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Deep Dive: third base edition, part 4

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A look at the top free agent third basemen this offseason, as well as the best projected third basemen in next year’s draft

MLB: NLCS-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers
Perchance to Dream: Manny Machado is the highest ranking free-agent in this year’s class.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

So, finally, let’s take a look at free agent third basemen, as well as those manning the hot corner who could be available in the first few rounds of the upcoming MLB draft.

Free Agents

Although Yolmer Sánchez had a decent 2018 at the hot corner, the White Sox may be wanting to upgrade the position via free agency or trade. There are several top-notch candidates to consider. The free agents are ranked in descending order based upon their bWAR.

(age as of April 1, 2019)

Manny Machado
Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 bWAR: 5.7
Slash/power: .297/.367/.538, with 37 HR and 107 RBIs
Age: 26

Primarily played at shortstop, and also stole 14 bases this year. Won’t cost a compensation pick due to being traded during the season.

Jed Lowrie
Oakland Athletics
2018 bWAR: 4.8
Slash/power: .247/.324/.409, with 16 HR and 68 RBIs
Age: 34

Primarily played at second base, The A’s could still try to re-sign him, Lowrie’s coming off a career season in nearly all categories. It’s also possible the A’s could give him a qualifying offer, and if that’s the case, anybody acquiring him would have to surrender a draft pick.

Mike Moustakas
Milwaukee Brewers
2018 bWAR: 2.5
Slash/power: .251/.315/.459, with 28 HR and 95 RBIs
Age: 30

Also played first base, Won’t cost a compensation pick because he was given qualifying offer last season.

Marwin Gonzalez
Houston Astros
2018 bWAR: 2.5
Slash/power: .247/.324/.409, with 16 HR and 68 RBIs
Age: 30

Played all positions except pitcher and catcher for 2018. Played more at left field than anywhere else.

Adrian Beltre
Texas Rangers
2018 bWAR: 2.2
Slash/power: .273/.328/.434, with 15 HR and 65 RBIs
Age: 40

Could be a low-cost option for a one-year rental if the White Sox want to wait until 2020 to make a big splash at third by signing Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon via free agency. Prefers to finish career with Rangers, if he doesn’t retire this offseason. Career bWAR of 95.7.

David Freese
Los Angeles Dodgers
2018 bWAR: 2.1
Slash/power: .296/.359/.471, with 11 HR and 51 RBIs
Age: 35

Also played first base. Currently has a $6 million option for 2019, which can be bought out for $500,000.

Josh Donaldson
Cleveland Indians
2018 bWAR: 1.2
Slash/power: .246/.352/.449, with eight HR and 23 RBIs
Age: 33

Also played first base. Injured most of 2018, suffering odd shoulder and calf ailments. Donaldson is a popular comeback favorite for next year.

Asdrubal Cabrera
Philadelphia Phillies
2018 bWAR: 0.7
Slash/power: .262/.316/.458, with 23 HR and 75 RBIs
Age: 33

Also played second base and shortstop.

Jung Ho Kang
Pittsburgh Piratess
2018 bWAR: 0.0
Slash/power: .333/.333/.333, with no homers or RBIs
Age: 32

Missed most of 2018 due to legal issues. Currently on $5.5 million option, which could be bought out for $250,000.

Logan Forsythe
Minnesota Twins
2018 bWAR: -0.1
Slash/power: .232/.313/.291, with two HR and 27 RBIs
Age: 32

Also played second base, first base, and left field. Hit 20 homers as recently as 2016.

Andrew Romine
Seattle Mariners
2018 bWAR: -0.3
Slash/power: .210/.260/.244, with no homers and two RBIs
Age: 33

Played everywhere except catcher for 2018.

Chase Headley
San Diego Padres
2018 bWAR: -0.4
Slash/power: .115/.233/.135, with zero homers and four RBIs
Age: 34

Also played first base, but was released in May. Possible minor-league free agent.

Ryan Flaherty
Atlanta Braves
2018 bWAR: -0.8
Slash/power: .217/.298/.292, with two HR and 13 RBIs
Age: 32

Also played first base.

Luis Valbuena
Los Angeles Angels
2018 bWAR: -0.9
Slash/power: .199/.253/.335, with nine HR and 33 RBIs
Age: 33

Also played first base and second base. Released by the Angels in August.

Jose Reyes
New York Mets
2018 bWAR: -1.0
Slash/power: .189/.260/.320, with four HR and 16 RBIs
Age: 35

Also played shortstop and second base.

Eduardo Nunez
Boston Red Sox
2018 bWAR: -1.1
Slash/power: .265/.289/.388, with 10 HR and 44 RBIs
Age: 31

Also played second base.

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2019 MLB Draft prospects

I will be doing a more comprehensive list next year, so this is just a preliminary look at third basemen the White Sox could draft in the first round and beyond. The number in parentheses before the name is where FanGraphs ranked each player as of October 25. Of course, players may move up or down the charts depending upon how well they do in various offseason tournaments and upcoming collegiate/prep seasons.

College

(26) Nick Quintana
6´0´´
185 pounds
School: Arizona

Quintana was selected in the 11th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2016 MLB Draft but didn’t sign. He’s got a solid hit tool, above-average arm, quality defensive skills and power that should keep him at third base for years to come. For the Wildcats in his sophomore season last year, the right-handed batter slashed .313/.413/.592, with 14 homers, 55 RBIs, 32 walks (12.60%) and 47 strikeouts (18.50%) over 211 at-bats.

