SSG Baseball – Top 10 Third Basemen for the 2020 Season

Today I’m continuing my look at the best players in the SSG OOTP Baseball league for the 2020 season position-by-position. We’ve already ranked the top catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and shortstops. We’re ranking the top 10 third basemen this time.

10) Jake Lamb (29), Atlanta Braves 2019 – 159 games, .248/.343/.430 (107 OPS+), 22 HR, 4 SB, +1.5 ZR, 3.6 WAR

While not exciting, Lamb is a very reliable fixture in the lineup. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s missed only 6 team games–in fact, in 2017 he played 163 total games between Arizona and his current team Atlanta following a mid-season trade. He’s hit at least 20 homers in the last 3 seasons, which included his career high of 27 in 2018. His best career year remains his second full year back in 2016, where he had a .403 OBP and 6.6 WAR for the Diamondbacks. He hasn’t come anywhere near those numbers since then (his highest OBP since then was .343 in 2019 and his highest WAR was 4.0 in 2018), but he’s still very solid and he’s a good fit for the number 10 spot.

9) Kris Bryant (28), Chicago Cubs 2019 – 155 games, .269/.319/.496 (114 OPS+), 33 HR, 0 SB, +2.6 ZR, 3.8 WAR

According to WAR, 2019 was Bryant’s worst full season in the big leagues, and he still hit 33 home runs, had a .496 slugging percentage, and made the All-Star team. Like Lamb, Bryant is also very durable and stays on the field (at least 153 games played in each of his first 4 full big-league seasons). The biggest problem last season was the walk and strikeout numbers (40 BB/210 SO), the latter of which was the most by any hitter in the NL. But his power is nothing to sneeze at (138 career homers) and neither is his defense (+16.2 career ZR at 3B). He’s also just 2 years removed from a 5.0 WAR season in 2018. If he can improve his on-base skills (a mediocre .330 in 2018 was good enough to be his career high) he’ll move way up on the list. 

8) Nolan Arenado (29), Colorado Rockies 2019 – 156 games, .286/.327/.515 (106 OPS+), 35 HR, 1 SB, -0.4 ZR, 4.1 WAR

Arenado has been the centerpiece during the Rockies’ construction of one of the best lineups in baseball. But 2020 is his last season under contract for the team. Last year, however, was a disappointment; at age 28, Arenado had his lowest OBP and OPS+ since his rookie year in 2013. He also set a career high in strikeouts, and a career low in ZR. He’s hard to rank as always due to the Coors Field effect, but 2019 could very well have been a slight speed-bump rather than a sign of decline. 

7) Brett Lawrie (30), New York Mets 2019 – 146 games, .265/.346/.509 (130 OPS+), 28 HR, 4 SB, +1.7 ZR, 4.0 WAR

“In 2018 outside of [outfielder Roderick] Shoulders we had very little power and needed to add a powerful bat to our lineup but also maintain our defense. We feel we did that with Lawrie. In 2019 he was 2nd behind Shoulders in Home Runs with 28, 3rd on the team in RBIs with 83, led the team in Slugging Pct with .509. So overall I feel this was a successful addition to the team.”

–  Kevin Sweeney, SSG Mets GM

Lawrie is the epitome of what most people think a third baseman should be, but he’s not terribly exciting. He gets on base at a good rate. He hits home runs at a good rate. He walks at a good rate. He plays good defense. None of his skills stand out as great, and neither do any of his numbers. But when you put all of those pretty good things together into one player, you get a guy with a career 120 WRC+ and an average of 5.2 WAR over the past 5 seasons. The Mets bet big on him prior to last season, and he’ll be on year 2 of a 10 year contract in 2020. 

6) Joey Gallo (26), Detroit Tigers 2019 – 127 games, .232/.334/.596 (135 OPS+), 47 HR, 0 SB, +2.2 ZR,  4.2 WAR

“Last year we acquired Joey Gallo who was having a bad start of the season with Texas but was amazing with us. He’s gonna be a low AVG guy that doesn’t get on base a lot but with a .600+ SLG that is not much of a problem. Gallo is going to bat 3rd or 5th in the lineup depending if he’s on a hot or cold streak. He also provides steady defense at 3B (+1.52 DZR is the best we have had there in years) and we have considered a few situations where he could play RF, mainly if we get a RHH 3B, but spring training is almost upon us and it appears that won’t be happening.”

-Armando Trejo, SSG Tigers GM

Gallo has hit his prime in a big way. He set career-highs in OBP, slugging, OPS+, homers and WAR last season, which is amazing considering he went from a hitter’s park in Arlington to a pitcher’s park in Detroit. He also plays more than adequate defense at third.

