Now that the insanity of the trade deadline is over, we return you to your regularly scheduled programming. In today’s episode, we cover the three most overrated third basemen. Third base is a premier position on the diamond filled with talent, but not everyone is as good as they seem.
As usual, the criteria to make this list is as follows: national recognition, injury history, contract, and being held to a standard previously set that they no longer live up to. We have already covered catchers, first basemen, and second basemen, let’s dive into third basemen.
3 Most Overrated Third Basemen
3. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates
I will start this entry off by saying that Ke’Bryan Hayes has yet to play a full season in a single calendar year. He does seem to be on track to do that this season though. Debuting for the Pittsburgh Pirates as a September call-up in 2020, his 2021 season was shortened due to a couple of injuries, but this season he is on pace to play 149 games.
Once regarded as a top prospect of the Pirates, Hayes has struggled offensively at the Major League level. To this point in his career, he has hit .265/.331/.397 with 17 home runs and a 100 OPS+. Those numbers, on the surface, look passable, but when you are a top prospect, you’re expected to do much more.
Hayes’ issue seems to be his approach. When you dive into his rate stats, he has better than average strikeout, walk, and hard-hit rates to also go along with above-average exit velocity. He just doesn’t hit the ball in the air. His fly-ball rate is 5% lower than league average, and his slugging and iso take a hit because of it.
Defensively, Hayes is one of the better defenders in the game at third base. His range factor per 9-innings and his range factor per game played are both .5 better or more than league average. His speed and strong arm make him a valuable asset at the hot corner defensively, despite his struggles at the plate.
Give Ke’Bryan Hayes another hundred games or so and a chance to figure out how to get the ball in the air more often, and he won’t be on this list this time next year. But the high expectation set upon him, and not being able to live up to them yet, are what make him one of the most overrated third basemen in today’s game.
2. Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
We now bring you to 2-time All-Star and 1-time Silver Slugger Alex Bregman. Bregman was a member of the 2017 Houston Astros who have an asterisk next to their name in the record books when it comes to World Series champions. In the off-season before the 2020 season, news came out that the Astros were electronically stealing signs and relaying that information to the batters mid-AB.
I’m not pointing a finger at Bregman here, but the timeline is quite curious when it comes to Bregman’s production at the plate. Bregman debuted in 2016 for the Astros and has been up ever since. Prior to the bombshell dropping, over 361 games he had a triple slash line of .282/.366/.500 with 58 home runs and a 136 OPS+. He also finished top-5 in MVP voting twice during that time. Since everything came out, he has played in 133 games and holds a line of .262/.353/.431 with 18 home runs and a 114 OPS+.
A drop across the board offensively, yet everyone expects Bregman of old to return every year. No longer the power threat he once was, he has changed his approach this season and improved his plate discipline to make him now one of the few batters in baseball with more walks than strikeouts, which is a step in the right direction. He may be on the right track to improving his game, but the Astros owe him $30.5 million a year over the next two seasons based on his pre-bombshell production, and that lands him on our list of most overrated third basemen.
1. Josh Donaldson, New York Yankees
Once upon a time in Josh Donaldson‘s career, he was a perennial MVP candidate. Fast forward to 2022, and the story has changed. The Gulf Coast native is currently in his first season with the New York Yankees, his sixth team in 12 years in the Majors, and though he still provides solid defense, his offensive production has taken a massive nose-dive.
josh donaldson every time he needs to be useful pic.twitter.com/qlbOSx2udC
— Ava (CAPTAIN TROUBA🏻) (@nhl_ava) August 7, 2022
From 2010-2021 (he did not play in the Majors in 2011), Josh Donaldson held a career line of .269/.367/.505 with 251 home runs and a 135 OPS+. So far this season, he is hitting .226/.306/.396 with 11 home runs and a 100 OPS+. This, his age 36 season, is his worst season as an everyday player.
Prior to 2020, the Minnesota Twins signed him to a four-year $92 million deal. After two years had passed, they included him in a package to the Yankees for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, another contender for this list. They are saving $15 million and Urshela has been more productive at the plate with a 109 OPS+.
Donaldson’s career is winding down, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees were expecting offensive production from him comparable to Donaldson of old. Add that to his massive over-pay of a contract, and that is a surefire way to become one of the most overrated third basemen in baseball.