Under normal circumstances, the 2020 Major League Baseball season would be rounding into its first full month of action. However, these are far from regular times and due to the global shift in the norm, whether Opening Day is delayed — or even outright canceled — is anybody’s guess.
Therefore, since the trivial is more necessary than ever, here is a look at the (currently anticipated) MLB top ten players, by position, for the 2020 campaign.
The current crop of talent at third base is among — if not the — finest ever in the game. Entering the 2020 season, the spot holds two former MVPs in Kris Bryant and Josh Donaldson still producing at a high level, but also two top-three finalists from last season as well (Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon). Third base has become home to impressively wide-spanning collection of contributors, league-wide. Last season, 12 players that spent 50% of their time at third hit 30 home runs, while nine players own an OPS of .900 or greater. Of those elite OPS creators, only one (Donaldson) was over 30.
It is also a position where the elite are handsomely rewarded. With the new contracts and extensions signed in past two years, three of the top 10 biggest contracts in the game are owned between Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Rendon. Add in the record-setting arbitration rates Bryant annually receives and the new money due to Alex Bregman on the horizon, it is a trend that won’t be stopping anytime soon.
At 28, Arenado is already further along towards Hall of Fame status than it may seem. With his third 40-homer season in 2019, he is only one behind Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews for the most such seasons by a third baseman in history. His current run of five seasons with 30 home runs and 100 RBI are more than Mathews, Mike Schmidt, Chipper Jones, Adrian Beltre or Harmon Killebrew ever pulled off consecutively in their careers. Only Alex Rodriguez run of seven as a third baseman are more.
Add in his seventh consecutive Gold Glove — extending his MLB record to begin a career — and there are few that can match what he brings on an everyday basis. Although he is yet to claim the award, Arenado hasn’t finished lower than eighth in NL MVP voting since 2015.
Every year, Bregman keeps getting better. He affirmed his place as one of the top players in the game with his tremendous showing in 2019, where he took over as the centerpiece of the Astros attack. His power is just beginning to set in, as he converted some of his AL-best 51 doubles in 2018 into a 10 home run increase last season, rising up to 41. In each of his four seasons, he has lowered his strikeouts, while increasing his walk total. In 2019, that hit a league-high 118, while striking out only 83 times.
No player in the AL reached base more (292) or created more runs (150), while his 9.1 WAR led the American League. It was a total package season that nearly helped him overtake Mike Trout for AL MVP honors in late September.
Rendon emerged has a top tier performer in 2019, finishing third in NL MVP voting and being the spine of the Nationals’ championship lineup. He led the NL in doubles for a second-straight season with exactly 44, while driving in an NL-best 126 runs. He also finished in the top three in OPS (1.010), runs scored (117), on-base % (.412) and times on base (266).
Rendon remains an incredibly tough out at the plate, not prone to the strikeout and being one of the top two-strike hitters in the game. Rendon hit .291 with a 2-2 count and hit .280 when the pitcher was ahead. This type of patience and thoroughness makes him the ideal table setter ahead of new teammate Mike Trout.
Donaldson made the most of his one-year stop in Atlanta, firmly reestablishing himself among the elite third basemen in the game, after a pair of injury-limited seasons in 2017 and 2018. His 37 home runs were his most since 2016, when Donaldson was a year removed from capturing AL MVP honors with the Blue Jays. He also drove in 96 runs, connected for 33 doubles and drew 100 walks, completing a year where he won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
In just three years, Chapman has become the top defender in the game, regardless of position. His 79 defensive runs saved since 2017 are tops in the game and 39 more than his closest competition at third base in Arenado. He has continued to round into a better all-around presence as well, as he converted doubles into more homers in 2019, reaching 36. Chapman also scored 100 runs for the second consecutive year, while increasing his walk total as well.
Overall, Chapman posted an 8.3 WAR and finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting for the second straight season.
Bryant continues to be difficult to truly account for. On one hand, he continues to pass the eye test as one of the most talented players in the game, and his MVP/World Championship resume accounts for that. Even his recent returns of a .282/.382/.521 split, with 31 home runs and 108 runs scored in 2019, he continues to make a strong impact.
For Bryant however, there continues to be the feeling that he could be so much more. He hasn’t remained in the MVP conversation it seemed that he would be an annual part of and the Cubs results have suffered as a part of it. While it still seemed impossible to fathom just a few years ago, how many days Bryant has left in Chicago is up for debate.
Suarez got to work in rewarding the faith the Reds showed in him during the spring, when he signed a seven-year, $66 million extension. Suarez’ 49 home run breakout was bested only by Pete Alonso’s 53 and he drove in 100 runs for the second consecutive season. His .930 OPS was fourth among MLB third basemen.
His offensive upside was slightly offset by his MLB-high 189 strikeouts and 17 errors, which led all NL third basemen. However, his value could go even higher with upgrades brought to town around him this winter.
Although injuries have caused him to miss 86 games over the past two years, Turner remains one of the most underappreciated, yet indispensable players in the game. He has annually produced a value north of four Wins Above Replacement since 2016, a span that he has averaged a .298/.380/.511 split during, over the course of 511 games. In 2019, his eight errors were the second-fewest among third basemen with at least 120 games played.
Based on his 2019 numbers alone, Machado’s placement here is based more on reputation than returns. However, it would be ridiculous to discount one of the elite talents in the game on a season where he underwhelmed, but still managed to hit 30 home runs and score 80 runs for the fifth consecutive season. It seems insane that he is still just entering his age-27 season, but the smart money is to not undersell him coming into the new year.
Devers enjoyed a breakout at the plate in 2019, hitting .311 with 32 homers, while leading the AL with 54 doubles and 359 total bases. Considering that he is still learning patience at the plate, there is ridiculous upside for Devers here, as him and Xander Bogaerts form one of the most productive left side infield duos in the game.
To fully realize his potential, Devers will need to cut down significantly on his errors though. He has totaled 46 in the past two seasons, tied for the MLB high.
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