On MLB Network on Thursday night, they continued their top ten at each position series, listing the best third baseman right now. Josh Harrison ranked third among all third baseman in baseball. The rankings are based on what to expect from the player for the upcoming season. Harrison played 72 games at third base in 2014, although he only started 55 times. He hit .315/.347/.490 in 143 total games, with 13 homers and 18 stolen bases. Harrison finished ninth in the NL MVP voting and made the All-Star team.
The show also had top tens from hosts Brian Kenny and Mike Lowell. Kenny ranked Harrison outside his top ten, while Lowell had him rated as the sixth best third baseman. There was also a segment with a panel of experts that included Bill James, Mike Petriello from Fangraphs and Vince Gennaro from SABR. Gennaro ranked him #5, while the other two talked good about him, but had him ranked lower without giving specifics.
The complete top ten list was:
1. Adrian Beltre
2. Josh Donaldson
3. Josh Harrison
4. Anthony Rendon
5. David Wright
6. Kyle Seager
7. Matt Carpenter
8. Evan Longoria
9. Juan Uribe
10. Nolan Arenado
The Pirates had Andrew McCutchen ranked first in center field, Neil Walker ranked fourth among second baseman, Starling Marte ranked fourth in left field and Jordy Mercer ranked sixth at shortstop. Both Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were among the best relievers.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
I really hope j hay has a great year if only to prove all the naysayers wrong. The guy has worked to hard to fall down now. I for one really enjoy his ability to make the mundane play into a spectacular eye popping wow! did he just do that?
This list is laughable. Rendon, Seager, and Longoria are all much better than J-Hey based on their track records. In fact, even with their limited budget, I’m sure the Pirates would happily make any of those 1 for 1 deals.
These guys are critical of fans not being objective and they scoff at the human element’s relevance in relation to valuing a ballplayer .
The reality is, as fans we wear our bias on our sleeve. Guys like Brian Kenny and the like are the reason why guys like Dave Parker are not in the H.O.F.. It is all rooted in the same hidden bias of, which players are nice to them or the media in general and charm them and offer contrived sound bites, etc.. If a player doesn’t reaffirm the writer’s ego and feed their inflated sense of relevance for his baseball expertise, then his projections or statistical assessment likely suffers.. Human nature effects ball players and annalists alike.
I cannot believe I am forced to ask this, but come on, Where is the Red’s Todd Frazier?!
Just the fact of as a fan, how much the sight of the guy gets under my skin forces me to acknowledge his statistical right to be on the top half of this list…
Experts.. So off base my objectivity forces me to defend the enemy.
Frazier was so good last season. I would take him over juan uribe for sure! The shredder needs to be updated!
I’m just glad we have Josh. How he compares to everyone else does not matter. His value to the Pirates last season cannot be understated and hopefully he continues that stellar play. If he continues to perform as he did last season, he may end up at the top of that list next year.
I think 3rd-best is pretty accurate. Here’s the reason Josh’s production will not wane — and will, in fact, increase. First of all, his reflexes, quickness, great hands, and defensive skill are for real. This is a great athlete. Secondly, his power is to the right-center field power alley. If you notice, they guy does not pull the ball. If he works on pulling pitches he can hit, I think his power production can actually INCREASE. His play and numbers have progressively gotten better every year he’s been in the majors. There’s NOTHING about this guy that indicates “flash-in-the-pan”. I think he’s a bona fide superstar — and other teams can have their Longorias and Wrights.
You apparently didn’t consult a spray chart before this post.
Seriously. Of the 20 he hit last season… 7 were LF. 13 were LF-CF, CF-RF, or RF. Compare to Cutch’s 10 of 25 to LF. The rest elsewhere.
In fact, his line-drive ratio to Cutch’s — looking at the 2014 spray charts — compare favorably with Cutch’s. Cutch hits them longer more consistently, but J-Hay’s pop to the opposite field is readily apparent.
