Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Third Base

Now on to third base...

Atlanta Braves- Chipper Jones

Much speculation has floated about in the offseason about the possibility that 2010 will be Chipper's final season. That is a scenario that makes sense, with Chipper turning 38 in June and the only manager he's ever played for, Bobby Cox, retiring after this season. Injuries have also started to slow down Jones, as 2009 was the first season he's played more than 140 games since 2003. His power numbers remained relatively constant, but his batting average fell exactly 100 points to .264 after winning the NL batting crown in 2008. Jones has no speed, and has never been a great fielder, which has only been made worse with age. Jones can still be a productive hitter, but he's unlikely to win another batting crown or even come close. If he does play beyond 2010, a move across the diamond to first base (a la Troy Glaus) may be the move that extends his career. Chipper is 74 home runs from 500, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him stick around to try to reach that plateau. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him walk away this year either.

Offense- 4... career .307 hitter still dangerous from both sides of the plate, just not as dangerous as he was
Defense- 2... below average

Florida Marlins- Emilio Bonifacio and Wes Helms

Let's cut to the chase. Neither one can play. Bonifacio is really fast, which is nice except that he never gets on base and has no power, as evidenced by the fact that he had the lowest OPS (.611) in all of baseball in 2009. He makes up for this by being below average in the field. Helms stinks. His one potential tool is power, but he only hit three home runs in 214 at-bats in 2009. He catches and makes plays on balls he gets to, but that's not a whole heck of a lot. However, his cousin is Ed Helms, who plays Andy Bernard on The Office.

Offense- 1.5... no power, and about a .300 on-base percentage between them
Defense- 0.5... uggghhh

New York Mets- David Wright

David Wright is a very nice player, one of the better players in all of baseball. He's a good hitter, and possesses an outstanding glove. He appeared to be the biggest victim of the Mets' move to Citi Field, as he dropped to 10 home runs in 618 trips to the plate, which isn't good for a guy counted upon to provide a big portion of the power for a homer-hungry club. Wright is a very good player, but not a leader, and his talent and stature on his club probably demands more of him. However, he plays every day, hits .300 and plays Gold Glove level defense. Always a threat for the All-Star team, Wright is the best all-around player on the Mets.

Offense- 4... could be a five if his power rebounds... runs better than you think, with 27 steals last year
Defense- 4... probably a bit overrated, but still very good

Philadelphia Phillies- Placido Polanco

Polanco returns to Philadelphia for his second tour of duty after spending parts of four seasons with the Phils after arriving via the Scott Rolen trade. Polanco may be the best in the bigs at situational hitting and handling the bat, and he even won a Gold Glove at second base for the Tigers in 2009. However, the Phillies have a viable second baseman, so Polanco will make the switch to third. A perfect fit in the Phillies lineup, Polanco will hit second and allow the more free-swinging, faster, more powerful Shane Victorino slide to the seven hole and provide some punch in the bottom part of the order. However, the man he replaces, Pedro Feliz, was one of the better, if not the best, defensive third basemen in baseball, with great range and a laser arm. Polanco's range isn't as good, and I have concerns about whether or not he has a third base arm for a full season. He won't drive you nuts at the plate like Feliz, but he won't pick it and throw it or hit for the power that Feliz did either.

Offense- 3.5... perfect fit as the disciplined good cop in the two hole for the Phillies
Defense- 3... catches the ball, but questions about arm persist

Washington Nationals- Ryan Zimmerman

Turning into Scott Rolen about 10 years later, but without the sulking and attitude. Zimmerman had a monster 2009, hitting .292 with 33 home runs and 106 RBI while winning the Gold Glove. Beat that. Still only 25, Zimmerman will continue getting better and will serve as the lynchpin around which the Nats attempt to build. And he's a great piece to build around. His numbers are on an upswing as he continues to figure out who he is as a hitter and a fielder, and there's no reason to believe that he won't be an All-Star at the hot corner for years to come.

Offense- 4... doesn't run and hasn't hit over .300 in a full year, but he's very good with the bat
Defense- 4... makes the routine plays and some of the spectacular ones

Third Base Wrap Up
-Best Third Baseman- David Wright
-Best Offensively- At this stage Wright, Jones and Zimmerman are all really close
-Best Defensively- Ryan Zimmerman
-Worst Offensively- Emilio Bonifacio
-Worst Defensively- Emilio Bonifacio
-Biggest Question- Placido Polanco's arm
-Best in Five Years- Zimmerman

We'll next move from the fifth position to number six, the shortstops...

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