Editor’s note: Chris Jackson continues his look at the Dodger organizational depth with third base. Lord, I can’t wait until we get to the outfield and actually find some talent.
Recently, the good folks over at ESPN.com have noted how many good third basemen are playing throughout the Majors. While it is true that the Chase Headleys of the world are shining elsewhere, there are just as many teams rolling the dice at the hot corner from Chicago (Jeff Keppinger, Ian Stewart) to Minnesota (Trevor Plouffe) to Oakland (Josh Donaldson) to Atlanta (Juan Francisco) to Miami (the corpse of Placido Polanco) to Colorado (check back in a while on that mess).
For the Dodgers, third base is also a problem, in both present tense (Luis Cruz) and future tense. I won’t get into the whole “Hanley Ramirez should be at third” debate, because that’s been going for a while now and obviously Ned and co. are not going to change their minds until Ramirez is at 25 errors on Memorial Day. And even that might not get him shifted over to his right.
Going into the Dodgers’ stable of minor-league corner infielders, I found a logjam building up at first base between Double-A Chattanooga and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (see the previous post in this series), while the organization remains pressed to find enough warm bodies to man third base throughout the system.
At third base, the lack of depth at the upper levels was clearly seen when the Dodgers signed two free agents with big-league experience and re-signed one of their own who had become a free agent. The wild card here, and elsewhere on the diamond, is Alex Castellanos, who finished last year at third for the Isotopes. For the purposes of these analyses, I am leaving him in the outfield, but if the Dodgers decide he should be a third baseman again, then throw out most everything you read below.
Dallas McPherson, Brian Barden: The two veterans, the former of whom played for the Isotopes in 2008 when they were a Marlins affiliate, will compete for playing time this spring. Both were signed as free agents; either could end up the starter in Albuquerque.
Elevys Gonzalez, Omar Luna: Gonzalez was acquired in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft while Luna was signed as a free agent out of the Rays organization. Both Gonzalez and Luna are more utility players than everyday guys. Gonzalez will compete for a reserve spot with the Isotopes, while Luna will do the same with Chattanooga.
C.J. Retherford: The 27-year-old was originally signed by the White Sox as a non-drafted free agent out of Arizona State back in 2007. He tore through the system until 2010, when he hit a wall at Triple-A and was eventually released. After playing at Double-A for the Braves, Tigers and an independent team, Retherford signed with the Dodgers for 2012. He promptly hit .311/.366/.546 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI, mostly at Rancho and finishing at Chattanooga. Retherford should return to the Lookouts to start the upcoming season.
Pedro Baez: The biggest mystery among third basemen, Baez has underachieved throughout his career and was listed as a pitcher during instructional league this past fall. Always praised for his arm, Baez could move to the mound after batting just .247/.308/.391 for his career. Baez hit just .221/.306/.374 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI combined with Chattanooga and Rancho last season. If he is staying at third base, expect him to start for the Quakes.
Jesse Bosnik: A 13th-round pick back in 2010, the 24-year-old has done little with the bat, while playing two-thirds of his games at third base, the rest at first. Bosnick hit .239/.290/.360 with eight home runs, 44 RBI and 21 stolen bases at Great Lakes last year. He projects, at best, as a utility man, but is more likely just an organizational player who should move up to Rancho as a backup, or a starter if Baez’s days at third base are over.
Jeffrey Hunt: Purely a backup, the 22-year-old hit just .237/.295/.422 with six home runs for Great Lakes last season. He will either repeat the level or see his walking papers in March.
Alex Santana: The Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2011, Santana has yet to live up to expectations. The 19-year-old hit .254/.306/.365 with two home runs and 31 RBI between Ogden and the Arizona League last year. The son of former big-leaguer Rafael, this Santana was just 17 when he signed and very raw, both in terms of hitting and fielding. He should still push his way up the ladder and start for Great Lakes.
Bladimir Franco: He was signed out of the Dominican back in 2007. Now 22, Franco has hit just .233/.321/.381 with 27 home runs in 253 games, none above rookie level. While he put up decent numbers between the AZL and Ogden last summer — .269/.335/.448, 8 HR, 31 RBI — he is low on the depth chart and could return to the Raptors to start this upcoming season.
As anyone can see, the Dodgers are cursed by the same lack of viable third basemen as most teams. While folks tend to focus on catcher and shortstop as being too thin, the Dodgers’ lack of help at the hot corner stands out. It is not a problem unique to the organization, nor one that can be totally attributed to the McCourt era’s financial woes.
So in other words, if you want your kid to have a shot at the pros someday, put the tyke at third base and cross your fingers.