2017 MLB Player Rankings for 3B: Bryant, Machado in a dead heat at the top

Spring Training is a week away. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.

So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several days. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, who do you want at the position?
  2. These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
  3. These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters, including here at the hot corner.

Today, we’ll hit on third base -- where we have a tie at the top between Kris Bryant and Manny Machado. As with shortstop before it, there are a number of other high-quality youngsters playing third these days, and there’s a real chance at least one of this year’s Most Valuable Player Award winners come from this group.

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Kris Bryant is used to topping lists. USATSI
2017 MLB Player Rankings: Third Base
t-1
Kris Bryant Chicago Cubs 3B
In our voting, Bryant tied with Machado for the top spot. Yet Bryant goes first here due to alphabetical order -- as if the universe hasn’t favored him enough, what with him winning the NL MVP last season while the Chicago Cubs took home the World Series trophy. Those honors were just, as Bryant is one of the best players in baseball. He improved upon both his power and strikeout marks from his rookie seasons, and he did so while seeing action all around the infield and outfield. What is there negative to say here -- that Bryant’s beard doesn’t connect? That’s about all we can muster. He’s the franchise.
t-1
Manny Machado Baltimore Orioles 3B
Machado will turn 25 in July, meaning he’s entering his age-24 season. He’s still a baby, basically. Nonetheless, Machado has now chained consecutive 30-plus-homer seasons together, during which he’s continued to play elite-level defense. You could argue Machado ought to be a shortstop -- not a third baseman -- and that point is well taken. Still, the only other blemish here is a walk rate that declined from its career-high perch in 2015. So much of MVP voting seems to hinge on team performance, but don’t be surprised if Machado earns his first top-three finish regardless of how the Baltimore Orioles fare.
t-3
Nolan Arenado Colorado Rockies 3B
Arenado doesn’t play on the East Coast or for a contender, but he deserves recognition as one of the top talents in the game. There aren’t many players who can do what he’s done the past two seasons -- homering more than 40 times while playing Gold Glove-level defense at a premium position. And oh, by the way? Arenado doesn’t turn 26 until April. The only thing separating him from the top of this list is sharing a position with two players who could take home the MVP trophy in any given season.
t-3
Josh Donaldson Toronto Blue Jays 3B
Speaking of MVP winners, Donaldson won the 2015 AL MVP and finished fourth in last fall’s voting. He turned 31 in December, and while that’s inching closer to the typical decline phase, there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll challenge for another top-five voting finish. Donaldson has flirted with (or surpassed) 30 home runs and 100 RBI in each of the past three seasons, and he figures to do so again in 2017. Factor in his defense, and he’s been the best player on the Toronto Blue Jays for a reason.
t-5
Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers 3B

The elder statesman, Beltre might be turning 38 soon, but he remains a capable two-way talent. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman of his generation -- if you’ve seen him charge the ball you know why -- and he’s a heck of a hitter, too. Last season was Beltre’s seventh consecutive year with an OPS+ north of 110. No wonder he’s earned MVP votes in each of those years. Though Father Time is undefeated, he’s yet to knock off Beltre. Here’s hoping that doesn’t change in 2017.

t-5
Kyle Seager Seattle Mariners 3B

Poor Kyle Seager. Not only is he overshadowed by a more talented younger brother, but the presence of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz means he doesn’t even receive appropriate credit for the Seattle Mariners’ success. Seager is a well-rounded player -- he’ll hit for a decent average, walk, bop 20-plus home runs, and play high-quality defense. He’s not flashy -- you might not recognize him if you walked by him in the airport -- but he’s one of the best at his position.

7
Evan Longoria Tampa Bay Rays 3B

In 2016, Longoria completed his fourth consecutive season in which he appeared in 160-plus games. Along the way, Longoria homered a career-high 36 times and looked more like the player who opened his career by making three All-Star Games in a row. From a statistical standpoint, the drawbacks to Longoria’s game are a declining walk rate and glove. It’s worth noting, however, that he still passed the eye test. We’ll see what 2017 has in store, but Longoria remains the face of the Tampa Bay Rays all the same.

8
Justin Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 3B
This might seem like a low rank for Turner, who is fresh off earning MVP consideration for the first time, but think about it. Last season was the first in which Turner recorded more than 500 plate appearances in a season, and was just the second time he’d topped 10 home runs. Add in how Turner is entering his age-32 campaign, and that’s why he’s a little lower on here than his 2016 performance may have merited.
t-10
Anthony Rendon Washington Nationals 3B
Rendon followed up an injury-shortened 2015 by channeling aspects of his 2014 season, during which he earned MVP consideration. He’s a high-quality fielder who is also capable of smacking 20 home runs during a given season. The biggest drawback to Rendon is the persisting concern about his durability -- a concern that would look outdated if he can play in more than 150 games for the third time in four seasons.
t-10
Mike Moustakas Kansas City Royals 3B
Moustakas will hope to follow Rendon’s blueprint, as he missed most of last season with a torn ACL -- a shame, given he’d pieced together the best season of his career the year before. Moustakas is expected to be ready by Opening Day, and the upside here is an above-average hitter and fielder who, now 28, is in the prime of his career. Expect another 15-to-20 homers en route to his date with free agency.

Also receiving votes: Jose Ramirez, Indians; Alex Bregman, Astros.

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