NL West Outlook: Third Basemen

After reviewing the division's catchers, first baseman, and second baseman,  today we'll review the third baseman in the NL West. There are a couple of common themes among the third baseman, bad defense and low OBP's.

I'll be ranking the teams based on their total projected 2009 WAR (wins above replacement) for each position. I'll be using the spreadsheet provided here by Beyond the Box Score. Marcels projections will be used to project playing time. If correct playing time is not being accounted for in the projections, I will adjust the plate appearances to equal projected playing time . I will calculate wOBA by averaging the wOBAs projected by Marcels, CHONE and ZiPS.  For fielding I will use the projections provided here.

 

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

 

 

Per 700 PAs

 

Hitter

PA

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Hit

BR

Pos

Fld

WAR

FA $

WAR

Blake

567

.339

.446

.343

0.49

0.00

0.25

-0.80

2.44

$9.3

2.0

It might be surprising to some but Casey Blake projects to be the worst third baseman in the division. Technically, he's tied with Kouzmanoff, but Kouzmanoff is a better bet to produce because he's eight years younger. Already 35, Blake's new 3 year, $17.5 million contract looks fairly ridiculous in hindsight. You don't usually give three year deals out to marginal veterans, especially in this offseason climate. Still, he is an average player who is versatile enough to be a good supersub as he declines as long as his skills don't completely fall off the table. Sometime in the next couple years, Blake Dewitt will probably take over as our third baseman and should be there for the foreseeable future. Dewitt projects to be worth 1.9 WAR this year if he matches Casey Blake's playing time, so they are already pretty much equal value. Josh Bell, Pedro Baez, and Austin Gallagher will provide good depth here for the forseeable future.

4. San Diego Padres

Per 700 PAs
Hitter PA OBP SLG wOBA Hit BR Pos Fld WAR FA $ WAR
Kouzmanoff 587 .320 .451 .335 0.00 0.00 0.25 -0.40 2.35 $9.3 2.0

Kevin Kouzmanoff is the incumbent at third and like everyone else, he doesn't field his position very well. He's got good pop that is partially hidden by the fact that he plays half of his games at Petco Park. Originally traded to the Padres for Josh Barfield, Kouz is still under team control for four more years. He's also got some awesome nicknames, The Crushin' Russian and Mashin' Macedonian. Chase Headley's true position is third base but he was moved to left because of Kouz's presence. If Kouz gets hurt, expect to see Headley here.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Per 700 PAs
Hitter PA OBP SLG wOBA Hit BR Pos Fld WAR FA $ WAR
Reynolds 548 .334 .472 .350 0.91 0.00 0.25 -0.80 2.86 $10.5 2.2

Mark Reynolds is a free swinger who hit 28 home runs last year but also set the major league record for strikeouts in a season with 204. Reynolds' strikeout problem comes from too many swings and misses, he had the lowest contact percentage on swings of anyone in the majors (62.3%). Because of his strikeouts and shaky defense Reynolds is just not a great player yet, even with his prodigous power. On the bright side for the D-Backs, he's only 25, so there is still time for growth. Even with this production though, he is still slightly above average and good enough for third place in the division. If he can ever hone his plate discipline, watch out. Chad Tracy could also see some time here versus righties.

2. San Francisco Giants

Per 700 PAs
Hitter PA OBP SLG wOBA Hit BR Pos Fld WAR FA $ WAR
Sandoval 635 .328 .449 .337 0.12 0.00 0.25 -0.30 2.57 $10.9 2.3

Pablo Sandoval has Giants' fans everywhere excited because they haven't seen a real hitter since Bonds left. Seriously though, he's a pretty exciting prospect. Only 22, the 5'11" 245 pound switch hitter has crazy good contact skills, developing power, and deceptive speed given his size. Known affectionately as "Little Money" (Bengie Molina is "Big Money"), Sandoval has two main weaknesses. He doesn't have a position (I think his fielding projection is optimistic at best) and he literally swings at everything. He will play third and some catcher this year but probably ends up at first. As far as his plate discipline, Sandoval had 4 walks in 154 plate appearances. He also had the highest swing percentage in the majors (64.6%) and swung at the most pitches out of the strike zone (53.8%). Sandoval could be the next Vladimir Guerrero or the next Jeff Franceour. For our sake, lets hope its the latter. Backing him up willl be Juan Uribe, now that Kevin Frandsen has not made the team. They both project to be fairly similiar.

1. Colorado Rockies

Per 700 PAs
Hitter PA OBP SLG wOBA Hit BR Pos Fld WAR FA $ WAR
Atkins 600 .359 .478 .364 1.77 0.00 0.25 -0.70 3.82 $15.1 3.3
Stewart 357 .351 .473 .359 1.46 0.00 0.25 0.20 4.41 $10.5 2.2

And finally we have the Colorado Rockies in first place, with a huge lead over the rest of the division. This is a bit misleading, because they are projected to have way more at bats than the other teams, but this is for two reasons.  In our first base projections Todd Helton was projected to only have 449 plate appearances, so some of Garrett Atkins' plate appearances will be at first base, letting Ian Stewart start at third. Also, Stewart will be used much like Blake Dewitt, getting time all around the diamond. He should get some starts at second base as well. But nonetheless, these two both project to be the best players out of all the third baseman. Atkins had a down year in '08; he was only worth 0.5 WAR. But the prorjections see a rebound for '09 based on his success in '06 and '07, when he was worth a combined 8.1 WAR. Stewart's predicted success is fueled by ZiPS projecting a huge breakout, a .281/.355/.503 line with a .375 wOBA and above average defense. If he plays this well expect his playing time to jump accordingly.

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