The Third Base Issue?


Is there an issue or am I just trying to start something? Well, I think there may be an issue, but I’m honestly not trying to start anything. As you continue through this, I believe you’ll see that to be true.

Some time ago I vented about the lack of offensive production from the shortstop and left field position. The one reason third base wasn’t really brought up is due to the huge amount of respect people hold for Scott Rolen. I, too, hold Rolen in high regard, but 2011 is nowhere near what 2010 provided. We have to be honest on that even though Rolen has spent time on the DL.

But look at the simple numbers for all Reds 3B: .244/.303/.359 with 2 HR and 33 RBI. The 33 RBI is pretty darn good considering you only have a couple of homers and one of those was the grand slam by Miguel Cairo. Rolen will be 37 when 2012 starts. He is under contract until the end of next season and he’s scheduled to make $6.5 million in salary. He;s also due a portion of a $5 million signing bonus as well. Cairo will also be 37 at the time 2012 commences. Now is the time to think about this.

So…who’s in the wings?

There are at least two potential options that might be ready to take over at third…maybe even this season should more issues arise with Rolen and his shoulder.

One name we’ve heard frequently as Rolen’s incumbent is Juan Francisco. While that has waned a bit this season, there’s no question that Francisco really has very little else to prove at the minor league level as far as his bat is concerned. In parts of 6 different seasons as a minor leaguer, Francisco has complied a slash line of .284/.315./.495 while slugging 101 homers and driving in 386 runs. The one aspect we wanted to see out of him was being more selective at the plate. In 33 games this season, he’s drawn only 5 walks.

What I’m about to add here is of no surprise, but it must be said. We’ve heard over the past two seasons what an excellent bat Francisco possesses. We’ve yet to really see that at the major league level. Maybe if he is provided an extended opportunity, we will. He has never been afforded that either. He did make the Opening Day roster, but after hitting the DL, Francisco was sent to Louisville upon activation.

But the real concern was Francisco’s defense. While the arm strength is unreal, the accuracy, as well as his glove, are average at best.

The other name is that of Todd Frazier. And is his name the hot commodity within the fanbase. The fans are anxious for Frazier to take the position over, if not this season, next season for sure.

The question regarding Frazier has been that he’s able to play so many positions that no one was 100% positive which is the best option as far as the Reds are concerned. There was the chatter about Francisco at third last year, so some thought that place would be left field. Well, that didn’t really turn out the right answer with the acquisitions of Jeremy Hermida and Fred Lewis. Plus, he hasn’t played LF as much this season (12 of 61 games) as he has 3B (30 games). Maybe, just maybe, 3B is his position. Frazier has also played first base (9 games) and even a game at second base as well just to show that flexibility.

Despite having a slow April (.232), Frazier picked up the pace in May (.324). He’s has fallen off slightly in June (.292) and currently holds a .284 average.

With not having many games at third, the defense might not be of the quality we might like to see. Frazier’s fielding percentage (.949) is about the same as Francisco’s (.944), but Frazier does provide a little more range. The arm? Maybe not as string as Francisco, but more accurate.

Of course if Rolen starts to hit at the pace he did last season, all of this is filed under “jumping the gun”.

But you never know…