New acquisitions Donaldson, Sandoval among worthy third-base candidates
By Mike Bauman
*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
The race for the starting position at third base in the American League will be a suitably intense competition.
Off the form chart, and the early-season performances, two extremely logical candidates would be Josh Donaldson, new to the Toronto Blue Jays, and Pablo Sandoval, new to the Boston Red Sox. Both are obvious and worthy.
However, they won't have the field to themselves. Kansas City's Mike Moustakas is having a breakout season, the kind of year the Royals always expected he could have.
And on the perennial candidate side, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers may be off to a slow start, but there is no reason to expect that he won't pick up his production and find a suitable place in the balloting.
Evan Longoria of the Rays is another viable candidate who has gotten off to a relatively slow start, but his career also says that he will be in the running by the time the ballots are counted for the final time.
No matter how you see this contest, it shapes up as one of the best position battles in the All-Star voting. Sandoval may be new to the AL, but he is a highly recognizable player. Beyond his two previous All-Star appearances, he was a major factor in the Giants' postseason dominance, being named the Most Valuable Player in the 2012 World Series and putting up a combined .455 batting average over the 2012 and '14 Fall Classics.
Plus, he is "the Panda," a figure fans rallied around in San Francisco. Despite a relatively rotund build, Sandoval has considerable agility as a defensive third baseman. And now, his popularity could very well become truly bicoastal.
Donaldson has had a relatively recent emergence, over the past two seasons, but it has been an emergence into the warm light of stardom. He is the incumbent starter at third for the AL team, having started the 2014 game as a member of the Oakland Athletics.
One of the finest all-around third basemen in the game, Donaldson ranked second in Wins Above Replacement among AL position players in each of the past two seasons (8.0 and 7.4), according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Beltre, one of the leading all-around third basemen of this generation, has been an AL All-Star selection in each of the past four seasons. He is a four-time AL Gold Glove Award winner. At 36, Beltre remains a leader for the Rangers both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Change has seemed to be a constant for the Rays, but the one Tampa Bay player who remains productive and in place is Longoria. He has been named to three AL All-Star teams and has twice won an AL Gold Gloves Award. Longoria has not yet hit for consistent power this season, but his track record says that will happen.
And then there is Moustakas, who may be a newcomer to All-Star discussions, but whose early-season production ranks with the best at his position. One reasonable prediction: The race for the AL's starter at the hot corner will refuse to be lukewarm.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.