At third base, the ball gets on fielders quick. Fielders need to have fast hands and strong arms to fire the ball across the diamond. Being at a corner position, third basemen are expected to contribute with a big bat as well. The NL West has solid veterans, players entering their prime, and young players ready to be strong in the future. Here is how they rank heading into 2014.
#1 San Francisco Giants
Pablo Sandoval has had an interesting career. There have been times when the Kung Fu Panda has been seen as one of the best third basemen in the game. Other times, like in the 2010 World Series, Sandoval was barely able to find his way onto the field. He has battled many injuries whether it is his wrist, elbow, foot, or hamstring, and his weight has been a constant issue. Currently, baseball reference lists Sandoval as a hefty 240 pounds, much higher than the average third baseman. But, when healthy and playing to his full potential Sandoval can be one of the league’s best. Twice in his six year career he has hit over 20 homeruns and he holds a career .298 average. While he struggled in the 2010 post season, he was the best offensive weapon in 2012 when he batted over .500 in the World Series and had six post season homeruns. This year there have been several reports that Sandoval is on a mission to slim down. If he remains healthy, a lighter Sandoval could be one of the top five third basemen in the game.
#2 Arizona Diamondbacks
Martin Prado is not just a top third baseman in the West, but he has the ability to play all over the diamond. Last season, he not only started games at third, but he started at short, second, and in the outfield, too. All over the field he provides a steady veteran presence as shown in his career .981 fielding percentage. At the plate he rarely strikes out and is a career .293 hitter. He puts the ball in play so much that he struck out just 53 times (or once every 11.5 at bats last season). They showed confidence in Prado by trading, slugging third base prospect, Matt Davidson this offseason. With sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo behind him in the lineup, he is a great table setter for Arizona.
#3 Los Angeles Dodgers
Although he has never been an all-star, Juan Uribe is a strong veteran presence in the Dodgers’ lineup. Even at the age of 34, Uribe fields his position well and is able to make all of the routine plays. Last season, he hit a decent .278 and was able to hit 12 homeruns which was the most homeruns since 2010 with the Giants. He brings leadership and plenty of post season experience, including two World Championships to the roster. As a clubhouse leader, Uribe can be a strong veteran presence for a team expected to have many October games in the future.
#4 San Diego Padres
Two seasons ago, Chase Headley was one of the most prolific sluggers at the position. He hit 31 homers and drove in a league leading 115 runs. He was also an all-star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove winner. Last season however, he took a giant step backwards. Headley batted a career low .250 and did not even match half of the homeruns and RBIs he had hit the year before. Heading into next season, if the Padres are going to compete they need Headley to be a key contributor in their lineup.
#5 Colorado Rockies
In his first season as an everyday player, Nolan Arenado certainly impressed. With his glove he produced plenty of highlight reel plays that earned him a Gold Glove in his first big league season. At the plate, Arenado held his own hitting ten homeruns, and batting .267. Arenado should benefit next year having a full season under his belt and having an improved Rockies lineup. Playing half of his games in Coors Field should help his power numbers to rise and he is expected to be a strong offensive player in the Rockies lineup for the next decade.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference