In our look at the best players at each position in MLB, we have now reached the hot corner. Our next list takes a look at the best third basemen in all of Major League Baseball. So, who are our five best third basemen entering the 2023 season. Let’s start the rankings, which begin with an infielder who may be on the move at some point throughout the next 12 months.
5. Rafael Devers
We start off the list with Red Sox infielder and 2018 World Series champion Rafael Devers. Devers is one of the game’s most feared sluggers, thanks in large part to his prodigious power. Last season was a typical one for the 26-year-old, as the power-hitting Devers finished in the top ten in both OPS (.879) and extra base hits (70). Devers has been a steady producer for Boston, as the infielder has clubbed a whopping 178 extra base hits over the past three seasons. Just one player in baseball — who we will get to later in this piece — has more than Devers over that span.
While offense has not been a problem for Devers, defense is a different story. Despite a solid arm at third, he Red Sox infielder has traditionally ranked as among the worst defenders in baseball. Over time, it’s highly likely that the 240-pound Devers will have to move off the position at some point in the future.
4. Austin Riley
The Braves boast a very strong infield, and Austin Riley is part of the reason why that is the case. Atlanta’s starting third baseman has posted back-to-back 30+ home run seasons, including a career-high 38 dingers this past season. The 2021 World Series champion recorded a total of 79 extra base hits in 2022, the second-most in all of baseball. Only Yankees slugger Aaron Judge had more extra base hits (90) than Riley.
It’s hard to find hitters who have the strength and approach at the plate that Riley possesses, but there are weaknesses in his game. Much like Devers, Riley has ranked as a below-average fielder at third throughout his career. Last season, Riley ranked in the bottom 5% of all players in Outs Above Average. The Braves infielder recorded a -8 OAA in 2022, including a -6 OAA at third.
3. Jose Ramirez
No player in Major League Baseball over the last three seasons has more extra base hits (190) than Guardians superstar José Ramírez. Ramirez posted yet another strong season in 2022, as the Guardians infielder batted .280/.355/.514 with 29 home runs and 126 RBIs, the latter of which placed him in the top three of all of baseball. Aside from plus pop, Ramirez possesses incredible awareness & bat-to-ball skills at the plate. The infielder has a career K% of 12.1%, well below the MLB average of 22.1%.
The 30-year-old has turned into a premier hitter in the game, and Cleveland made sure last year that Ramirez stays in town for the foreseeable future. The Guardians star inked a five-year extension that will keep Ramirez in Cleveland through the end of the 2028 season.
3. Manny Machado
San Diego returned to the MLB Playoffs last October, thanks in large part of star third baseman Manny Machado. The six-time All-Star was a finalist for the 2022 NL MVP award, thanks to a fantastic season that saw Machado hit .298/.366/.531 with 32 home runs and 102 RBIs. In addition to his production at the plate, Machado is widely regarded as one of the game’s best defenders at third. Last season, the 30-year-old recorded a +9 Outs Above Average.
Machado is entering the fifth season of a massive 10-year contract that he signed with the Padres back in early 2019. However, that contract does come with an opt-out clause that can be triggered after this season. If that is the case, it’s quite possible that both he and fellow third baseman Rafael Devers enter the free agent market come next winter.
1. Nolan Arenado
Our list ends with arguably the best all-around third baseman in Nolan Arenado. Like Machado, Arenado finished as a runner-up to the NL MVP award that was ultimately won by fellow Cardinal Paul Goldschmidt. The 31-year-old batted .293/.358/.533 last season, and hit 30 home runs and 73 extra base hits in total. In the field, Arenado posted a +14 Outs Above Average. That performance earned the third baseman his 10th Gold Glove award — alongside a fifth Silver Slugger — earlier in the offseason.
Arenado has fit in exceptionally well on a Cardinals team that is looking to win its first World Series crown since 2011. If St. Louis wants to win it all in 2023, it will need another strong season from the seven-time All-Star.