The hot corner in the American League East may feature more big names than any other position in the division. Tampa has an established star. Baltimore may have the biggest talent. Toronto's newcomer has compiled a WAR of 14.1 over the past two season, according to Fangraphs. While Boston's addition has three World Series rings. And New York has a former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winner...yup, and they have A-Rod.
As CC's Mark Brown did yesterday with first base, we will continue on and break down the guys on the other side of the infield to see how the O's stack up in a battle of AL East third basemen.
Below you will see the expected starter for each team in the East. The order in which there are written is my personal ranking from worst to best. Don't freak. I can be wrong, and I will be happy to hear your complaints in the comment section following the post.
The stats you see underneath a player's name are his total statistics for 2014 and ZiPS projections from Fangraphs that predict how he will perform in 2015. For some players, that includes time spent as the designated hitter and pinch hitting, but all of them were at third for the vast majority of the season.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Yes, I am going to say that Alex Rodriguez is NOT the Bronx Bombers starting third basemen in 2015. The Yankees website has Headley on top of the depth chart and A-Rod has been seeing time across the diamond at first in the spring. It is most likely he will be the every DH with some time here and there in the field. Moving on.
Headley is no slouch. He had become pretty much the entire offense of the San Diego Padres in his days there and was a highly-coveted trade chip when he came to New York last year. As you can see above, his power numbers are expected to uptick quite a bit with a full-time shift from spacious Petco Park to the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium.
There isn't much bad to say about Headley. He is a solid all-around player, but he is on the wrong side of 30 (of course he is, he's on the Yankees) and hitter's numbers start to dip then. Plus, it is a talented bunch that play his position in the division.
BOSTON RED SOX
The BoSox signed him to a five-year, $95 million deal that can become a six-year $107 million contract if Boston picks up his option for 2020. He is only 28 years old and should be entering his prime which makes this a pretty solid deal.
There may be minor concerns about the Panda staying healthy. In 2011 and 2012 he appeared in only 117 and 108 games, respectively. And he is also a guy that has seen his weight fluctuate throughout his career, but I would imagine doubts have been somewhat quelled following 2014.
As expected, his power numbers are predicted to shoot up, but I would imagine his average will dip some. There tends to be an adjustment period for players coming over from the National League, and he isn't that much above average when it comes to hitting fly balls, meaning he may not take full advantage of smaller ballparks.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Poor Longoria. I mean "poor" in the lack of supporting offense way, not the dollars and cents way. Obviously, he has plenty of that, and he lives in Tampa, so it's not all bad for him. Anyway, back to the baseball side of things.
Longo lost nearly 100 points from his slugging percentage between 2013 and 2014, hitting 10 fewer home runs and seven fewer doubles. But it didn't stop there as he also struggled in the field, posting the first negative UZR of his career.
The good news is that 2014 was the second consecutive year in which Longoria played at least 160 games after missing more than half of the 2012 season and nearly 30 games in 2011. Tampa will need him in the lineup if they are going to mount any sort of offensive firepower. Beyond their star at the hot corner, the lineup leaves a lot to be desired.
As I said in the opening, Machado is likely the most talented third baseman in the AL East, if not in all of Major League Baseball. And it is controversial to put his "arch nemesis" ahead of him. But Manny has not shown the ability to stay healthy and withstand an entire 162-game MLB season yet. OK, he basically made it through 2013 except for the final week of games, but he lost half of 2014 and is now on his third major knee injury in his professional career.
When he is on the field, the guy is insane. He makes highlight reel play after hightlight reel play, hits for a solid average and has started to develop the power that turns doubles in the gap into home runs landing in the bullpen.
We have been told that knee issues are a thing of the past now that both his left and right have been surgically repaired. Fingers crossed that that is true. If Machado is once again replaced by the likes of Ryan Flaherty or Jimmy Paredes, the O's could find this strength turning into a weak-knees. (See what I did there? I know you did.)
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
This guy. He is a former first-round draft pick who finally figured things out in a big way as a 27-year-old in 2013. Now he is 29 and Fangraphs gave him the fourth-best WAR rating among all hitters in the game last year. The sky would seem to be the limit for a player like this in the middle of his prime.
Oriole fans will remember him for his role in a certain benches-clearing brouhaha last summer in which our guy may have come off looking a bit silly. Things should get even spicier as division rivals.
I feel as though I am repeating myself a bit, but Donaldson hit 29 home runs in the big parks of the AL West last year. For me, that means he could possibly be going yard even more often playing in the hitter friendly confines like Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium this year.
On top of it, he is a standout in the field and has appeared in 158 games in each of his first two full seasons in the Bigs. There is no inkling of regression, and for that reason he has to be the top dog in the East at this time.
Now I want to hear what YOU think. Comment down below with your ranking of the third baseman in the AL East and vote for your #1 in the poll.