Josh Donaldson has the kind of intense personality that generates allegory. Before he became a star, Jonny Gomes talked about how Donaldson would be a star because, on top of his physical talent, he was relentless about getting better. He asked questions, Gomes said, and he listened, and adjusted and adapted.
After the Oakland Athletics shifted Donaldson from catcher to third base, a rival evaluator who saw Donaldson's first days at the position thought he wouldn't last. The improvements he had to make, the evaluator decided, couldn't happen at a position that requires such a high degree of skill and timing. A few months later, the same evaluator watched Donaldson at third base again and couldn't believe how much he had improved in such a short time. "He must've worked his ass off," the evaluator said.
Donaldson tops our ranking of the top 10 third basemen -- we've already ranked starting pitchers, relievers, first basemen and second basemen -- just weeks after winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Here's one example of what Gomes was talking about: When Donaldson was in his first season in Oakland, he swung and missed a lot -- he whiffed on 13.6 percent of his swings -- largely because he tended to hack at stuff outside the strike zone. His discipline has improved dramatically since then, such that his rate of swinging at pitches outside the zone declined from 31.3 percent in 2013 to 24.7 percent in 2014 and further improved this season. With that, he has made a whole lot more contact for damage; he had 84 extra-base hits in 2015, and his slugging percentage rocketed to .568 from .398 in 2012.