Is Jason Donald The Future at Third Base?

With Adrian Cardenas gone, Jason Donald is now the top infield prospect in the Phillies organization. The problem is that he's blocked in the middle infield, so a slight change of scenery is in order for Donald.

Jason Donald already has a pretty long to-do list for the winter. It's going to include plenty of work, but very little of that work will be at shortstop, where he has played in the Phillies organization. Instead, Donald's off-season began with a trip to the Florida Instructional League, where he is learning to play both second and third base.

While Donald hasn't played either position since joining the Phillies, he said this past Spring that he would be willing to play anywhere the Phillies need him.

"I'm open to anything," said Donald before the season began. "I think I could learn to play other positions if that's what they want and I'd be willing to give it a shot."

Jimmy Rollins has the shortstop position blocked just as Chase Utley does with second base. Neither player figures to be going anywhere anytime soon and with Donald pushing his way toward the majors, it's a good time to think about other options for Donald.

With his offense already established, the Phillies will want to find somewhere for Donald to play and as far as their long-term plans are concerned, third base would be the likely spot.

Pedro Feliz has one more guaranteed season on his contract and the Phillies have a half-million buyout option for 2010. With Donald having mastered Double-A ball this season, a jump to Triple-A would seem to be in store for him in 2009 before he either gets a late-season audition or battles for a job in the Spring of 2010. One option would be for the Phillies to pick up Feliz' 2010 option - which is for $7.0 million - and let Donald have a season as a utility infielder to get ready for being an everyday player.

Odds of Donald making the club out of Spring Training in 2009 are long to say the least. The Phillies will look to give him a season at Lehigh Valley and let him improve his defensive skills before giving him a shot in the majors.

Donald has always been a bit of an adventure defensively. He committed 18 errors this past season and arm strength is a big part of the reason. Donald's reaction time is also a little slow and that, combined with his arm strength could be an issue for him at third base. If he can't make the adjustment, then either hanging around as a utility infielder or being used as trade bait with another organization would be likely for his future.

After the Florida Instructional League, Donald will head for the Arizona Fall League, where he'll also get some time both at second and third base. The work will continue on his own after the AFL season and the Phillies will look to make some decisions on where to put him defensively when he reports to camp next Spring.

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