Making a top 5 third baseman list is not the easiest. Well, the first four should be easy to name it is just a matter of what order to put them in. Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson either have MVPs to their name already or have been in the running for one. All good-great defenders with .280+ batting averages and and safe bets for 30+ homers and 100+ RBI. Adrian Beltre makes it in at number 5 for me for the consistent greatness. It is truly incredible what he has accomplished heading into his 20th season and still putting up elite numbers.
So, in order, here is why these five players are the top five at their respective positions:
1. Nolan Arenado, Rockies – This guy should already have an MVP or two under his belt but because of where he plays, he does not. Arenado has 4 years in the MLB so far and he has arguably gotten better each and every year. His potential reached its peak in 2015 where he made the jump from 18 homers in 2014 in 111 games to a whopping 42 in 2015 in 157 games. In the past two years he has led the MLB in RBI with 130 and 133 and has led the NL in homers (tied for 1st in 2016). He is also widely considered the best defensive third baseman along with the monster offensive numbers. He has won gold glove in the national league all four years he has been in the league and almost seems like he makes a highlight play at the hot corner on the daily. At age 25, he is everything a franchise could want in a third baseman.
2. Kris Bryant, Cubs – The sky is really the limit for the cubs young face of the franchise. From the time the hype train on Bryant began in spring training in 2015, he has done nothing but live up to it. Bryant won rookie of the year in his rookie campaign and also finished 11th in the NL MVP voting. What did he do to follow that up? Win MVP and lead the Chicago Cubs to a World Series championship after a 107 year drought. He has already accomplished so much in two years and is gonna put up elite numbers for many years to come. He hit 26 homers in 2015 and 39 in 2016. It would be the least shocking thing in the world if Bryant cracked 40+ homers in 2017
3. Manny Machado, Orioles – Machado like Arenado is a force on both sides of the ball but, at the youngest age out of all five on this list. Not that 24 is significantly younger than 25, but he also came up at age 19 in 2012. Machado has gotten better all 5 years in the league. Especially in the power department. He hit 14 home runs in 156 games and in 2013 and hit 12 home runs in 82 games in 2014. His 2014 campaign was cut short due to injury but when he hit just 2 less homers in 74 less games, the breakout was imminent. In 2013 he hit 51 doubles with the 14 homers and this past year, he it 37 homers and 40 doubles. The doubles began turning into home runs and even THEN some. Machado has two gold gloves to his name also and he is indefinitely an MVP caliber player who may only continue to get better.
4. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays – A catcher converted to third base, Donaldson is probably very happy with that decision for his career. An MVP in 2015, Donaldson has been a great player for both the Athletics and the Blue Jays. After the head-scratching trade to the Blue Jays, Donaldson put up career numbers across the board and made the Athletics regret the trade quickly. He had never reached 30 home runs with the Athletics until his first year in Toronto, where his career high went from 29 homers to 41. Obviously the Rogers Centre is a better hitters park but Donaldson has taken a big step forward the last two years. He could easily be higher up on this list, but he ranks this low because he is the only one out of the five who had his numbers dip this past year opposed to the year before.
5. Adrian Beltre, Rangers – An ageless wonder, Adrian Beltre put up fantastic numbers somehow in his 19th year in the league. He hit .300 with 32 home runs and 104 RBI. It is certainly rare for a player at 36 years old to put up a season like that. A lot of guys in their prime do not even have numbers like that. To top it off he even won gold glove over his young counterpart Manny Machado. A fantastic career for Beltre will not seem to have a sever decline like most players have. What may bite him in the end is the injury bug. Usually at some point the last few years he ends up on the DL at some point so maybe it catches up to him. Beltre also could easily be higher up but because of his age and his demise imminent, he sits at number 5 for me.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Seager, Evan Longoria, and Anthony Rendon
The last few years Seager has been very consistent for the Mariners. His home run total has increased every year he has been in the league but with a high of 30. Not quite the level of the other 5 guys. Evan Longoria is kind of puzzling because his worst years came during his prime years. Whether it was due to injury or just bad play, he at least had a very solid come back year this past year hitting 15 more home runs than the year before. The inconsistency cause him to miss the list. Anthony Rendon could easily enter the top 5 very soon. Injuries have been a big problem for him and he struggled at the beginning and finished strong this past year. The potential is certainly there and at age 26 there is plenty of room to grow.