Ranking the National League East Third Basemen
Austin Riley is obviously one of the best players on the Atlanta Braves, he is one of the best players in MLB that happens to play 3rd base. Alec Bohm has shown flashes of being a very good player, and it looked for a moment that the Mets would have an exceptional 3rd baseman in Carlos Correa before news broke that the deal fell through.
The NL East almost had a situation where the 3rd baseman in the division would be historically good. So, what better time to evaluate the players and rank them?
We will evaluate them in alphabetical order, and then rank them at the end.
Alec Bohm – Phillies
In 2020, Alec Bohm burst onto the scene with an exceptional year offensively. In 44 games (180 PAs) in the shortened 2020 season, Bohm careered a slash line of .338/.400/.481 which equated to a 137 OPS+ (37 percent better than league average). This resulted in him coming in second place for the rookie of the year award. He ended the season with 0.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which over a full season would extrapolated out to approximately 2.16 WAR.
It does seem odd that his overall WAR was so low considering the slash line he had. In fact, he had an offensive WAR (oWAR) of 1.4, which over a full season that was not shortened would have been approximately 3.78.
Needless to say, Bohm struggled defensively. In 2020 he had a -0.5 defensive WAR (dWAR), -6 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), and was in the bottom 45 percent of the league in Outs Above Average (OOA).
His base running in his rookie season was slightly above average. If we look at Ultimate Base Running (UBR), which factors in all base running outside of steals, he had a 0.2.
Since that time, he has been either league average or worse. In 2021 he played in 115 games in which he had a well below average (75 OPS+) slash line of .247/.305/.342 with bad defense and bad base running of -1.4 dWAR and -1.9 UBR.
His latest season saw him have a league average (100 OPS+) slash of .280/.315/.398. His defense was yet again bad. He had a -1.5 dWAR, -17 DRS (that is not a typo), and the bottom 4 percent of MLB in OAA. Ultimately Bohm ended the season with a 0.8 baseball reference WAR (bWAR) and a 1.5 Fangraphs WAR (fWAR). This is due to Fangraphs putting a heavier weight on base running in which Bohm did very well with a 2.2 UBR.
Jeimer Candelario – Nationals
Jeimer Candelario has an interesting statistical profile. From 2020-2021, he was very good with a slash line of .278/.356/.458 which equated to an OPS+ of 125. He accumulated 5.8 bWAR even with 2020 being a short season.
Outside of those two season he has been below average for most of his career. From 2016-2019 he carried slash line of .223/.318/.376 which equates to an 85 OPS+, and he only accumulated 1.0 WAR.
In 2022, he dropped off hard from his 2020-2021 hot streak. In 2022 he had a slash line of .217/.272/.361 which equates to an 83 OPS+ and had an overall bWAR of 0.6. He does not bring much defensively, as he has a career -0.8 dWAR, -19 DRS in 4427.1 innings. OAA did like his work with his glove prior to 2021, but since then it has not been pretty. In 2022, his OAA was bottom 8 percent of MLB. UBR did not like his base running in 2022 either with a -1.5.
Eduardo Escobar – Mets
It is fair to say, that without even digging into the numbers, Escobar is a huge drop-off from what the Mets thought they were going to get from the 3rd base position in Carlos Correa.
Escobar has had an 12 year career and his offensive output has been exactly average in that time span with a 100 OPS+. Of course, over long careers it makes more sense to see what the player has done lately. Since the start of 2021 Escobar has been slightly above his career output with the bat with a 108 OPS+.
Last year he had a slash line of .240/.295/.430 which equates to a 106 OPS+. Ultimately he had a bWAR of 1.2 over 136 games. His offense was slightly above average, but his defense did not help. He ended the year with a -0.8 dWAR, which was the worst output of his career. OAA did not favor his work either with him being in the bottom 8 percent of the league.
As far as base running goes, he was well below average from 2020-21 with -2.5 UBR, but he turned it around in 2022 with 1.6 UBR, which was the best output of his 12 year career. For reference, he has a career UBR of 2.7.
Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves
As many know, Austin Riley has broken out of his shell and has taken over as a premier 3rd baseman in MLB, not just the NL East.
This is mostly due to his bat. He does make some flashy plays on defense, but metrics give him mixed reviews.
In 2022, OOA rated Riley’s defense in the bottom 8 percent among all players, but he did have 3 DRS. If we look at ultimate zone rating (UZR) it shows that his range is bad at -7.8. If we look at dWAR he had 1.2.
Austin Riley is also well below average on the base paths. If we look at UBR, he had a -3.2 in 2021, and -1.7 in 2022.
Even though Austin Riley is not a five tool athlete, he more than makes up for it with his bat. It is no secret that Riley struggled his first two seasons. In those two seasons, he had an 86 OPS+. Having an OPS+ that is 14 percent below average with mixed reviews on defense and bad base running for 2 years to start a career could have prevented what we have seen since the start of 2021. However, the front office kept the faith and Riley broke out in a big way.
Since 2021, Austin Riley has carried a slash line of .288/.358/.530 which equates to a 138 OPS+. He also leads all 3rd baseman in that time frame in home runs with 71.
If we look at 2022, Austin Riley had a 5.8 offensive WAR (oWAR), which ranked him 5th in the NL among all hitters, and tied for 2nd among NL 3rd baseman (Arenado). Riley has accrued 10.2 fWAR since the start of 2021, which ranks him 17th among all non-pitchers.
Jean Segura – Marlins
There are some questions are whether Segura will be the primary 3rd baseman for the Marlins this year. Initially they signed him to play 3rd, but they just traded Miguel Rojas and Segura does have extensive experience at SS. The Marlins do have Joey Wendle in the mix, who is exceptional defensively and will most likely get reps at SS. That being said, Segura would be the best overall player that will most likely get innings at 3rd base this season unless an obscure trade scenario happens.
Segura is a solid player. In recent years he has had a slightly above average bat while having well above average defense.
Since the start of 2021, since that is what we used for Riley, Segura had a slash line of .285/.343/.416, which equates to a 109 OPS+.
Defensively, Segura has accrued 1.1 dWAR since the start of 2021, was in the top 4 percent of OAA in 2021 and top 16 percent in 2022. Since 2021 Segura accrued 4 DRS at 2nd base.
As far as base running goes, Segura has never had a negative value season in his 11 year in terms of UBR. Since 2021, Segura accrued 2.5 UBR.
In terms of overall output, Segura accrued 5.1 fWAR since the start of 2021.
So, how do they rank? (spoiler, Atlanta Braves fans will love this)
It is pretty apparent that these rankings are Austin Riley, and then everyone else. 2 years ago, this would not have been the case. Austin Riley has broken out and take these rankings.
1. Austin Riley
2. Jean Segura
3. Eduardo Escobar
4. Alec Bohm
5. Jeimer Candelario
Here is to hoping that Austin Riley can keep it up and continue to stand above the rest.