MLB Rankings: Top 10 Third Basemen for the 2023 Season

Image for MLB Rankings: Top 10 Third Basemen for the 2023 Season

Third base has been arguably the strongest position in baseball for the past five years. With superstar hitters, Platinum Glove defenders, and speedy baserunners, the position also possesses some of the best talents in the game. Although the overall depth has taken a slight step back from the past few years, I’d still like to highlight a couple of honorable mentions. The Rays’ Yandy Diaz put up a huge season with a 138 wRC+ and 3.8 fWAR, but that seems like it may be the ceiling for the slugger. Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pittsburgh Pirates also deserves a mention, even if only for his glove. Hayes had just an 88 wRC+ but still put up 3.0 fWAR; if he can put up above-average offensive numbers, he has 5 WAR potential. With that out of the way, let’s get into the top 10.

10. Anthony Rendon, LAA (Last year: 4)

For years, Anthony Rendon was a top-10 player in baseball. In 2019, he finished 3rd in National League MVP voting and won the World Series in his final season as a Washington National. Since then, his career has been in free fall. Prior to the abbreviated 2020 season, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels on a 7-year, $245 million contract. In those three seasons, he appeared in just 157 games, slashed .252/.359/.420 (116 wRC+), and accumulated 3.4 fWAR. There really isn’t an outcome that would surprise me for Rendon in 2023. ZiPS Depth Charts projects Rendon for a 4.1 fWAR, while ATC expects just 2.8.

9. Matt Chapman, TOR (10)

In 2022, Matt Chapman had the worst defensive season of his career. The three-time Gold Glover and two-time Platinum Glover put up just 1 OAA and 2 DRS, a far cry from the 28 DRS, 15 OAA year he had a few years back in 2019. With the bat, however, Chapman had a great year. Despite a slow start, he hit .229/.324/.433, good for a 117 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR.

It’s hard to buy into Chapman falling off so drastically with the glove. It was a relatively large 1344.1-inning year, but I’d still expect Chapman to be worth closer to 10 outs on defense in 2023. The Steamer and ZiPS projection models have drastically different expectations for Chapman, with ZiPS projecting a 5.2-win season and Steamer projecting him for just 3.5. I’d imagine, like 2022, he falls somewhere in between.

8. Eugenio Suarez, SEA (NR)

Eugenio Suarez is the traditional baseball fan’s nightmare. He had a .238 batting average and led the league in strikeouts last year. On the other hand, he hit 31 home runs, had a 131 wRC+, and accumulated 4.1 fWAR. Excluding the shortened 2020 season, Suarez has slugged at least 30 home runs in each season since 2018, including a 49-homer outburst in 2019. In 2023, expect more of the same from Suarez. Projections are low on Suarez, with Steamer expecting just a 108 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR. At just 31, we should expect a little less regression than that.

7. Gunnar Henderson, BAL (NR)

This spot may seem way too high for Gunnar Henderson, who has just 34 games of MLB experience behind him. But I’d argue that I could’ve ranked him even higher. Henderson is the consesus top prospect in baseball entering the 2023 season. He’s still just 21 years old, but is the runaway favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year in 2023. Many young stars, including his teammate Adley Rutschman and Mariners centerfielder Julio Rodriguez, have proven that it’s not wild to expect huge years out of top prospects in their rookie seasons. Steamer projects Henderson to have a 126 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR, with ZiPS running that projected WAR total up above five.

6. Rafael Devers, BOS (5)

This offseason, Rafael Devers and the Boston Red Sox agreed to a massive 11-year, $331 million extension to keep Devers in Boston through 2033. Although he probably projects as a 1st baseman or designated hitter in the long run, he’ll be sticking at 3rd base to start 2023. Last year, Devers had a monster year at the plate, posting a .295/.358/.521 slash line, good for a 141 wRC+.

