Hot Corner Could Have Hot Competition This Spring – Third Base Preview

This offseason General Manager Rick Hahn and the White Sox were trying to sign players who could take on multiple roles throughout the season as needed. From second base to third base the Sox have acquired several players that offer significant depth at each position. Between Hahn’s acquisitions and the minor league talent that could lend a hand, the Sox feel as though they’ve put themselves in the best position to compete this season.
Conor Gillaspie was the starter for the majority of last season at third base. He had a productive season for the south siders in 2014 in which he had a .282 batting average along with 31 doubles and 5 triples. His Achilles heel from last season was versus left-handed pitching. Gillaspie put together a .221 average versus left-handers. It was that stat and his tendency for errors at third that led the Sox to look for a utility infielder that would be able to handle southpaws in the box.
Just after announcing that they were searching for such a player, the Sox reacquired Gordon Beckham off the free agency market.
I know as a Sox fan myself I was baffled at this move by Sox Management. Signing a one-year, $2 million contract Beckham comes as a cheap solution to the need for a utility infielder.
What baffled my mind the most though was the fact that in his career Beckham only carries a .245 batting average overall and .244 against left-handed pitching. However, when I looked deeper into his stats, it appears that he may have figured something out.
Last season the former White Sox first round pick got his average against left-handed pitching up to .293 and was more than likely the reason the Sox resigned him. As good as he was versus lefties, he was just as bad versus righties in 2014 only hitting .203.
Beckham will see time at second, short and third base this season as a reservist unless he destroys spring training. If the Sox can manage using Beckham and Gillaspie against the pitchers they are strongest against, as a team, they could put together a successful season.
Other options being looked at going into spring training include super utility players Emilio Bonifacio and Leury Garcia.
Before Beckham signed, Bonifacio was suggested as being the most likely to split time at third with Gillaspie, but the injury to Tony Campana could cause the Sox to use him in the outfield more often than they had hoped.
Garcia saw time at almost every position last season- even pitching an inning when Manager Robin Ventura needed to save on his arms in the bullpen. The problem with relying on the switch-hitting 23-year old super utility player is he’s only broke a .200 average once, and that was only a .204 batting average.
As much as the Sox are looking to keep as many utility players on the bench as possible, it may do Garcia well to spend some time in triple-A Charlotte where he could play every day.
There are two prospects playing third base in the minors that are expected to make their presence in the near future for the south siders.
According to whitesox.com, Matt Davidson and Trey Michalczewski are rated as the eighth and ninth top prospects in the organizations.
Davidson was a monster in the D-backs’ minor league organization and had his debut in the majors with the club. Unfortunately 2014 wasn’t as kind to the 23-year old as he only managed a .199 batting average at triple-A Charlotte. He did continue to show some power as he hit 20 home runs in 130 games last season. Whitesox.com estimates that Davidson is destined to see the pros in 2014.
The 19-year old Michalczewski spent time in low and high-A ball last season. The switch-hitting third baseman was able to compile a .273 average last season with White Sox’s Kannapolis club but had a little bit of a harder time at the next level in Winston-Salem hitting only .194. His patience seemed to be an issue last year as he struck out 161 times between the two clubs. Luckily the Sox have plenty of time to adjust his pitch selections since he’s so young.
He also had some faults last season in the field. Michalczewski was responsible for 27 errors between both levels. According to whitesox.com, his strongest two skills the scouts graded was his arm and his fielding. So it could just take time for him to hone in his abilities and improve his fielding. The same scouting report has his estimated time of arrival in the show being 2017, so this former two-sport athlete should focus on making successful changes instead of trying to rush up the organization.
The Sox have put themselves in a position where they could have success from the hot corner fielders. It’s up to each player to put on their best performances through spring training to see who will have the advantage of more playing time once the regular season starts.

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