Ah, the “hot corner.” The position where many sluggers are placed these days. Sometimes out of necessity (Cabrera), and sometimes because their quick reflexes allow them to put a stop to many potential doubles down the line (Longoria). But, whatever the reason a player is posted here, it’s a position that often is expected to perform well offensively and defensively. Let’s take a look at how MLB Network ranked their top 10 right now at the hot corner:
- Miguel Cabrera (DET)
- Adrian Beltre (TEX)
- David Wright (NYM)
- Evan Longoria (TB)
- Ryan Zimmerman (WSH)
- Aramis Ramirez (MIL)
- Chase Headley (SD)
- Brett Lawrie (TOR)
- David Freese (STL)
- Pablo Sandoval (SF)
Interestingly, I have very little to argue with on this list. Even when I tried to find potential replacements for the guys on this list, I was hard pressed to do so. So, let’s start with honorable mention: Mike Moustakas (KC) and Kyle Seager (SEA). Both are up-and-comers who have demonstrated that they have what it takes to play at the big-league level. They each hit 20 HR last year with OPS’s right around .700. Seager is a little better on the basepaths (13 SB last year), but Moustakas is already showing flashes of greatness with his glove. Don’t be surprised if one or both make this list a year from now. So, with very little change, here’s how I would rank them.
10. Pablo Sandoval – I was tempted to put Sandoval ahead of Freese, but he has struggled with some injury issues the last couple seasons. If it wasn’t for that, however, I have a feeling his numbers would be enough to push him a spot or two higher on this list. He’s just 26 years old, has Gold Glove potential at third, and 30 HR potential at the plate. If he can stay healthy, he could possibly jump into the top 5.
9. David Freese – he played his first full season in 2012. And yet, he turns 30 next month. So, I’m not sure we can expect anything more from Freese than what we’ve already seen. Not to say he’s played poorly: .820 OPS, 128 wRC+, and 30 home runs over the last 2 seasons (or, more like 1.5, based on the number of games he’s played). But, I think we know what to expect from Freese, while others will likely grow past him in the next year. He’s also just an average fielder at 3B.
8. Brett Lawrie – at first glance I didn’t really understand why MLBN would have him ranked higher than Freese. Freese’s offensive numbers, in general, look better than Lawrie’s. But, I dug a little deeper, and I think I see what they see now. Lawrie is just 23 years old, has yet to play a full season, and has a lot of growing yet to do. And, in spite of that, he’s already a significantly better fielder than Freese. And, if you look at Lawrie’s 168 games over the last two years (similar to one full season), you’ll see a guy that already could be a 20/20 player, and definitely has 30/30 potential. Expect big things from Lawrie in the coming year or two.
7. Aramis Ramirez – I moved him back one spot for two reasons: a) he turns 35 this summer; and b) he’s easily the worst defensive third baseman on this list. Granted, he hasn’t shown a lot of signs of slowing down, but I just can’t help but think it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. That being said, he’s had an excellent run offensively the last few seasons: .845 OPS, 26 home runs, 126 wRC+ the last three years.
6. Chase Headley – who led the league last year in RBI? Headley. Who won the NL Gold Glove? Headley. Who hit 31 home runs, 13 of which were in cavernous Petco park? Headley. Granted most of this was fairly unexpected, and is out of the norm for Headley. But, his run production the last 3 seasons has still been very nice (122 wRC+), helped in large part by the fact that he’s also a threat on the bases (16 SB average for 3 years). And, he’s just now entering his prime (he’s 28). So, with the fences moved in a bit, and Headly on the upswing of his career, I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to perform well.
5. Ryan Zimmerman – had he not gone through such a tough first half in 2012, he might have ended up higher on this list, because he caught fire in the second half, and ended up with numbers similar to what he has the last couple seasons. His defensive metrics put him slightly above average. And, he’s had a very nice OPS the last three years (.843). What you might not realize is how young he is – 28. It seems like he’s been playing forever, and he does have 7 full seasons already under his belt. But, this first ever draft pick by the Nationals franchise started playing full-time at the age of 21. So watch out, because this guy’s just now in his prime years.
4. David Wright – he only gets the slightest of edge here over Zimmerman. This was an incredibly tough call to make. In the end, it came down to base-running. Wright has averaged 16 stolen bases each of the last three seasons (in spite of missing nearly half of 2011), compared to Zimmerman’s 4. They have identical SLG the last three years (.420), Wright has hit just 2 more home runs, he has a .002 advantage in OBP, and a 130-128 edge in wRC+. Neither are spectacular with their glove, though Zimmerman has committed one less error than Wright in three years. So, what Wright gives his team on the basepaths ended up being the difference-maker.
3. Evan Longoria – I don’t see any statistic that would suggest Longoria should be behind Wright on this list. He’s younger (27), has the better OPS of late (.872 the last 3 years), has hit more home runs (70 the last 3 years – in spite of missing half of last season with injury), had better run production (139 wRC+), and is arguably the best defensive third baseman in the game. If he had played a full season last year, his offensive stats might would be enough to push him even higher on this list.
2. Adrian Beltre – the only guy who might be better than Longoria with his glove at 3B (4 Gold Gloves the last 6 seasons) also happens to be the only guy with better offensive stats (other than the guy sitting at #1). A .911 OPS over the last three seasons, averaging 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. He’s getting a little older (turns 34 the first week of the season), but he really hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. And, he’s likely to continue to be productive while playing in Arlington.
1. Miguel Cabrera – no, he’s certainly no Mike Schmidt with the glove (13 E, .966 fld. pct. last year). But, his offensive prowess is so far ahead of the rest of the group, you just can’t argue with this choice. His run production (171 wRC+ the last 3 seasons) is more than 30 points ahead of the next best at 3B. His OPS (1.024 the last 3 years) is more than 100 points higher than anyone else! He’s also finished in the top-5 in MVP voting each of the last 4 years. We’re not just talking about an excellent player at this point – we’re talking potentially a future HOFer.