Evan Longoria (TB): No sophomore slump here, huh? One of the better offensive performers (33 – 113 – .281), draws a few walks, and is as good a defender at his position as there is in the game. Other than a couple of first basemen and maybe Joe Mauer, nobody was more valuable in the American League. (114.0 Runs Scored, 31.91 Runs Saved = 146.76 Total Run Production)
If he was a full time third baseman, Kevin Youkilis would rate next.
Chone Figgins (LAA): Gets on base, runs the bases well, and had an above average season with the glove – a sign that he’s getting more comfortable over there now that he’s not being used like a super utility player. Seattle will like having him at the front of the line up. (104.3 Runs Created, 7.5 Runs Saved = 111.86 Total Run Production.)
If you are an Angels fan, you probably want to know more about Brandon Wood. Wood has been the power hitting infielder in waiting for what seems like a small eternity. Wood was a first round draft pick back in 2003, and has had seasons at Rancho Cucamonga and Salt Lake City that would suggest that he’s the next Troy Glaus. Personally, I don’t buy it. Now, he’s struggled to hit .190 in the majors because he’s spent a lot of time going back and forth between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. He’s really only had one month where he got some regular MLB playing time – and that month he hit about .250 with a little power. And that’s where I think he’ll be. As a rule of thumb, you can usually look at PCL stats and knock 50 points of the batting average and about 40% of the power off the top. In three seasons of AAA ball, Wood has hit between .270 and .295 with 25 homer power. That translates to about 15 homers and a .245 batting average. I’d like to think, hitting at the bottom of the lineup, he’d be okay. Wood might do a bit better than that – the way Kendry Morales jumped up and hit like a monster. A bit better than that is 20 homers and .260 – which is decent enough if he brings a solid glove and improves his strikeout/walk ratio. Wood turns 25 in March, which is a bit long in the tooth for a prospect.
Alex Rodriguez (NYY): Missed a month following hip surgery, and then needed some time to get back into playing shape. After the all-star break, he was dominating at times – including during the playoffs. Is getting better defensively, but has never been an above average fielder. Would he still be this good had he not spent years on the juice? (100.3 Runs Created, -6.50 Runs Saved = 93.76 Total Run Production)
Jhonny Peralta (CLE): As a hitter, he’s declining but tolerable. As a fielder, he was surprisingly solid at third base. I don’t know if he’s a long term solution, but what else do the Indians have? Besides, I’m ranking him as the fourth most productive third baseman in the AL! Andy Marte is penciled in as a backup here and at first base – and in more than a year’s worth of MLB at bats has struggled to hit .220. Marte looked good at Columbus in AAA, but so far he has not progressed beyond prospect. (75.6 Runs Created, 10.6 Runs Saved, 86.19 Total Run Production)
Adrian Beltre (SEA): Couldn’t stay healthy, and his bat suffered mightily. He’s now at the age where the chances of him returning to his 2006-2008 form are getting slimmer, but his stats might come back playing in Fenway. He’s never been a GREAT hitter, but he’s always been above average until last year. He remains a great fielder, though – and he will help Boston’s pitchers. (55.5 Runs Created, 28.6 Runs Saved = 84.14 Total Run Production)
Brandon Inge (DET): His body broke down as the season progressed, but he still played in 161 games. I’m just not so sure he was helping in, say, September. A surprising number of homers made up for a lack of batting average. He remains a pretty good fielder. (71.9 Runs Created, 9.4 Runs Saved, 81.31 Total Run Production)
Melvin Mora (BAL): Now in Colorado. Like Beltre, his bat fell in the tank. Defensively, he was solid – so he can still help. He’s not getting any younger, though… Welcome back, Miguel Tejada, who – if he doesn’t age two more years – should be a step up here. (51.6 Runs Created, 21.70 Runs Saved, 73.32 Total Run Production)
Adam Kennedy (OAK): Played all over the infield, but had the most innings here. He’s really NOT a third baseman and having been signed to play second base for Washington, is returning to his old home… Kevin Kouzmanoff arrives from San Diego to play for the As, and Eric Chavez could always come back from injuries to play for a month at some point in the season. Kouz is NOT a step up from what Kennedy did overall – and if we ranked him using the numbers he put up in San Diego, would rank in this exact same spot anyway.
Mike Lowell (BOS): His hip injuries have become problematic, but he’s more productive than most. Last year’s fielding numbers were below average and his offensive numbers weren’t great but still above the league norm. Somebody is going to give him 400 at bats and he’s not going to be a problem. I still predict that he’ll join the Marlins radio booth in a few years… (69.7 Runs Created, -4.2 Runs Saved = 65.51 Total Run Production)
Gordon Beckham (CWS): Actually, not a bad tally for a rookie and if he were staying at third, I’d like his chances to move into the top five in this group next year. Instead, the White Sox are moving Beckham to second base and giving his job to Mark Teahen – which isn’t a great idea (I’d rather have kept Beckham at third and signed Orlando Hudson), and it might take a while for the new infield to gel. Beckham’s OBP and SLG numbers were solid. I like him. (60.5 Runs Created, 4.2 Runs Saved = 64.67 Total Run Production)
Michael Young (TEX): Newly found power source gave Young perhaps his best offensive season ever. However, he looked out of position at third after years as a shortstop and his overall production numbers dropped him to eleventh. Hopefully he can maintain the offense and improve his range in 2010. (102.8 Runs Created, -39.0 Runs Saved = 63.83 Total Run Production)
Scott Rolen (TOR): Had a remarkably productive run for Toronto, hitting .320 with a little power. He was so good, Toronto sent him to Cincinnati… Like Lowell, you wonder how many years he has left, but if he can hit like this, he’s got plenty. Glove is no longer a strong suit. Edwin Encarnacion may not have this job for long unless he finds some stability and to be honest, this is a step down for Toronto. (63.2 Runs Created, -5.6 Runs Saved = 57.61 Total Run Production).
Joe Crede (MIN): The best of what Minnesota threw out there (Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher, Nick Punto), Crede isn’t horrible but he isn’t dependably healthy either. Minnesota will go in a different direction, but it’s hard to say what that direction will be. As of this writing, Harris is listed at the top of the depth chart but he is NOT a third baseman. (38.2 Runs Created, 6.8 Runs Saved = 45.01 Total Run Production)
Mark Teahen (KC): Alex Gordon will get his old job back, but it’s not like Gordon has been as advertised since arriving with the Royals three years ago. Teahen struggled mightily in the field for some reason – he’s usually pretty dependable. Now, he’s a White Sox third baseman, and that may not be a good thing. We’ll see. (67.4 Runs Created, -23.9 Runs Saved = 43.53 Total Run Production)