Grading The AL East: Third Basemen

Sep 11, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) throws over to first base to get out New York Yankees left fielder Alfonso Soriano (not pictured) in the ninth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Yankees defeated the Orioles 5-4. (Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

The “hot corner” in baseball has heated up for the Yankees this offseason but in the wrong direction. As everyone knows by now, Alex Rodriguez will not be manning third base for the Yankees in 2014. Even if A-Rod was in pinstripes, third base is one of the more talented positions in the division among the other four teams. This puts the Yankees even more behind the eight-ball at that position. With that being said, here are my top five third baseman in the AL East:

5. Yankees – Kelly Johnson/Eduardo Nunez: This is one of the only places in the division where there will likely be a platoon at the position. Johnson does bring power to the position considering he did have 16 home runs last season, but a quarter of his at-bats ended via the strikeout. The Yankees will need his power at the bottom of the order. Plus, Johnson could play a variety of positions depending on the Yankees’ health in the infield throughout the year. When one of your other options is Eduardo Nunez, you can see why the Yankees are 5th on this list. Nunez did hit .295 in the month of September, but a career .260 hitter with his fielding issues is a huge concern. You can see why Brian Cashman wanted no part of Nunez at third base. He would rather use him at shortstop, but his hands might be tied on this one. 

4. Blue Jays – Brett LawrieThe issue for the Blue Jays’ third baseman has been his health. In the last two seasons, he has not played more than 125 games in a season. That being said, there is a lot of potential in Lawrie. He brings a fiery personality to the game and shows some power. However, the Blue Jays are still looking for him to break out and reach at least 20 home runs. He has never hit more than 11 homers in a season. His WAR dropped from 4.1 in 2012 to 2.3 in 2013. With some of the losses in the Toronto lineup, Lawrie needs to elevate his game if the Blue Jays want to continue to drive in runs with their offense to help Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

3.  Red Sox – Will MiddlebrooksKeep in mind that there is still uncertainty as to whether or not Stephen Drew will be back at shortstop for the Red Sox. We are going to assume for this list that the young phenom Xander Bogaerts will start the year at shortstop. That means Middlebrooks will get his opportunity at third base. Middlebrooks only had a .224 average last season, but hit 17 home runs in 94 games. Looking at his splits for last season, it was surprising to see he only hit four of those home runs at Fenway Park. He has the raw power and solid defense (.954 fielding percentage). It will be interesting to see whether a 25+ home run season is in the cards for Middlebrooks in his second full season.

2. Rays – Evan LongoriaIn any other division, Longoria would be number one on this list. Last year, Longoria was top 10 in the AL in home runs (32) and runs scored (91). One of the knocks on Longoria has been his health, Last year, he proved that wrong by playing in 160 games during the regular season. The addition of Wil Myers helped Longoria in the lineup last season by giving him protection in the lineup. The team leader for the Rays is bound to have another great season if he is able to stay healthy. It bears mentioning that Longoria hit .338 with 9 homers and 20 RBI’s against the Yankees last year.

1. Orioles – Manny MachadoFirst off, Orioles’ fans are still in the process of figuring out whether or not Machado will be ready for Opening Day after having surgery on his knee back on October 14th. He has been cleared for some baseball activities and is hoping to be ready by Opening Day. Machado had a historic season last year with 51 doubles. He will only be 22-years-old in July. He has an outstanding glove as noticed by all of his Web Gem plays last season. It’s unknown whether he will be the same after his surgery, but this kid is a superstar in the making. Machado is an extra-base machine and has the potential for 20 homers and 90+ RBI’s. That is why he tops this list! 

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Topics: AL East, Brett Lawrie, Eduardo Nunez, Evan Longoria, Kelly Johnson, Manny Machado, New York Yankees, News, Will Middlebrooks

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  • artie999

    Hey Ricky. I beg to disagree with you on two points (bearing in mind this is all conjecture about the future). First, Johnson alone should hit for more power than Lawrie, and I haven’t given up on Nunez who NOW appears healthy. He has shown in cameo roles that he can steal bases and fly even more so than Gardner and should if played regularly he can hit well over .260 and 15+ HRs and LOTS of doubles, again if he’s healthy and plays regularly/ semiregularly. And knowledgeable baseball people say he will field better at 3rd, as it is a reflex/ reaction position. Second, although Machado is great player, he had a devastating injury from which he may no completely cone back and Langoria is the clutch/ class 3rd basement of the division for years – second only to healthy AROD. What do you think?

    • arth65456

      Artie, you bring up great points. Watching Nunez, I do think he can play a better third base than shortstop and he does have decent gap power to get those doubles like you mentioned. The Machado injury did concern me in making this list and i went back and forth about Machado and Longoria. Both guys are top five third baseman in baseball. I was surprised to see from talking to Rays’ writers last year on the podcasts we do that Longoria played 160 games. That’s not usually how much he plays due to several DL stints. The Machado health did concern me till I saw that he could get on the field quicker than originally thought. The kid is only 21 years old. You can recover quicker from those injuries at a young age and my guess is he is back before the end of April. He has all the tools. I think we can both agree that these two guys are the class of the division at third base. Thanks for the debate, I appreciate it.

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