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  • Who are the Backup Options at Third Base?

    Cody Christie

    Minnesota traded Gio Urshela last week and handed Jose Miranda the third base job. So, what does the upper minors' depth chart look like at the hot corner?

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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    Gio Urshela was one of Minnesota's most consistent players in 2022, but that didn't guarantee him a spot on the 2023 roster. Comments from the front office at the season's end pointed to them wanting to hand the reins to Jose Miranda after a strong rookie campaign. Offensively, Miranda struggled down the stretch, but he was one of the organization's top prospects entering the season. His future's still bright, but where will the Twins turn if he struggles or gets injured?

    MLB Options: Jose Miranda, Kyle Farmer, Luis Arraez
    Minnesota is entering the season with Miranda penciled in as the starting third baseman. He isn't the strongest defender, so Miranda will likely see time at first base and designated hitter. Last season, he played over 70% of his innings at first base, but Urshela's presence forced the Twins to use the better defender at the hot corner. 

    Last week, the Twins also acquired Farmer in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. During the 2022 season, Farmer played 74% of his defensive innings at shortstop, but he started 35 games at third base. At shortstop, only two qualified players had a lower SDI total than Farmer. He posted -2 defensive runs saved at third base with a 0.1 UZR. He has defensive flexibility, but he currently projects as the team's starting shortstop. 

    Arraez is coming off a season where he won the AL Batting Title and a Silver Slugger as a utility player. The Twins likely want Arraez to move back to the utility spot to try and keep him healthier than last season. During the 2021 season, Arraez played over 400 innings at third, but the presence of better defenders meant he was limited to fewer than 45 innings last season. Nick Gordon can fill in at third base in a pinch, but he saw very limited innings at the position last season.

    Triple-A Options: Andrew Bechtold, Yunior Severino, Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee
    Bechtold played over 80 innings at four defensive positions in 2022, but third base was the lone position he logged over 400 innings. In 123 games, he hit .233/.329/.400 (.729) with 16 doubles and 19 home runs. Severino split time between second and third base last season while reaching Double-A. He's been limited to fewer than 100 games in two consecutive seasons, but he posted a .907 OPS during the 2022 campaign. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, so that adds an extra wrinkle if they are needed at the big-league level. 

    Fans can debate whether Lewis or Lee is the Twins' top prospect, but both can fit into the team's future plans at third base. Lewis is out following his second ACL surgery until the middle of the 2023 season. He has played 21 defensive innings at third base in his professional career. Lee's played shortstop since the Twins drafted him with the eighth overall pick, but many project him to move off the position. Lee likely starts the year at Double-A, but the Twins showed last season that they would be aggressive with his promotions, especially with his college experience.

    Double-A Options: Edouard Julien, Seth Gray, Jake Rucker
    Julien was one of Minnesota's breakout prospects in the 2022 season, and he'd likely get a big-league shot before the other minor-league options on this list. He played 113 games at Double-A last season and hit .300/.441/.490 (.931) with 19 doubles, three triples, and 17 home runs. His success continued in the Arizona Fall League, where MLB recently named him the AFL's Breakout Player of the Year. Julien hasn't played a lot of innings at third in the minors, but his bat will perform at any defensive position. 

    Minnesota took Gray in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft, and he spent most of 2022 at High-A. In Cedar Rapids, he had a .740 OPS with 31 extra-base hits in 113 games. He splits time between both corner infield positions, but he likely needs more upper-minor experience. Rucker played at three levels last season, even getting a short stint at Triple-A. Last season, he made 47 starts at third base, the position he played most regularly in college. In 124 games, he hit .236/.333/.378 (.711) with 25 doubles, six triples, and nine home runs. 

    Who do you think the Twins will turn to if Miranda struggles or gets injured? Does Minnesota have enough depth at third base? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    Bechtold could be used in a Mark Contreras sort of way. Severino is interesting with a .907 OPS last season.  If he continues to build off that he could become a building block at third. Lee will spend most of next season in the minors.  I doubt he is an option before the trade deadline.  Julien could be called up anytime I think. He is also a building block.  The Twins are really stacked at 2B and 3rd in the minors.  

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    I'm much less concerned about backup at third than I am at SS.  It's a deeper position in the organization while also being a less demanding position.  It also has an obvious starter, unlike SS.  

