Josh Donaldson: A Rare Appreciation

Jason Miller

Despite quietly being a strong MVP contender in the American League, Josh Donaldson doesn't get the mainstream love. Let's change that.

The Oakland Athletics don't get a lot of coverage or respect from the mainstream media types. That could be due to the market, the West Coast factor, lack of Yasiel Puig, or a number of other factors. Regardless, it has led to a great deal of their early season success, and the triumphs of players throughout the roster, going massively overlooked to this point. To that point, there may not be a more overlooked player in the game than third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Josh Donaldson represents one of the premier players in all of baseball, and you could very easily make a case for him as the best in the American League at the hot corner at this very moment, when considering all phases. Coming off of a very successful year as a starter, really for the first time last year, Donaldson has managed to replicate his success in some areas, while sporting improvement in others.

Just below here, we have Donaldson's numbers from 2013 and what he's managed to do thus far in 2014:

AVG OBP wRC+ K% BB% BABIP wOBA ISO WAR
2013 .301 .384 148 16.5% 11.4% .333 .384 .199 7.7
2014 .276 .368 155 21.1% 12.1% .298 .393 .267 3.6

Again, for the most part, he's managed to stay on track with what he did last year in establishing himself as elite in a number of categories, while improving in others, most notably his ability to hit for extra bases. Say what you want about his increased K-rate, but it's still not alarmingly high, and he's still getting on base at an extremely high rate. He's also managing to hit for extra bases at a much higher rate, as evident by his ISO being almost 50 points higher in 2014 than it was last season.

The numbers are strong, there's no doubt about it. But it's what Donaldson has done in comparison to other third basemen around the league that contribute to the allure and have him quietly standing tall as a main candidate for Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Donaldson's 3.6 WAR is tops in the league among those at the hot corner, which is 1.1 WAR better than the next closest player, who is Cincinnati's Todd Frazier. His batting average is ninth, his on-base percentage is second only to Matt Carpenter, and his walk rate is third. His ISO runs away at the top, 25 points higher than Frazier. Some of the numbers have declined (partially thanks to a near-50 point drop in BABIP), but Donaldson still represents an offensive powerhouse at third base.

When you look at what Josh Donaldson has done with the leather, it paints a similar picture to what he's managed to do at the plate. He represents one of the top gloves in the game at any position, but especially at third base. His UZR per 150 games is up over 21 and is nearly seven points higher than the next closest player. He's saved more runs (14) than any other third baseman in the league as well. His Range Factor is a 3.73 also the best in the league. With Manny Machado missing time early on, Donaldson should be able to run away with the Gold Glove at that spot.

In short, Josh Donaldson really represents the best in the business as far as third baseman, in either league, are concerned right now. He's proven elite in virtually every facet of the game and has been a primary cog in the machine that the Oakland A's have been this season. Even if he continues on this current pace, it's doubtful he garners too much attention as an MVP candidate in the AL, but those that follow the A's and their success to this point know Donaldson and know his value.

Who needs individual accolades, anyway?

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Athletics Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.

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