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Posted at 9:42 AM ET, 02/ 9/2011

NL East position rankings: third base

By Ryan Korby

Third base is a big name position for the NL East. You’ve got four first-round draft picks, four all-stars, and an MVP. With each player at a different stage in his career, the rankings come together pretty easily.

1. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals - Zimmerman had arguably the best all-around season last year in the National League. Not just among third basemen, including everyone. He was third in the NL in Wins Above Replacement and could have jumped the other two, Joey Votto and Albert Pujols, had he not missed 20 games. He hit a career high in OPS at .899 and his UZR was the second best mark for an infielder in the NL. He’s improving his approach at the plate as seen in his walk rate and is hitting an age at 26 where players start to hit their peak. The big test will be how he does this season without Adam Dunn protecting him in the lineup. Even with all of the stats to back him up, Zimmerman didn’t even make the All-Star Game last year!

2. David Wright, Mets - Wright was the player that the fans erroneously voted as their all-star third baseman. I’ve always believed that had Zimmerman come along first, people would realize the true order of the two in the third base hierarchy. Wright has had a fine career so far, don’t get me wrong, and he has put up numbers at the plate that Zimmerman has yet to achieve, but the David Wright playing now is not the same guy as a few years ago. In 2007, Wright hit 30 home runs, stole 34 bases and was a very good fielding 3B. After 2008, his career trajectory befuddles me. You had 2009 where Wright’s power was sapped. He hit only 10 home runs. He rebounded to hit 29 last season, but had to become a hacker to do so. He swung at 30 percent of all pitches outside of the zone, nearly 10 percent more than he ever had in his career. Also, according to UZR, he’s the worst fielding starting 3B returning to the NL East this season by a long shot. I think a lot of last year’s results had to do with pressure to prove that 2009 was an aberration. I say Wright recovers this year to be more like his old self.

3. Placido Polanco, Phillies - He’s a great role player that does what his team needs him to do. The Phillies have had their share of power hitters, so Polanco’s contact hitting prowess suits his team just fine. He’s simply one of the best at putting the bat on the ball. He made contact on an incredible 91 percent of the pitches he swung at last year, which was good for second in the NL and also led to him having the second best strikeout rate. He’s also a comparable defender to Zimmerman in terms of the number of runs he saves. While Zimmerman has great range but is prone to errors, Polanco’s range has diminished but he never makes a mistake.

4. Chipper Jones, Braves - Never count him out. He turns 39 in April, but some of his best seasons at the plate came in his mid-30s. He tore the ACL in his left knee in August and although he says he’ll be ready to go in April, you have to wonder how much he’ll be able to produce over an entire season. The Braves also get bonus “great third base name” points for having a guy named Brooks Conrad back Jones up if he’s not ready to go. 

5. Matt Dominguez, Omar Infante, Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins - The Marlins want the prospect Dominguez (who has never played above AA) to handle the hot corner this season. Infante (ranked third among NL East second basemen) and Bonifacio are expected to also log time. None of those three inspire expectations except for the worst third base play in the NL East this year.

By Ryan Korby  | February 9, 2011; 9:42 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  | Tags:  Nationals, Ryan Korby  
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