Oakland A's Spring Position Battles: 3B

Josh Donaldson enters this spring as the Oakland A's starting third baseman. But does he have competition for the job? And who else might get at-bats at the position? We take a look at the A's spring battles at the hot corner.

A Look Back At 2012

Going into spring training, it appeared that the A's were settled at the third base position. Scott Sizemore entered camp as the incumbent after a strong rookie season that saw him post a .249/.345/.433 line in 93 games. That all changed when Sizemore tore his ACL during the first official fielding drills of spring training. He would miss the entire season.

Brandon Inge led the team in games played at third base.

With Sizemore out for the year, the A's had to scramble to fill the void. Adam Rosales was still recovering from a stress fracture in his leg and wasn't able to compete for the job during camp. That left Eric Sogard, a natural second baseman, and Josh Donaldson, a converted catcher, to compete for the job.

Both Sogard and Donaldson played well enough during spring training to make the A's Opening Day roster. Early in the season, the pair shared time at third, but the A's struggled as a team offensively in April and neither Sogard nor Donaldson were producing at third base. Donaldson was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento on April 22.

That same day, the A's claimed third baseman Luke Hughes off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Hughes appeared in four games over a six-day period with Oakland, but he collected only one hit in 16 at-bats. He was sent down to Triple-A on April 29th and he would spend the rest of the season in the minor leagues.

The A's let go of Hughes to make room for Brandon Inge, who had been released by his longtime team, the Detroit Tigers. The veteran Inge made a strong early impression on his new team. He hit a walk-off grandslam in his sixth game with the A's and had four homers over his first 11 games with Oakland.

Unfortunately for Inge, that early hot streak was halted by a DL stint May 13, during which time Donaldson returned as the starting third baseman. Inge would miss the minimum amount of time and he would be the A's primary third baseman until mid-August, when he landed on the DL with a separated right shoulder. Inge would play in only one game after separating the shoulder on August 11.

Inge's overall numbers with the A's weren't great (.226/.286/.389) but he did provide power (11 homers in 74 games) and veteran leadership to a club that came into its own as the season progressed.

Inge's injury also served as a catalyst, of sorts, for the A's furious race for an AL West title in that it opened the door for Donaldson to return a third time as the team's starter at the hot corner. This time, Donaldson seized the opportunity. In 47 games after replacing Inge, Donaldson hit .290/.356/.489 with eight homers, including a game-tying, ninth-inning blast against the Seattle Mariners during the season's final weekend.

In total, five players would appear in games at third base for the A's in 2012, with Inge leading the way with 74 games played. Donaldson (71), Sogard (14), Hughes (4) and Adam Rosales (3) filled out the remaining games. As a group, they hit .227/.280/.391 with 23 homers and 91 RBI.

Goodbye And Hello

The A's bid adieu to two of those five players this off-season. Inge recently signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Hughes is still looking for work while also preparing to play for the Australian team in the World Baseball Classic.

Jefry Marte was acquired from the Mets this off-season.

Although he isn't expected to see a lot of time at the position in 2013, newly acquired IF Jed Lowrie does have some experience at the hot corner. Lowrie was picked up in a five-player trade with the Houston Astros. A natural shortstop, Lowrie is expected to play regularly while filling several different positions all over the diamond.

Similarly, Andy Parrino – acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Tyson Ross trade – is a natural middle infielder who has some experience at third.

Oakland added two minor league third basemen over the off-season, as well, acquiring prospect Jefry Marte from the New York Mets and signing veteran corner infielder Scott Moore away from the Houston Astros.

Third basemen Invited To Camp

Josh Donaldson*
Miles Head
Jed Lowrie*
Jefry Marte
Scott Moore
Andy Parrino*
Adam Rosales*
Scott Sizemore*
Eric Sogard*

* Denotes member of the 40-man roster
Number of Third baseman Likely On The Roster: 2

Locks To Make The Team

After his strong finish down-the-stretch for the A's and his outstanding season with Triple-A Sacramento (1000 OPS in 209 at-bats), Donaldson enters camp as the A's starting third baseman. It is his job to lose and it would likely take an injury for him not to be the A's primary third baseman to start the year.

Jed Lowrie could get some time at third this season against right-handers.

