With power hitting down throughout baseball, classic thirdbasemen are increasingly difficult to find. Most teams want a player who hits for power while having the arm and quickness to play the position. In 2011, however, there were only five thirdbasemen who hit 20 HRs and only ten who hit 15.
The Pirates are no exception. Their system doesn’t have any players who profile as regular thirdbasemen in the major leagues. At most levels they’ve been filling the position with players who project as utility players, or who normally play other positions and are just filling in. Nevertheless, there are a couple players who could be productive major leaguers.
Parentheses indicate that the player may not open at that level.
The acquisition of Casey McGehee probably assures that Harrison will return to Indianapolis. He should be the most frequent thirdbaseman, but other infielders will probably move over at times as the Indians are likely to be shuffling players between positions a lot. This probably would include Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer and Yamaico Navarro. Harrison himself will probably see time at other positions, including second, left, and maybe short, as the Pirates get him ready for a possible utility role in the majors.
Elevys Gonzalez, Jeremy Farrell
Gonzalez opened the 2010 season in extended spring training and then moved to West Virginia as a backup. He doesn’t have any outstanding tools and the Pirates seemed to regard him more as an organizational player. Since then he’s hit better and better, and established himself as a potential major league utility player. He finished second in the Florida State League in batting in 2011 and should be a regular at Altoona in 2012. If Jarek Cunningham isn’t in AA, Gonzalez could move to second, which is probably a better position for him. That would leave third for Farrell. He’s not strong defensively and had only a so-so year at the plate for Altoona in 2011, so he figures to return to AA.
Bradenton (High A)
(Andy Vasquez), (Chase Lyles)
Bradenton doesn’t have an obvious candidate for third base. Vasquez and Lyles are both organizational players. Vasquez had a good year at West Virginia in 2011, while Lyles didn’t hit much. The Pirates could try experimenting by moving somebody.
West Virginia (Low A)
Chris Lashmet, Eric Avila, (Andy Vasquez), (Chase Lyles)
If the Pirates don’t follow through on their apparent plan to move Dan Gamache to second, he’ll probably be the thirdbaseman for the Power in 2012. If they do, it’ll probably be some combination of Lashment and Avila. Lashmet figures to be an organizational player. Avila looked like a potential prospect a year ago, but he struggled badly at West Virginia last year and figures to return.
State College (Short-Season)
There’s no clear candidate to play third regularly at State College in 2012. The Pirates will probably draft more than one college infielder and at least one of them likely will see time at third. The position also could be covered by infielders moving from other positions, most notably Yhonathan Barrios.
Gulf Coast League Pirates (Rookie)
Herrera was one of the Pirates’ more prominent Latin American signings prior to the 2011 season and had a good debut in the Venezuelan Summer League. He was listed as a shortstop when he signed, but he played third in the VSL and so is the best candidate to play there in the GCL in 2012.