To be fair to JB, IMO Harrison simply hits the ball where it’s pitched. He doesn’t try to pull it unless it’s inner half and he doesn’t go oppo unless it’s outer half. So in his case I simply think the spray charts are more indicative of where he’s being pitched than anything. He should be the hitting coach 🙂
JHay also checks out fielder positioning when he does his little toe tap out of the box. One of his best skills is “hitting’em where they ain’t” in addition to hitting where it’s pitched. It’s difficult to effectively shift on him.
This isn’t slow pitch. I promise Josh Harrison – nor anyone in Major League Baseball – has the ability to “hit ’em where they ain’t”.
Ha! Agreed! With exception for Starling Marte of course. 😉
Maybe the shredder predicts Harrison will have an 8 WAR season helping the Bucco’s win the WS?
The 2nd half of last season, JHay was one of the best players in the NL. I can understand how the computer picked him so high above aging vets like Longoria and Wright. It’s us fans who get caught up in the past that’s the problem.
I’m optimistic JHay will have a better year than Wright and Longoria, proving the computer right. And forcing Brian Kenney to eat his words.
Jay Hay is going to have a monster year. He is one of the best all around players in the game and is hungry to prove all those who doubt him wrong. Legit MVP candidate with a whole year at third.
Jay Hay’s second half numbers that I suspect are a harbinger for the coming year were off the charts awesome.
I’d have him just after Longoria on this list, though that would be a close call, and Wright only keeps his spot if he actually stays healthy. I’d also have Rendon above Donaldson, but not by much.
Wow, that’s high for a guy with only one year of success. I would put him in the top 10 but not the top 3. If I was voting I would need to see him play at this level for another season before putting him in front of players like David Wright and Longoria.
I would trade Harrison in a second for Rendon. Not even close.
Yes, but would you bet that next season (& next season only) Rendon has a better year that Josh? Because that’s what the rankings are doing. I’m not sure Josh has a better next year than Rendon, but I think he does, and so do MLB’s metrics, whatever they use. It sure seems like something got switched on for Josh last year.
I wonder if these rankings take positional flexibility/uncertainty into account? For example I like rendon’s numbers at third base but I LOVE them at second base. Whereas Harrison’s numbers/projection may be somewhat more spread out over the diamond, including ab’s as an outfielder? (based on last year at least)
I’m sure NH would do it in a second also. But the Nats wouldn’t.
Without even thinking about it. I love harrison but I can’t understand how he is rated above carpenter, longoria and rendon.
Longoria has tailed off since his injury in 2012. His strikeout to walk ratio has jumped from about 1.5 to 1 in 2011 to almost 2.5 to 1 last year. He still hits for good power (32 HR in 2013), but he sells out for the fastball more. His OPS has declined from a full season peak of .890 in 2009 to .724 last year.
BTW, has this guy ever heard of Manny Machado? If he is healthy, he may be the best all around third baseman in all of MLB – especially his fielding and arm.
Machado made a couple lists during the show, but not the overall list, which is done by a computer “using analytic data”
I don’t have much regard for their “analytic data”, if they don’t see Machado as being one of the top 10 third basemen in MLB. IMHO, fielding and arm wise, he is second to none. As far as all around rating, I would have him in the top 3.
Charles Barkley disapproves of your reference to ‘analytics.’
The round mound will rebound from it
Other than rookie phenoms, has any recent MLB player increased his stock more in one year than Harrison did last year?
Good question. I’m terrible at remembering these things, but Chris Davis in 2013 stands out too. He went from 1WAR in about 1600 PAs to 6.8 WAR in 2013. A difference with him is that he did have 2.1 WAR the prior year, but it was offset by negative WARs for years prior.
Harrison had 1.2 WAR in less than 600 PAs then put up 4.9.
Let’s hope that’s where the similarities end between the 2!
R: Excellent point. JHAY worked hard to get there, but had to wait for a perfect storm of injuries combined with bizarre defense. He got the opp and took full advantage of it – showed a lot of maturity coinciding nicely with the birth of his first child. We can all see the batting stats, but posting a .984 fielding percentage as a 3B is as good or better than anyone playing 3B in 2014.