The A's have always been high on Donaldson since they acquired him from the Chicago Cubs as part of the Jason Kendall trade in 2008. A catcher for the majority of his time in the A's organization, Donaldson reached Triple-A by 2010 but was unable to break-through as the A's starting catcher. Some within the organization believed that Donaldson's hitting would improve significantly if he were moved out from the catcher's position and back to third base, where he began his collegiate career.

Although Donaldson saw some time at the hot corner in 2011, he was still expected to be a catcher in 2012 until Sizemore was injured. At that point, the A's decided to give Donaldson an opportunity at the position. He proved a very quick study defensively, looking like a natural at the position. His bat took longer to come around at the major league level, but when it did, he was an offensive force for the A's.

It is Donaldson's defense that gives him the edge over the other third basemen in the A's camp, however. Donaldson is, without question, the best defensive third baseman in A's camp and he could be the team's best defensive infielder. Donaldson also provides the versatility of being a solid option as an emergency third catcher and he can play some first base, as well.

Good glove or no, Donaldson will still need to hit during the 2013 season to retain his starting job. If he can maintain the controlled, but aggressive approach he employed during his final stint with the A's last season, he could be the team's third baseman for several years to come. Donaldson will be 27 throughout the 2013 season.

If Donaldson falters, Lowrie could be one of the candidates to replace him at the hot corner. Lowrie has appeared in 83 games at third during his major league career – the second most games at any one position (shortstop is his primary position). A switch-hitter, Lowrie will likely spell Donaldson at third against the occasional tough right-handed pitcher. Lowrie is also projected to see time at shortstop, second base, first base and DH this season.

Favorites For The Final Spot

Sizemore is healthy and now 12 months removed from his knee injury. Although the injury cost him his spot as the incumbent A's third baseman, Sizemore still factors into the team's plans going forward. However, he may factor more at second base than at third base.

Scott Sizemore is back after missing a year with a knee injury.

A natural second baseman, Sizemore was moved to third base when he was acquired by the A's so that Oakland could get both Sizemore and Jemile Weeks into the line-up at the same time. Sizemore struggled at times defensively at third, although he was showing signs of improvement by the end of the 2011 season.

With Weeks struggling in 2012, the second base job has opened up again. Sizemore will be competing in camp for the second base job along with Weeks, Rosales, Sogard, Parrino and Grant Green. While Sizemore's primary focus is expected to be second base this spring, he should still see some reps at third and could be an option at the position should there be an opening during the season.

Sizemore still has minor league options remaining, so he could be sent back to Triple-A Sacramento if he doesn't win a starting job this spring. However, Sizemore was one of the A's top hitters in 2011 and Oakland could find a way to keep him on the roster as a utility player.

Adam Rosales could have the edge for the utility spot.

Unfortunately for Sizemore, there is plenty of competition for a utility spot on the A's roster. He is at a disadvantage to a number of the other competitors in that he can't play shortstop. However, Sizemore has had the most major league success at the plate of any of the players competing for a utility role.

One of the players Sizemore will be competing with this spring is Rosales. Rosales is one of the most versatile defensive players in the A's camp, as he can play all four infield positions and some corner outfield. Rosales is also out-of-options, so the A's would have to run the risk of losing him on waivers if they don't keep him on the 25-man roster.

Rosales has proven to be a solid role player during his five-year major league career. He offers a steady glove all over the infield (Rosales didn't make an error last season) and a little bit of pop in his bat. He also is a positive clubhouse influence. The A's front office has always liked what Rosales brings to the roster. With as many moving parts as the A's have on their roster this season, Rosales' versatility isn't as unique as it has been in past years. However, he still has the most major league experience of the ‘utility group' and that could give him an edge for the job.

Fighting For A Spot

Parrino and Sogard are two of the other members of the ‘utility group.' Both players are very much cut from the same cloth. Both were originally drafted and developed by the San Diego Padres and both are primarily middle infielders who have seen time at third base over the past few years.

Andy Parrino is a new addition from the Padres' organization.

Sogard saw his 2012 season cut short by a back injury, but he has reported to camp healthy. He never got his bat going at the major league level in 2012, although he hit well in a brief stint with Sacramento. Sogard's best defensive position is second base, but he has held his own at short and third. He profiles as a poor man's Mark Ellis in that he works the count well and has a solid glove, although he doesn't have Ellis' power.

