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10 Greatest Third Basemen in Major League Baseball History

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10 Greatest Third Basemen in Major League Baseball History

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Third base is overlooked in baseball history, and the position has produced fewer Hall of Fame players that any other. That said, when attempting to rank the greatest third basemen of all-time, Hall of Famers such as George Kell, Freddie Lindstrom, Jimmy Collins, Pie Traynor, and Home Run Baker narrowly missed the cut.

Speaking of home runs, sluggers like Darrell Evans, who hit 414 in his career, and Craig Nettles (390), also spent the majority of their careers at third base, but couldn’t break into our top 10. Ken Boyer, the 1964 NL MVP, also was in the running, as was Miguel Cabrera, whose two MVP seasons including his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, came as an everyday third baseman.

Paul Molitor also excelled at third base, but like Cabrera, played several other positions. Plus, Molitor actually spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, which hurt his chances.

While many lists of baseball’s greatest players are heavy on players from bygone eras, the emergence of newer defensive metrics and statistics have shown us that there are quite a few modern stars worthy of a spot on our list of the 10 greatest third basemen in baseball history, and even one that is still playing – and rising in our rankings.

— Rankings by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work can also be found on SaturdayDownSouth.com, SaturdayBlitz.com and FanSided.com. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

10. Scott Rolen

Philadelphia Phillies, 1996-2002; St. Louis Cardinals, 2002-07; Toronto Blue Jays, 2007-09; Cincinnati Reds, 2009-12
8-time All-Star; 2002 Silver Slugger
8-time Gold Glove recipient
2006 World Series champion (Cardinals)
1997 NL Rookie of the Year
Key stats: .281/.364/.490, 2,077 hits, 1,211 runs, 316 home runs, 1,287 RBIs

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One of the best overall third basemen of the most recent generation, Rolen hit more than 300 home runs and was the recipient of eight Gold Glove Awards – a combination matched only by Mike Schmidt at the hot corner. In fact, only Brooks Robinson (16) and Schmidt (10) won more Gold Gloves tha Rolen, whose defensive skills helped boost his career WAR to 70.0 (according to Baseball-Reference.com), which ranks among the top 100 all-time and No. 67 among position players.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

9. Alex Rodriguez

Seattle Mariners, 1994-2000; Texas Rangers, 2001-03; New Yankees, 2004-16
14-time All-Star; 10-time Silver Slugger
2-time Gold Glove recipient
2009 World Series champion (Yankees)
2003, ’05, ‘07 AL MVP
Key statistics: .295/.380/.550, 3,115 hits, 2,021 runs, 696 home runs, 2,086 RBIs, 329 stolen bases

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Had he not spent the first 10 years of his big league career at shortstop, Rodriguez would have already gone down in history as the greatest third baseman of all-time. Instead, A-Rod only moved to the hot corner prior to the 2004 season following an offseason trade to the Yankees. Rodriguez won two of his three AL MVP Awards as a third baseman and notched three Silver Slugger Awards at third as well. He finished with 117.7 career WAR, which ranks 12th all-time among position players.

8. Ron Santo

Chicago Cubs, 1960-73; Chicago White Sox, 1974
9-time All-Star
5-time Gold Glove recipient
Key stats: .277/.362/.464, 2,254 hits, 1,138 runs, 324 home runs, 1,331 RBIs
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 2012

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Santo is one of the most beloved players in Chicago Cubs history, having spent 14 of his 15 seasons with the franchise and his entire career in the Windy City. Santo hit 25 or more home runs and drove in at least 94 runs every year from 1963-70, but was somehow named on only 3.9 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame after his retirement in 1974. He never received more than 43.1 percent of the vote from the BBWAA until he was dropped in 1998. Finally, Santo was inducted into the Hall after he received 93.8 percent of the Golden Era Committee vote in 2012. Unfortunately it came almost two years after his passing on Dec, 10, 2010 after dealing with a variety of health issues stemming from his long battle with diabetes.

