In my shortstop article, I said that the shortstop position has the best minor league depth of any spot in the field. However, the more I think about Seattle’s minor league options at third base, the more I am convinced that third base truly has the most depth. The hot corner may also be the most secure position going into next year as well.
Due to Kyle Seager’s sophomore surge, he has a solidified job in Seattle’s order for next year, but that doesn’t mean that he is the third baseman of the future. There is a chance that he won’t repeat this year’s performance in the future, or that he will be traded. In addition, Seager’s versatility could also lead to him moving to second base or shortstop depending on how the pieces fall.
Alex Liddi is a good young option at third base. As I discussed in my first base article, Liddi can hit, but his inability to make consistent contact is disturbing. If he can resolve that, he could be a good major league hitter.
A guy that I have spoken highly of in the past is Vinnie Catricala. “Cat the Bat” has a beautiful line drive swing and the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields and hit for power as well. Unfortunately, his 1.052 OPS from AA in 2011 dwindled down to .640 this year in AAA. His prospect status decreased as well, and at twenty-three years old, he doesn’t have a ton of time to make the majors. While his poor 2012 campaign doesn’t mean that we should rule him out of the future of Seattle, it certainly is disappointing. If he has a good spring training, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Seattle next year. Catricala has versatility, so he may be better suited in the corner outfield, but he could still be a decent guy at third base should he be needed there.
While he’s not usually thought of as a third baseman, Nick Franklin could also find himself at the hot corner. I’m not sure if he will hit for enough power to project well there, but if his glove isn’t enough for the middle infield, he could be thrown in at third.
Stefen Romero is a name that has recently begun to pop onto the radar of Mariner fans. The twenty-three year old was in just his second full year in the professional ranks this year, and he thrived. After hitting the cover off the ball in class high A High Desert, he was promoted to AA Jackson where his production improved. In 56 AA games, he posted a triple slash of .347/.392/.620 which adds up to a 1.012, and he also hit 12 bombs. While his low walk rate is a problem, it’s excusable after seeing his 178 wRC+. Some people think he will end up at second base, but personally I tend to think that his 6’3” 225 pound body is built for third base. Hopefully Romero will be in AAA next year, and if he can produce, he may have a chance to be a September call-up.
While Romero has been a great surprise, his AA teammate, Francisco Martinez, has been a great disappointment. Martinez was a main piece in the Doug Fister trade last season and became one of Seattle’s top prospects with his arrival in the organization. This season, he hit just .227 with a .295 SLG% and a 21.1K%. His lack of power and good speed will likely force him into the outfield, but he is currently listed as a third baseman. Some people think he will have a chance at second base, but I don’t believe his glove is good enough to stay in the middle infield. He just turned 22 years old, so he will have time to figure out his swing, but this year was a setback for Martinez, and with the kind of depth Seattle has at third base in its farm system, a bad year could be enough to write him out of the future.
Class High A also had a pair of 22 year-old power hitting third basemen in Steven Proscia and Mario Martinez. They both put up huge numbers in the California League this year, but they also shared the problem of a K% close to 20% and BB% below 5%. While the pure power stats were impressive, it’s hard to determine how much their numbers were inflated by High Desert. Regardless, these guys need to refine their plate approaches and learn to make more contact before they are MLB options.
Everett’s third baseman this year, Patrick Kivlehan, is yet another name to remember in the future. Kivlehan has also had a crazy journey to where he is now. He began as a safety on the Rutgers University football team before switching to baseball in his senior year. In his only year of collegiate baseball, he became the first player to ever win the Big East Conference Triple Crown and also earned conference MVP honors.
The Mariners snatched him in the fourth round which was a selection that many believe to be Seattle’s biggest steal in the draft. In a full year in short season Everett, he had a line of .301/.373/.511 before being named as a Northwest League all-star and Northwest League MVP. In the last calendar year, he went from a college football player to Northwest League MVP. It’s an unlikely story, but Kivlehan continues to progress at a rapid rate. He has learned to hit very quickly and there’s no reason to think that he will stop anytime soon. Keep an eye on this converted football player, because he could be in Seattle before you know it. He will probably make the switch to outfield, however.
The last player in the legion of minor league third baseman I will cover is Joe DeCarlo who was a second round pick in the most recent draft. He was taken out of high school and just turned nineteen years old, so he has a lot of learning to do. In rookie ball this year, he had a 13.9% BB%. That is very impressive from a teenager, because pitch selection is not usually something that young power hitters possess. His mature pitch selection is a good sign and also differentiates him from other power hitters at the hot corner.