Third base, the hot corner. It is a position that is one of the most challenging in our sport, yet gets wildly underappreciated year in and year out. The five guys that made our list portray a sense of grit, that very few ball players in the majors have. These five men have hand-eye coordination, that one could only dream of having. To make this list, you have to be willing to put your body on the line and these five guys would literally jump in front of a train, if it resulted in a W for their ball-clubs. We start our list with a guy who is entering only his third season in the majors, but has an upside that is brighter than a sunrise on a warm summer’s day.
5. Matt Chapman – Oakland Athletics
When Matt Chapman entered the majors in 2017, the scouting reports stated that he was a young prospect, with a cannon for an arm that would blow you away. The one doubt that experts had however, was that Chapman struggled to handle a bat, and thought he would be nothing more than a sub .250 hitter. The early scouting reports were spot on. In 2017, Chapman hit for a .234 BA in 326 plate appearances. He wowed the Oakland faithful with his glove, but showed inconsistencies with his bat, and left A’s fans to worry if he was the real deal. The one bright side of Chapman’s rookie season however, was that he stroked 14 homers on the year and had more pop than anyone expected. Fast forward to 2018, and Chapman broke onto the national scene as an elite third basemen. It was as if every night, he had made the SC top 10. The dude could shine like a diamond with his glove, but also absolutely abuse a ball with his lumber. Come season’s end, Chapman found himself with a .278 BA, a .356 OBP as well as scoring 100 runs and clocking 24 home runs. He also won his first gold glove. If you asked me a year ago, where Chapman would have landed on this list, the answer is simple, he wouldn’t have. It is mind-blowing how fast his stardom is rising and in the next 3 years, I would not be shocked if he is the best third basemen in our game. Although Chapman underwent a minor surgery on his thumb which has left his opening day status uncertain, I expect him to have a huge 2019 campaign that will feature his first all-star game appearance as well as his second straight gold glove award.
4. Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Anthony Rendon, is raw talent. Rendon was given a gift, and that gift was to become a major league baseball player. Rendon has an arm that torques like a Mack truck and a swing that is as violent as a jail house brawl. While Rendon’s defense tends to be overlooked and sometimes overshadowed, he has slowly become one of the more stable and reliable infielders in today’s game. Over the last 3 seasons, Rendon has committed just 22 errors in 436 games played. That averages out to less than 10 errors a season and roughly one error for every 18 games played. Rendon is not only a sensational craftsman at the hot corner, but is also a phenomenal batter. In 2018, Rendon hit for a .308 AVG, slugged 24 HR, drove in 92 runs and hit 44 doubles, which was 7th best in the majors. As a Phillies fan myself, I know all too well that Rendon is as hard of an out as you will find. His discipline in the box in uncanny and his ability to work deep in counts is admirable. With Harper now gone, you can expect Rendon to be the main source of offense for the Nationals in 2019. I see him finishing the year hitting anywhere from 22-27 homers to go along with at least 40 doubles. I also see his walks increasing from last season as there is nobody to protect him in the lineup this season, so pitchers may work around him if there is a base open. Never the less, Rendon should still have a great year and may very well make his first all-star game come mid-summer.
3. Jose Ramirez – Cleveland Indians
We have now reached the top 3 players on our list. I would just like to say, putting these three guys in numerical order has been near impossible. I feel that at this position there is an elite level that features Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman and Nolan Arenado and the rest of the guys are classed downstairs in the basement. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Rendon and Matt Chapman are PHENOMENAL baseball players, but they do not light a candle to these three guys at this current time a day. Without further adieu, now let’s talk about the first guy of our elite class, Jose Ramirez.
