Today, we are going to move over to the hot corner. Two different ends of the spectrum at third base, with the up-and-coming stars in Evan Longoria and Brett Lawrie and the declining talents of Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis. Also, we have the “Greek God of Walks” in Kevin Youkilis and also the Strikeout King, Mark Reynolds.
Here are the rankings for third base:
1. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
2. Brett Lawrie, Toronto Blue Jays
3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
4. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
5. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles
These rankings were tough, especially after Longoria in the first slot. Every single player, Longoria included, has something to be criticized about. Evan Longoria has been one of the top third basemen since his monster rookie season in 2008, where he had a .272 AVG/27 HR/85 RBI line in 122 games. Year after year, we have seen great production out of the young superstar, but he hasn’t had a full year showcasing ALL of his skills. In 2010, he effectively lowered his strikeouts and maintained a good average, but his power was down (only hit 22 HR in 151 games). In 2011, he regained his power stroke hitting 31 HR’s in 133 games, but his average dipped to .244. Despite these issues, Longoria has the talent to maintain his position as the top third baseman in the AL East.
Most Sox fans are probably wondering who Brett Lawrie is, and why the hell is rated above A-Rod and YOUUUK. Brett Lawrie was one the top prospects in the Brewers coveted farm system a few years ago, until he was traded for Shaun Marcum in December 2010. Lawrie was a former catcher, turned second baseman, turned now third baseman. He displays pure athleticism on the field, which has helped him in his transistion between positions in the minors. His bat has never been questioned throughout his short career. Although he was said to be major league ready after camp last year with the Blue Jays, they decided to give him more time to work on his glove at the hot corner in Triple A. Lawrie was called up to the bigs on August 5th and made an immediate impact, hitting 6 home runs in his first month. In 150 major league at bats, Lawrie ended up with a .293 average, .373 OBP, and 9 HR’s. He figures to be a major part of the Blue Jays offense, currently projected to hit in the 6 spot in a dangerous lineup. I was skeptical to give him the two spot in the rankings, but his potential, coupled with the injury problems of A-Rod and Youk gave me the green light on this ranking. I also think this guy has a little bit of Gronk in him. He was said to have attitude issues in Milwaukee and openly has pictures of himself drinking and doing “Edward FortyHands” online. His “don’t give a shit” attitude should help him in dealing with some of the increased attention he will get with his elite ability. I don’t see him being as effective as his short major league stint indicates, as most 22 year olds are bound to experience some issues in the first few years in the bigs, but Lawrie will soon become a household name for any AL East fan.
Next up are the walking wounded. With all due respect to Alex Rodriguez (although I don’t believe he deserves much) and Kevin Youkilis, it is quite obvious both are in the “decline” stages of their careers. Due to his incredible past, A-Rod gets the three ranking and seriously contended for second. It was just too hard to justify him above the rising Lawrie. His major league record streak of 13 straight seasons with over 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s ended abruptly last year. He has battled with numerous different injuries in the past four seasons (missed at least 20 games each season and 150 games total). I do see A-Rod making a bit of a comeback, but he has lost a lot of bat speed in the past few years and can’t make pitchers pay for a bad fastball as consistently as he used to.
Kevin Youkilis is more of the same. It seems like every year Sox fans are talking about “If Youk was healthy…” this and that, we’d be such a better team, a more dangerous lineup, etc. At some point, we need to expect him to get injured. Despite his unusual .258 BA last year, he is a great batter and the “Greek God of Walks,” but he is a liability at third base, where he is not nearly as good a fielder there as he is at 1st Base. I love having him in the lineup and he’s just as much the face of the franchise as Dusty, but he has constantly been getting injured in the past few years. I’m expecting a bounce back year for Youk with around a .300 BA, 20-25 HR, 90-100 RBI and of course his .400 OBP. And I, along with every other fan in Red Sox nation, hope that he stays healthy throughout the year and is good to go for a playoff push in September.
Lastly, we have the Strikeout King, Mark Reynolds of Baltimore. In the past four years, Mark’s home run’s look like this: 28, 44, 32, 37. Along with the good comes the bad, Mark’s strikeout numbers look like this: 204, 223, 211, 196. His average also looks like this: .239, .260, .198, .221. Pretty sure the averages and strikeouts speak for themselves. Yes, Reynold’s is a good power hitter, but as a manager I would never want his mentality of “swing for the fences” every at bat on my team. That being said, Reynold’s always brings fear into opposing pitcher’s and fan’s late in the game due to his big play potential.
It will be very interesting to see how this years young stars at third base end up matching up against the aging (and injured) stars of the AL East.