Major League Baseball boasts a high number of quality third basemen, evidenced in part by the fact that nine regulars at the position totaled at least 4.5 fWAR last season. The Athletics’ Matt Chapman and the Red Sox’s Rafael Devers finished in the top five in that category, and as players who are controllable for the foreseeable future and only in their 20s, they represent a pair of the top building blocks in the game. The question, though, is which player you’d rather have going forward.
The easy answer (or so it seems) is Chapman, whose career production has trounced Devers’ since the two debuted in 2017. Not only is he a defensive wizard, but Chapman can flat-out hit. The soon-to-be 27-year-old’s all-around excellence had led to 15.5 fWAR thus far, including back-to-back seasons of 6.0 fWAR or better. He’s now coming off a career-best campaign as a power hitter in 2019, when he batted .249/.342/.506 (125 wRC+) with 36 home runs in 670 plate appearances.
Chapman still has four years of team control left, including one more pre-arb season (that’s if there is MLB in 2020). The same goes for Devers, so the two are even in that regard. As mentioned, Chapman’s output has crushed Devers’ in the aggregate. However, Devers closed the gap a season ago with a 5.9-fWAR showing, and he’s also several years younger than Chapman. Devers, who won’t even turn 24 until October, was roughly a league-average offensive player from 2017-18, but the proverbial light bulb went on last season during a .311/.361/.555 effort (132 wRC+) in which he slugged 32 homers over 702 PA.
Devers has nothing on Chapman at third – the former put up minus-10 DRS and plus-2.7 UZR last year; the latter recorded an otherworldly plus-34 DRS and plus-14.8 UZR – but they’re close in terms of offensive prowess. And Devers is so much younger than Chapman that it’s hard not to take that into consideration when comparing the two. Going by fWAR, Chapman was the third-most valuable third baseman in baseball in 2019. Devers was fourth. You can’t lose with either player, but all things considered, whom would you rather have heading into the future?
(Poll link for app users)