The American League West is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. The amount of talent up and down the rosters is why the level of play is so great. This era of talent on the left side of the infield, can be classified as a golden age. Specifically, some of the top third-basemen reside on AL West ball clubs. There are three in particular that stand out: the Houston Astros Alex Bregman, the Los Angeles Angels Anthony Rendon, and the Oakland Athletics Matt Chapman. Two MVP finalists and possibly a future MVP finalist make for a really interesting comparison.
Runner-up for AL MVP in 2019, Bregman emerged as one of the biggest stars in the league. The 26-year old has absolutely filled the stat sheet over the past few seasons. The Astros third-baseman has averaged 114 runs and 108 RBI over the past two seasons, which garnered two top-five MVP finishes. Bregman has done some extreme run producing and that comes from his elite slugging abilities. In the past two seasons, he has topped 80 extra-base hits both years, which includes a league-leading 51 doubles in 2018.
His defense is very solid, and he lead all position players with a 9.1 WAR in 2019, according to Baseball Reference. The aspect of his game that sets him apart from most sluggers is his discipline and contact abilities. Bregman led the league with 119 walks while only striking out 83 times. Over the past two seasons he has averaged 108 walks and 84 strikeouts. Overall, in three and a half seasons, Bregman owns a .286/.384/.527 slashline, with a .911 OPS.
Fresh off the heels of a historic postseason run, Rendon cashed in big with the Angels in free agency. The elder-statesmen of this third-base group, this 30-year old spent the first seven years of his career with the Washington Nationals. While the first four seasons of his career were really good, the past three seasons have been have been among the leagues best. The 2019 MVP finalist has averaged 95 runs and 106 RBI over the past three seasons, including a league-leading 126 RBI last year. In 2019, he topped 30 home runs for the first time in his career. However, he is always among league leaders in doubles, having topped 40 in each of the past three seasons.
Another solid defender, Rendon committed 11 errors in 2019. According to Baseball Reference, he finished the season with a 6.4 WAR, last among this group, but still among the best in the league. While not quite at the level of Bregman, Rendon’s on-base abilities are great, averaging 73 walks over the past three seasons. The contact skills are elite too, averaging only 83 strikeouts per year over that same span. In that sample size, he has hit over .300 and slugged over .530 each year. In seven career seasons, he has a .290/.369/.490 slashline, with a .859 OPS.
One of the biggest surprise teams over the past two seasons has been the A’s, and one of their driving forces has been Matt Chapman. The 27-year old is the shortest tenured member of this third-base group, having two and a half seasons in MLB. The A’s third-basemen averaged 101 runs and about 80 RBI over his first two full seasons in the show. Chapman topped 70 extra-base hits in both seasons, both top ten in the AL.
Chapman’s calling card of course, is his defense. He may well be the best defender in the entire league, winning two platinum gloves and leading the league in defensive WAR in 2018 and 2019. His overall WAR, inflated by his defense, has been 8.3 in both seasons, among the league leaders. Where he doesn’t compare to his third-base peers, is his contact skills. Chapman has averaged 147 strikeouts, which isn’t drastic for this era, but it is one of the aspects of his game that is keeping him from that MVP turn. He hit just .249 last year.
If he puts the ball in play more, like Cody Bellinger did last year, he can raise his average and become a true MVP candidate. Bellinger struck out 43 fewer times in 29 more plate appearances in 2019 compared to 2018, and he saw significant improvement in his slashline as he won the MVP. In his young career, Chapman has a .257/.341/.500 slashline, with a .841 OPS.
The AL West is a talented division, particularly at third base. Even the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners have very solid third basemen in Isiah Kiner-Falefa / Todd Frazier and Kyle Seager, but the cream of the crop play with the Astros, Angels, and A’s. All three teams have bright futures ahead with Bregman, Rendon, and Chapman handling the hot corner.
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