Now that we’ve made it over to third base, we’ve already introduced all of the third base candidates by now. So, let’s dig right in:
Currently on 40-man roster: Yangervis Solarte, Ryan Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg
Non-roster invitees: Brett Wallace, Jamie Romak, Dusty Coleman, Christian Villanueva
Fresh off his contract extension, Yangervis Solarte is the incumbent third baseman and the strong favorite. In his first year as a full-timer at the position, he graded out roughly league-average defensively, but his switch-hitting bat brought some thump and a spark to the middle of the lineup in 2016. While speed will never be a part of his game, he’s quick enough to field the hot corner and his offensive profile fits the typical mold best at third base.
Ryan Schimpf was about as close to a “three true outcome” player as there was in the league last season. If you want a power bat at third base, his is about as potent as it gets among the Padres infielders. Having spent most of his AAA 2016 season at third, he should be equally qualified as Solarte at third base defensively.
Cory Spangenberg played shortstop in college and has played most of his pro career at second base, but he has the tools to be a plus defender at third base. His speed fits the prototypical keystone player better, but this open competition could fall his way.
Note that Carlos Asuaje wasn’t included in the lists above. Andy Green stated earlier this week that he considers Asuaje “100% a second baseman”, and that he will compete for a bench job this spring. Asuaje may be capable at third, but that doesn’t appear to be where the organization sees him fitting long-term.
With three qualified candidates, the rest of this bunch is vying for a role in El Paso and for pecking order should an opportunity present itself. We know Brett Wallace well. He was surprisingly good as a pinch-hitter in 2015 but forgot how to hit in 2016. He can play a decent first base and won’t embarrass himself at third, but the bat is what made him useful and he needs to find that again. Jamie Romak has power and can play in all corners and at this point seems like your typical AAAA slugger. Christian Villanueva is the interesting character in this lineup. The former Cubs prospect is still young and carries a reputation as a sterling defender at the hot corner with an elite glove and plus-plus arm. He was formerly projected to reach the majors in 2014, making Top 100 lists with a developing power bat to match the defense. A broken fibula ended his 2016 season before it started, and now he’s in Padres camp looking for a new opportunity. A strong spring and a hot start in AAA could make him a player worth watching as the season grows.
The overall picture
By the looks of things, this is Solarte’s job. His profile fits the position best, his switch hitting balances out the two lefties vying for the 2B/3B role, and his contract extension and leadership status suggests that he’s going to start at one post or the other. Don’t be surprised to see him flip spots with Schimpf or get swapped out for Spangenberg, and keep an eye on the kids in El Paso, because they could play a factor in this season’s staffing at third base.