While the AL East has a glut of stars at second base, they have a glut of up and coming stars at third base. Brett Lawrie, Manny Machado, and Will Middlebrooks have all been big time prospects in the past few years and have had varying degrees of success in the majors. To clear any confusion up, this list is a ranking of 2013 rather than the entire future.
1. Evan Longoria- Tampa Bay Rays: Injuries were a big problem for Longoria in 2012, but when healthy he put up solid numbers as he batted .289/.369/.527 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in 74 games. If he recovers from his hamstring injury and plays a fully healthy season at age 27, there’s no telling what he’ll be able to do. When healthy, Longoria is the perfect third baseman as he hits for average and power with great defense and there’s no reason he shouldn’t get back to his elite level.
2. Brett Lawrie- Toronto Blue Jays: It was a very tough decision deciding whether Lawrie or Middlebrooks would occupy the second best third baseman in the AL East. Eventually I decided upon Lawrie simply because he’s already experienced his sophomore slump as he failed to live up to hype, batting .273/.324/.405 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs as a 23 year old. With over a year of major league experience under his belt, Lawrie should be better in 2013. That, along with his superior defense, places him ahead of Middlebrooks in my opinion.
3. Will Middlebrooks- Boston Red Sox: A sudden wrist injury cut short a very promising rookie season for Middlebrooks. At the time of his injury in August, he was batting .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs through 75 games. If he comes back healthy, it will be very interesting to see a full season of Middlebrooks. His excellent plate coverage and power make for a player perfect for Fenway Park and if he can improve his defense, he should be the first arrival of the Red Sox youth movement.
4. Manny Machado- Baltimore Orioles: When Machado was promoted to the majors in August, he was viewed as a top five prospect in all of baseball. He lived up to the hype with a promising start to his young career as he hit .262/.294/.445 as a 20 year old. One can reasonably expect Machado will struggle a little bit in 2013, but he could still be a solid player. In a few years, it’s highly likely that it could be Machado heading this list.
5. Kevin Youkilis- New York Yankees: Every bit of this ranking hurts to type. First, that Youkilis is the worst third baseman in the AL East and secondly, he’s playing with the Yankees. However, both of these are true with Youkilis coming off a career worst season which saw him hit only .235/.336/.409 in 122 games between the Red Sox and White Sox. After a number of semi-serious injuries with the way Youkilis played, it’s unreasonable to expect him to improve considerably. Weirdest of all, he’ll be clean-shaven.