Shawn Bowman: Bowman is already the best defensive third baseman in the entire Mets' organization, which includes the likes of David Wright. While it is tough for fans to digest the comparisons Bowman has received to some of the elite defensive third basemen in baseball history, a more modest comparison would be that of Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals or Scott Rolen of the Cardinals. Aside from his quick reactionary skills and tremendous glove work, what makes Bowman a sure-fire Major League third baseman is his extremely strong arm at the hot corner.
From 2004-2005, he has averaged 18 home runs per season while accumulating less than 400 at-bats per year, a truly remarkable feat for a Canadian native (they get less developmental at-bats growing up in the colder weather) who has struggled with injuries in his professional career. Bowman has struggled to make consistent contact with the bat in his career. However, he hit .295 over a 38-game stretch with the St. Lucie Mets before his back injury shelved him for the season, so you know the potential is there.
He has demonstrated more power than David Wright did at similar points in their minor league careers and many scouts believe Bowman could have just scratched the surface of his power potential. He'll most likely never develop into a .300 hitter, but with his power, Bowman projects to be a Gold Glove caliber defensive third baseman who could find a home in the #5 spot in the batting order someday.
Closest to the Majors
Jay Caligiuri: With 23-year old David Wright locked up for the foreseeable future, and with Bowman make steady progress, the Mets don't really have a dire need for a third baseman. Providing insurance from the farm system however is Jay Caligiuri. The Californian native has an interesting combination of power and defensive ability at both third base and first base, enough to possibly develop into a reserve corner infielder at the Major League level.
Just a .237 hitter over the last two seasons, Caligiuri doesn't hit with enough consistency to project as a starter at the Major League level. But averaging nearly 17 home runs per season in limited duty, while playing solid defense, he could carve himself a niche with the Mets down the road.
Need to Make Their Move
Josh Petersen: A physically imposing figure on the diamond, Petersen is an undrafted free agent who has spent the last two years in the short-season leagues. He doesn't have the greatest range in the field, nor has he shown he can hit for decent power as of yet (6 home runs in 368 at-bats). Playing both first base and third base, Petersen is going to have to make his move quickly in the long-season leagues to secure his spot in the organization.
Alejandro Zuaznabar: It is tough to put a player who hasn't even seen any game action in the United States in this category yet, but Zuaznabar, a product of the Venezuelan Summer League Mets, will turn 22-years old this season. A right-handed hitter, he's working out with the Mets in Spring Training and, more of non-prospect at the current time, he'll need to break camp in the long-season leagues to warrant any consideration.
Ray Navarette: The Seton Hall product spent five seasons in the Pirates' organization before attempting to resurrect his career in the Independent League in 2005. He can play just about any position except catcher and he's working out with the Mets as a third baseman this Spring. Like Zuaznabar, he gets tabbed with the "NP" label (not a prospect) for now.
Leivi Ventura: A sign of just how thin third base has become for the Mets at the minor league level is when Ventura is arguably considered the best "sleeper" candidate. Ventura is an average defensive third baseman at best but he does have some pop in his bat. A product of the Dominican Summer League Mets (where he played two years), Ventura hit 7 home runs with the Gulf Coast League Mets in 2005.
He turns 23-years old in 2006 however, so he'll need to force his way into the long-season leagues to merit any consideration as a legitimate prospect. Ventura has more power than the likes of Navarette, Petersen, and Zuaznabar, but he'll be on the same short leash. He is about as luke-warm a sleeper prospect as there is in baseball.
The Jury Is Still Out
Tim Grogan: The Mets 19th round pick in 2005 was slated to be the Cyclones' everyday third baseman last year before injuries cut his professional debut season short. A good hitter with gap power, Grogan could become a left-handed hitting version of Grant Psomas down the road. He's a solid defensive third baseman who'll make all the routine plays.
Matt Anderson: The Mets' 31st round pick in 2005 quietly had a solid professional debut last year, hitting a combined .301 with 20 extra-base hits (including 8 home runs) in 70 games between Brooklyn and Kingsport. He has more power than Grogan but doesn't flash the same glove work at third. With Grogan still rehabbing, Anderson is the early favorite to open up the 2006 season as the Hagerstown Suns' starting third baseman.
Sizing Up The Third Base Prospects
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