In today’s Cup O’ Coffee we’ll take a sip of the battle for 3rd base supremacy in the National League West.
In what should be one of the more interesting storylines to follow as the season wears on into its first full month of games is the performance of the highly-touted players who man 3B around the National League West. One player recently signed to a monster contract extension worthy of his talent; another is a newly-minted transplant already making waves (pun intended) both on his team and in the division. The last is considered a consistent offensive threat surrounded by a stellar cast.
You may already know the names, but let’s take a quick glance at the numbers so far 10 games into the season:
Player A: .282/.326/.385 .710 OPS, 0 HR, 0 DRS, 69 wRC+
Player B: .286/.405/.486 .890 OPS, 2 HR, 2 DRS, 135 wRC+
Player C: .300/.383/.325 .708 OPS, 0 HR, -2 DRS, 96 wRC+
Made your guesses or already looked at my Twitter question and found out who’s who? Let’s see if you’re right:
Player A – Nolan Arenado
Considered the top third bagger in the National League West and among the very top 3Bs in all of baseball, Arenado is off to a slower start to this season fresh off signing his massive 8-year $260 million contract extension to stay in Denver and off the free agent market.
Though Nolan is still hitting as expected he’s not quite at the clip he was in 10 games out of the gate last year (.324/.409/.486 in first 10 of 2018). Nolan’s K rate is much better than the other two 3B contenders (7.0% K); however, he’s taken far fewer free strolls (7.0% BB) in the very early goings, dropping his On-Base Percentage a touch lower than his career average. Last night’s game against the Dodgers with 3 hits and a triple bolstered his stats and shows that more games are needed to really made a solid judgement on how a player is doing. This is especially true of his defense; he’s yet to record anything with Defensive Runs Saved and his UZR has yet to accumulate. While Arenado has had much slower starts to the season earlier in his career, it’s easy to expect more production from the defending Gold Glove/Silver Slugger.
Player B – Manny Machado
To say that the Padres were bereft of a game-changing talent is probably saying the very least of the situation going into 2019, and Manny Machado has delivered change in the lineup and on the field in spades after signing his 10-year $300 million deal.
After a first couple series pressing at the plate Machado has been as advertised, hitting at around his career average clip. The added dimension to Manny’s game very early on is his walks; he’s currently walking it out at a 16.7% rate, almost double what he did all of last year and more than twice his career rate. He did do better at walking the beginning of last year (12.5% in first 10 of 2018) as well and is about average at taking walks overall (7.4% BB career), so expect some regression here. The pressing at the plate is apparent in his K rate (26.2%), far higher than his better than average career rate of 16.5%. While it would be nice to hope Manny keeps up the walks and cuts down the Ks, some normalization will probably come with more games. Did I mention his 135 wRC+ places him 10th in all of MLB 3B? I should have, though players above him are off to some really hot starts.
Defensively, Manny is fun to watch and has already accumulated 2 Defensive Runs Saved. Expect more from his glove in the coming season.
Player C – Justin Turner
The stalwart of consistency in the Dodgers vaunted lineup is off to a slow start but has recently turned it up against the Rockies, getting back to his usual hitting clip the last two games and getting his batting average to .300 with a good 11.0% walk rate and not so typical 25.5% strikeout rate. Particularly notable for Turner is his slugging rate (.325); the career .461 slugger has only collected 1 extra base hit (a double) in 10 games. Once again it’s easy to fall victim to early returns especially in very small sample sizes, and one can expect the pesky Dodger to regain some power at the plate as the season wears on.
Thanks to age (34) Turner is not going to be the defensive hot corner Arenado and Machado are and that shows early with a -2 DRS. Career-wise and after a stellar 2016 defensively Turner may be looking at the downslope of his defensive abilities.
With so many big names playing third around the NL West, it’ll be interesting to check back in a month and see who’s looking like the contender for the title of best 3B in the west.