The arrival of Major League Baseball's offseason means that, among other things, it's now the time of the year when we're going to be ranking all kinds of things -- free agents, prospects, and so on. The process got underway last week, when we rolled out our annual free-agent rankings. This year's list ran 60 deep, a nod toward the bloated free-agent class that resulted from teams declining affordable club options in a fiscally conservative response to the pandemic.
Continuing today, we'll be taking the next step with our free-agent rankings, breaking things down on a position-by-position basis. That process carries on with our top five third basemen.
Note: Several of the players on this list also play other infield positions.
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 2B
|(No. 4 overall) Despite playing seven seasons with the Rockies , LeMahieu nearly doubled his career home-run total (from 49 to 85) over his two with the Yankees . That's notable for a number of reasons, including his groundball tendencies and what might be described as his beneficial relationship with Yankee Stadium's dimensions. LeMahieu had the third-lowest launch angle in 2020 among hitters with 200-plus trips to the plate, ahead of only Raimel Tapia and Isiah Kiner-Falefa , who hit a combined four home runs. What's more is that, according to Statcast's calculations, LeMahieu has hit about a dozen more home runs than he was expected to based on his batted ball's trajectories. In other words, to sign LeMahieu is to gamble that his power profile might be perfectly tailored for Yankee Stadium in a way that will not translate to other parks. What should translate are his bat-to-ball and defensive skills and his ability to shoot the ball to right-center field. Those aspects aren't as sexy, and aren't as likely to be rewarded with a large sum. This, then, feels like a situation where LeMahieu should be valued more favorably by New York than anyone else; the question is whether the Yankees will bid against themselves.|
Justin Turner Los Angeles Dodgers 3B
|(No. 7 overall.) It's a shame Turner made the irresponsible and potentially harmful decision to return to the field after learning that he had tested positive for COVID-19 during Game 6 of the World Series, because this was as good of an opportunity as any for him to receive his flowers for an impressive seven-year run out west. He hits the ball hard, he commands the zone, and he's homered at least 20 times in three of the last five seasons. He's an All-Star caliber player with a lovely backstory. In due time, his mistake will become a footnote; for now, it's too fresh to overlook. Teams won't care, of course, but maybe they will in time -- it's at least possible that he's suspended to begin the 2021 season.|
Tommy La Stella Los Angeles Angels 2B
|(No. 31 overall.) La Stella didn't receive as much fanfare this season as he did in 2019, when he homered 16 times in 80 games and missed an All-Star Game appearance because of a fractured leg, but according to OPS+ this was the superior campaign. He's trimmed his strikeout rate to barebone levels (down to 5 percent this year) without it impacting his discipline or the adaptability of his swing, as he's still able to hit the ball hard (relative to himself) across planes. A team signing La Stella is doing so because of the contributions he can make on the offensive side, particularly with his average and on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers. He's limited on the defensive side because of a substandard arm and a general lack of twitchy athleticism. La Stella can "play" second or third, you just aren't going to feel good about it until he's due to bat again.|
Marwin Gonzalez Minnesota Twins 1B
|(No. 50 overall) Although Gonzalez finished below the replacement-level line in 2020, he should be able to find work as someone's superutility player. He had an above-average exit velocity; he walked; he continued to be a skilled, versatile defender; and so on. Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, has been better against lefties than righties in recent years. Maybe his next team will use him as a short-sided platoon option? Whatever the case, don't be surprised if he proves to be a value.|
Jake Lamb Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
|(Unranked in top 60) This is not an overreaction to Jake Lamb's impressive 13-game stint with the Athletics that saw him deliver seven extra-base hits in 45 at-bats. Rather, it's a direct response to his ball-tracking data, which is a good deal better than you'd expect from someone with a 74 OPS+ since 2018. Lamb hit the ball 95 mph or harder on more than half of his batted balls, putting him 23rd in the majors among qualified hitters -- just ahead of Bryce Harper, Jorge Soler, and Gary Sanchez, among others. He did that while hitting the ball in the "sweet spot" launch angle range (10 to 30 degrees) as frequently as the likes of Francisco Lindor, Andrew McCutchen, and Aaron Judge. That's good company. You don't want Lamb facing lefties, but he looks like a decent (and cheap) bet to be a tolerable, if not good most-days platoon option at either corner-infield position.|