In this weeks State of the Farm feature we will look at the third base position. To see the other positions you can click here. We will continue to move down the line each week as we get deeper into spring training (SS, OF, SP and RP still remain).

We will start at the lowest level where Leandro Santana saw the majority of the playing time at third base for the Arizona League Reds. He was repeating the level, but was just 19-years-old. He didn’t really improve the second time around. He walked a tad more, but his strikeout rate also went up. He struggled overall at the plate, hitting .228/.317/.316. The Dominican Republic native also struggled in the field, posting an .881 fielding percentage at third.

In Billings there was a three way split of playing time between John Sansone, Alejo Lopez and Alberti Chavez. Lopez was covered as a second baseman, but the other two fall into the third base category. John Sansone was drafted in the 8th round out of Florida State. He was solid, but unspectacular at the plate. The right handed hitter posted a .285/.336/.435 line with 12 walks and 51 strikeouts in 211 plate appearances. In the field he had a .938 fielding percentage.

Alberti Chavez played around the field a lot in Billings, but he saw his most action at third base. Defensively he played well in limited action there, posting a .975 fielding percentage, making just one error.At the plate he showed a nice average, hitting .303 for the Mustangs (and .333 in 10 plate appearances in Dayton). He did struggle some with his strikeout-to-walk ratio though, with just six walks and 28 strikeouts. The 20-year-old, like Sansone, was solid, but unspectacular.

In Dayton the third base position was a tale of two halves. Brantley Bell held down the position for most of the first half, but Nick Senzel took things over in the second half for the Dragons. Brantley Bell really struggled at the plate overall. The 21-year-old hit .248/.311/.308 on the season with 33 walks and 103 strikeouts. He did pick things up down the stretch, hitting .300/.393/.392 in the final 35 games with much improved plate discipline. He really struggled in the field at third base, posting an .868 fielding percentage. Bell performed significantly better once he moved to second base later in the year.

Nick Senzel joined the organization as the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. After a slow start in just a few games in Billings, he joined the Dayton Dragons and just destroyed the Midwest League. He hit .329/.415/.567 for the Dragons with 15 steals, 32 walks and 49 strikeouts in 251 plate appearances. In the field he held his own, posting a .945 fielding percentage. Seznel had 33 extra-base hits in just 58 games. He showed all of the tools and skills in his half-season with Dayton that place him at the top of every organizational prospect list.

The Daytona Tortugas only had one guy get real playing time at third base. Taylor Sparks spent half the season playing the hot corner before being promoted to Double-A. Things went backwards for Sparks despite repeating the level. He hit .220/.265/.359 with 11 walks and 57 strikeouts for the Tortugas. In the second half with Pensacola things got even worse as he hit .179/.247/.313 with 17 walks and 84 strikeouts. Sparks has the tools, but his contact rate and struggles with plate discipline simply don’t let them play on the offensive side of the ball. In the field he took a step forward, posting a .945 fielding percentage.

Pensacola saw Eric Jagielo, Taylor Sparks and Alex Blandino all play at least 30 games at the position. Jagielo was listed with the first basemen and Blandino was mentioned at second base. At Triple-A a large majority of the time went to Seth Mejias-Brean. The 25-year-old took a step backwards with the promotion to the next level. He struggled at the plate, hitting .228/.290/.315 for the Bats with 31 walks and 91 strikeouts. The big step backwards came almost exclusively in his walk rate being cut in half from the year before. In the field he was solid, posting a .957 fielding percentage at third.

Overall Thoughts

The Cincinnati Reds have a current third baseman in Eugenio Suarez, who is the same age or younger than some of the guys we talked about above. He’s an average starting caliber player right now, so there’s no rush to find a replacement. With that said, Nick Senzel would seem to be the near-term plan for the organization unless something unexpected happens. The #2 overall pick in the most recent draft is among the best prospects in all of baseball, with Baseball America ranking him the 9th best prospect in the game. That’s a good sign for the Reds. However, beyond him, there are some real question marks with just about everyone else at the position throughout the organization aside from the Major Leagues.

