Position Review: Third Base


Ya got me. I couldn’t even come close to thinking of something even the slightest bit catchy to put as the title for this. But, I digress…

Heading into 2011, there was a slight concern over third base. Why? How much Scott Rolen would we see in the upcoming season? Which Scott Rolen would we see, the 2010 first half or 2010 second half?

We figured his playing time would be curtailed, but we held fast to the hope we would see a rejuvenated Rolen. With his falloff during the second half of 2010 was indicative that such a move be made, we just didn’t foresee Rolen playing such an insignificant role for the 2011 Reds. He only managed to play in 65 games, 60 as a starter.

While none of the others can offer what Rolen does from an on-field standpoint, they did manage to play some pretty decent baseball.

Just as was the case in 2010, Miguel Cairo stepped up to fill in what void he could. And, again, he performed as best he could. It’s not Scott Rolen, but Cairo, once again, proved is worth. 2011 brought an even greater amount of playing time at third for Cairo. His offense did suffer a bit due to the increased playing time as his slash line in starts dropped to .251/.311/.411 (2010: .307/.380/.440). His starts grew from only 40 in 2010 to 56 in 2011.

But somehow, Cairo found a touch of a power surge in 2011. In fact, his 12 career home runs (8 in 2011) as a Red marks the most he’s had for any team since he broke into the bigs back in 1996. Those 8 also marks a career high for any one season.

Another issue circulated around Rolen’s initial injury. While the Reds did have Juan Francisco on the 25-man, he, too, became a resident of the DL. That did leave Cairo to man the fort until he and Todd Frazier would arrive. But when Francisco did arrive back in Cincinnati, he did it with a bang. A rather long bang…

502 feet (depends on what you buy as far as tracking the distance)? Really? We’ve all heard the stories about his batting practice displays and his almost inhuman power. The answer issue was his defense. It has widely been held that is was a “minus”. Well, it wasn’t as bad as we thought. Sure, there’s the issue of range, but the arm is there. He was a little more consistent with his throws, too.

And we also saw the MLB debut of Todd Frazier. While his first AB is a forgettable one (a strikeout as a pinch-hitter in Philly), the rest of Frazier’s time at third showed he has a little game in him. He is pretty good defensively (2 errors in 64 chances while at 3B) and possesses a little pop (5 homers in 112 AB). Just like we figured.

The offense, overall, was maybe not what we expected, but neither was Rolen’s shortened season. The defense wasn’t as bad either. In fact, it may have been a tad better. I know that can be viewed as blasphemy considering the number of Gold Gloves Rolen owns, but Reds 3B committed the least number of errors (13) and held the second highest fielding percentage (.971) in comparison to the rest of the National League.

Granted, none of these (add a little Chris Valaika and Paul Janish to this mix) can replace a guy that owns the on-field presence or the eight Gold Gloves or the seven All-Star Game appearances or his 2002 Silver Slugger, but they made do with what they had.

But there was a glaring number to me: as a group, Reds 3B owned an on-base percentage of under .300. Not too worried about that unless you look at the one guy that has a reputation for not looking at too many pitches in Francisco. We’ll see how that develops.

But Reds fans learned that Francisco and Frazier are pretty capable in a pinch. The bigger issue will be concerning Rolen and his recovery from having his shoulder cleaned out. He maintains he has the best range of motion in about five years. If that’s the case, the Reds are sitting pretty for 2012. If not, we may well see the same numbers from the Reds “backups” for 2012.

How much will Rolen play in 2012? If you have the answer to that, you’re a rich person as that is the big money question.

Grade: C+. Considering another position where the Reds seemingly tries to mix-and-match according to the opponent, I think these guys managed to patch together a decent season.

So, here’s where we’re at so far in this process…

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