The rebuild continues. This time it’s Matt Chapman heading out to Toronto, and the third base position opening up for the first time in years.
The Oakland A’s have a long history of greatness at the hot corner. From Sal Bando, to Carney Lansford, to Eric Chavez, to Josh Donaldson, to Chapman himself, we’ve watched some All-Star hitters and some legendary defenders take that spot on the diamond.
Who will be the next man up? A future superstar probably isn’t on this list, but somebody has to play third base in 2022, and there are some current candidates who might do a good job with it. Let’s take a look at the cast of characters, while remembering that more moves are coming and new names could yet come on board.
Smith was acquired as part of the Chapman trade package, so it would certainly be convenient if he stepped into the open job. It’s within his skill set, and the 25-year-old is ready for an MLB trial, so it’s also a realistic possibility.
You can click here to read Smith’s full scouting report, but the short version is that he’s a solid or better defender at any infield position with a particularly good arm. His bat is less proven, but he has 20-homer power and at last sight he was hitting well in Triple-A. Part of his value is that he can play shortstop, but that sounds like an appropriate profile for 3B too.
His versatility might be the biggest obstacle to him as the answer to the third base question, simply because he might end up being needed somewhere that’s more difficult to fill, or as a super-sub moving around the diamond. But as things stand, the A’s have Tony Kemp to play 2B, and Elvis Andrus is tentatively expected back in time to cover SS with top prospect Nick Allen hot on his heels, so the most obvious path to playing time for Smith could be 3B.
A few hours after Smith was acquired, Oakland gave him some competition by claiming Neuse off waivers. The former A’s prospect is back for a second try, now at age 27.
Last time Neuse was here, he was blocked from his ideal position of 3B by Chapman, so he began trying out at 2B instead. Now second base is more settled and third base is finally open, so he’ll get a chance to compete for the spot he long ago had looked on track to inherit.
His profile is similar to Smith’s in some ways. He’s got the versatile defense that’s solid or better, with the plus arm, and the 20-homer power, and he’s made some good contact in the minors but not in the majors yet. It’s not an exact comp, but at the very least they offer similar skill sets at third base.
Or there’s the obvious answer. When the A’s need a position filled, any position, Pinder is one of the first names to spring to mind. In fact, when Chapman got hurt in 2020 and they needed a replacement for the playoffs, it was Pinder who got the nod in October and responded by becoming a legend for a week.
However, there might be a lot of positions to fill this year, so Pinder might end up being needed somewhere else, or he might yet be traded along with the other veterans. If he does stay, then he does his best defensive work in the corner outfield spots, which are also question marks right now.
But he’s an experienced infielder who can handle 3B just fine, and he can either get everyday at-bats for the first time in his career or pair with a platoon-mate as usual. Either way, add him to the running.
This will be his third season on the team, and so far he’s been limited to duty as the emergency utilityman who stashes in Triple-A and rides the taxi up and down when needed. That’s probably the 28-year-old’s most likely assignment this summer too, but perhaps a big spring could change that outlook. At the very least, he’s an infielder who’s already on the 40-man roster, and he’s the only left-handed batter on this list.
Reaching a bit deeper:
- Drew Jackson: The 28-year-old is a minor league signing and non-roster invite. He profiles more as a middle infield utilityman, but he’s dabbled in 3B over the years, and his righty bat showed some on-base skills last season in Triple-A. As an extra fun fact, he’s a local product who was born in Berkeley, with high school at Miramonte in Orinda, and college at Stanford.
- Christian Lopes: Another NRI, the 29-year-old Lopes is primarily a 2B but has also played some 3B. The righty had a similar Triple-A stat line to Jackson last summer, but with slightly more power.
- Dermis Garcia: We talked about him for first base the other day, but he’s also played a lot of third, though not lately. He hit 31 homers in Double-A last year at age 23, so keep him in your longer-term view.
- Platoon: Remember that there doesn’t need to be just one answer. Maybe two of the above names could form a potent platoon, or somebody has a hot April but cools off and gets replaced in June. But we’ve gotta start somewhere!
We did get one early spring update: Pinder was seen doing work at third base! That’s not exactly breaking news, but it’s worth mentioning as long as we’re on the subject.
What do you think, Athletics Nation? Who’s at third base in 2022? And is that player already in the organization, or are they still yet to be acquired? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Who do you think will start at 3B on Opening Day? (Against Phillies, so presumably vs. RHP Zach Wheeler)
This poll is closed
Non-roster invite (Jackson, Lopes, Garcia)
Somebody else, maybe not even here yet