Third base has been hit pretty hard by injuries recently. Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Zimmerman, and now Pablo Sandoval are on the shelf, and a couple of them are going to be there long enough to collect some substantial dust. So it’s likely that there are many of us scrambling for answers at third base while we work the phones for any trade possibilities (okay, nobody talks on the phone anymore, but I can’t really say while we work the Google can I?).
When I was interviewed by the intrepid Carson Cistulli on Fangraphs audio a couple weeks ago, he asked me if I thought third base was a deeper position that it was a year ago and at that time, I still said no. With so many of the typical top 10 struggling to produce, when you start looking down the list, it gets ugly pretty darn fast. Now that we’ve lost several of them to the disabled list, it makes third base a particular challenge — so you might want to get creative. Or perhaps you have to.
I’ll just lead with the really creative part, and that’s Brett Pill (0% Yahoo, ESPN). Pill has mostly been a first baseman in his career, and although he has played third in the minors, he’s done so very rarely. Pill has played all of six games at third base in the minor leagues. He’s had six plays at third and made one error – put that sample size in your pipe and smoke it.
However, in 2011, Pill played second base in 57 games and making only five errors, you could say he held his own. Part of the attractiveness of having Pill on the Giants roster was his positional flexibility — being able to play first, some outfield, and in emergency situations – it was thought he could pitch in at second base. Well, enter emergency situation, stage left.
On Thursday, although rookie Conor Gillaspie started at third, Brett Pill pinch hit for him when lefty Randy Choate was called upon and Pill played third for the remainder of the game. That’s not necessarily a sign that Pill will start getting everyday treatment at the hot corner, but it’s certainly a situation to watch as far as position eligibility goes. If Pill could wriggle his way into the lineup frequently enough, he could be a useful cog in your fantasy takeover machine. If you’re an aficionado Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, call it the “evil-fantasy-baseball-inator,” if you will.
In his brief appearances thus far, Pill, 27, has a slash line of .296/.387/.481, which is buoyed in large part due to the fact that he only plays when the platoon calls for it. If given anything close to regular playing time, it’s probably safe to assume he’ll hit for decent average as he has excellent contact skills, but he rarely walks and won’t contribute much in the OBP department. He does have double digit home run potential, however — but it’s a bit of a mystery how high those digits go. Recall that he hit 27 home runs in 2011, mostly at AAA and he’s demonstrated an ISO around .180 to .220 in the high minors. If he could land somewhere around .165-.170, he might just flirt with 20 home runs, although Giants fans will probably say that’s wildly optimistic (which it probably is).
The pride of San Remo, Italy (I have no idea if they’re actually proud of him — they probably wanted him to play soccer), Alex Liddi really wasn’t even supposed to be here today. Liddi, 23, is owned in just 4% of Yahoo leagues and 2% of ESPN leagues despite increasing playing time and pretty solid results. The club seems to want to give Liddi a chance to play on a semi-regular basis, or even regular basis, but benching what amounts to one of their best hitters in Kyle Seager doesn’t seem to make any sense from a development standpoint or a “winning baseball games” one. Starting Seager at shortstop might be super-duper for your fantasy team, but I’d be surprised if that idea (if it’s even a real one) stuck. The annual grumblings around Mariner-dom that it’s finally time to just cut bait on Chone Figgins are starting to percolate up to a boil, and if Liddi and Seager continue to hit, there’s simply going to be a time when the brass can forget about getting anything back for Figgins and they’ll just get off the proverbial pot.
For his part, Liddi was really supposed to be down in AAA right now honing his craft – that is, try to continue to mash home runs but maybe cut down on the 27% K rate. Liddi isn’t likely to help you much in the batting average department due to his contact issues, but the kid has power. He isn’t a black hole with walks, although an OBP over .320 would be surprising. If you’re absolutely desperate for a third basemen, he’s a speculative grab, much like Pill, in the hopes that he somehow falls into enough at-bats to make him useful.