Monday, August 14, 2017

Finding the Braves a 3B

Through their run of 14 straight division titles spanning from 1991 to 2005, the Braves were known for dominant pitching. Regardless of what happened the year before or what happened in the off-season or free agency, it seemed Atlanta always had pitching. Having 3 Hall of Famers anchoring your rotation will, of course, help build that reputation but starting pitching wasn’t the only position Atlanta didn’t have to worry about for the better part of two decades. The other was third base.

Chipper Jones held down the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves for pretty much he’s entire career. Excuse me, his entire Hall of Fame career. The only time he wasn’t there was when fellow all-star Vinny Castilla manned the positions for a few years in the early 2000s while Chipper patrolled LF. And even before Chipper arrived, former MVP Terry Pendelton was the primary 3B, starting over there from 1991-1994. Point is for almost a quarter century, 3B just wasn’t a position the Braves had to worry about. Production was always there.

Well that’s changed.

Chipper retired in 2012 and since the Braves have been, well terrible at 3B. How terrible? Here’s a chart of every NL team starting in 2013 through present day:

Apparently in the NL East you can be great at 3B, or awful. No in between. Anyways, as you can see, the Braves have been bad. I’m not going to go through all the names they’ve run out there since 2012, you guys know who they are. Point is it’s time for Atlanta to find a decent 3B. It is important to remember that uber-prospect Kevin Maitan most likely big-league position will end up being third base in my opinion. Others will disagree with that but I see a guy only 17 and already bordering on being too big to stay at SS. But we’ll see. Maitan is too far away to be counting on at this point anyways so Atlanta still needs to be looking.

And because of that, I put together a list of guys I think may have at least some chance of being Atlanta's 3B in 2018 and beyond. 

There are a few of things about the list before we get started:
  • This isn’t exhaustive. There will be guys you think of that I didn’t. It’s fine.
  • This isn’t a ranking. Where a guy shows up on the list isn’t significant. It’s just a list.
  • Defense matters. It’s a zero-sum game. A run saved is a run scored.
  • Everything is allowed. I look at trades, FA signings, internal promotions.
  • I’ll probably revisit this in December when we have a better idea of the market.

Ok. Off we go.

Mike Moustakas

So this is the name everyone is talking about, and rightfully so. Moustakas is having an incredible year offensively while maintaining league average defense. His 34 home runs rank 1st among all 3B in MLB and is on pace for around a 4 Win season. Moustakas is a free agent after the season and given he’s only 28 and the kind of year he’s having, he will be handsomely rewarded with what is sure to be a massive contract. And this is where it gets tricky with him and Atlanta. The Braves don’t swim in the deep end of the free agency pool and given some big market teams, including the Yankees, will likely be looking for 3B help, it’s very likely Atlanta will simply get outbid. Anything can happen so we’ll see but this looks like a match that makes more sense on paper than it does in the budget.

Adonis Garcia


Eduardo Nunez

The best thing you can say about Nunez is he’s just solid. Nothing terribly spectacular about his game but no big glaring hole either. One plus for him is he’s able to make high levels of contact while maintaining decent power numbers. A 10% K rate with a .140 ISO is solid ratio and works plenty well as a solid major league starter. The defense is just meh, slightly below average but he isn’t going to kill you over there. Nunez is free agent at the end of the year and is expected to command significantly less salary than Moustakas so this one has some plausibility.

Johan Camargo

Everyone’s favorite story of the 2017 season, the once disappointing prospect has turned some serious heads with added pop, loud tools, and what looks to be a new dedication to the game. Johan had a really good spring and was close to making the team if not for some mental lapses and sloppy errors that convinced the organization to go with other, lesser players for the bench. Camargo’s solid play this year has led some to wonder if he should be the starting 3B next year, next to SS Dansby Swanson and 2B Ozzie Albies. Since it’s my list I’ll say I wouldn’t do this just because that .364 BABIP he’s running this year has only led to a 101 wRC+ and as one rapidly falls, so will the other. Combine that with a 5% walk rate and ultimately, I think Camargo is best suited for a utility role. But he’s definitely put his name in the ring which is amazing given where he was a year ago.