7. Adrian Beltre

Los Angeles Dodgers, 1998-2004; Seattle Mariners, 2005-09; Boston Red Sox, 2010; Texas Rangers, 2011-Present
4-time All-Star; 4-time Silver Slugger
5-time Gold Glove recipient
Key stats (through 2016 season): .286/.338/.480, 2,942 hits, 1,428 runs, 445 home runs, 1,571 RBIs

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Despite the fact he’s won only five Gold Glove Awards over the course of a 19-year career, Adrian Beltre is the active leader in defensive WAR (27.3) and ranks No. 13 all-time in the category. As a result, Beltre ranks 30th among position players (and second among active players) in WAR (90.2). Also an underrated slugger, Beltre is one of only five players to hit more than 400 home runs while playing the majority of his games at third base. He also will likely surpass the 3,000-hit milestone in 2017.

6. Brooks Robinson

Baltimore Orioles, 1955-77
15-time All-Star
16-time Gold Glove recipient
1966 and ’70 World Series champion (Orioles)
1964 NL MVP
1970 World Series MVP
Key stats: .267/.322/.401, 268 HR, 1,357 RBI, 2,848 H, 1,232 R
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 1983

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There has never been a better defensive third baseman than Robinson, whose 16 Gold Gloves are six more than second-place Mike Schmidt for most at the position. Robinson’s Gold Glove haul is the most of any position player and is tied with Jim Kaat for the second most in history (Greg Maddux leads with 18). A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Robinson won the 1964 AL MVP Award after hitting .317/.368/.521 with a career-high 28 home runs and 118 RBIs. He also finished in the top four of the voting in 1960, ’65, ’66 and ’71. A major driving force for the Orioles during the franchise’s greatest period of success, Robinson helped Baltimore win the World Series in 1966 and ’70, in addition to AL pennants in ’69 and ’71. During the 1970 Fall Classic, Robinson hit .429/.429/.810 with two home runs, six RBIs and five runs scored to win MVP honors.

5. Wade Boggs

Boston Red Sox, 1982-92; New York Yankees, 1993-97; Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 1998-99
12-time All-Star; 8-time Silver Slugger
2-time Gold Glove recipient
1996 World Series champion (Yankees)
Key stats: .328/.415/.443, 3,010 hits, 1,513 runs, 118 home runs, 1,014 RBIs
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 2005

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One of just two players to collect more than 3,000 career hits while spending the majority of his career at third base, Boggs hit the magic number with a home run in 1999 as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, then crouched down to kiss home plate at Tropicana Field. It was the first time in major league history a player hit a home run for his 3,000th career hit. A Tampa native, the Devil Rays retired Boggs’ No. 12 jersey number the following year.

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Earlier in his Hall of Fame career, Boggs won five American League batting titles from 1983-88 as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and also led the AL in on-base percentage six times during his 11 seasons there. His patient approach at the plate helped Boggs rank No, 24 all-time with a .415 OBP, and he’s 33rd in batting average (.328). Boggs failed to hit .300 or better just three times in his 18-year career.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

4. Chipper Jones

Atlanta Braves, 1993-2012
8-time All-Star; 2-time Silver Slugger
1995 World Series champion
1999 NL MVP
Key stats: .303/.401/.529, 2,726 hits, 1,619 runs, 468 home runs, 1,623 RBIs

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Arguably the second-best switch-hitter in baseball history behind Mickey Mantle, Jones ranks No. 31 all-time among position players in WAR (85.0). Likely the next third baseman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jones also is fittingly behind “The Mick” on the MLB leaderboard in terms of WAR for switch-hitters.

Though he had more power from the left side, Jones was an incredibly consistent hitter from both sides of the plate. He hit .303 in his career as a left-handed hitter and .304 from the right side. Jones also did his share of damage with his bat, as his 468 home runs are second only to Mike Schmidt among full-time third basemen.