With the glove, however, he leaves much to be desired. Outside of one oddly incredible Gold Glove caliber season in 2019 when he put up 17 OAA, Devers has been a negative defender in each year of his career. With a better glove, Devers would find himself among the best third basemen in baseball. It’s hard to complain with Devers’ career so far though, as he has already amassed 18.1 fWAR by age 25. In 2023, Devers should put up close to 5 WAR once again.

5. Austin Riley, ATL (6)

Austin Riley has catapulted his name into the elite, franchise player category over the past two years after struggling to adjust to MLB pitching in his first two years. Since the start of the 2021 season, though, he leads all 3rd basemen in wRC+ and only three have accumulated more fWAR than the Braves’ young star. In 2022, Riley had his best season yet. In 159 games, he put up a 142 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR. Riley’s only concern comes with his glove, as he had -6 OAA at 3B in 2022 and has never had a positive OAA season. In 2023, expect another great offensive output for Riley, who should get some MVP votes lower on the ballot once again.

4. Alex Bregman, HOU (3)

In 2022, Alex Bregman had a much-needed bounce back year, posting a 136 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR in 155 games. In 2018 and 2019, Bregman was the best 3rd baseman in baseball when he put up back-to-back seasons above 8 WAR. Through his age-28 season, Bregman is undoubtedly on a Hall of Fame track, as long as the 2017 Astros scandal doesn’t get in the way. Bregman may be the most underrated player in baseball, as he sometimes gets overshadowed by teammates Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. Don’t be surprised if Bregman puts up another 6+ WAR season in 2023.

3. Nolan Arenado, STL (8)

That number eight in the parentheses looks so wrong next to Nolan Arenado‘s name, but it was fully justified last year. Now, some fans and analysts would argue that he’s the best 3rd baseman in baseball once again. In 2022, alongside his teammate Paul Goldschmidt, Arenado was a National League MVP finalist as he had a 151 wRC+, 14 OAA, and a 7.3 fWAR.

In his 10 MLB seasons, Arenado has been a seven-time All-Star, ten-time Gold Glover, six-time Platinum Glover, and five-time Silver Slugger. Following the best season of his Hall of Fame career in 2022, there’s no reason to expect anything short of another elite season from the Cardinals’ 3rd baseman in 2023.

2. Jose Ramirez, CLE (1)

Jose Ramirez has been atop my 3rd baseman list for the last few years and he has a strong argument to be atop this one as well. Since 2016, only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have put up more fWAR than Ramirez. For a while, he was one of the most underrated players in the sport. Now, he definitely gets the recognition he deserves. He’s finished in the top-4 of AL MVP voting four times in the last six years and arguably deserved to win the award in 2020.

Ramirez struggled in the 2nd half of the 2022 season as he battled injuries, but still finished the year with a 139 wRC+ and 6.2 fWAR. Projections are pretty consistent across the board for Ramirez: expect him to be among the league’s most productive players once again in 2023.

1. Manny Machado, SDP (2)

As I previously mentioned, both Ramirez and Arenado have strong arguments to be the king of the hill at the hot corner. But I went with Manny Machado, who beat whatever “even-year Machado” allegations still remained in 2022 by having the best season of his career. His 7.4 fWAR led the National League and only trailed Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge in the entire league. In 150 games, Machado slashed .298/.366/.531 (152 wRC+), and put up a 3.0 BsR and 9 OAA.

Machado’s glove gives him a slight edge over Ramirez, a solid defender who is a couple tiers below Arenado and Machado. As for Arenado, Machado’s batted-ball profile is the difference maker. Machado walks more, hits the ball harder, generates more barrels, and whiffs less than Arenado. He’s almost a perfect baseball player – there isn’t much more you could ask from him. Expect another incredible season from Machado, who at just 30 years old is still right in the middle of his prime years.

Main image credit

Share this article

James Valentinas is a 17-year-old Cubs, Knicks, and Bears fan who loves to write about his favorite teams.