Rio Ruiz - August 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen
The embedded chart shows third basemen in the organization ranked from high to low in terms of OPS. I have noted their current age, the last level at which they played and, if they spent significant time at multiple positions, that information is included as well. I am including Brandon Laird's 2012 minor league numbers since he was removed from the 40-man roster and will likely start the season at AAA in 2013.
With the arrival of Matt Dominguez in the Carlos Lee trade last season, some of the pressure has been taken off in shoring up a position which I would argue is still the worst in the Astros system in terms of depth. The acquisitions of Bobby Borchering and Brandon Laird also helped give the Astros some breathing room at the top of the system. Borchering is still a work in progress since he struggled in his promotion to AA this season and in the Arizona Fall League this past fall, but at only 22, he has time.
Matt Duffy leads the list out of all the third basemen in OPS. As I had hoped, he turned some of his doubles power from 2011 into home run power in 2012. He's just been an all-around solid hitter since being drafted in 2011. Despite a fairly average walk rate, he has kept his OBP high in an unconventional way -- he was hit by pitches 41 times in 2012. If Duffy can keep hitting and showing that power stroke, he should be able to move quickly through the ranks, but he will have to keep proving that he can handle the position defensively.
I'll be honest. I'm not sure what to make of Jonathan Meyer. He is considered a good defender, but in his second year with Lancaster, his power numbers declined slightly and he drew significantly fewer walks. Meyer only recently turned 22 so he is definitely still young enough to make some adjustments and get to the next level developmentally, but I think 2013 will be crucial for him.
Andy Simunic is a symbol of the third base depth problem. Simunic did a terrific job in giving the Astros an option in playing third base for them and he defended at that position very capably, but he really doesn't profile as a third baseman. He profiles as the middle infielder he was drafted as. He had a very good season with Corpus, but he doesn't bring the power expected from a corner infielder.
Another symbol of the depth problem is Darwin Rivera. He had a great season with the bat for the GCL, but it was a step backward for him as he played at Greeneville the prior season and did not do well. If he shows he can hit more advanced pitching, there may be hope for him as a DH, but his poor fielding at third base to date makes it unlikely that he will stick at that position.
Which brings me to Rio Ruiz, the Astros fourth round draft pick from 2012. In my opinion, Ruiz is the real deal. He will be a good defender, a great hitter and a natural leader. He won't turn 19 until May, but I think he will move very rapidly through the system.
As a final note, there are players who did not play extensively (if at all) at third base in the 2012 season who may see some time at third base if the need arises, particularly 1B/DH Erik Castro and 2B John Hinson.
Monday: First Base
Tuesday: Second Base