    I guess what I'm saying, is that I'm not too worried about the backup at 3B because I'm okay with the options there.

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    I have really come around to the idea that the Twins are legitimate contenders for one of the big 4 FA at SS. IMO, it's either Correa or Bogaerts. Not saying they aren't looking at Swanson or Turner, just a hunch on the first two. Crazy to believe, but Boras as the agent for both is a plus for the Twins as they have a good relationship with him.

    Assuming that happens, Farmer is clearly the top backup. Arraez is #3 and I think he's fine there on a limited basis. 

    On the milb side, things are a bit sparse until mid season when Lewis should be back and Lee might be ready for a promotion. And I say sparse only because of more time needed, and  I'm really worried someone is going to snag Severino and stash him, though I'm really, really hoping that won't be the case. Still, like Lee, he might not be ready for AAA until mid year.

    Bechtold has never turned in to the hitter I had hoped, though he's really developed decent power. He's a very good defensive 3B who also plays 1B and catches. He could be a "break glass" option.

    Not sure about Julien. His bat is going to play and you FIND ROOM for a bat like his. He played almost solely at 2B in 2022, but has played a little 3B previously, and  unless his arm is just really poor, I'd love to see him play some 3B this coming season. Really increases his value/versatility if he can. And while a bit old for prospect status, Helman can play just about everywhere and brings a lot of overall ability offensively. But his tools and versatility might make him a rule 5 pick for someone to stash as well.

    Interesting Martin wasn't mentioned. He played a lot of 3B in college, IIRC, and if his bat keeps progressing, he might be an option as well. (I'm thinking he is a younger, better Marwin Gonzalez super utility player in the future).

    WITH a top SS, 3B is just fine with a lot of future options there. But those options aren't quite ready, and not on the 40 man at this time. But the potential and a couple "if needed" options might be available.

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    I think that Julian is more likely to start next year at St Paul then Lee. Lee only has 8 at bats at Double A and while he may advance very quickly, I still think he starts at Wichita. Long term , maybe 2024, I think he takes over and becomes the regular third baseman.

    But for next year, I consider it more likely that Julian might come up and see time at third base than the others. Starting in 2024 his best position may be as the starting second baseman. Next year hopefully Polanco has very good and healthy season, although I think he starts to see some time at first base rather than shortstop.

    I expect Miranda to play more third base then anyone else next year. I wouldn't be too surprised if he starts slowly next year and long term he may be a combination first baseman, third baseman and DH.

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    Julien’s arm is the issue and may limit him to 1B/DH. According to the Athletic he tends to double clutch on every throw. There are questions about whether he could play a passable second base. Maybe that can be fixed and he did play 3B in college. He has a lot of work to do in AAA this year.

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    Miranda can hit. Something makes me think that Julien could be an even better hitter than Miranda this year. Arraez just won a batting title. Each of these three can hit at the MLB level. The question is defense. Maybe their bats are good enough to cover for their gloves. Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee could both be good gloves at third base and they project as decent bats as well. It doesn't seem like the Twins will be too worried about third base, especially after adding a decent reserve in Kyle Farmer. I wonder if the Twins are considering using one or two of the names from above as a trade chip. 

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    I'm not seeing the immediate future, as well as long-term, being a third base issue for the Twins. Which is why they felt comfortable trading Strand to the Reds, I guess.

    Even shortstop looks to have longer depth (not to mention second-base).

    The bigger question is first base if you look beyond Arraez and Kirilloff (or move Miranda there). And catcher.

    And you can always buy a bat to be a DH, and it is a bonus if they can play a position on the field. 

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    Farmer can field well, he will start at third depending how the Short Stop situation works out, Miranda, at this point will be theh back-up.

    Has any one looked up what kind of speed Farmer has?   You gents know where all the stats. are.

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    Urshela trade will prove to be huge mistake. You had a solid player who just kept his mouth shut and played well both offensively and defensively. Word is the Twins save 3-4 million to throw him out the door. Jim Pohlad held the door with a big smile. On Miranda, did the Front Office watch any games? Miranda can cover 2 feet to the left and 2 feet to the right!! We had one of the best left sides in baseball. Now we are back to "Hoping" again. Save money and Hope is the Twins Motto. And what that does is assure another .500 season!! Yippee!

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