Chase Strumpf – Photo by Todd Johnson
There is a reason that second and third base are at the back end of the position rankings. A lot of it has to do with uncertainty about the positions. The Cubs really haven’t been big on drafting third baseman. They tend to stick to taking shortstops and sliding them over to third base. I can pretty much name on one hand the number of third baseman the Cubs have taken in the draft since they selected Kris Bryant with the second pick in 2013.
In trying to rank the current crop of third basemen, uncertainty about the position plays some role after the second slot. But the first two picks are no-brainers.
1. Chase Strumpf
When the Cubs moved Strumpf over to third base last spring, I raised my eyebrows a little bit and thought that’s an interesting move. But as the season played out, he actually looked like a better defender at third than he did it second. Part of that is the amount of movement needed at third base is not as much as second and playing the position is more instinctive and reactive. But let’s not sit here and wax poetic about Chase Strumpf’s defense. In the end, all anyone really cares about is the bat.
Over his last four weeks of his 2021 season, Strumpf hit over .300 and was walking at an enormous rate that pushed on base percentage well over .400 in August. Strumpf had his best stretch of the season and looked like he was going to be ready to start 2022 in Iowa. That could and should still happen.
If that holds true, that’s really exciting to think that he’s a stones throw away from Chicago. However, it’s not really that simple. He does have a great eye at the plate, he does have the potential for power, and he is a great situational hitter. What Strumpf needs is some consistency and some great results over an extended period of time. The 5 to 6 week stretch at the beginning and at the end of the year last year is nice, but the Cubs are probably going to want to see more of that and less of what they saw in the middle.
I am hoping he comes out in spring training and just rakes from day one. If that’s the case, start moving up the timetable.
2. Reggie Preciado
The 19-year-old only played in 36 games in Mesa last summer and 17 of them were spent at third base. That’s not a lot. He’s going to need a whole bunch more experience at the hot corner.
With 140 game season on the horizon, Preciado will get a lot of work with Buddy Bailey looking over his shoulder. He’ll also get to hone his craft at the plate and that will provide him with a lot more game experience, which is something he’s dearly lacking. In a short stint in Mesa last year, he hit .333 with an OPS of over 1.000 and a wRC+ of 159. He was basically a doubles and triples machine. Therein lies the hope for him.
As a switch hitter, he’s going to have his work cut out for him in Myrtle Beach in 2022. There’s no doubt that he is a physically gifted player, but he also needs to improve his strength, see more reps at third defensively, and he’ll be facing pitchers that have thrown in the SEC, the ACC, and the Big 12, not just in Arizona. He’s going to have to step it up in a ballpark where fly balls go to die.
3. Levi Jordan
I love the fact that he really put it together last spring training and in the early part of the year at Tennessee. He’s shown flashes of what he can do at Eugene in 2018 and at South Bend in the playoffs in 2019. In between, he’s had a little trouble with some injuries and he was in a walking boot for most of 2019 season.
When healthy last year, Jordan really popped in Tennessee but he struggled a little bit at Iowa. But what really makes Jordan number three on this list is his game is not just about his bat. Jordan does everything the right way. Whether he’s playing third base or second, he does not make mental mistakes in the field. At the plate, he has productive outs and he does not strike out a lot.
The issue for Jordan has been just staying healthy. He only has a career 649 ABs and yet here he is one phone call away from Chicago and the reason for that is he’s pretty good. He cranked 8 HRs last year in under 250 ABs. That’s a 16 HR pace for what will probably be a 2B at the the MLB level. After Nelson Maldonado, he’s probably the most underrated guy in the system.
I am finding it odd that two of the top third baseman in this ranking are on the same team or probably will be.
There were times I thought about adding Kevin Made to this list. He played 13 games there in 2021, but 41 at SS. As a result, I am going to roll with him in the middle of the diamond.
One other story line to follow will be in the Arizona rookie league as to who is going to be playing third base in Mesa. Will it be Frank Hernández or Brayan Altuve? And in the Dominican, will Adan Sanchez man the hot corner or be focused on catching? That would be good stuff to know.