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  • Twins Future Position Analysis: Third Base

    Cody Christie

    Minnesota surprised some last offseason by signing Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract. The former MVP was coming off a tremendous season with Atlanta where he posted a .900 OPS and won MLB’s Comeback Player of the Year. Donaldson has the biggest free agent contract in team history, but what does that mean for the future of third base in Minnesota?

    Image courtesy of © David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports (Josh Donaldson), Seth Stohs-Twins Daily (Jose Miranda, Travis Blankenhorn)

    Current Third Baseman: Josh Donaldson

    Donaldson’s first season in a Twins uniform didn’t go exactly as planned as he was limited to 28 games. When he was on the field, he hit .222/.373/.469 with eight extra-base hits in 81 at-bats. Injuries have been the story of the second half of Donaldson’s career. Outside of his 2019 season in Atlanta, he missed time in 2017, 2018, and 2020. Minnesota was well aware of Donaldson’s injury history and now he is under contract for at least the next three seasons.

    For all players, the 2020 season came with unique challenges and this can impact players in different ways. Minnesota can hope that a more normal 2021 season will allow Donaldson to get back being close to the player he was in Atlanta a few seasons ago. On the other hand, Minnesota is going to need to have some back-up options if Donaldson’s calf issues continue to plague him.

    40-Man Options

    Besides Donaldson, the Twins have other 40-man roster options to play third base even with the possible departures of Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza as free agents. Travis Blankenhorn got a brief call-up last year as he appeared in one game and went 1-for-3 with a double. There is a chance he is given the opportunity to serve in the team’s utility role during the 2021 campaign.

    Another option for the Twins is to sign or trade for a shortstop and this allows Jorge Polanco to move into a utility role. Polanco has undergone off-season ankle surgery in each of the last two off-seasons and the Twins might want to add some infield insurance

    On the Farm Options

    Outside of the options mentioned above, there are other third base options in the minor leagues including some strong prospects.


    Miranda, a 2016 second round pick, was available to be selected in last week’s Rule 5 Draft, but no other organizations selected him. He showed a good balance of power and plate discipline in 2019, and he can play multiple infield positions. Bechtold, a 2017 fifth round pick, split time between Low- and High-A back in 2019. Both players will see time at Double or Triple-A next season.

    Mack, Steer and Gray all spent some of the 2019 season in Elizabethton with Gray and Steer making appearances at Low-A before season’s end. Mack was taken out of high school while Gray and Steer have multiple years of collegiate experience. All three players have a chance to reach Double-A by the end of the 2021 season.

    What do you think about the future of third base in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.




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    We lose Donaldson for any significant amount of time we might be in trouble. 


    I like Blankenhorn as a utility guy but that bat has to continue to develop and he swings it from the left side, not sure he is an everyday 3B.  


    This maybe where Royce Lewis ends up.  Im hoping for a healthy big bounce back year from Donaldson!

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    It seems that I’ve seen Keoni Cavaco mentioned at third base. Is he a better fit at third or short?


    He's certainly a future option at 3B, which much like 2B frequently has players who were drafted at SS drop down the defensive spectrum, rather than necessarily having all guys who were drafted at 3B.


    It's so hard to assess where the team's franchise depth is right now with the minors not getting a season last year to assess anyone's development. I like Miranda, but he needs to show better plate discipline in drawing walks to continue to rise. Who knows where he's at on developing that skill?


    Blankenhorn is a reasonable depth option for this year and a strong contender to fill the super-utility role as he can fill at 2B (a bit stretched there, but playable), 3B and both corner spots. We'll see if he can hit enough to be a long-term fill in anywhere.


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    3B is a big ???  Donaldson is our 3B. Our                 best          line of defense if he's not there right now is Astudillo & hopefully an upgrade at SS. Astudillo is not bad at 3B, he`s also a great contact hitter. '18 & beginning of '19 he had good success until pitchers discovered that he had poor plate discipline. Astudillo could improve at 3B but where he really needs improvement is plate discipline. '20 he missed preseason & had a short time to prepare for regular season. He was placed in the fire where he was doomed to fail. '21 hopefully he'll be able to adjust through proper coaching.


    Astudillo isn't our long term solution at 3B. Hopefully Donaldson will discover what he did right in '19 & keep mimicking it because we absolutely need him there. Lewis is a valuable prospect because        of his                               athleticism. We have an over abundance of players that can cover less important positions (corner OF, 2B,1B & DH) but have basically no one who can plug the holes at key positions back ups  of CF, SS & 3B. Now           hopefully         we can get Hernandez & Lin could step up until they deem Lewis ready.

    In the distant future we hope that Cavaco will develop there or Miranda.

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    What frightens me is that Donaldson could be on the bench more than 2/3 the time or more each year of his contract.  He and Buxton give me that constant sense of unreliability.

    Lewis w/out a doubt could be a stud at 3B.  I'd almost lean towards him taking over CF over 3B if he's not at SS though.  I won't complain about anything as long as Lewis is up and doing great.  However, I'd love to have a lockdown SS for the next 10 years.

    It would be great if Blank came in when Donaldson were to go down (expected) and rocked it.

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    If Donaldson became our full time DH (we'd be paying him a pretty penny to DH) because we lose Cruz and Donaldson can't stay healthy at third, I guess my question might be, can he stay healthy at DH .. 