Yandy Diaz

Some of you have no idea who this but this is a guy I, personally, have been following for a while. Diaz is a 3B in the Indians farm system and has consistently put up some of the best numbers in minor league baseball. When we did our trade deadline extravaganza here at WalkOffWalk, we each picked a guy we “wish” the org would go get. My guy was Yandy. He’s not a guy you'll see on top 100 prospect list because his production has always been louder than his tools and prospect guys love tools. But here’s what he’s done the last few years in the upper minors:

2015 AA
143 wRC+
13.8 BB%
11.5 K%
2016 AA
144 wRC+
21.8 BB%
14.5 K%
2016 AAA
149 wRC+
11.3 BB%
16.8 K%
2017 AAA
166 wRC+
16.9 BB%
15.4 K%

Just insane production. And as far as his defense goes, Fangraphs throws a 60 on his glove and a 70 on his arm. The other great thing about Yandy is he’s barely seen any major league time. That means it’s at least 5 or 6 years of team control if you can acquire him. And given Cleveland already has an All-Star 3B in Jose Ramirez and are a win now team, I imagine Atlanta can find something to send their way in the offseason to make a deal work. This list isn’t a ranking but if it was, Yandy would be #1.

Rio Ruiz

Rio is another guy who has ridden the prospect roller coaster the last few years. If you don’t remember, Ruiz came over in the Evan Gattis trade with the Houston Astros and at the time, was a top 100 prospect. But after a disappointing 2015, Ruiz found himself at a crossroads in his career and there were many in the Braves organization who questioned his effort, specifically around keeping his body in shape. Well Ruiz took the criticism to heart and showed up in 2016 with a new body and a new game. Ruiz put up a 114 wRC+ for AAA Gwinnett in 2016 with an 11% BB rate and re-established himself as a legitimate prospect. He didn’t slow down in 2017 either, starting the year on fire and eventually earning a promotion to Atlanta. His big-league stint was rather lack luster, in part because of extremely inconsistent playing time, and eventually was sent back to AAA. It’s a bit of a mystery where the organization sees him long-term but if I had to guess, it would be more as a solid bench piece rather than an everyday starter. We’ll see though. Rio continuing to play well can only help his cause.

Eugenio Suarez

Suarez is another guy that, if you’re not as weirdly obsessed with baseball as I am, you may never of heard. But he’s a really good player. Suarez is the starting 3B for the Cincinnati Reds and is quietly putting up a very good season. In 2017. Suarez has a 120 wRC+ with 20 HRs and a 13% BB rate. He’s also an absolute vacuum cleaner defensively. Suarez is at +7 defensive runs saved for this season and while that’s much better than he’s ever posted, he’s always been at least above average with the glove. The reason the 26-year-old would be available is because the Reds have a 22-year-old stud prospect named Nick Senzel putting up a 188 wRC+ in AA. And when you have as many holes to fill as Cincinnati does, you can’t afford these types of redundancies on the roster, especially on their budget. My guess is they’ll move Suarez for help elsewhere and Atlanta would be wise to at least check in.

Travis Demeritte.

Last guy on the list (remember, not exhaustive) is Travis Demeritte. Coming into the year, Demeritte would have been near the top of the list of potential guys to man to hot corner for Atlanta in 2018 after the strong year he had in 2016. Even 6 weeks or so into the season, he was having a solid year, and most importantly had appeared to figure out his strikeout problem. But around mid-May, he just fell off a cliff. For the season, he’s still put up 15 HRs, a 10% BB rate and a league average OBA but the strikeouts returned in full force. His K rate is up to 27.5% on the season, and to make that profile work in the majors, you have to produce a ton of power and be quality with the glove. Good news for Demeritte is he has both a good glove and plus power but it’s unclear where the organization seems him now and seemingly unlikely he’ll see the majors in 2018 absent a strong finish to the season.

So there it is. An early look at some 3B options going into next year. Like I said at the top, we’ll look at this again in the offseason when we have a better idea of the market and have a few more names to go through. 


  1. Count me among those who didn't know who Yandy Diaz was, but also consider me completely sold on trying to acquire him. LOVE the profile.

  2. "If you don’t remember, Ruiz came over in the Evan Gattis trade with the Houston Astros and at the time, was a top 100 prospect."

    Ruiz was never ranked higher than than the Houston's 8th best prospect. He certainly never sniffed the top 100.

    1. Keith Law ranked him the 47th prospect in all of baseball the year before the trade and 95th the year after. So not only did he sniff it but he was actually in the top 100 multiple times, like I said in the piece.