(30) Josh Jung
6´2´´
215 pounds
School: Texas Tech

Many scouts actually rank Jung ahead of Quintana, and I would tend to agree. The only knock on him seems to be that he lacks the lateral quickness to be a plus defensive third baseman, but he does have the hands and arm strength to profile there. It’s interesting to compare Jung and last year’s third overall pick Alec Bohm’s junior season. He could easily be a Top 10, or even Top 5, pick in next year’s draft.

Alec Bohm: .339/.436/.625, with 14.7 BB% and 10.5 K% with 16 HR and 55 RBIs
Josh Jung: .392/.441/.639, with 12.3 BB% and 10.1 K% with 12 HR and 80 RBIs

(31) Drew Mendoza
6´4´´
190 pounds
School: Florida State

Mendoza has similar defensive skills to Quintana, but his raw power has yet to show up at the collegiate level. If that changes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mendoza move up the draft boards. The left-hander reminds me a bit of White Sox prospect Blake Rutherford in that regard. For the Seminoles in 2018, he slashed .313/.440/.491 with seven homers, 44 RBIs, 46 walks (16.2%) and 63 strikeouts (22.2%) in 224 at-bats. If his junior season is a renaissance (like Jonathan India had for the Florida Gators last year), look out! However, if he maintains the status quo, Mendoza may end up falling to Day 2 of the draft.

(33) Austin Shenton
6´0´´
200 pounds
School: Florida International

Shenton is relatively unknown, but he recently finished an excellent season in the Cape Cod League in which he hit .349 (.522 in the playoffs). In his sophomore season with the Golden Panthers, Shenton slashed .344/.417/.524 with nine homers, 29 RBIs, 20 walks (8.1%) and 43 strikeouts (17.5%) in 212 at-bats. He’s a potential second-round pick, especially if he can improve upon his power numbers.

Spencer Steer
6´0´´
175 pounds
School: Oregon

Steer definitely has the defensive chops to play the hot corner at the major league level. However, unless he makes major strides in 2018, his offense may hold him back from getting drafted in the first few rounds. As a high school senior, Steer was the top-ranked third baseman in California according to PerfectGame, so he definitely has potential. Last year with the Ducks, Steer hit .275/.381/.407 with four homers, 37 RBIs, 24 walks (10.3%) and 31 strikeouts (13.3%) in 189 at-bats,

High School

(27) Rece Hinds
6´4´´
220 pounds
School: Niceville H.S., Niceville, Fla.
Verbal commitment: LSU

This kid reminds me a lot of a right-handed version of Nolan Gorman, who was drafted last year in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals. The first thing you notice is his size — he just turned 18, and still has room for projection. According to Baseball America, “His power is easily plus right now, and multiple evaluators say it could be 80-grade juice in the future. For fans disappointed that the Sox didn’t reach for Gorman last year, this could be a chance for atonement — especially if Hinds improves his plate discipline and defense this year.

(51) Gunnar Henderson
6´3´´
195 pounds
School: John T. Morgan Academy, Selma, Ala.
Verbal commitment: Auburn

Henderson has pitched and played shortstop, but looks to profile at third base due to his size and power. He’s a left-handed hitter who has a plus hitting tool that’s only getting better. He has plenty of arm strength with accuracy, and has soft hands that field grounders cleanly.

Brett Baty
6´3´´
210 pounds
School: Lake Travis H.S., Spicewood, Texas
Verbal commitment: Texas

Baty seems to be this year’s left-handed equivalent of Hinds. While perhaps a shade below Hinds’s power, Baty’s hit tool seems to be ahead of Hinds at this point. Reports vary as to Baty’s defense. He has good footwork at third base, with playable arm strength and balanced athletic actions. However, his glovework and throwing accuracy are in question. If he can’t cut it defensively, his bat should still profile at first base.

Tyler Callihan
6´1´´
200 pounds
School: Providence H.S., Jacksonville, Fla.
Verbal commitment: South Carolina

Callihan has terrific bat speed, with quick hands. According to PerfectGame, “He’s got an adaptable swing, will stay inside frequently and line the ball around the middle of the field but has the ability to turn and lift when he recognizes his pitch.” He has always hit high-level pitching, and is one of the most experienced hitters in the class. He’s light and quick on his feet for his size, has sure quick hands at the ball and good arm strength. May also have the athleticism to play second base.

Cade Doughty
6´1´´
195 pounds
School: Denham Springs H.S., Denham Springs, La.
Verbal commitment: LSU

Doughty is a hard guy to profile defensively. PerfectGame compares him to Ben Zobrist, saying, “Very smooth defensive player, moves very well for his size and physicality, arm strength plays up in games, type of player and athlete who can probably play every position on the field well.” Sounds like a gamer to me.

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Summary

Third base has been a problem position for the White Sox for a long time — ever since Joe Crede left the organization. There are several free agents available who can be had for exceptionally long-term deals (or short-term ones which would give the team additional flexibility to either wait for guys like Jake Burger, Bryce Bush, or Ti’Quan Forbes as they progress through the system or wait/hope for Arenado and/or Rendon to enter the market). That doesn’t mean that the White Sox should cede an opportunity to draft another third baseman fairly high in the draft if it makes sense to do so.