The Corner’s Too Hot: 2003 Minor League 3B

We’re gonna jump around the diamond a little bit and head to third base. Currently, our third baseman, Bill Mueller is anchoring the position and won the batting title last year. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, it IS something to sneeze at when you consider that he hit .326. But I digress. He had a fielding percentage of .951, good for seventh out of nine qualified third-basemen. His range factor placed him eighth; his zone rating seventh. While he certainly is not a defensive whiz, he is a solid fielder capable of snuffing out rallies with a dive to his left or right. He, however, looks most like a second-baseman and will likely round his career out as one. Number eleven’s days as a Red Sox third-baseman are marked, however, by The Greek God of Walks, Kevin Youkilis. We’ll get to him in a minute. Mueller’s career gives him a .293 AVG with a .375 OBP. Is it realistic of us to expect his batting average will trend downward significantly? Yes. Is it realistic of us to expect his OBP to trend downward significantly? This is where I say no. I say we could reasonably expect a .295/.385 out of him. But what can you expect out of Bill Mueller? Doubles. Forty-five doubles last season…whew! Bill Mueller has heart, guts, desire. He is a great clubhouse person to have around, and I would love to see him finish his career as a Red Sox. I could reasonably see him move across the diamond to second after Pokey/Bellhorn has his go-round with the Sox. I could also see him staying at third and us resigning Pokey Reese/Bellhorn, and shifting Youkilis to either first base or left field. Left field…I’d like that, after Magglio walks. But I digress. Magglio ain’t coming.

Youk, in 312 AB for the Portland Sea Dogs, hit .387 with a 487 OBP. Then he was moved up to AAA, and in 109 AB, hit .165/.295 … ach! Someone needs another season or two in AAA. The good news is, he wasn’t TOO affected by AAA. For Navojoa, he was .259/.413 in 112 at-bats. He doesn’t have too good power, and would never be considered a great third-baseman in terms of hitting, but would if he played second. That really cheeses me off, the stereotypes…but we’ll get into that another time. His defense was serviceable- a little horrendous in AA but more bearable in AAA. He is a slow runner. He won’t be breaking Rickey’s record. He might not even have a SB his entire life. But that’s not why he’s one of the best prospects. The man can take a walk like you’ve never seen. Will he be a Hall-of-Famer? I doubt it. But he’ll be an All-Star. His age is starting to catch up, though. There are many different reports on his age. Some report 24, some report 25. Either way, his age is catching up. He’ll spend a season in AAA and then MAYBE will come up. One thing’s for sure. When he comes up, we’ve got an OBP machine.

Earl Snyder is not in the Sox’s plans. He didn’t hit that great in Pawtucket after having a torrid spring training. His defense was rather solid, but he’ll never figure in the Red Sox’s plans. He might not even be around come spring training.

Tony Schrager is a nice player. He started out with Sarasota, earning a promotion to Portland, where he hit .252/.347 with a SLG of .391. He played 37 games at 2nd, 37 at 3rd, and 43 at short. The reason why I am listing him as a third baseman in my review is that aside of Youkilis, he played the most games at third while Raul Nieves had him beat at short and Carlos Leon played 70 games at second. We’ll get to those people later on. In 63 AB for the Mesa Dirt Dogs, he hit .381 with a .435 OBP. His defense is average, but stellar considering he played 3B, SS, and 2B. I’d definitely keep an eye on this guy. Rotoworld says he is 27. Whoa, scary! However, his defensive prowess and solid hitting should earn him a fine career in the NL as a top bench player.

John Hattig played very well for Sarasota, and earned him a deserved promotion to Portland. In 401 AB for Sarasota as a third-baseman (who had 23 E-5’s in 92 games) he hit .297 with a .385 OBP and a .431 SLG. He was the Sarasota Player of the Year, and soxprospects.com’s scouting report on him is that he “drives in a good amount of runs, has some power. Excellent fielder. Decent speed.” He is a bright spot among many prospects. He didn’t do that well in his cup of coffee with AAA. He is currently 24 and can prove himself well in AAA and could become a reserve and then eventually a starter for the Red Sox. It’s possible but not probable he could turn himself into an All-Star. More than likely he will be one of those people that give you a good job each time out but never get recognized for it. But in a big market like Boston…anything could happen. (Now’s a good time to tell you how I decide whether a person belongs in the rankings or not. They need to play a minimum of ten games at that position at any level, and he must also be good enough to merit a little column on him. Therefore, Osmar Castillo don’t cut it. It must be noted that he did have a great season at Augusta, but did horrendous at Sarasota.)

Chad Spann was a great story for 2003. In 414 at-bats for the Augusta Green Jackets, he hit .312/.379 with a .413 SLG and 17 errors in 102 games. He blew away expectations and if he continues to hit the way he did in 2003, he could become a bona-fide prospect and anchor third or second for the Red Sox for a long time to come. If everyone continues their trend, Youk could be in left, Spann at third and Hattig at second. Keep an eye on Spann, he’d be a definite keeper. He’ll probably open up at Sarasota.

Brett Bonvechio is not only a bad hitter, but is not on the roster anymore. Claudio Arias does not really merit consideration either. It remains to be seen how he will pan out. He had a high SLG, but there’s no point in talking about SLG if his average and OBP are ridiculously low. He wasn’t that great of a defender, either. It’s possible he could work something out and become good.

Heriberto Guzman, for the GCL Red Sox, hit .248/.322/.510 in 153 AB. In 32 games, he committed 9 errors. He could progress nicely if he can build off his initial season. He’s certainly better than Scott White!

Now that the third base rankings are finished, I need to apologize. I inadvertently left off the Augusta, Lowell, and GCL catchers off the catcher rankings. I’ll do a brief rundown right now. I’ll do a quick review but stay away from the stats, you can check them out yourselves.

Addison Bowman for Augusta can certainly take a walk and play D, but he can’t hit for power at all. He played 40 games at catcher and 41 at outfield. Since outfield is gonna be a big task to tackle, we’ll list him at catcher. He’ll have more of a chance to make the majors as a catcher, anyways. There aren’t many good catchers avaiable like there are outfielders.

Dusty Brown for Augusta is just like Bowman with three major differences. One – 66 games as catcher, 9 as an outfielder. Two – similar stats except Brown’s SLG is actually higher than his OBP. Three – he has more promise.

For the GCL, Salvador Panaigua certainly can play and most definitely could turn out to be a great catcher if he stays on track. For Lowell, Erich Cloniger is the only one of the three catchers on that team that merits a commendation due to his high OBP and SLG. His batting average is just that, though. Average.