The list of candidates for the best third baseman of all time is a mile long. Unlike the list of all-time great shortstops which is tough to crack, there are tons of candidates for the greatest 3B of all time.
Of course, the cream always rises to the top, even amidst a sea of outstanding players. That’s what we learned when putting together our list of the best third basemen in MLB history.
Best third baseman of all time
So who ended up at the top of the list of the best third baseman of all time? It was challenging limiting our list to 15 names much less picking one player for the top spot.
But when we put in the leg work, it was obvious who belonged at the top. With that said, let’s take a look at our ranking of the 15 best third basemen in MLB history on our way to revealing the best third baseman of all time.
15. Graig Nettles
For his 22 seasons, Graig Nettles deserves some credit for his place among the best third basemen in baseball history. His two Gold Gloves aren’t nearly enough considering how good he was defensively. While he didn’t always hit for a high average, Nettles accumulated over 2,200 hits and 390 home runs in his career in addition to being a clutch hitter.
Over his 22 seasons, Nettles was selected as an all-star six times and was a part of back-to-back World Series wins with the Yankees in 1977 and 1978, later becoming the team’s captain.
14. Paul Molitor
Unfortunately for Paul Molitor, we have to dock him points because he was too versatile and also spent a lot of time at DH. However, third base was his primary position, although he didn’t play there during the second half of his career.
That being said, he was a three-time all-star and won two Silver Sluggers during the 1980s when he was mostly playing at the hot corner. Of course, his 3,319 hits and .306 career average eventually put Molitor in the Hall of Fame. However, since only half of his career was spent as a third baseman, he falls down this list just a little despite an otherwise impressive career.
13. Alex Rodriguez
Needless to say, it was tricky putting Alex Rodriguez on this list. He only played third base after joining the Yankees in 2004. We also have to take his PED use into account.
Nevertheless, he was a seven-time all-star after joining the Yankees, winning three Silver Sluggers and two MVPs while in pinstripes. Granted, A-Rod never won a Gold Glove at the hot corner, but as a former shortstop, he could handle himself defensively.
Even if he only played half of his career there and loses points for PED use, A-Rod still has a place among the top third basemen in baseball history.
12. David Wright
If only David Wright could have stayed healthy and not been held back by a degenerative back condition late in his career, he’d probably be a serious Hall of Fame candidate and much higher among our list of the best third basemen of all time. Despite those back problems, Wright still went to seven All-Star Games while winning two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.
Plus, who can forget his heroics for Team USA during the 2013 World Baseball Classic?
For his career, Wright batted .296 and was even a member of the 30-30 club. While injuries prevented him from having a better career, he’s among the most well-rounded third basemen in baseball history.
11. Buddy Bell
After playing 18 seasons in the majors, Buddy Bell is deserving of some credit as one of the top third basemen in baseball history. In those 18 seasons, he collected six consecutive Gold Gloves and was named an all-star five times.
His power numbers weren’t overly impressive, as he managed just 201 home runs in those 18 seasons. But the guy could hit, as Bell collected over 2,500 hits and had a .279 career average, which are impressive numbers for such a standout defensive third baseman.
10. Ken Boyer
During the 1950s and 60s, Ken Boyer was arguably the best third baseman in baseball. He was one of the first third basemen to make that a position for power hitters and impactful offensive players.
He was just the second third baseman to reach 250 career home runs, finishing with 282 homers and over 2,100 hits. Boyer also won MVP honors in 1964 when he helped guide the Cardinals to a World Series championship. He also won five Gold Gloves, making him a well-rounded third baseman who shouldn’t be overlooked in baseball history.
9. Scott Rolen
The lack of support Scott Rolen has received during his first few years of Hall of Fame eligibility is absolutely criminal. His defensive prowess has been unduly overlooked by voters. With eight Gold Gloves, Rolen is arguably the best defensive third baseman of his generation.
Keep in mind only two third basemen have won more Gold Gloves than Rolen. He also won Rookie of the Year honors and was an all-star seven times. With over 2,000 career hits, a .281 career average, and 316 home runs, Rolen’s offensive numbers are surely enough to get to Cooperstown when you factor in his defensive excellence.
8. Ron Santo
Ron Santo, who had to wait nearly 20 years to be put in the Hall of Fame, is one of the great two-way third basemen in baseball history. He was a great hitter who collected over 2,200 hits and 342 home runs while making the All-Star Team nine times in an 11-year span.
He’s also the only third baseman in MLB history to collect at least 90 RBIs in eight straight seasons. But he also won five straight gold Gloves during the prime of his career. Santo is probably one of the great underrated defensive players in baseball history, especially when it came to starting double-plays from the hot corner.
Since he played most of his career with the Cubs, who never made the playoffs during his career, Santos is sometimes forgotten or overlooked. However, he remains a revered figure in the Windy City.
