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Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Who's on third next season?

By Jesse Rogers

CINCINNATI -- Even though the Chicago Cubs have used three different third baseman this year (and none are budding stars), you might be surprised by the production they’ve gotten from the hot corner both on offense and defense.

“We have 28 home runs at third base this year,” manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday morning. “It’s probably top 5 in all of baseball. Industry wide there aren’t a whole lot of them out there right now. When you can platoon and get the defense and production we’ve gotten out of (Luis) Valbuena, (Cody) Ransom and (Donnie) Murphy, that’s all you can ask for.”

Murphy
Donnie Murphy hit his 10th homer of the season on Tuesday night in Cincinnati.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Cubs actually rank fourth in home runs and sixth in slugging percentage (.457) at third base compared to the other 29 teams in baseball. In the field they’re in the middle of the pack in errors (15) and have shown decent range.

But it’s that power that’s been the biggest surprise. Valbuena has 11 home runs, Ransom had seven at third base and Murphy just hit his 10th on Tuesday against the Reds.

“It’s not something we envisioned leaving spring training, that we’d have more production (power) at third base than first base,” Sveum said. “We also do platoon there so that is a big part of that.”

That latter statement is important to remember before being critical of Anthony Rizzo. He plays every day and against almost all the tough lefties in the league. The platoon situation at third base allows those players to face opposite-handed pitchers for the most part. It means their power numbers should be maximized.

Not everything has been perfect at third though. Ransom was let go partly due to a .203 batting average. Valbuena isn’t much better at .229 and the Cubs' 130 strikeouts by third baseman is sixth most in baseball. But combined, the production is still more than the Cubs expected. Now the question is, who plays there in 2014?

The Cubs drafted a third baseman with the No. 2 overall pick this past June. General manager Jed Hoyer was asked on Tuesday if Kris Bryant would be major league ready by next season.

“Is he ready right now?” Hoyer responded. “I don’t think so. He’s got work to do. The fall league will be good for him.”

Hoyer went on to say that none of their top young position player prospects would make the team out of spring training, and another top prospect they traded for at third base, Mike Olt, regressed in the minors in 2013 so he’s probably not ready either. It means Valbuena and Murphy might have the jobs again next season.

The Cubs could do worse.