Red Sox vs. Blue Jays: Third Base Prospects

Comparing what the Red Sox and Blue Jays have at each position in the minor leagues, we take a look at the crop of third base prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two rival AL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: The Blue Jays and the Red Sox are in a similar boat when it comes to third base -- they don't have a lot of depth of third base prospects right now and a big reason is because both organizations have recently graduated their top third base prospects to the big leagues, and therefore are in no dire need for quality prospects at the hot corner.

Toronto's Brett Lawrie firmly entrenched himself as their starting third baseman last year, hitting .273 with 40 extra-base hits. And at 22 years old, he not only has just begun to scratch the surface of his potential but he appears to have the position locked down for the foreseeable future.

The same can be said for Boston's Will Middlebrooks who hit .288 with 15 home runs upon getting his big league promotion mid-season last year. At 24 years old, he too appears to be a hot corner mainstay for the Red Sox for some time.

The two clubs having their respective third base positions locked down by two twenty-something year olds is a very good thing too because there's not a whole lot of depth below either of them in their respective organizations. In fact, arguably the highest upside third base prospect in either organization, Boston's Garin Cecchini, has yet to break into the high-A level.

A left-handed batter, the 2010 fourth round pick can really hit. He shows exceptional discipline and patience at the plate, boasts great bat speed with projectable average to above average power potential, and while he's not quite as quick as his 51 stolen base total from last season would suggest, he projects to be an above average runner for a corner infielder type. Throw in a solid defensive game, he has virtually no weaknesses in his game.

The Blue Jays are not without their own high-ceiling third base prospects either. Both Kellen Sweeney and Matt Dean are very projectable but both are hardly can't miss prospects either, and neither have seen extended action in the long-season leagues yet.

Sweeney, like Cecchini, is a former 2010 draft pick and left-handed batter. He too shows a discernible eye at the plate, a willingness to use the whole field when he hits, and long-term above average power potential. However, he has battled numerous injuries in his young career thus far and has yet to hit above the dreaded Mendoza line up until this point. Still, there's a considerable ceiling here.

Dean on the other hand is a right-handed batter who essentially made his professional debut last season. He hit just .229 in short-season Bluefield last year but there is significant long-term above average power potential and defensively he shows an innate smoothness in the field. He will have to work on his plate discipline though and his swing can get a little long at times so while the ceiling is vast there is a lot of work needed to be done to smooth out the rough edges batting-wise.

Beyond that trio of Cecchini, Sweeney, and Dean, however, both organizations trot out a number of suspect prospects whose long-term ceilings are not quite as high, including Toronto's Gabriel Cenas and Boston's David Renfroe, Kolbrin Vitek, and Michael Almanzar.

Cenas is arguably the safest bunch of the next category of third base prospects because the bat is a bit more advanced. He shows good strike zone discipline, a quick bat, and solid defensive abilities, but more of a gap hitter right now there are significant question marks about his long-term power potential at a power-hitting position like third base.

Hitting for power is also a big time question mark for Vitek. In fact, blessed with good bat control and solid defensive abilities, outside of his checkered injury history the only real question is if he'll hit for enough power to remain a viable long-term answer at third base. Like Cenas, he projects best as a potential utility man at this point.

Almanzar and Renfroe, both 22-year olds, have shown to have the requisite power needed in batting practice but neither have been able to transfer that above average power potential into game situations yet. Their offensive games have been more slow and steady at this point, and they'll need a spike up in production to make up for their rather average defensive games. Their long-term values are almost exclusively tied into their bats.

Perhaps the biggest wild card in either organization is Toronto's Gustavo Pierre, a former shortstop. Ceiling-wise he's one of the best in either organization, showing above average to plus power potential, above average speed, and top-shelf athleticism. He has really struggled though in the consistency department and that makes his sky-high potential seem less likely of ever materializing. He could break out at any time though.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: This one is a bit of a wash even if you include Toronto's Kevin Ahrens, a former first round pick who has not developed as hoped. Cecchini has real long-term power potential but it has not developed yet and the same can be said for Toronto's Kellen Sweeney and Matt Dean. Advantage: Even

Hitting For Average: Here is where the Red Sox have a bit of an edge because Cecchini is going to hit for average and has already done so while Toronto's better hitters at the position -- Sweeney, Cenas, etc - have not done it yet. Throw in Kolbrin Vitek too and Boston has a shade too much. Advantage: Red Sox

Defense: This could change a year from now after Matt Dean has gotten some more experience because defensively he could be special and because the Jays have more depth at the lowest minor league levels, but for now the mere presence of Cecchini gives Boston a slight edge. Advantage: Red Sox

Overall Potential: Even though the Blue Jays have a little bit more depth at the position, it is all at the short-season league level right now and even their top guys there are not no-doubters. Garin Cecchini is really the only given at the position in either farm system at this point, although this could change down the road. Advantage: Red Sox

Highest Ceilings: Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Kellen Sweeney (Blue Jays), Matt Dean (Blue Jays), Gustavo Pierre (Blue Jays), David Renfroe (Red Sox)

Best Power: Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Kellen Sweeney (Blue Jays), Matt Dean (Blue Jays), David Renfroe (Red Sox), Michael Almanzar (Red Sox)

Best Average: Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Kellen Sweeney (Blue Jays), Kolbrin Vitek (Red Sox), David Renfroe (Red Sox), Gabriel Cenas (Blue Jays)

Best Defense: Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Matt Dean (Blue Jays), Kellen Sweeney (Blue Jays), David Renfroe (Red Sox), Gustavo Pierre (Blue Jays)

Best Speed: Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Gustavo Pierre (Blue Jays), Kellen Sweeney (Blue Jays), David Renfroe (Red Sox), Gabriel Cenas (Blue Jays)

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