It doesn't seem that ominous. How hard could it be to stand on the third base line? I mean, if you put your out of condition, can't play anywhere else guy at first, what makes the other side of the diamond so different? I remember thinking that the first time I stood out there. Not blessed with split second reaction time, I found I had two options - stand on the line to stop an extra base hit, or play off the line to get to more balls. I found they call it a "hot corner" for a reason. Of all the positions, third base alone stands as a place where not only is the ball coming quickly, but you have to react a special way.
For Toronto, third base has seen its share of, shall we say, not golden glovers. Standing out in the portals of time is Roy Howell, an adventure waiting to happen. Look in the record books for fielding and his name stands shining. There was Ed Sprague, who many nicknamed E5. There was the Iorg-Mulliniks platoon, and though they did their job, they were hardly the stuff dreams are made of. Of course there was Superstars winner Kelly Gruber, but his back and attitude found him traded to California.
For the time being, a young man named Eric Hinske holds the fort down. Eric and his heavy metal persona was the subject of criticism last year. After JP scooped Hinske out of the A's system, because he was blocked there, and didn't find a place at Wrigley, it was looked at as an amazingly brilliant trade. Hinske in his sophmore season brought back memories of Howell and Sprague, although many fans didn't remember their escapades. Hinske brought criticism for his weight yet, interestingly for a supposed fat man, he led the team in steals, what does that tell you about the rest?
Today's look is at the hot corner. Rumors may have Hinske moving to a more secure first base, but who is there to take his place. Let's look down and see who might come up.
Last Year Tony Zuniga seemed to be a bright ray of hope, but was replaced by Pond. The one constant remains at AAA, the ever present Glenn Williams. Signed out of Australia as a young teen, Williams has played all over the infield, but can't get an invite to come up. Williams' best year was in 02. Not blessed with anything over average hitting skills and a decent glove. Williams is a cool story, but not much to plan on in Toronto.
|Williams - 2003 Syracuse|
Sharing the job is the aforementioned, as a first baseman, Shawn Fagan. Compared to Fullmer, and nothing more then a different version of a Josh Phelps, Fagan tries to sneak in on playing more then one position. Fagan a closer in college, has yet to try that for Toronto, but maybe should in the pros. The former Penn State Nittany Lion may be in a make or break year.
For more on Fagan, including last years' stats, see the first basemen round up here.
Danny Solano. I wanted to include another player here, but I think the job may be his for now. Solano has also tried short, second and the outfield, but his best bet should be here. At 5,9" he won't bring you the typical third baseman like power, nor will he hit for a high average. A decent glove and batting eye are his strengths.
|Solano - 2003 New Haven|
The other who could make a noise in Manchester is Rob Cosby. I knew the name is too familiar, but his "I Spy" connection was merely coincidental. While Culp and Cosby made early TV history, I don't see this Cosby making much history. His hitting has improved, and strikeouts have never been a problem. Doubles and singles and maybe a reserve job are all that await.
|Solano - 2003 Dunedin|
This is my pick to click. Scott Dragicevich, Many didn't expect this former Stanford Cardinal to drop as far as he did in the draft. Coming up as a shortstop, Scott has found a home at third. Named one of the best shortstop in the San Fernando Valley, in the 1998 listing of top 100 high school prospects, then a four year starter at Stanford, he never made the switch to third until his senior year. Voted the most inspirational team player, this former 4.0 GPA student and high school valedictorian brings some promise. The stats are not overwhelming, but there is enough potential here to keep an eye on.
|Dragicevich - 2003 Charleston|
If Dragicevich fails to impress, Ryan Roberts could overtake him in time. Roberts was an 18th round find, and was more of a surprise to people than Dragicevich was. Roberts rewrote the UTA record book, setting school records in hits, extra base hits, slugging pct, runs, on base pct, total bases, and RBIs. His collegiate coach called him a "true hitter."
|Roberts - 2003 Auburn|
Eric Arnold is still around for a reason, hopefully he will develop into the hitter they are hoping on, but stuck behind a Roberts and Dragicevich, he may want to go back to playing second base.
|Arnold - 2003 Charleston|
Syracuse: Howard Battle - Eyes were on the up and coming youngster. The former fourth round pick was shooting up the ranks, and he had the tools. After hitting .278 that year, at Knoxville hitting .277 the year before, and with Ed Sprague ahead of him, he had to feel good. But 1995 brought a new year, and a close to his Blue Jays hope.
Knoxville: Felipe Crespo - born with an arm defect, Crespo eventually moved to the middle of the infield. Crespo did his job. His 1994 AA stint was not as impressive as his 1995 AAA stint, and Crespo did spend some time in the pros.
Dunedin: Mike Coolbaugh - A familiar name for third basemen, but outside of his 1992 St Catherine performance and his 94 Dunedin Performance, Coolbaugh never did much.
Hagerston: My original "Captain Fiberglass," Tom Evans. Every bit the prospect as Battle was and also a fourth round pick. Evans never did overachieve with the bat. Did drink some coffee in the majors, but was never a productive major leaguer.
St Catherines: Freddy Garcia - spent 2 years in the system with this year being his best. Hitting .285 at St Catherines was not enough.
Medicine Hat: Gene Vaninetti - check out these averages in his four stops, and tell me if he deserves more press in an article on prospects: .174,.162, .169, and .156. The answer is...Gene Vaninetti, but what was the question?
Gulf Coast: Andrew Shatley - only his 1996 St Catherines stats were worth a look, but they only bought him one more year in the organization.