Kind of a strange list with some studs having off or injured years. I love Harrison but I would take David Wright and Longoria over Harrison. (I know not really a bold statement) I really like Seager and Arrenado’s upside too. A lot of really good players on the list…and Juan Uribe who gets a inordinate amount of his value from defense. I wouldn’t want his offense as a tradeoff for three chances a game on defense…and his .311 average is 44 points over his career average. I don’t get Uribe at 9. Way too much stock in last year’s stats…it almost seems like all the stock is from last year. Beltre is amazing. His career stats are huge on offense and defense. Milestones easily within his reach: 1500R, 600 2B, 500 HR, 1600 RBI. He has the 6th best WAR all-time at 3B. Crazy to think Beltre probably already has the HOF wrapped up.
Third basemen for some reason have a hard time making it into the hall of fame.
“By position, there are: 77 pitchers, 16 catchers, 21 first basemen, 21 second basemen, 16 third basemen, 24 shortstops, 21 left fielders, 23 center fielders, 24 right fielders, 1 designated hitter, 23 managers, 10 umpires and 33 executives.”
Fewer catchers is understandable, they take a beating behind the plate and tend to have shorter careers. But is the hot corner really that hot?
Calling it 16 like they do is a stretch, it’s really 11 Major League third baseman in the Hall and plenty of people say a lot of them don’t belong. I’ve heard people say Pie Traynor doesn’t belong, which is just ignorant of baseball history. In 1969, at the end of Eddie Mathews career, Traynor was named to the All-Century team as the starting third baseman, a team celebrating 100 years of professional baseball. There was a reason for that. Not only was he a good hitter, but he played third base back when small ball was in full effect, bunts were popular and guys didn’t strikeout all the time. Defense at the position was so much more important back then and he was an above average third baseman. Not sure how anyone could keep the best player over a 100 year span out of the Hall(obviously excluding steroid era or banned players)
According to JAWS, Traynor ranks as the 59th best third baseman of all time, one sport behind Aramis Ramirez. I don’t think you can really argue that Traynor’s offensive stats are not great. He has a 107 OPS+ for his career. That’s like Garrett Jones territory. His .320 BA just looks good because he was playing in the most hitter-friendly era since the 1800’s. It certainly wasn’t small ball in 1930 when tams average 5.69 runs per game. Basically the argument comes down to defense, and he would have had to have been as good as Mazeroski to get close to the some of the marginal Hall of Fame third baseman. Many of the defensive stats don’t think Traynor was good at all, and they certainly take into account that defense has become slightly less important as strikeouts have increased. The period accounts of his defense are really good, but he would have had to been among the best defenders of all-time to be in deserving Hall of Fame territory. I don’t think that he was. If you think that he was, then I won’t argue with it.
I just can’t overlook the All-Century team, which was a big deal back in 1969. They voted Traynor the best well after his career ended. There has to be a reason for that. They didn’t forget 19th century guys either, Jimmy Collins got some votes and his best years were in the 1890’s. It wasn’t just a handful of people voting either, it was a huge event at the time. Traynor was also voted into the Hall by the baseball writers, which means the people that saw him play considered him great. The voting started during his career and it was a loaded ballot with voting limits, so saying it took eight times for him to get in is a stretch of the truth.
As for his defense and your question. Traynor was highly regarded during his era, but I wouldn’t say he is elite. I’m surprised his defensive stats don’t stand up better, but I’ve seen some big surprises based on what I’ve read on older players, so I’m not 100% confident in old dWAR stats. I can give one big example that really stands out.
Center fielder Steve Brodie was considered the best defender at his position during his day. The Pirates traded Jake Stenzel to get him when Stenzel was doing things with the bat that no other Pirates player did before or since. If you look at Brodie’s dWAR stats, it looks like he was Derek Jeter out in the field, like a statue with a pulse. How is he rated so poor when the people that saw him daily considered him the best? Something doesn’t fit.