres system, Urias hit a forgettable .226/.315/.320 with a 72 OPS+ in 422 plate appearances over his first three years in the majors. The 24-year-old was a breakout performer this season, posting a 111 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 23 home runs and 75 RBI, showing previously unseen over-the-fence power. He could be the Brewers' long-term answer at what has been a revolving door at third base.

10. Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Joey Wendle lacks prototypical power at the hot corner, but he has been a steady contributor for the Tampa Bay Rays throughout his four seasons with the team. That started in 2018, when he finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    The 31-year-old hit .265/.319/.422 for a 110 OPS+ with 31 doubles, 11 home runs, 54 RBI and 73 runs scored this season, and he earned a reserve spot on the AL All-Star team.

    While he saw the bulk of his action at third base (766 INN, 2 DRS), he also posted solid defensive metrics at shortstop (198.2 INN, 6 DRS) and second base (116.2 INN, 2 DRS) in limited action. With two years of club control remaining and a crowded infield situation, he could be a trade candidate this offseason for the budget-conscious Rays.

9. Jeimer Candelario, Detroit Tigers

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    Diamond Images/Getty Images

    Jeimer Candelario was a popular breakout pick heading into the 2019 season, but he hit only .203 with a 70 OPS+ and 0.2 WAR in 94 games. Afterward, his long-term place with the rebuilding Detroit Tigers was very much up in the air.

    Candelario rebounded with a 2.0 WAR performance during the shortened 2020 season, and he successfully built off that with a terrific full season this year. He hit .271/.351/.443 with an AL-leading 42 doubles, 16 home runs and 67 RBI for a career-high 3.8 WAR.

    Still only 27 years old, he now looks like a long-term building block for the Tigers at the hot corner, though he remains a below-average defender who fits best across the diamond at first base.

8. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    After testing the waters last offseason, Justin Turner found his way back to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a two-year, $34 million contract that includes a 2023 club option.

    He was his usual productive self offensively, posting a 123 OPS+ with 22 doubles, 27 home runs and 87 RBI while matching a career high by playing in 151 games. He also earned an All-Star selection for only the second time in his career.

    The 36-year-old is still an asset offensively, but his defensive game has declined in recent years. He graded out as a below-average defender (-2 DRS, -5.1 UZR/150) in 2021.

7. Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    With Nolan Arenado gone, Trevor Story on his way out the door, and Charlie Blackmon entering his age-35 season, there's a case to be made that Ryan McMahon is emerging as the de facto face of the franchise for the Colorado Rockies.

    The 26-year-old began the season at second base before shifting over to third base full-time to clear a path for Brendan Rodgers up the middle.

    He hit .254/.331/.449 with 32 doubles, 23 home runs and 86 RBI, and he was a Gold Glove-caliber defender at both second base (9 DRS, 6.2 UZR/150) and third base (12 DRS, 7.6 UZR/150). That added up to a 4.0 WAR season, good for second on the team.

6. Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Yoan Moncada took a significant step forward with his overall approach at the plate in 2021, trimming his strikeout rate to a career-low 25.5 percent while also walking at a career-high 13.6 percent clip.

    The result was a terrific .375 on-base percentage that ranked third among qualified AL hitters, and he posted a 117 OPS+ with 33 doubles, 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 74 runs scored in 144 games.

    The 26-year-old has also settled in nicely at third base after starting his career at second base, grading out as a plus defender (3 DRS, 5.0 UZR/150) for the first time. His 4.0 WAR trailed only infield mate Tim Anderson (4.6) among Chicago White Sox position players.

5. Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    In his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Nolan Arenado proved he is an elite player regardless of which ballpark he calls home.

    His .255/.312/.494 slash line may look like a downturn from his previous level of production at first glance, but his 121 OPS+ was identical to his career mark. He was a potent middle-of-the-order run producer as usual with 34 doubles, 34 home runs and 105 RBI.

    The NL Gold Glove winner at third base in each of his first nine seasons in the league after taking home the hardware again in 2021, he also provided plenty of value defensively, finishing with 4.1 WAR in 157 games.

4. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Manny Machado was immediately thrust in the spotlight when he signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the San Diego Padres prior to the 2019 season, but he has been a bit overshadowed by teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. over the past few seasons.

    After finishing third in NL MVP voting last year, Machado was an elite-level performer once again this year, posting a 131 OPS+ with 31 doubles, 28 home runs and 106 RBI in 153 games.

    Those offensive numbers, coupled with his Gold Glove-caliber defense (6 DRS, 4.3 UZR/150) at the hot corner, made him a 5.0 WAR player. That was his highest single-season WAR total since 2016, when he was still with the Baltimore Orioles.

3. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox

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    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    It's easy to forget that Rafael Devers was still only 24 years old for the entirety of the 2021 season, as he is rarely mentioned alongside Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the game's other high-profile young stars.

    However, he was every bit as productive as those guys this year.

    He posted a 132 OPS+ with 37 doubles, 38 home runs, 113 RBI and 101 runs scored, and he hit .300/.387/.606 in 212 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

    Devers will never be a Gold Glove contender, and it's only a matter of time before he shifts across the diamond to first base, but he has quickly emerged as one of baseball's best run producers.

2. Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Austin Riley exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2019, but he quickly crashed back to earth. He was widely viewed as the weak link in the Atlanta Braves lineup going into this season after he posted a middling 86 OPS+ in 206 plate appearances last year.

    The Braves stuck by the former top prospect as their everyday third baseman, and he rewarded them with perhaps the biggest breakout season of anyone in 2021.

    The 24-year-old hit .303/.367/.531 with 33 doubles, 33 home runs and 107 RBI. Equally impressive were the strides he made defensively, going from a liability in 2020 (-10 DRS) to a plus defender in 2021 (13 DRS), albeit with limited range.

    His 6.1 WAR tied for 10th among all position players and second among third basemen, trailing only the No. 1 player on this list.

1. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians

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    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    Is there a more underrated player in baseball than Jose Ramirez?

    The 29-year-old finished within the top three of AL MVP voting three times in four years entering the 2021 season. Even without Francisco Lindor to help shoulder the offensive load this year, he was again one of the most productive players in baseball.

    Ramirez hit .266/.355/.538 for a 141 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 36 home runs, 103 RBI, 111 runs scored and 27 steals. His 6.7 WAR ranked fifth among all position players, behind only Carlos Correa (7.2), Marcus Semien (7.1), Juan Soto (7.0) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (6.8).

    While much of his value came from his potent bat, he also posted the best defensive metrics of his career (10 DRS, 6.7 UZR/150), and was named a finalist for AL Gold Glove honors.

    If Cleveland decides to shop Ramirez this offseason, a legitimate superstar will be hitting the trade block.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.