Jays Minors - Top 4 Third Basemen

 The Jays have not had much strength at third base in the minors since they took Kelly Gruber in the 80s. For some reason, the club has scouted players the wrong way at the hot corner. I'm not sure who makes the suggestions for which 3rd basemen to draft in the organization - or whether that person was usually over ridden, but the Jays finally noticed this trend and did something about it in recent years. They spent some high picks and lots of International money on acquiring top-end third base prospects. So, has it worked? Well, here are the top 4.

1.Gustavo Pierre: will be 18 in Dec 2009
 Gustavo was one of the youngest GCL Blue Jays on the squad in 2009, but even at his young age he carries a lot of strength due to his size - 6'2" 185 lbs. He was one of the few big splashes the Jays have made in International signings and will hopefully prove himself a little more in 2010, but his 2009 season showed some promise nonetheless. He played 48 games in the GCL, has 18 extra base hits in 174 AB, stole 8 bases and maintained a low but okay average for his age of .259. Part of the problem with Pierre is his inability to hit left handed pitching, maintaining a lowly .195 average and only 2 extra base hits against them, compared to a .278 average against righties with 16 extra base hits. As with many young players, he needs to cut down on strike outs and to build his pitch recognition skills as proven by his 45 strike outs to only 3 walks, but this is something he will learn and be taught over time. He made 14 errors in 100 attempts while flipping from SS to 3B. Gustavo was taken as a SS, but his arm plays very well at third and his growth will make it unlikely that he can stick at SS. As he matures and progresses in the minors in 2010, Gustavo should improve and has the highest ceiling of all third basemen in the system. Expect to see him repeat the GCL and jump to Auburn or Lansing at some point in the season.

2. Balbino Fuenmayor: just turned 20 in November 2009
Balbino at 20 is the exact size that Gustavo is expected to be when he turns 20 - 6'3" and 235 lbs of strength and power. To put Pierre's stats above in perspective, Balbino had only 4 home runs over 2 full years in the GCL at the very same age that Pierre was in 2009 and will be in 2010 (17 and 18). So, if Pierre improves slightly in 2010, he will have outpaced the growth Balbino had at that age by a healthy margin. After struggling through 2 years in the GCL, with some growth in the second shown in average (.307) and extra base hits (19), he finally showed some true potential as a 19 year old at Lansing in 2009. While is average dipped to .263 and his OBP was unsatisfactory at .279, he showed some power with 32 extra base hits, 8 HRs, and 54 RBI in 435 AB. He fought for playing time at 1B and 3B much of the year with 1B Michael McDade and 3B Mark Sobolewski, but should get a full year under his belt at 3B in 2010. Interestingly, he made 12 errors at 3B and none at 1B, despite playing more time at 1B. However, intentions are to keep him at 3B and develop his defense. He may get a jump to Dunedin at some point, but he needs to work on his strike outs and OBP before he can be viewed as a potential regular.

3. Bryson Namba: will be 19 in January 2010
Bryson was drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 draft and didn't get many ABs in 2009, only 77. However, he proved that he can use his size (6'2" and 210 lbs) by hitting 4 HRs in that short span. He'll be splitting time between 1B and 3B with Gustavo Pierre unless one of the two makes the jump to Lansing in 2010. Bryson hails from Hawaii and played some C and most of the infield in high school, but he will be used as a 1B or 3B by the Jays. Obviously, making the switch from C to 3B isn't easy, and explains why Bryson made 9 errors in 38 attempts in 2009. But, with some practice and experience, his D should improve as he is agile enough to play the position and even has a little speed (for now). He should continue to grow a little and will add muscle to his frame, both of which bode well for his power numbers. He did walk 6 times in 77 AB in 2009, so he may have a little more patience at this point than either Balbino or Gustavo do. Bryson will be tested with a full year at 3B in 2010, and should remain in Lansing for the majority of the season.

4. Kevin Ahrens: will be 21 in April 2010
Selected 16th overall in the first round of the 2007 draft, he ties David Purcey as some of the most disappointing Jays minors in recent times. Since he's still young at only 21 years old in 2010, and playing at a high enough level for his age, I kept him on this list. But Kevin really needs to show the Jays he can hit, or he'll be passed very quickly by Balbino and Gustavo. In 377 AB he had a .215 average, only 23 extra base hits, 4 HR, a .282 OBP, and had 18 errors in 175 attempts at 3B. He's smaller than most Jays 3B prospects at 6'1" and 190 lbs, and may never develop the power expected at the position. When he was drafted in 2007, announcers and scouts were making comparisons of Kevin to Chipper Jones. It definitely doesn't look like that will ever come near fruition, but, Kevin could develop if he adds strength into a Lyle Overbay type 1B. That's about his ceiling in my humblest opinion. He'll most likely begin 2010 by repeating in HiA Dunedin until he can display the skills needed to make a jump to AA in 2011 or beyond.

Next up will be the top 12 outfielders.

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