This position changed quite a bit in just one year. A year ago, Chase Strumpf had just finished four months at Tennessee where he mostly played third base. This year, he played there for a couple of months and then moved back over to second. Now, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Jake Slaughter who should find his way to Iowa to start the year.
But there are several other prospects who finally spent their first full year at third. It is a position that has gained considerable depth in the past year with the breakout of Slaughter and Luis Verdugo, the move of James Triantos, and the drafting and possible moving off Christopher Paciolla.
We could even see more changes in 2023. With Dansby Swanson essentially blocking the bat to the big leagues at shortstop, some players like Cristian Hernandez could slide over to third where their bat could also play. Then again, so could Swanson if someone goes turbo in time as Dansby starts to age. That creates a lot of options for the Cubs going forward at 3B.
1. Jake Slaughter – When the 2022 season began, Jake Slaughter was assigned to extended spring training, No one was really surprised about that development. When he returned to South Bend in May, that assignment was not surprising. But I did notice that he was hitting the ball a little bit harder and that his swing was a lot shorter. Things really did not click in for him until later in May and then he just took off. When June came, he wound up in Tennessee and just totally annihilated Double-A pitching for three and a half months. Between the 20+ home runs and stolen bases, it was quite the breakout and, yes, it is real. With the 2023 season now on the horizon, Slaughter is going to be at Iowa. He’s put himself into position to be a depth piece for the big league club if you can produce at Iowa. From here on out, his ability to get to the majors is going to be more mental. He just needs to make the good choices at the plate and in the field.
2. Christopher Pasciolla is more than likely going to be moved over to third base this year. If all goes well in spring training, he’ll start the year in Myrtle Beach where he will probably move over to the hot corner as Cristian Hernandez will probably play shortstop more often than not. It’ll be interesting to see how much power Paciolla develops this year in a place where flyballs go to die. The potential for power is definitely there, but that swing against advanced competition should do well.
3. James Triantos – Triantos is one of the players I look forward to seeing the most in 2023. I’ll be in the Quad Cities on opening day weekend for South Bend and I’ll get to see him a couple more times that month and quite a bit in May, June, and July. He made it through his first full season at 3B. That first full season of pro ball is a huge grind after having probably slept in his own bed for most of his life. Being on the road for 66 games a year is a bit challenging mentally and physically. Hopefully he has learned how to take care of himself a little bit better and he comes back ready to begin at South Bend a little bit stronger. Another benefit of playing in the Midwest League is that the ball is going to travel a little bit faster and a little bit farther than it would at sea level.
4. Luis Verdugo – He is easily one of the best defenders in the system no matter where you put him on the infield. Since third base is such a reactive position, that’s probably the best place he could be. In getting to see and talk to him quite a bit last year, I came away really impressed with him and how much he improved from the year before. In 2023 we’re going to see the power-play up even more as he continues to grow physically. Mentally, he’s ready for the grind.
5. Levi Jordan – Last year was an up-and-down year as Jordan started the year at Iowa, went back to Tennessee and just tore it up to earn a trip back to Iowa. It’s always impressive to see a player just put their head down and get the job done to get a second chance at the next level. Whether he gets a shot at majors this year is up in the air. He needs some consistency on a daily basis rather than just flash his hitting skills from time to time.
6. As for Reggie Preciado, this is the third list he’s been on the last two weeks. He could be at second, he could play short, he could play even a little bit a third. What will be interesting will be the frequency at which he plays each position and the one where he looks most comfortable. It could be third? It might even be second. But it’s still hard to believe he’s just 19.
As for the lower part of the minors, we don’t know who all is going to end up there. Rafael Morel may well play third, but will he end up in Myrtle Beach or back in Mesa for one more go at it?