The Determinator: Third Base: #5-1 + Gio Urshela
After a quick break from The Determinator last Friday, we return with the Top-5 third basemen in the MLB.
Tomorrow, I will announce the #10-6 Shortstops in the MLB. For a background about The Determinator, see my article about my methodology, changes for 2021, and schedule, here.
The Determinator: Third Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 213 different players who played any amount of time at third base during the past two seasons, I set-up two boundaries to keep it as close to having only starters:
They must’ve had at least 350 PA’s over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
They must’ve had at least 750 innings at third base over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
This limited the number of third basemen down to 28.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the first half of the Top-10:
If a first baseman led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 5: Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
Top-5: WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, SLG, HR, wRC+, BsR, Off
Total Score: 49Embed from Getty Images
After leading all 3B in every defensive metric from 2019, Matt Chapman did not have the same type of season that we’ve come to expect on defense. We can try and chalk this up to missing a month with a strained right hip, but with his IL stint coming in mid-September, for all case and point it was a down season. He still provided 1.2 fWAR alongside positive offensive (+3.2) and defensive (+3.8) numbers while he still leads all 3B in DRS (+36), but his defense was behind expectations and his patience at the plate did slip a lot (career 9.7% BB-rate with 5.3% in 2020). He is still a top 3B in the league, so I’m going to chalk this up to a blip in the radar.
Number 4: Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Top-5: Games, AVG, SB, wRC, BsR, Off, Innings
Top-10: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC+, WAR
Total Score: 50Embed from Getty Images
The 3B leader in Innings (1828.0) over the past two seasons, Rafael Devers had a great defensive season in 2019 which looked to be the beginning of his break-out. However, his 2020 season looked to be much closer to his 2018 campaign (1.0 fWAR) than his 2019 (5.9 fWAR), and likely left Boston fans disappointed. A bat-first 3B, Devers did have a positive 2020 on offense (+3.7), though his negative defense (-4.8) does not bode well for his ability to stick on the hot corner. Combined with a huge jump in his K-rate (17% to 27%), a drop in his BB-rate (6.8% to 5.2%), and with only a minor change in BABIP (.339 to .325), Devers’ 2021 may be up in the air with where his performance truly is. If he can fix the defensive miscues again, he’ll make a run at being Boston’s best player. However, serious questions may start soon about the young players prospects with sticking at 3B for the long haul.
Number 3: Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox
Top-5: SB, BsR, Off, WAR, Fld, UZR, Def
Top-10: AVG, OBP, wRC, wRC+, Innings
Top-15: Games, SLG
Total Score: 52Embed from Getty Images
Ending up at #3 for the second straight year by The Determinator, Moncada still seems to be an incredibly underrated player in the MLB. Overshadowed by teammates Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, and Tim Anderson Moncada is a sneaky good player. A plus baserunnner (+6.5), a plus bat (+34), and a plus defender (+10.5) over the past two seasons, Moncada should now be expecting to reach his true “prime/peak years”. While we can say his ranking here is largely inflated to an unsustainable .406 BABIP from 2019, I do believe Moncada has the game to be a break-out star this year. Even with a 96 wRC+, he was still able to get 1.6 fWAR in 52 games because of his all-around abilities, which had him nearly on pace for a second straight 5 WAR season. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing the soon-to-be 26 year old’s name more in 2021.
Number 2: Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angles
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-10: Games, HR, SB, Fld, UZR, Def
Top-15: BsR, DRS
Total Score: 60Embed from Getty Images
After an amazing 2019 season before becoming a free agent last year, Anthony Rendon did not go as high as expected with only a 4th-place finish (tied with Matt Chapman) by The Determinator. In 2020, Rendon had a very similar season with offense (he maintained a 154 wRC+) while also improving his defensive stats (+4.7 in 146 games to +3.7 in 52 games) which helped him earn the MLB’s 6th highest fWAR amongst hitters (+2.7). Even with an arguably better season, Rendon finished lower in the MVP (3rd to 10th) which may have to do with a league shift, but his underlying metrics don’t scream that this was outside of the realm for what he can do again in 2021 with a .302 BABIP (3.14 career), 13.4% K-rate (15.4% career), although he did walk more than normal at a 16.4% BB-rate (10.7% career). However, the 3B leader in AVG (.311), OBP (.413), SLG (.572), wRC (177), and WAR (+9.6) did fall just behind our #1 player…
Number 1: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: Games, AVG, SLG, HR, wRC, WAR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: OBP, BsR
Total Score: 62Embed from Getty Images
Nolan Arenado was seen as the best 3B in baseball last year by The Determinator and he came out to be so again. Recently traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in a deal that is absolutely lopsided in favor of his new team, it will be interesting to see how his stats change with the move from Colorado and spending 81 games in Coors field. 2020 was a down campaign for Arenado as he produced negative offensive numbers (-6.6) for only the second time in his career and first time since 2013, though he did have very high defensive metrics (+9.3) which kept him with a positive WAR (+0.9). Looking at his wRC+ (76) and BABIP (.241) it would seem as though this should be a blip on the radar. Going into his age-30 season, Arenado still has a few prime years left, so he should stick around on top, but there are a lot of moving parts going into 2021. That being said, the 3B leader in Fld (+18.8), UZR (+18.8), and Def (+21.8) is someone I think every team would hope to have manning the hot corner.
Gio Urshela and his Ranking 12th:
Yet again, the Yankees find themselves just off the mark, as we saw with Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez. Ranking #12 across 3B in the MLB isn’t a bad thing, especially considering coming into his Yankee career, most people (myself included) expected Gio to be nothing more than a Quad-A depth piece. Instead, he has completely changed his career standing and being just 29-years-old, it isn’t crazy to think that after two seasons of good results this may be his new norm.
What really hurts Gio in from The Determinator (as is common with Yankees players) is the baserunning part of his game, but we can also talk this up to evaluations of his defense statistically coming up poorly from 2019. With Top-15 finishes in each of the defensive metrics besides DRS (Top-10), it would seem Gio Urshela is a serviceable/average defender. Instead, I’d argue he is near the Top-5.
As we would need to find 13 points to tie Urshela (25) with Eugenio Suarez (38), let’s play this game by moving each of his defensive metrics up a “rank” with a Top-5 finish in DRS and a Top-10 finish elsewhere. Doing so gives Urshela 10 point on The Determinator, and it would not be an unlikely thing to see happening in 2021.
Now just 3 points away, we can play with the numbers a little bit and see how close he was elsewhere. With just 2 more stolen bases (from 2 to 4), he would’ve tied for 13th providing 1 of the 3 missing points. With 8 more games played (from 175 to 183) Urshela would’ve tied for 14th and the 2nd missing point. Add in 2 more points with wRC (109 to 111) and he would’ve tied for 15th and had gotten his last missing point.
While it is a lot to dream on, Urshela is definitely capable of doing this to turn himself in a Top-10 third baseman for next year.
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.