Grade: B

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14 Responses

  1. Steve

    I’m thinking that Renda and Dixon will get some time there this year as well as Walters, Van Meter, Wright, Rahier and LaValley.

    • Steve

      Oh yeah, and also Duvall, Herrera and possibly Cozart with the Reds

  2. Jim t

    Doug, I think it’s worth noting that in the case of Suarez, his bat plays significantly better at SS or 2nd base. Both positions I feel he can play. In my eyes he is a lot more then a insurance policy for both Peraza and Herrera. After adjusting to switching positions last year I think we will see him take a step forward again at the plate. It’s my opinion that in the end he will be better option at either SS or 2nd then anyone we have in the organization at this time. Especially 2nd base.

  3. Simon Cowell

    Looks to me that once we get past the one player the Reds future is hanging on the rest of the 3B candidates are a bust. I’d give us a D- for lack of depth.
    At their currently capabilities Sparks, Jagielo, Mejias-Brean, and Blandino wouldn’t even make an independent league. Some of these guys have great potential, in particular, I think Blandino and Sparks could amount to something albeit a professional bench warmer. Sir Nick is a great looking player and his future is bright. He just might be underrated outside of Cincinnati. I personally have him as a top 10 player in all of minor league baseball. Everyone else will agree after 2017.

    • RFM

      It sure seems to me like a team with Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suarez should be content with its 3b options for the next few years, regardless of anyone else. Two starting position players at one position seems to qualify as depth. As you said, Blandino is a third guy for depth.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d agree that the position, at least right now, seems to be Senzel and well, that’s it. But, when you’ve got arguably the best prospect alive at the position, that’s worth far more than having some depth of guys that probably project as non-starters at the position.

  4. BigDan

    Who was the 3rd baseman who got in trouble for throwing rocks outside of a restaurant? was he a real prospect? is he still in the system?

    • RFM

      Tanner Rahier, now age 23. Apparently he’s still in the system but has never really hit.

    • Doug Gray

      Rahier – but worth noting that eventually those charges were dropped entirely. He had wrist/hand surgery last year and missed a bunch of time in the second half because of that. He’s still in the system. Probably should have mentioned him. Doesn’t really move the needle in the grade though – at least not right now.

  5. Sultanofswaff

    Anyone else read the comments from Robert Stephenson yesterday? Talking about DeShields:
    “You know, it wasn’t true. He wasn’t around to see my work with the pitching coaches,” Stephenson said. “I listen to what everybody tells me. I’d be dumb not to listen. It’s not like I’ve had a lot of success where I can tell everybody I’m going to do it one way and not listen to anybody. I kind of ignored it. It wasn’t a problem for me. It was a problem for him.”

    This kid has a good head on his shoulders. He didn’t deserve the ‘uncoachable’ grief he took last year. It just takes some guys longer than others to find their control.

    • Doug Gray

      I tweeted about it. It’s certainly interesting to see in print. You do wonder though, if things like this won’t cause another conversation between the two of them.

  6. Patrick

    Just an idea. I would like to see how the Reds are developing our players right now especially pitchers.

    As a fan of the Reds I know we are in a rebuild and the development of our minor leaguers is the most important thing. From the outside I see very little improvement in our guys. I also do not see articles by our writers about what they are doing to develop players. In the past we heard about Soto helping guys like Cueto and Volquez with the change. We heard about Cingrani working on a third pitch.

    I would like to see more transparency on how the Reds are trying to make players better. Maybe interviews with players or coachs.

    I am frustrated with the lack of improvement in players numbers. It seemed like Stevenson year last year was a lost development year based on the numbers in AAA

    The only things I hear about is how players are helping others. Votto helping Hamilton. Straily teaching Finnegan. Straily seeing that his two seamer was not effective and dropping it (lead to 3.10 era after change)

  7. MK

    A few Reds moved up a slot as Cards Alex Reyes having Tommy John later this week.