7. Chipper Jones
If you ask the Mets, Chipper Jones (or Larry as his parents named him) might be the best third baseman ever because of the way he crushed New York time after time. But Jones was actually an outstanding hitter against every team.
He made eight All-Star Teams during his career and took home MVP honors in 1999 after being a part of Atlanta’s championship team in 1995. As a .303 career hitter, Jones also has a batting title under his belt, winning it during the latter part of his career. While he fell a little short of both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, the switch-hitting Jones came close, helping to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer with over 97% of the vote, which says a lot about how much he’s respected in baseball history.
6. Eddie Mathews
In addition to representing the Braves in three different cities, Eddie Mathews is among the best third basemen ever. He had a long and distinguished career, racking up 512 home runs and over 2,300 hits.
He was also a 12-time all-star and a two-time World Series champion. Matthews led the National League in home runs twice and finished as the MVP runner-up in both of those seasons. Eventually, Matthews found his way into the Hall of Fame and remains one of the most iconic players in Braves’ history.
5. Wade Boggs
On top of being a great third baseman who won two Gold Gloves for his defense, Wade Boggs is surely among the best contact hitters ever. One thing that hurts Boggs a little is the fact that third basemen are expected to hit for power and he finished his career with just 118 homers.
However, Boggs was a brilliant offensive player in other respects, winning five batting titles while batting .328 in his career. Even at a power position, Boggs was able to win eight Silver Slugger awards, which is no small feat at any position. After being named an all-star in 12 consecutive seasons during his prime and finishing his career with over 3,000 hits, Boggs was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, earning nearly 92% of the vote on his first try.
4. Adrian Beltre
As a recent retiree, it still remains to be seen how history will remember Adrian Beltre. However, the numbers all say that he deserves to be among the best third basemen ever. He played 21 seasons and was still playing well over 100 games at third base every year until the last few seasons when he was a part-time DH.
In his prime, Beltre was a five-time Gold Glove winner, which is why it took so long for him to become a DH. He was also a four-time all-star and a four-time Silver Slugger winner. Thanks to his longevity, Beltre finished his career with over 3,100 hits, 477 home runs, and over 1,700 RBIs. Among third basemen, nobody has more hits or RBIs while only two other third basemen have hit more home runs. While he fell 23 homers short of having both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Beltre came remarkably close to being in such exclusive company in that regard.
3. George Brett
Frankly, George Brett may be among the most underrated players in baseball history. For starters, only one other third baseman has more career hits than him. He’s also one of five players with over 3,000 hits, a .300 career average, and more than 300 home runs. The other names on that list are Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and Miguel Cabrera.
He spent his entire career in Kansas City, playing all 21 seasons. During that time, he went to the All-Star Game in 13 consecutive seasons, won MVP honors in 1980, and led the Royals to a World Series title in 1985. Brett won three batting titles and three Silver Sluggers during his career and even has a Gold Glove.
The bottom line is the guy hit .305 for his career with over 3,100 hits and 317 home runs, not to mention ranking sixth all-time in doubles. That puts him in elite company.
2. Brooks Robinson
Defensively, it’s hard to imagine any third baseman being better than Brooks Robinson. They didn’t call him “Mr. Hoover” and “the Human Vacuum Cleaner” for nothing, nor did he win 16 straight Gold Gloves by accident. His defense alone is enough to put Robinson close to the top of our list of the best third basemen of all time.
But when you factor in his offensive contributions during a career that spanned more than two decades, there’s perhaps only one other third baseman in MLB history who can top him.
Robinson tallied over 2,800 career hits during his career while batting .267. He provided a little bit of power with 268 home runs and took home MVP honors in 1964. During his career, Robinson helped the Orioles to two World Series wins and was an all-star every year from 1960 to 1974. Naturally, he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a true legend of the game.
1. Mike Schmidt
After everything he accomplished in his 18 seasons, it’s hard to deny Mike Schmidt a spot at the top of our list of the best third basemen in MLB history. In those 18 seasons, Schmidt was a 12-time all-star, helping him early 96.5% of the Hall of Fame vote on his first ballot.
Few players have been such an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame on their first ballot, which is why he’s head and shoulders ahead of every other third baseman. Schmidt’s career peaked in 1980 when he won his first of three MVPs and World Series MVP in the same season.
But he had plenty of other good years, winning six Silver Sluggers and leading the National League in home runs eight times. There was also a day in 1976 when he hit four home runs in one game, putting himself in exclusive company in that department. But as good as he was as a hitter, Schmidt was just as impressive defensively, winning 10 Gold Gloves, including a stretch of nine in a row.
His career ended with a .267 career average and 2,234 hits, including 548 home runs. Frankly, it’s hard to envision any third basemen ever surpassing Schmidt as the best of all time.