Parrino is a switch-hitter whose natural position is shortstop. He has been moved all over the diamond during his career, however, seeing significant time at second, third and in left. Parrino has hit very well over his last two minor league seasons, although he is still looking for sustained success in the big leagues. Parrino has a little more power than Sogard, although neither have the power to profile well as a regular third baseman and both are more suited for a middle infield spot or a utility role.

Looking To Make An Impression

Scott Moore has been well-traveled.

A darkhorse for the third base job or a back-up spot is non-roster invitee Moore. The eighth overall pick in 2002 by the Detroit Tigers, Moore spent half of last season on the Houston Astros' roster. In 72 games, he posted a 778 OPS and hit nine homers. Moore played 28 games at third, 19 at first and 17 in the outfield. He also appeared in two games at second base.

A left-handed hitter, Moore has a career 807 OPS in 11 minor league seasons and an 842 OPS in seven seasons at the Triple-A level. Moore began his career with Detroit but was traded to Chicago in 2005 for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Moore remained with the Cubs until 2007, when he was traded to Baltimore for RHP Steve Trachsel. He returned to the Cubs in 2011 and then signed with Houston Astros in 2012. In 152 career major league games, Moore has a .242/.302/.410 line with 16 homers. He has struggled with plate discipline as a major leaguer, posting a 105:28 K:BB ratio. Despite his lengthy minor league career, Moore is only 29 years old.

Here For The Future

Marte was a relatively low-profile acquisition of the A's this off-season. Picked up for Cowgill when the A's needed a roster spot to sign new shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, Marte came to the A's with little fanfare. While the 21-year-old Marte is still far away from the big leagues, he has some intriguing talent and could be a pleasant surprise for the A's in the coming years.

Miles Head could be a factor as soon as 2014.

The New York Mets originally signed Marte out of the Dominican Republic in 2007 when he was 16. He debuted in 2008 in the Florida Rookie Gulf League and opened everyone's eyes with a .325/.398/.532 line in 44 games. After that season, the Mets pushed Marte aggressively through their system. He debuted in full-season ball at age 19 and posted a 617 OPS in 123 games at the Low-A level. Marte repeated that level in 2010, improving to a 735 OPS in 82 games.

In 2011, Marte posted a 659 OPS in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. That off-season, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he was one of the youngest players participating in the prospect showcase. Unfortunately for Marte, he broke his wrist towards the end of the AFL season. While he was healthy for the 2012 season, he didn't hit for much power (.366 SLG) in his first season at the Double-A level.

Marte has a powerful build and has shown flashes of being a power threat at various points in his career. However, he hasn't been able to sustain that power for long stretches. Despite being a minor league veteran, Marte won't turn 22 until midway through the season. If the A's coaches can unlock his power, he could be in for a break-through season.

In camp, Marte will be looking to make a strong first impression on his new organization and will be pushing for a spot in Triple-A, although a repeat of the Double-A level wouldn't be surprising.

One of the players Marte will be competing with for at-bats in the minor leagues is Miles Head, who was the A's minor league player of the year last season. Head was acquired by Oakland in the Andrew Bailey deal and he hit .382 in 67 games for High-A Stockton before earning a promotion to Double-A Midland. Head got off to a slow start with the Rockhounds and had to fight his way through a concussion after being beaned, but he finished a 57-game stint with Midland with a respectable .272/.338/.404 line.

Head was supposed to get additional at-bats this fall, but, as with Marte, the AFL proved to be dangerous. Head separated his shoulder on a check swing in his first game of the AFL season and spent the rest of the off-season rehabbing the injury. He isn't expected to be restricted by the injury this spring.

The 21-year-old Head was a first baseman in the Boston organization, but the A's moved him back to third, where he played in high school. He received mixed reviews at the position. The jury is still out whether he has the agility and arm strength to stick at third base. Head is an aggressive hitter who sometimes allowed his aggressiveness to get the better of him during his stint with Midland. But he proved he could make in-season adjustments last season.

Head may also begin the 2013 season back with Midland, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him reach Triple-A by the All-Star break. He could be competing for a major league roster spot as soon as 2014.

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