Third Base

Los Angeles has every reason to be pleased with the production that it's getting from its minor league third basemen so far. A big question to be answered though is how many of those will remain at that position.

Las Vegas--Rick Bell is 25 years old but already starting his eighth season as a pro. The youngest of the renown Bell clan has steadily become more proficient at the plate but there 's some doubt that he'll ever produce the power figures required of the position (although he's hit six homers so far). He can play first and works daily at second since it's likely that he has to be a utility man to play up on top. His fielding at third, more than incidentally, has always been erratic.

Jacksonville--Brennan King in contrast has a big league glove at third. Now 23, he's in his third season with the Suns where he, too, has improved his consistency at bat without posting big power numbers. He was a second-round draft choice in 1999.

Vero Beach--Russ Mitchell is perhaps playing in a league too far since he's just a year out of high school and was only a 15th-round draft choice. Still, the 19-year-old Georgia native has more than held his own despite his limited experience. Last year he was in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .338 when a bout of mononucleosis ended his season. A shortstop in high school, he may well wind up at second eventually.

COLUMBUS--You want power numbers at this position ? Well here's the hope for Andy LaRoche already has his home run total in double figures. He belied his selection in the 39th round of the 2003 draft by being named the top offensive prospect in the Cape Cod League. Another who played short as an amateur, he received a $1 million bonus to forgo a scholarship to Rice. He's 20, played only six games at Ogden after signing late last summer and takes a mighty rip almost every time. In the field, he definitely has the arm and seems to possess the first-step quickness to remain at third. Like Bell, he's from a baseball family; dad Dave was an All-Star pitcher while brother Adam is with the Braves.