2015 Positional Review: Third Base

Whoa, bet you forgot about these. (We did, too). So here’s the fourth part in our 2015 review series. We’re looking at the hot corner, which is heavily dependent on the health of a certain Ginger Jesus’ knee.

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How Dodger third basemen fared (MLB ranks in parenthesis):

AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
.267 (11th) .328 (9th) .427 (14th) 7.0 (15th) 17.9 (13th) 111 (11th) 3.6 (15th)

We knew Justin Turner couldn’t have kept up his 2014 pace, but he was still one of the better hitters on the team. The trade of Juan Uribe early in the season impacted the depth of the position, and that showed when Turner was out with an injury. There was a hodgepodge of players behind Turner.

Justin Turner

 

AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
.294 .370 .491 8.2 16.2 141 4.0

Turner’s ascendance has been nothing short of amazing. He wasn’t as good as he was in 2014, but he was still an All-Star-level player in 2015 and established himself as the Dodgers’ second-most consistent hitter. He didn’t come into the season as the full-time starter, but that quickly changed. Mike wrote about it on May 13.

“We can talk about what that means for Uribe, but for now, let’s take a moment to focus on how incredible Turner has been. That’s exactly what Eno Sarris did at FanGraphs today, sharing that Turner’s career really began to change in his final days with the Mets, thanks in large part to outfielder Marlon Byrd, of all people:

‘The old saying is ‘stay back stay back stay back.’ Well, he was talking about doing the opposite,’ said Turner. ‘Not backing the ball up, going out and getting it. Being aggressive and get out there and get on your front side, get off your back side.’

After years of hearing about letting the ball travel deep in the zone, and giving the ball time, and staying back, Turner didn’t quite take to the advice right away. He challenged Byrd, but Byrd got him right back. ‘Pull up your film from all the balls that you’ve driven, and look where your contact point was,’ the outfielder told the infielder. ‘Even though I thought I was backing the ball up, when I looked at the balls I was driving, they were out in front of the plate,” Turner admitted. “It really started making sense.’

If you were to go to the wRC+ hitting leaders over the last calendar year (and drop the minimum to 300 PA, which isn’t insignificant), look who you’ll see at the top:

  1. Turner, 187
  2. Mike Trout, 172
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 168

That still contains a lot of last year’s BABIP, and Trout’s done it in nearly twice as many plate appearances, so let’s try to keep some context here. Still, it’s real production that’s helped the team. It’s incredible in so many ways… and there’s a real discussion to be had that hey, maybe he should be the one who goes in an inevitable trade for pitching this summer.”

Turner had seized the third base job, even if he couldn’t play every single day. His performance led to a trade of Uribe to the Braves.

Turner’s season was interrupted by a pimple on his leg that became infected. Before he missed 15 games, his triple slash was .323/.387/.563 and was on pace to be better than he was in 2014. After he came back, he hit just .237/.340/.351 in 39 games. The on-base percentage was nice, but the power had been sapped.

In the offseason, Turner had microfracture surgery on his knee in hopes of relieving the pain that limited him to being a 4-5 day per week player. It remains to be seen how he comes back from it, but if his range is impacted, playing primarily third base should be the best situation for his knee.

Juan Uribe

 

AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
.247 .287 .309 5.7 10.3 67 -0.2

Uribe had more than made up for his first two seasons with the Dodgers (0.3 WAR) by being so incredibly good in his next two seasons (8.6 WAR). He got off to a rocky start and lost the starting job to Turner. By the end of May, it was clear Uribe wouldn’t be around long. He was traded to the Braves, then he wasn’t, then he was.

“Juan Uribe was traded to the Braves in a deal involving Alberto Callaspo yesterday morning. Then he wasn’t because Callaspo said he loved playing for the Braves. Then it wasn’t ever going to get revived and Uribe was giving the press damage control quotes before the game started. Then Callaspo changed his mind about the whole thing and the terms of the trade ended up finalized while the game was still ongoing.

What a bizarre day for everybody involved, which is only appropriate for what ended up as a bizarre trade.

When all is said and done, the Braves will get 3B Uribe and RHP Chris Withrow, while sending 3B Callaspo, RHP Juan Jaime, and LHP Eric Stults and Ian Thomas to the Dodgers.”

Sad day for Dodger fans. This, strange as it sounds, helped and hurt at the same time.

Uribe’s time as a Dodger won’t be forgotten for quite some time — and definitely not by the writers and frequent visitors to this site.

Alex Guerrero

 

AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
.233 .261 .434 3.0 24.8 89 -0.2

 

Perhaps the most polarizing player of 2015, Guerrero got himself off to a magnificent start. His start prompted folks to clamor for a full-time gig for him at third base. I shot that down quickly.

“Let’s not get too crazy, though. Like I said, it’s only been two games. This is an example of the depth the Dodgers have in the organization. Guys like Enrique Hernandez and Chris Heisey would be on 75 percent of MLB rosters, yet they’re toiling in Triple-A. A bench of Darwin Barney (for now), A.J. Ellis (yes, he is the backup), Andre Ethier, Guerrero, Turner and Van Slyke is really tough to beat. Those guys could all start on any given day for almost any other team, yet they’re firmly planted as backups.

The real test for Guerrero will come when he struggles. The only time he’s ever struggled (offensively) in professional career was in his 13 MLB plate appearances last year, which isn’t much of a sample (as isn’t his 12 PAs this season). If he gets the chance to show his value, that could either facilitate a trade (if the parties can get around that whole “I can become a free agent the season immediately after I’m traded” clause) or make himself a potentially valuable piece to the Dodgers.

I don’t think Guerrero is going to make us say, “Who needs Hector Olivera?” But, he was brought over primarily for his bat, and if he gets a chance to showcase, maybe it will show the international scouting staff wasn’t completely off on this Cuban player.”

Through 15 games played, he was hitting .414/.438/.1.000, with five of his 12 hits going over the fence. That was pretty amazing. Before his heroics in Colorado in the second game of a doubleheader on June 2, he had already started to struggle, hitting just .246/.278/.507 since May 2.

After that, he went really downhill. Over his final 67 games (just 126 plate appearances), he hit .182/.206/.231. The league had figured him out, and he was helpless to adjust. Sure, he didn’t get consistent playing time, but he also didn’t do anything to earn said playing time.

Now, he sits on the 25-man roster occupying a valuable spot. Odds are he doesn’t make it out of spring training with the Dodgers. Despite a hot start to the 2015 season, his future as a Dodger is in doubt.

Alberto Callaspo

 

AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ WAR
.260 .336 .301 10.1 17.4 84 0.1

Callaspo was acquired in the Uribe trade, and he wasn’t God awful with the Dodgers. It’s a backhanded compliment, but it also could have been a lot worse. He played a capable third base, but didn’t really bring much to the table offensively. He had just nine multi-hit games (all two hits) in 60 games and had just five extra base hits (all doubles). He was designated for assignment after the Dodgers acquired Chase Utley.

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As long as Turner is healthy, third base will be fine. He played a career-high 126 games last season. If the Dodgers can get that out of him in 2016 (his contract year), they’ll be fortunate. His backups right now appear to combination of Utley, Howie Kendrick and Enrique Hernandez. Offensively, they’re fine. Defensively, not so much. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the front office on the lookout for a capable backup third baseman in case the career second basemen and utility guy can’t cut it.

Next up: Shortstop

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.