The ink is dry on a new 2 year deal for the Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson. How does he stack up against the best MLB third basemen?
The Toronto Blue Jays have signed the reigning MVP to a 2yr/~$29M deal that will buy out 2 of his remaining 3 years of arbitration. The signing is about attempting to save money as the player will undoubtedly put the club in the poor house should they just try and keep up with incremental pay raises, assuming he maintains his elite level of play.
It is that elite level of play that has me curious. As fans of the Blue Jays, we have an acute awareness of just how good The Bringer of Rain is. Of course, that familiarity very well could cloud our judgement and create an inflated sense of where he stands among his peers. That is why I wanted to look across the league and see just how good Josh Donaldson is. Where does he fit among MLB third basemen?
If you head over to MLB.com 2015 sortable stat table, you see that Donaldson ranked 2nd in average at .297, 2nd in OBP (.371), 2nd in SLG (.568). He was 1 behind Nolan Arenado for the MLB lead (among 3B) in home runs with 41 and 7 behind in RBI with 123, which again, was good for 2nd spot. He was 4th in doubles (41), 1st in hits (184), 1st in runs (122). He also saw the most pitches of any qualifying third baseman with a season total of 2817, which translates to nearly 4 pitches per plate appearance.
In looking at where he ranks among MLB third baseman, you notice that, depending on the category, he is at or near the top. Surrounding him are players like Arenado and Manny Machado. Depending on the category, you’ll also see guys like Todd Frazier and Kris Bryant. This will likely come as no surprise as these are household names across MLB and widely accepted as the best in the business. Over the last few season, Donaldson has established himself among them.
Defensively, we know Donaldson as the guy who dives into stands late in a game to protect his pitcher’s attempts at perfection. Just for old times’ sake:
That play alone tends to skew the results in his favor if you’re trying to decide the best third baseman. So, let’s try and keep this purely analytical; use the brain and not the heart. Heading over to Fangraphs.com, we see that Donaldson was worth 11 DRS and sported a UZR/150 of 9.8, which is pretty good, thank you very much. It wasn’t as good as his 2014 season with the A’s, but still.
If we compare that to other members of the hot corner, who are the league leaders in fielding percentage, we get a sense of just how good Donaldson is.
By the looks of things, the way we think of Donaldson holds up. He’s among the best at his position. This likely does not come as a surprise given how many games we’ve seen him charge a grounder, follow a foul ball, etc. We see it in his play. But, just so this doesn’t sound too much like me being a homer, I should probably mention the errors. Donaldson was tied for 4th most errors in 2015. In an interesting twist, he was tied with Brett Lawrie. He committed 18 errors. We know that most of those came from throwing and/or trying to make plays on balls that most people wouldn’t have even been able to get to. Perhaps, the one knock is that he forced plays. He tried to create outs when there weren’t any.
But, that’s what you get with Josh Donaldson. You get the guy who will charge a bunt and attempt a throw when an out doesn’t seem possible. He’s the kind of guy who will take second on an outfielder who doesn’t get the ball in quick enough. He’s the kind of guy who will tag up AND SCORE on a pop up to deep second. Josh Donaldson brings max effort in everything he does.
While his 8.7 WAR is made up of a number of factors like hitting and defense, the Blue Jays are banking on more than just that. They’re banking on his leadership, his hard nosed, all out style of play. They’re banking on a player who may not be MVP every season, but is among the league’s best at his position.
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*Featured Image Credit: Arturo Pardavila III UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.