The Twins began the season with Tony Batista as their everyday third baseman. When Jason Bartlett was called up from Rochester and inserted at short, they released Batista. What was then thought to be a platoon situation at third didn‘t last long as Nick Punto took control defensively and with his bat. Although not a prototypical power hitting third baseman, Punto has played exceptionally well defensively and there is a high probability that he will remain as their starting third baseman in the future. Luis Rodriguez is a utility player who is solid at third. The Twins won't need anyone new at third in the immediate future, although Punto could move to second should a young player come along at third.
The Rochester Red Wings (AAA) had several utility players manning third throughout the year, including Glen Williams and catcher Chris Heintz. When not up with the Twins, **Terry Tiffee, 26+, (#23/#21) was their regular third baseman. Although Tiffee was disappointed when he didn't make the 25 man roster out of spring training, he had a solid year for the Wings. Tiffee hit .273Ave, 20 doubles, 4 home runs, 37 runs scored and 38 rbi in 308 at bats with the Wings. While with the Twins, Tiffee saw limited duty hitting .244Ave with 2 home runs in only 45 at bats. Tiffee will be out of options next year and could be traded if the Twins do not feel that he will earn a spot on their 25 man roster next spring.
The New Britain Rock Cats (AA) had 2003 first round pick Matt Moses, 21, (#14/#1) play nearly every game at third base. Moses had been the system's highest ranked player in 2005 when he advanced to New Britain at mid-season, hitting .210Ave in 186 at bats after hitting .306Ave at Ft. Myers. Moses began this season on fire hitting .318Ave in April, however, his next best month was July when he hit .275Ave. For the entire season, Moses hit ..249Ave, 16 doubles, 3 triples, 15 home runs, 47 runs scored and 72 rbi in 474 at bats. Moses also did not walk very often (35) compared with 113 strikeouts which was nearly one strikeout in every four at bats. After an encouraging Arizona Fall League last year, Moses play this season must be considered a disappointment although at 21 years old he was young for a AA league. The Twins desperately want Moses to succeed, therefore, he will return to the Arizona Fall League where he will play against many of the top prospects in the game.
The Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) began the season with David Winfree, 20+, (#17/#7) at third, however, Winfree was injured after five games and didn't return until July following his much publicized leave for personal reasons. While Winfree was absent, the Miracle had several utility players manning third including Luke Hughes, Jose Leger and shortstop Trevor Plouffe. Winfree, who was the 2005 Minor League Player of the Year, hit very well with a .274Ave, 13 doubles, and 2 triples. He also had 43 runs scored, 48 rbi and 13 home runs which is a lot of production considering he had only 261 at bats. Winfree has been one of the most productive hitters in the system for the past few years. Had he played the entire season, he would have likely set franchise records for home runs and possibly also rbi. Winfree will be on the same Arizona Fall League team as Moses, which will provide him an excellent opportunity to move past Moses as the Twins' top third base prospect.
The Beloit Snappers (A) began the season with several players playing third base who have been previously discussed at other positions, including Juan Portes, Toby Gardenhire and Steve Tolleson. Following this season's draft and College World Series, Whit Robbins, 21, (#13/-) stepped in and played very well, hitting .304Ave, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 12 runs scored and 26 rbi in 112 at bats. Robbins also walked 22 times compared with only 17 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Robbins was injured in late July again leaving a void for a starting third baseman. Matt Betsill, 21+, (#75/#55) stepped in and performed well during the last month of the season when he hit .280Ave, 4 doubles, 10 runs scored and 7 rbi in 100 at bats with 12 walks and 19 strikeouts. Betsill also played briefly at Elizabethton, where he hit .250Ave in 12 at bats. William Luque, 22, (#69/#42) also split his season between Elizabethton and Beloit where he played some third base. Luque hit .247Ave , 2 doubles, 4 triples, 13 runs scored and 9 rbi in 89 at bats. While at Elizabethton, Luque hit .243Ave, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 10 runs scored and 6 rbi in 74 at bats.
The Elizabethton Twins (Rookie) had several players play third including 2006 nineteenth round pick Danny Valencia, who was previously discussed with the first basemen, who played so well he was the 20th ranked player in the system as a first year professional. Fellow 2006 pick, Garrett Olson, 21, (#56/-) was frequently talked about around draft time because he played in a league that used wooden bats while at New Hampshire‘s Franklin Pierce College. Olson, who was the Twins second fourth round pick, began his Twins career slowly and improved throughout the summer until August when he hit .352Ave. In his first season, Olson was the Twins second best hitter with a .313Ave, 8 doubles, 2 triples, 31 runs scored and 20 rbi in 176 at bats. Olson, who was a disciplined hitter with 19 walks and 30 strikeouts, is participating in this fall‘s Instructional League.
Perhaps the top player on the GCL Twins (Rookie) was third baseman Deibinson Romero, 19, (#49/-) who was a first year player from the Dominican Republic who played in the DSL in 2005. Romero had the top batting average (.313Ave) on the GCL Twins, with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 37 runs scored and 38 rbi in 176 at bats. Romero's 37 strikeouts were a reasonable number for a young hitter, however, he only took 13 walks. Romero, who stole 6 bases in 9 attempts, is also taking part in the Instructional League. The Twins also had 2006 twenty-first round pick Eric Santiago, 18+, (#71/-) play some third base until he was injured. Santiago hit .250Ave, 2 doubles, 15 runs scored, and 8 rbi in 92 at bats. Santiago also stole 8 bases in 14 attempts.
The third basemen included several of the top prospects in the system including former first round pick Matt Moses and last season's Player of the Year, David Winfree. The top rated third baseman in the system was Whit Robbins (#13) and the nine players playing third this season had an average ranking of #43 out of 88 position players. The top third base prospects include:
Whit Robbins (#13) - Beloit
Matt Moses (#14) - New Britain
David Winfree (#17) - Ft. Myers
Deibinson Romero (#49) - GCL Twins
Garrett Olson (#56) - Elizabethton
The Twins could insert any of these prospects into their third base slot as soon as they are ready to start in the major leagues. The soonest any could arrive is 2008, when either Moses or Winfree could be ready. This fall's performance in the AFL will be very important for both Moses and Winfree. Moses is a former first round pick who has always been considered a power hitter who was a can't miss prospect until his performance at New Britain these past two years. Winfree is the most productive hitter in the system and being right handed would certainly fit well with Mauer and Morneau. Could Winfree be the Twins version of David Wright in 2008? The other prospects include several exciting young players (Robbins, Olson, Romero and Valencia) who are at least three years away, with Robbins and Valencia also candidates for first base