1.26.2012

Farm Report: Third Base

Taylor Green hit lights out last year, but where
will he be on opening day?
To cap off our first week back from hiatus (that's right, I'm taking Friday off) we'll take a look at the hot corner. Third base, a position with some legit depth but not necessarily a future starter. Or with three future starters, depending how you look at it.

Here's the previous position breakdowns:
Catcher
First Base
Second Base

1. Taylor Green - Much like Gamel, it may be a little unfair to call Green a prospect still.  But he's never had any consistent playing time in the majors.  Green might have been the only hitter who was better than Mat Gamel in 2011, he hit .336 with 22 home runs and 36 doubles.  He drove in 88 and had OBP over .400 (.413 to be exact).  His white hot summer earned him a call-up to the majors and his .270 average in 37 at-bats earned him a spot on the postseason roster.  His role in 2012 is very unclear, he'll have a chance at making the big league roster but playing time may be hard to come by.  Green can spell Aramis Ramirez at third and Rickie Weeks at second, but that doesn't guarantee very much playing time.  Because of this, it would not be a surprise to see him back with Nashville in 2012, at least when the season starts.

2. Mike Walker - Taking second place by a nose on the third base prospect list is Walker.  He split time between first and third for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2011 and showed decent power in his first season outside of rookie ball.  For the T-Rats last year Walker hit 15 home runs and drove in 72 while hitting .277 with a .387 OBP.  He'll be with Brevard County in 2012 but his real test won't be until he hits Huntsville.

3. Zelous Wheeler - 2011 was a lost year for Zelous Wheeler.  A 19th round pick in 2007 Wheeler had been steadily climbing the Brewers farm system before injuries slowed him down last season.  In his five minor league seasons he is hitting .271 with a .371 OBP.  Wheeler is best defensively at third base, in very limited time at other positions he has struggled mightily.  The next step in his development will be for Triple-A Nashville, but depending on where Taylor Green lands the playing time may not be there.

4. Shea Vucinich - Drafted in the 20th round of the 2010 draft, Vucinich played in 125 games for Brevard County last season.  His numbers were solid, especially considering he bypassed Low-A.  Vucinich batted .260 with a .348 OBP and drove in 51 runs.

5. Kyle Dhanani - Sure, why not.  Dhanani final had a breakthrough offensively in his third professional season.  He hit .266 with two home runs and 28 RBIs in 59 games with Rookie level Helena.  Tough to read what his future is, but it was likely enough to keep him around for another year.

Final Thoughts - Good group, a lot of guys who could have a role on a major league club.  Green looks like a potential starter and if his minor league stats are any indication he could be a future star.  But the team is not quite convinced, having signed Aramis Ramirez to a three-year deal.  That being said, Ramirez could be viewed as a first or third baseman, which means you have three players for two spots (Gamel, Green and Ramirez) and only one of those players has a history of big league success.  Have to like the front office hedging their bets there.

As for Walker and Wheeler, time will tell.  Wheeler right now looks like he could contribute offensively, at least off the bench, but his defense and lack of experience at a position besides third base would cause doubts that he could serve as a utility player.  And for a player with only 43 home runs in five seasons starting at third base is almost completely out of the question.

Walker could be a legit prospect, but he's more defensively polished at first base than third.  Also as a college hitter success at lower levels of the minor leagues should be expected.  His first big test may not be until he reaches Double-A Huntsville, which likely won't be until 2013.

Stay tuned, we'll be back next week Monday to finish up the infield.

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