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Top third basemen: Plenty of talent at the hot corner

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Teammates knew that Justin Turner wanted to stay with the Dodgers. In fact, he didn’t bother pretending that he might seriously consider offers from other teams. Turner never cleaned out his locker after the close of the 2016 season and continued to work out at Dodger Stadium.

But despite having almost no competing bidders, despite the fact that he just turned 32, despite some knee trouble in 2015, Turner still got a four-year, $64 million deal from the Dodgers. Just imagine what some of the other third basemen are going to get when they reach the open market in the next couple of years, because the position is loaded with a lot of young stars who are nearing free agency -- Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson among others.

In Part VI of our positional rankings, we present the top 10 third basemen, based on the input from MLB evaluators:

1. Kris Bryant

There was wide range of opinion among scouts and executives about who should be in the No. 1 spot here. Some picked Nolan Arenado, because of what they regard as his peerless defense at the position. Others suggested Donaldson, because he has been the model of production among third basemen. Machado was second on most lists.

But Bryant is the pick here because of his seeming potential to do even more damage than he did last season, when he won the NL MVP award and became a historic power hitter. With 306 games in his career, Bryant has 65 homers, 208 runs and an adjusted OPS+ of 142, which puts him in the same neighborhood as Mike Piazza and Harmon Killebrew. In his first two seasons in the big leagues, he accumulated 13.6 in WAR, which is the highest ever. No. 2? Frank Robinson, at 13.4. Ted Williams is third at 13.0.

Cubs staffers are confident that he’ll continue to improve because of how much he loves what he does.

“He doesn’t have a lot of interests outside of baseball,” said one evaluator. “He loves to talk about baseball.”

Baseball and hitting. His swing-and-miss rate dropped from 16.5 percent in his first year to 13 percent last season, and his strikeout rate plummeted from 30.6 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2016.

His great hidden skill is his baserunning, which was difference-making in games all the way through the World Series. Bryant ranked sixth among all major leaguers in one baserunning efficiency metric.

Bryant is regarded as an average defender, and an argument could be made for Machado or Arenado for the No. 1 spot based on how well-rounded they are. But last year, Bryant rated 8.4 fWAR, easily the best among third basemen.