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Three for the Show: Third Basemen 

This is the fifth (took a week off…just to stretch it out) in a ten-part series where I will identify the top three players at each position in the Padres’ minor league system. Up next: Third Base.

If you want to crack the lineup as a third baseman in San Diego in the near future, you’re going to have to do it at a different position. Case in point? Jedd Gyorko. Granted, that’s until a decision is made on Chase Headley. My gut tells me the team will sign him to a big deal, leaving the 3Bs in the system to start honing their skills in LF (historically, the position of choice for converting hot corner players).

Darnell1

James Darnell will be an interesting puzzle piece this season.

James Darnell is a player who has fallen into injury obscurity. His name hasn’t come up much since the shoulder injury, sustained while playing in LF, not his natural position. I’ll save that rant for another day. In five minor league seasons, Darnell has an impressive line of: .299/.398/.508. He clubbed 63 homers over those seasons and walked 231 times. In 2011, in pitcher-friendly San Antonio, Darnell hit .310 with 23 HRs to go along with 29 2Bs. In 916 career chances at third, he’s committed 72 errors, resulting in a FLD% of .912. He should be ready for spring after recovering from shoulder surgery, so it will be interesting to see where the team slots him for this season.

Edinson Rincon is a name that does appear on prospect lists, though it will be tough for him to stick at third. In 826 chances, Rincon has committed 129 errors, for an alarming FLD% of .844. He’s young (21 last season in AA San Antonio), so there could be some room to improve, but he’s most likely headed to the outfield. Rincon’s bat, however, has the chance to really shine. In six seasons, he’s amassed an impressive line of: .285/.355/.422. As a youngen in San Antonio last season, Rincon put together one of his best seasons: .291/.321/.413. He knocked in 48 runs, stroked 30 2Bs, and sent 10 over the wall. Also, in 521 at bats that season, he struck out only 78 times.

Another player to make a note of is Fernando Perez. He’s green, only one Arizona League season in as an 18-year old, but he put up good numbers at Central Arizona JC. Perez had accumulated so many credits while in Mexico that he was declared a 5th year senior and was ineligible to play at Otay Ranch HS in Chula Vista. To solve the issue, he enrolled at Central Arizona and was immediately their 3-hole hitter. In 226 at bats, he finished: .341/.400/.580. Most impressive were the 11 triples to go along with 20 doubles and four homers. In the AZL, he held his own: .273/.298/.455. Originally a shortstop, he should be able to handle third, provided the bat adjusts.

Duanel Jones is a name to keep filed in the back, but there’s little chance the big frame (6’3″ 195lbs) will stick at the left corner. He may be best suited at first. The arm is strong, and the bat has tremendous potential, but he struggled as a 19-year-old at low A Ft. Wayne: .226/.290/.330.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, much of the debate at this position depends on the team’s approach with Headley. In all honesty, the new ownership would send a strong message by locking him up for the long term, which would make it tough for the guys mentioned above.

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About the author: Chris Kelly

Husband, father, teacher, and proud member of the Friar Faithful.