Jose Ramirez is the most underrated player in Major League Baseball. Now, I know what you are all thinking. UH WHAT! The reason I say this is because although Jose Ramirez is considered to be one of the better players in the MLB, he is often not classed with the elitist of baseball. When you talk about Mike Trout and Jose Altuve, you usually don’t bring up Jose Ramirez, but you should. Over the last two seasons alone, Ramirez has hit 68 home runs, has scored 217 runs, has driven in a combined 188 runs, has an average OBP of .380 and has collected a total of 342 hits. These numbers are not just good, they are damn near shocking. Ramirez has also finished top 3 in the MVP voting the last two seasons and has won a silver slugger in both 2017 and 2018. What this guy does at the plate is damn near surgical. He rarely strikes out, takes his walks when are needed and grinds out tough at bats on the regular. The thing that is so impressive about Ramirez is that his constant power surge has yet to slow down over the last 324 games. In 2017, Ramirez led the majors in doubles with 56. In 2018, Ramirez had an OPS of .939 which was top 5 in baseball. To think that he would have anything less than a superb season in 2019 would just be foolish. I expect Ramirez to finish his 2019 campaign hitting 40 homers, driving in 100+ runs along with 100+ runs scored. I expect his OBP to continue to be one of the highest in baseball and think he will be top 3 in the league in OPS when all is said and done. If Ramirez learns how to hit in the postseason, he will be number one on this list without question. But for right now, that is his chink in the armor and is why he is number 3 on the list, opposed to being the king of the hot corner.
2. Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies
Over the last half decade, Nolan Arenado has been gracing the major league scene with absolute brilliance. His offensive numbers have been almost unfathomable, his defense has been straight up unfair and he is as electrifying of a player that you will ever find. In his last 4 seasons alone, Arenado has driven in 503 total runs, hit 158 homers, clocked 159 doubles and has had an average OPS of .931. In those four seasons, Arenado has also earned 4 gold gloves, 2 platinum glove awards, 4 silver slugger awards, has made the all-star game all 4 seasons and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting each season. This 4 year span is one of the most impressive runs in baseball history. So why is he not number one on the list? Well there are a few reasons. For starters, Arenado’s offensive numbers took a small dip in 2018 and I expect them to dip a tad more in 2019. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Arenado drove in at least 130 runs each season. In 2018, he only drove in 110. He also struck out more than he had in his entire career. Now these are small observations that in the grand scheme of things, does not take away from his overall value, but I feel that it is worth mentioning. With all that being said, what kind of year should we expect from Arenado in 2019? Well, I feel that it is a given he will take home another gold glove. He is the best fielder in baseball and it’s not even close. I also expect Arenado to hit anywhere from 30-35 home runs and see him driving in anywhere from 110-120 runs. As long as Arenado is healthy, he is one of the most exciting players this game has seen, and it is truly a blessing that we get to witness his greatness on a yearly basis.
1. Alex Bregman – Houston Astros
In the 2015 MLB draft, Alex Bregman was selected with the second overall pick by the Houston Astros. He was a young ball player from LSU who had serious pop and had potential to turn into something special. After spending just one year in the minors, Bregman made his major league debut on July 25, 2016. He immediately lived up to his hype as he hit 8 homers and stroked 13 doubles in just 49 games played. In his first full season as a major leaguer in 2017, Bregman hit for a .284 BA, hit 39 doubles and slugged 19 homers. As the summer days grew long, Astros fans began to see just how special he was and just how potent he was going to become in the next couple of seasons. Then in 2018, greatness struck. Bregman absolutely burst onto the national platform and finished the 2018 season with a .286 BA, a .394 OBP, hit 31 homers, drove in 103 runs and led the majors in doubles with 51. In the blink of an eye, Bregman went from having a bright upside, to becoming a full-blown superstar. To hit 30 home runs and clock over 50 doubles in the same season is something major league vets can only dream of, and Bregman did it in his second full season at the major league level. You guys have to understand that Alex Bregman is only 24 years old. His “prime” is no where close to happening and he is only going to get better and stronger with time. The reason Bregman is #1 on this list is not only because of his outstanding 2018 season that landed him 5th in the all-star voting, but because the sky is the limit for this New Mexican and there is no telling just how good he’s going to be. To show you just how special I think Bregman is, I am going to predict that in 2019, he will have a 40 home run, 50 double and 110 RBI season. This has only happened a hand full of time’s in major league history. Alex Bregman is an exclusive individual and I will promise you guys that within the next 5 years, he will be considered as a top 5, or maybe even a top 2 player in baseball.