2014 Spring Training Preview: Third Base

Name Age System BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Juan Uribe 35 2013 .278 .331 .438 .334 116 4.7
’14 ZiPS .242 .293 .390 .297 N/A 2.1
’14 Steamer .239 .301 .384 .300 93 2.5
Justin Turner 29 2013 .280 .319 .385 .309 98 0.5
’14 ZiPS .262 .316 .375 .304 N/A 0.7
’14 Steamer .261 .318 .368 .304 95 0.3
Chone Figgins 36 2012 .181 .262 .271 .242 54 -1.1
2013 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
’14 Steamer .232 .300 .306 .273 74 0.1
Brendan Harris 33 2013 .206 .252 .355 .268 69 -0.5
’14 Steamer .226 .290 .331 .278 77 0.0

In the same vein as other positions done thus far, the Dodgers don’t have a ton of depth at third base. This is both because of a lack of action in the utility infielder market during the off-season and because the Dodgers have basically no minor-league depth at the position to speak of.

Given the depth issues, the health and production of Juan Uribe becomes paramount, and that’s a tricky situation when we’re talking about a player entering his age 34 season. Especially so in the case of Uribear, as his career has recently been riddled with inconsistency. Fortunately, one aspect of his game that hasn’t been inconsistent is his defense, which is something the Dodgers leaned on in 2013 and will continue to do so in 2014. That defensive ability makes a potential offensive regression palatable, and as the projections show, his offense does figure to take a step or two backwards mainly due to his inflated 2013 BABIP and previous inconsistency. That said, even if his production at the plate flounders a bit, Uribe projects to be an above-average regular for the Dodgers at a position they’ve had no dependable answers at for quite a while.

Justin Turner basically has to make this team despite his minor-league deal. Why? Because he plays second and third, and as of right now, he’s the best fallback option at both positions. Since 2011, he’s been consistently fringe average with the bat, posting a line of .267/.327/.371/.698, which is better than most of the other reserves competing with him. Turner has played third much more effectively than second thus far in his career, and figures to serve as the Nick Punto-type utility guy in 2014, barring some type of disaster in Spring Training.

Chone Figgins was last seen batting .185/.249/.253/.502 in 2011-12 for the Mariners. He then latched on with the Marlins prior to 2013 but couldn’t make the team. So he missed all of last year basically due to ineffectiveness, and is now three years removed from even being a mediocre player. Perhaps the only sign of hope is that he’s a plus defender at third. Also, with the lack of utility options in camp, and with his ability to play around the diamond, Figgins isn’t so much of a long-shot to make the roster if he’s able to put together a quality Spring Training. That probably says more about the quality of the utility guys in camp than it does about his current ability though. Even if Figgins doesn’t make the team, he’ll be one of the first up should anything happen, assuming he accepts a minor-league assignment.

Brendan Harris was mediocre with the bat last year and performed poorly defensively, but unfortunately his bat still isn’t much different from other utility candidates. Though he can handle all the infield positions, he struggles defensively at third and will be a long shot for the roster assuming a handful of guys don’t go down before the season.

So there’s a lot of question marks at third base, and things could go wrong at the position in a hurry. An awful lot of the burden falls on an aging Juan Uribe to perform in 2014, because if he falls back into his 2011-12 habits, the situation at the position could get ugly fast and necessitate a trade. That said, while Uribe figures to regress with the bat, he should still be a solidly average player overall. Aside from him though, there’s not many options available on the bench that could effectively provide cover without damaging the team’s production. The best bet for Uribe relief going into camp will be Justin Turner.

Here’s to health!

Next Up: Left Field

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