    Do they have calf muscles implants. LOL .. Maybe they can use one from a real calf ..

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    It would be great if Blank came in when Donaldson were to go down (expected) and rocked it.


    My memory is that Blankenhorn started his career in the Twins minors at 3B.  He was then moved to 2B and then in 2019 seeing some time in the outfield as well.  Being that he was moved off 3B at a time the Twins lacked any depth at that position indicates the Twins management feels he would not be a long term solution at 3B.  Maybe someone on this thread who knows more about Blankenhorn's initial experience at 3B can add to this.


    If Blankenhorn can hit in the majors, they will find  playing time for him.  Corey Koskie was a very below average defensive third baseman when he first came up, but worked his way to be an above average fielder.

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    I could see Lewis at third if ss doesn't work out and Celestino in cf. Sign a ss this year and Polanco can be the infield utility guy. If Donaldson goes down for a long period of time take Lewis' defense at third and let the bat develope. When Buxton won't sign an extension you've got Celestino roaming in center, this is a guy that's got a chance.

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    I am not excited by the 3B options in the system, but I am cautiously optimistic. We're obviously short at the high levels. But I'm not sure that should be unexpected when Sano WAS penciled as the 3B and then we signed Donaldson. Of course, we need some form if 10th and possibly 11th man to shore up that spot.


    I maintain that Lewis could end up at 3B, even initially. And that's not an indictment of his ability to play SS, but rather the possibility of just getting the best infielders in the lineup at once between Arraez, Polanco and Lewis himself.


    I have hope that Blankenship will eventually earn a bench spot as a decent hitter with power and multi-position flexibility. And it's obvious the Twins like him or he wouldn't be on the 40 man, wouldn't have been in St Paul last year and wouldn't have gotten his brief cup of coffee. And despite being a fairly large young man, he's reported to be a quality athlete who can even run a bit. I don't know if he's quite ready yet, but what confuses me is the shift toward 2B and the OF and away from 3B, but if not mistaken, he played some 3B last camp and while on the reserve list. I'd like to think be can be at least adequate at the hit corner with a decent bat.


    I think there is real hope for Miranda. His not being protected or rule 5 selected is due to youth. He hasn't had anything close to a monster year by any means, but he's flashed a bit. 2021 could really determine his future.


    I was excited for Bechtold when drafted. He is reported as being excellent defensively with a solid bat and at least some power and potential. Then he bottomed out in 2018. Really nice to see him rebound in 2019, but like Miranda, his 2021 season should establish just how good he might be...or not.


    Mack, Steer and Gray are just too new to the system to really comment with any real opinion at this point. And this just goes to show how hard it is to evaluate on hand talent with a lost 2020 season. Steer and Gray were drafted in 2019 and have a half season of ball with varying degrees of positive success. There is just no way to really project them at this point. Meanwhile, Mack was drafted high out of HS and has a pair of short league season's before covid.


    While I appreciate the whole positional analysis idea, 3B may be the hardest to project or quantify in the entire system at this point. It's not that there aren't some recent draft choices over the past 3 years, it's just that most are too young or inexperienced to really know what we have at this point.


    But I will throw a dark horse option at you: Wander Javier. Yes, yes, yes...so many tools and so many injuries and now a missed season. BUT, he has tools. And will only be 22yo in 2021 even though it feels like he's been around forever. And from all reports, be bas filled out, grown in to his body, and is no longer the skinny SS he was previously. If he can just be healthy and play a full season again, I've thought for some time he might slide to 3B at some point.

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    Though I was never the biggest fan of the Donaldson signing, I'm surprised that almost nobody mentioned the possibility of Sano moving back over- even if temporarily. Sano wasn't great but he wasn't terrible either. And first base might be easier to fill than third. I hope Gonzalez is resigned and that Donaldson doesn't get hurt again but chances are he will miss some games at some point. 

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    Need to give Donaldson a day off about 2x per week... to keep him healthy....


    He is a top notch defensive and offensive player when healthy. 


    Don't see anything promising in the system at this time unless Keoni Cavaco shows that he can play.... otherwise we will need to find someone on the FA heap when Donaldsons contract is up... hopefully he doesn't fall apart ..... 

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    3B is certainly not a position of strength in the system.

    I just think putting Lewis at 3B stifles his athletic ability.  We're talking about a guy that they say compares to Buxton in CF ability.

    Wander Javier is a guy I just don't want to give up on in any way yet.  But if he puts it together he's much better at SS than Polanco.

    Sano is a 3B darkhorse because you could have kiriloff or Rooker at 1B.

    And honestly, while Polanco doesn't really have the arm, he could very well end up playing a lot of 3B if the Twins go get a SS and if Donaldson has "issues."

    This is why I've mentioned going out and getting a guy like Ketel Marte.

    The D-Backs aren't contending this year or next.  Marte can play 2B, CF, and some SS and 3B.  He's a GOOD hitter who woyuld look great hitting #2 behind Arraez.  

    I would part with some prospects for Marte.  He would fill a LOT of holes.

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    We are putting a solid 2-3 seasons stock in Donaldson and going from there. Sano will never return to third, and he will block Donaldson from playing, perhaps, first base or being a fulltime DH.


    But we rolled the dice on Donaldson and have to hope he does his job!

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