Jones hit .319/.441/.633 with a career-high 45 home runs and 110 RBIs (one of nine seasons in which he tallied 100-plus RBIs) to win the 1999 NL MVP. He also scored 100 or more runs eight times, led the league in OPS (1.029) in 2007 and won the ‘08 NL batting title with a big league-leading .364 average at the age of 36.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

3. Eddie Mathews

Boston Braves, 1952; Milwaukee Braves, 1953-65; Atlanta Braves, 1966; Houston Astros, 1967; Detroit Tigers, 1967-68
1957 (Milwaukee Braves), ’68 (Tigers) World Series champion
Key stats: .271/.376/.509, 2,315 hits, 1,509 runs, 512 home runs, 1,453 RBIs
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 1978

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Overshadowed at times because he spent the majority of his career in the same lineup as Hank Aaron, Mathews was one of the most prolific home run hitters of his era and ranks No. 22 on the all-time list with 512 long balls.

Mathews led all of baseball when he hit a career-high 47 home runs in 1953, the first of nine consecutive seasons in which he launched 30 or more. Though just 21 years old and in his second season in the majors, Mathews hit .302/.406/.627 and also drove in 135 runs – a personal best – to finish second in the NL MVP race to Roy Campanella. Mathews also finished as the MVP runner-up in 1959 when he hit .306/.390/.593 with a major league-best 46 home runs.

The only player to play with the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta, Mathews posted 96.4 career WAR, which ranks 35th all-time and No. 23 among position players.

(Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame Web site, baseballhall.org)

2. George Brett

Kansas City Royals, 1973-93
13-time All-Star; 3-time Silver Slugger
1985 Gold Glove
1985 World Series champion
1980 AL MVP
Key stats: .305/.369/.487, 3,154 hits, 1,583 runs, 317 home runs, 1,596 RBIs, 201 stolen bases
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 1999

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No one has hit .400 over the course of an entire MLB season since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941. However, Brett nearly turned the trick in 1980 when he hit .390/.454/.664 with 24 home runs and 118 RBIs in just 117 games to earn the American League MVP honors.

The ’80 batting title was Brett’s second of three. He hit .333 in 1976 to lead the league, and led all of baseball that season with 215 hits to finish second in the MVP voting at the age of 23. Brett also finished as the MVP runner-up in 1985 when he hit .335/.436/.585 with a career-high 30 home runs to help the Kansas City Royals win the first World Series in franchise history.

Brett’s third and final batting title came in 1990 when he hit .329 as a 37-year-old designated hitter. He also tied a career high and led the majors with 45 doubles that season – one of four years in which he collected 40-plus two-baggers. Brett hit 665 doubles across 21 seasons, good for No. 6 on the all-time list.

Brett is one of just four players in history to post a .300 career batting average, 3,000 hits and 300 home runs. The rest of this exclusive club is made up of some of the greatest to ever play the game: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial.

1. Mike Schmidt

Philadelphia Phillies, 1972-89
12-time All-Star; 6-time Silver Slugger
10-time Gold Glove recipient
1980 World Series champion (Phillies)
1980, ’81 and ‘86 NL MVP
Key stats: .267/.380/.527, 2,234 hits, 1,506 runs, 548 home runs, 1,595 RBIs
Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 1995

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The worst kept secret on our list, Schmidt is the obvious choice as the greatest third baseman of all-time.

One of the most well rounded to ever play the position; Schmidt earned 10 Gold Gloves and led the National League in home runs eight times in 18 seasons. Schmidt’s 548 career home runs rank No. 16 on the all-time list, and are the most for a player that spent the majority of his career on the hot corner.

Schmidt also led the NL in on-base percentage and total bases three times each, led the league in RBIs, walks and OPS four times apiece, paced the league in slugging percentage in five separate seasons, and posted the highest OPS+ six times, including every year from 1980-86.

He won three NL MVP Awards during that same time frame, and most importantly to the long suffering fans of Philadelphia, led the Phillies to the first World Series championship in franchise history in 1980.

RELATED: Most Home Runs All Time