Andy LaRoche is the acknowledged special prospect who is expected to inherit third base when Bill Mueller wears out. However, unlike the just-called-up James Loney or Joel Guzman, he's not exactly poised at the brink for he's beginning the year in Double A.
LaRoche has been assigned to Jacksonville which means he may well be moving up midway through the season., If so, he'd just be followed form for in 2004 he started at Columbus, then was promoted to Vero Beach, while in 2005, he began the year at Vero, then went up to Jacksonville. He hit a total of 30 home runs and drove in 94 between the two clubs a season ago, winning the Bill Schweppe award as the minor league Player of the Year for the system in the process.
With LaRoche down a bit, Chris Truby, a veteran of 13 years in the minors and parts of four seasons in the majors, should play third for Las Vegas although both Willie Aybar and Oscar Robles can be used there if needed. Truby signed as a free agent over the off-season. And don't be surprised if Guzman isn't used there as well. Brian Spout, who was the regular at third for Jacksonville until LaRoche arrived, is currently on Suns' disabled list, having lost half of last season to arm problems.
Travis Denker, who has moved over from second base, will occupy third for Vero although he and Blake DeWitt will flip-flop between the two positions for the time being. Denker was a South Atlantic League All-Star at second a year ago, hitting .310-21-68 for that team before moving up to Vero where he slumped badly to .185-2-9.
Columbus will have Russ Mitchell, who revived his career last season at Ogden with a .289 average and 13 home runs while leading the Pioneer League with 54 RBI, making the All-Star team there.
There's some talent down in the extended spring camp, too, with both Josh Bell and Carlos Santana on hand. Bell hit .318 for the Gulf Coast Dodgers after being drafted in the fourth round in 2005. Playing for the same team, Santana hit .295 before going out with a broken finger. He's been restored to third after being used variously at first, second, the outfield and even catcher a year ago.
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