26 March 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Part 4 - Third Base

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There has been quite a layoff between pieces in this series, primarily due to some scouting trips I've taken on the amateur baseball front. We are going to keep on chugging through this series and will get through it before the start of the MLB regular season, including the selection of the All Under-26 AL East Team, as well as a quick breakdown of how each organization faired. The write-ups will be a little shorter, but hopefully we'll flesh out a little more in the comments section if they generate enough reader interest.

The third base list with brief write-ups after the jump...

1. Evan Longoria / Tampa Bay Rays (Major League)

Height/Weight - 6-2/210 / Born - 10/7/1985 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Longoria has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the Rays for good in April of 2008. Tampa rolled the dice on the highly-touted rookie, immediately signing him to an extension upon arrival with the big club. Two years in, it looks to be a genius stroke from the front office, as the Rays have paid a meager $1.05 million over the past two seasons for elite offensive and defensive performance, and have the young third baseman under contract for an additional seven years -- four of those guaranteed for a total of around $14 million and the final three years with club options, totalling around $30 million with some escalator clauses that could bump it up to around $35million.

Longo has everything you'd want in a young corner infielder: plus power to go with an above-average to plus hit tool, above-average defense and a strong and accurate arm. A tip of the hat is owed to the men up top in Tampa who decided Longoria was worth an extension before completing his first month of Major League ball -- the organization could potentially saved tens of millions of dollars if Longoria continues to play as the top AL third baseman not named Rodriguez, and could easily ascend to the throne before his first contract is up.

2. Josh Bell / Baltimore Orioles (AA/Bowie)

Height/Weight - 6-3/205 / Born - 11/13/1986 / Bats/Throws - B/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Baltimore's Josh Bell (pictured) has been discussed a fair amount here, among other Orioles bloggers, and of course on the message boards. He represents the potential for an average defensive third baseman with plus to plus-plus power and an above-average to plus hit tool. There are still, however, a fair number of pitfalls for Bell to avoid before realizing that upside. The first, and most glaring, area for improvement is his hit and power tools from the right side. A switch hitter, Bell has some one of the starkest split-lines you'll see, with his 2009 slash numbers coming to .340/.419/.625 from the left side and .198/.280/.267 from the right, with 19 of his 20 HRs and 31 of his 35 2B coming from the left. Bell also continues to work on his defensive game, which still remains choppy. He'll need some time at AAA Norfolk to get more third base reps, and will need to figure out his right-handed approach or ditch the switch hit gig before earning a promotion to the big club.

3. David Renfroe / Boston Red Sox (N/A)
Height/Weight - 6-3/200 / Born: 11/16/1990 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - N/A

Renfroe ranked as the #2 performer at the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game, per PnRScouting.com (Camden Depot's unofficial sister site focusing on amateur baseball), and was the third round selection of the Boston Red Sox last June. A two-way player in high school, Renfroe profiles as a third baseman as a pro, with plenty of arm, soft hands and some good potential at the plate. He fits nicely into Boston's current m.o., potentially providing plus or better defense with a slash line around .290/.340/.460
. There could be more juice in the bat than we're giving credit to here, but either way his total value could be significant taking defense and offense into account.

HM. Kevin Ahrens / Toronto Blue Jays
Height/Weight - 6-1/190 / Born - 4/26/1989 / Bats/Throws - B/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Ahrens (pictured) finds himself as our honorable mention, and while some may contend he sits here as much because of the dearth of third base prospects in the division as anything else, we contend his 2009 was much more encouraging than his basic stats might imply
. In spite of a slash line of .215/.282/.302 -- enough to make the most optimistic of Jays fans blush -- Ahrens showed improvement in his contact rate and strikezone command (decreasing his SO:BB ratio from an even 3:1 in 2008 to 2.05:1 in 2009, while maintaining his walk rate of around 11% of all plate appearances). Ahrens also may have been a victim of some bad luck, as he saw his BABIP drop from .301 in 2007 and .351 in 2008 to .259 in 2009. He plays an adequate defensive third, though the power may not be there for him to profile as more than an average regular. We expect improved numbers in 2010, and Toronto fans will undoubtedly hope to see that breakout year expected since his 1st round selection back in 2007 (16th overall).

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