5) Nick Castellanos (28), Detroit Tigers 2019 – 148 games, .309/.357/.560 (134 OPS+), 33 HR, 2 SB, +3.1 ZR (at 1B and 3B), 4.5 WAR

“We are very happy with Castellanos. He has improved since we gave him that 10 year extension. He always showed promise as good AVG and OBP player but now he added power too. We think of him as a top of the order guy, batting 2nd against RHP and leadoff vs LHP.”

-Armando Trejo, SSG Tigers GM

The Tigers have won back to back division titles and Castellanos has been a huge part of it. He’s got 9.0 WAR, 68 HR, .363 OBP, and .557 SLG during that time. He’ll be playing more first base this season as well (though he is listed as a 3B at the moment), where he is better defensively. Detroit’s combination of Castellanos, Gallo, and Miggy will be tough to top again in the AL central.

4) Yoan Moncada (25), Boston Red Sox 2019 – 127 games, .310/.363/.555 (133 OPS+), 23 HR, 18 SB, -0.7 ZR (at 2B and 3B), 4.9 WAR

Moncada is the only 5-tool third baseman on this list. He’s still young and his numbers went from good in 2018 to great in 2019, which were his first full seasons in the big leagues. The .555 slugging last season is particularly impressive considering he only had 23 home runs; this is thanks in large part to his blazing speed which helped him rack up 36 doubles and 9 triples in only 557 plate appearances. He’s certainly trending upward and he’s a candidate to jump way up on this list by the end of 2020.

3) Manny Machado (27), Washington Nationals 2019 – 132 games, .289/.345/.546 (134 OPS+), 32 HR, 1 SB, +3.3 ZR, 5.2 WAR

 At age 26 Machado set career highs in extra base hits, home runs, and slugging. His defense is stellar as well. Over the last 4 seasons he’s averaged 5.5 WAR as well. He doesn’t strike out a whole lot either. His biggest problem has been durability as he’s played more than 144 games just 2 times in his career so far. 

2) Ryan McMahon (25), Seattle Mariners 2019 – 157 games, .270/.357/.545 (135 OPS+), 39 HR, 0 SB, +1.1 ZR, 5.5 WAR

 Over the past two seasons only one third baseman (guess who) has had more home runs and a higher WAR than Ryan McMahon. Those two seasons were also McMahon’s first full years in the big leagues, and he plays half of his games in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. He also played in all but 7 of the Mariners’ games during that time period. His defense also improved from -1.3 ZR in 2018 to +1.1 ZR in 2019 at third base. 

1) Maikel Franco (27), Philadelphia Phillies 2019 – 79 games, .357/.419/.741 (206 OPS+), 33 HR, 0 SB, -0.5 ZR, 5.7 WAR

Franco was on his way to a third straight NL MVP award before his injury in 2019. In only 79 games, he hit 33 home runs and recorded 5.7 WAR. His defense has also been very good. The Phillies won another World Series in 2019 without him for half of 2019, which tells you how good they are. Philadelphia signed him to a huge extension prior to last season; if he stays on the pace he set in the past 2 and a half seasons and if he can return to good health and stay healthy, the $271 million could be a bargain. He’ll be just 27 on opening day.

The Phillies will be tough to catch at the top of the National League. They grab their second top spot in our list series so far.

Here are the updated team rankings based on the positions we’ve rated so far:

  1.  Philadelphia Phillies (#1 SS, #1 3B, #3 2B, #9 C)
  2.  Colorado Rockies (#2 2B, #2 SS, #6 1B, #8 3B)
  3.  Detroit Tigers (#1 1B, #5 and #6 3B)
  4.  Washington Nationals (#3 3B, 4 1B, #8 2B, #9 SS)
  5.  Arizona Diamondbacks (#1 C, #4 2B)
  6.  Seattle Mariners (#2 3B, #5 C, #10 2B)
  7.  Boston Red Sox (#4 3B, #6 SS, #7 C)
  8.  Los Angeles Dodgers (#3 C, #4 SS)
  9.  Minnesota Twins (#3 SS, #5 1B)
  10.  San Diego Padres (#5 2B, #6 C, #9 1B)

Next week we will switch the focus to pitching, starting with the Top 10 Relief Pitchers. Hopefully the Royals, Angels, Marlins, Brewers, Yankees, Athletics, Rays, and Rangers can get on the board; like last week they are yet to crack the top 10 in any of the lists. Stay tuned.

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