Beltre has no equal at third base in AL West
There’s little doubt the best third baseman in the American League West is Adrian Beltre.
It’s not even a fair fight, either.
While Texas boasts one of the game’s best at third, there’s plenty of questions and intrigue at the position for the other three teams in the West. For all three, there’s no guarantee the Opening Day starter will be at third base for Game 2.
Here’s a breakdown of the hot corner in the West as well as the team’s positional ranking.
1. Texas – The Rangers have the luxury of having one of the best third basemen in the game at third. Beltre, who signed with the Rangers before the 2011 season, didn’t disappoint in his first season in Texas by making the All-Star team and winning a Gold Glove. Beltre, who will bat cleanup this season, belted 32 home runs and had 105 RBI last season despite playing in just 124 games because of a hamstring injury. Despite the injury, the power numbers were the second-best in his career. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think he can’t surpass those numbers again in that potent lineup. The Rangers also have the benefit of former third baseman Michael Young in reserve if Beltre gets hurt again. Young made 39 starts at third last season and earned his seventh trip to the All-Star Game. The Rangers are confident enough that Beltre is the third baseman of the near future that two of the organization’s top third-base prospects – Mike Olt and Tommy Mendonca – are getting work at new positions this spring.
Team production in 2011: .303 average, 27 home runs, 116 RBI, .838 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .300 average, 30 home runs, 120 RBI, .840 OPS
2. Los Angeles – The Angels are doing some experimenting at third this spring with Mark Trumbo. He was the team’s primary first baseman last year, but with Albert Pujols on board now, there’s no need for Trumbo at first. Los Angeles is trying to transition him to third to keep his power in the lineup (29 home runs, 87 RBI). If he can pick up things defensively, that will cost Alberto Callaspo playing time. Callaspo was the primary third baseman for the Angels last season, starting 120 games. He didn’t do anything wrong, but he didn’t excel, either. He had just six homers and 46 RBI on the season. In a perfect world, Trumbo will be a quick study at third and the Angels can find a way to deal Callaspo. That would free them up to use the versatile Maicer Izturis to spell Trumbo if needed.
Team production in 2011: .284 average, 7 home runs, 55 RBI, .733 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .260 average, 20 home runs, 75 RBI, .750 OPS
3. Seattle – The Mariners have a player who can be an everyday third baseman in Chone Figgins. But Seattle plans to use Figgins at multiple positions this year, just like he’s done in the past. The problem with that decision is there’s no player in camp who can handle the role full-time not named Figgins. Kyle Seager will see some action at third, but he’s more of a utility player. Alex Liddi is now getting some work at third this spring. Seager, who hit .258 as a rookie last season, is the best bet to allow Figgins to be a utility player. He made just four errors in his 38 starts last season. If you’re looking for power from Seattle at third, you’re in trouble. Figgins hasn’t hit more than five homers in a season since 2996 and Seager had three last year. Figgins also hit just .188 in 81 games in 2011.
Team production in 2011: .195 average, 5 homers, 39 RBI, .526 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .250 average, 10 homers, 50 RBI, .650 OPS
4. Oakland – The A’s appeared to have found a third baseman for the season in Scott Sizemore. Sizemore, whom Oakland acquired last May from Detroit, had 11 homers and 52 RBI for Oakland last season. But Sizemore tore his left ACL last month in spring training. That creates a huge void at third for Oakland. Josh Donaldson, Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard all figure to get some time at third, although none of them are ideal full-time prospects at the position. Donaldson, a former first rounder, is a converted catcher, but played third base over the winter. Donaldson has just 32 at-bats in the big leagues and didn’t play in the majors last season. Rosales made five starts at third last season. Sogard hit just .200 for Oakland last season and Rosales batted a robust .098.
Team production in 2011: .228 average, 16 home runs, 73 RBI, .681 OPS
Expected production in 2012:.225 average, 10 home runs, 50 RBI, .650 OPS