Third base is a position that the Reds are seemingly undecided on moving forward. With Scott Rolen now likely out of the picture, the spot is open at the Major League level. Todd Frazier has a chance to fill the position, but he can also play left field where the Reds have an opening as well.
The Reds have plenty of depth at the third base position. Henry Rodriguez is the closest to the Majors, having finished his season in the minors with the Triple-A with the Louisville Bats before getting a cup of coffee in September with the Reds. Rodriguez got off to a hot start in Double-A Pensacola as he hit .348/.385/.439 in 144 trips to the plate for the Blue Wahoos before suffering a broken thumb and missing seven weeks. He never recovered offensively though as he hit just .244/.264/.333 for Louisville after coming back from the injury in 221 plate appearances. He struggled with his plate discipline, something he has never done before as well as struggling to hit for average. Since 2008 at every level with at least 51 at bats Rodriguez had hit over .300 until his time in Louisville. The 22-year-old showed solid defense at the hot corner with a .960 fielding percentage. While he isn’t flashy, he can make the routine play at the position.
Looking down to the next level was David Vidal who split his season between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. Vidal got off to a good start with the Blaze, hitting .281/.358/.512 with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts in 127 plate appearances before he was promoted to Pensacola to take over for the injured Rodriguez. At the Double-A level things were tougher for Vidal as he struggled to hit .230/.294/.397 and saw his plate discipline take a step backwards with 28 walks and 90 strikeouts in 377 trips to the plate with the Blue Wahoos. I believe the injury to Rodriguez led to Vidal perhaps being rushed up a little bit too soon to the next level. Defensively, Vidal is impressive. Nearly every chance I have seen him play he makes at least one impressive play and can also make the routine play.
Again just moving down one level, perhaps the injury to Rodriguez opened up a little more playing time for a breakout prospect this year in Travis Mattair. Mattair was playing some first base to begin the year, but once third base was opened up by the promotion of Vidal (due to the Rodriguez injury), he found himself with most of the time at third for the Blaze. In his first season with the Reds, the former Boise State basketball player hit .274/.344/.465 with 31 doubles, 19 home runs, 50 walks and 119 strikeouts in 550 plate appearances. He showed off solid plate discipline and solid power output. The former second round draft pick finally began to show some of the tools that got him drafted so highly back in 2007 by the Phillies. Defensively he has good range and a strong arm.
Moving down to Billings the Reds 2012 8th round draft pick Seth Mejias-Brean, who had one of the stronger debuts of the 2012 draft picks. Mejias-Brean hit .313/.389/.536 with 21 walks and 29 strikeouts for the Mustangs in his first taste of professional baseball. He showed off some of his raw power that he was unable to take advantage of in college thanks to some swing changes and impressed scouts with his athleticism at third base, though his fielding percentage was a low .904 in 45 games.
Down in the Arizona League the Reds 2012 2nd round draft pick Tanner Rahier had some struggles as he hit just .192/.266/.311 with 21 walks and 43 strikeouts in 219 plate appearances. The line wasn’t good, but he showed a good walk rate and a strikeout rate that was solid. The tools seem to be there and his peripherals were solid across the board. The Reds 2011 2nd round pick Gabriel Rosa got off to a terrible start and was shut down after just a few weeks. He tried to play through an injury and it wasn’t working. Like Rahier though, Rosa has some good power potential and athleticism to work with, but has struggled to put up numbers thus far in his career. Junior Arias had a down season in 2012 with the Dayton Dragons, but at times would flash his power potential and a very strong arm on the defensive side of the ball. However his plate discipline is holding him back and a defensive position change has been talked about.
Third base could be one of the Reds strongest positions. There is depth at nearly every stop along the way with at least a solid prospect and there are several guys with plenty of upside and several guys with the potential to be starting Major Leaguers. While there isn’t a premium prospect at the position, I would still give the position a B grade, with room for improvement from these guys because of the depth and overall upside. Guys like Seth Mejias-Brean and Travis Mattair could be real breakout prospects next season if they can build upon what they did in 2012.
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