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Positional Breakdown: Third Base

A look at the hot corner through the organization.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next eleven days, we are going to take a look at the Red Sox depth chart to break down each position both in the short-term and the long-term. We’ll look at projected starters, bench pieces, depth options, top prospects, sleeper prospects, other prospects, where the starter fits in the division in terms of projected fWAR using FanGraphs’ Depth Chart system and an overall view. Today we move over to third base.

Starter

Rafael Devers

As was the case the other day in our last installment at shortstop, the Red Sox certainly feel extremely good about their standing at the hot corner. Boston has a young cornerstone (pun semi-intended) at the position in Devers who should be one of the best in all of baseball here for a long time, even with it being perhaps the deepest spot in the league. After a somewhat disappointing sophomore-ish (he didn’t really get a full season in 2017) season in 2018, he had the big breakout in 2019 we were looking for from his top prospect days. Devers hit the ball hard as consistently as anyone in baseball and that translated into a lot of hits (a league-leading total, in fact) and many of them that went for extra bases.

He hit .311/.362/.555 for a 132 wRC+, and none of it really felt unsustainable. Defense, meanwhile, has always been the concern for him, but he made major strides there as the year went on as well. Physically, I’m not worried about that regressing in the short-term, and I think he should be able to settle in somewhere close to an average defender at the position. Throw in the offensive skillset that should see 2019 as something resembling a baseline moving forward, and Devers should quickly ascend as a face of the franchise, a multi-time All-Star and perhaps even a future MVP candidate. And not far in the future, either. Oh, and by the way he doesn’t turn 24 until a week before Halloween.

Bench

Michael Chavis, Yairo Muñoz, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz

This is a big list, and as we’ve mentioned a few times in this series already, not everyone here is going to make the roster and some (Lin and Araúz, specifically) are in danger of being forced out of the organization if they don’t make the active roster for Opening Day. We’ll start with Chavis, though, who is being mentioned in his third positional group and is a given (assuming health) for the roster. While he’s being more thought of as a part of the right side of the infield at this point, that’s largely because of who is in front of him as he came up through the minors as a third baseman. Chavis was never going to win any Gold Gloves at third, but he can certainly play well enough at the hot corner to fill in when needed. For the other three, I think Muñoz is best suited for this position but the other two have some experience here as well and whoever wins the utility man job will have to play here at least a little.

Boston Red Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Depth

Bobby Dalbec, Chad De La Guerra, Marco Hernández

Like Chavis, Dalbec is being groomed at other positions because of Devers, but he can still play third. In fact, Dalbec is better than Chavis defensively. If, knock on wood, Devers gets hurt at some point, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dalbec got the call for most of the starts there. De La Guerra and Hernández, meanwhile, are solid utility options but not really guys you would want playing on a consistent basis at this position.

Top Prospect

Bobby Dalbec

Agian, it feels kind of weird to put Dalbec here because if he is going to play everyday for the Red Sox at some point it’s almost certainly going to be as a first baseman. That said, if he were in just a generic organization who could use him anywhere, he’d be a third baseman. Offensively, he is emblematic of where the league is at this point of time in that he has a ton of power, swings and misses a bunch and draws a ton of walks. The strikeouts were the thing that was going to hold him back, but he made big strides in that area last year in Double-A and Triple-A. He’ll need to show he can do it after a full offseason as well, particularly in the majors, before I totally buy in, but there’s no question the ceiling is here for an everyday player. He should also be able to play good defense wherever he ends up.

Sleeper

Brandon Howlett

I’m starting to think I have a bit of a thing for some of the 2019 disappointments. Heading into last season, I was extremely high on Howlett and was gearing up for him to make a big leap into the top couple of tiers of the organization. Instead, he showed a few flashes through the year but by and large struggled to get much going. The Red Sox pushed the 2018 late-round high school pick by pushing him to full-season ball at just 19 years old, and the advanced pitching exposed him. He struck out a ton and just couldn’t square up the ball. He should get a chance to repeat the level whenever baseball comes back, and the tools are still there for him to be able to hit and hit for power as he gets more comfortable as a pro. There’s certainly a lot left to prove, but I’m inclined to give high school players who get pushed to full-season ball early a little bit of leeway if they struggle with that adjustment. Sometimes it works out, sometimes (looking at you, Cole Brannen) it does not.

Other Prospects

  • Ceddanne Rafaela has been part of a group of multiple young Latin players experiencing some helium this spring after a couple of solid showings in the DSL and GCL.
  • Nicholas Northcut had some hype out of high school but struggled to get going consistently in Lowell last year.
  • Danny Diaz was another major disappointment last year who actually ended up getting sent back to the DSL, but is still young enough to turn things around.

AL East Projections

  1. Rafael Devers, BOS (4.4 fWAR)
  2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR (3.2 fWAR)
  3. Gio Urshela, NYY (1.9 fWAR)
  4. Yandy Díaz, TB (1.6 fWAR)
  5. Rio Ruiz, BAL (0.9 fWAR)

No surprise here with Devers at the top spot. There is some talent in this division, most notably one spot behind, but Devers is the clear cream of the crop. That said, if we expand things out a bit to the AL as a whole Devers is down to sixth, which speaks to just how deep this position is in the AL. Below him, Guerrero could be the next great hitter in this league, though he was a little disappointing in 2019 after coming into his rookie year with massive expectations. His defense is questionable, but I still have every expectation that he’ll hit and hit a lot. Urshela was one of the out-of-nowhere stars for the Yankees last year and at least to me there’s still some question about how much he’ll be able to carry over into this year. In fact, you could talk me into Díaz being number three year. Ruiz, well, poor Orioles.

Parting Thoughts

Just like with shortstop, the Red Sox are set at the hot corner for a long time, and hopefully that’s not just the next four seasons but gets extended for another decade.