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Part 1: Who Might Play Third Base In The Next Two Seasons?

Part 1 will look at six players with experience in the Majors. Part 2 will look at four prospects.

Emmanuel Rivera is one possibility.
Emmanuel Rivera is one possibility.
Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The following article was written before yesterday’s trades. The Diamondbacks acquired Jace Peterson and traded Josh Rojas to the Mariners. The article was updated with information about Jace Peterson.

In my view, there are some obvious players who might play third base.

  • This season, the Diamondbacks’ hot corner has seen Josh Rojas, Emmanuel Rivera, Evan Longoria, and Geraldo Perdomo.
  • Although next season many free agents will be available, I will pick one player as a placeholder for an acquisition possibility. My pick is Jeimer Candelario (8 seasons in the Majors, age 29).
  • Jace Peterson was acquired by the Diamondbacks.
  • Four of the Diamondbacks’ top 11 prospects could possibly play third base in the Majors. They are Blaze Alexander (AAA, age 24), Jordan Lawler (AA, age21), Deyvison De Los Santos(AA age 20), and A.J. Vukovich (AA, age 22). projects them all to arrive in the Majors by 2024 (2023 for Blaze Alexander).

Let’s look at each of the possibilities.

Six Third Basemen in the Majors.

Josh Rojas had more PAs at third base than each of the other three players. That was strange because he is a utility player. The Diamondbacks would be better if they had an every-day third baseman. Let’s look at the five prospects and compare their batting in the following table:

2023 Season through 27 July. Data from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Savant.
2023 Season through 30 July. Data from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Savant.

The table shows a top tier of Jeimer Candelario and Geraldo Perdomo – each with the highest OPS+, and excellent SLG with RISP. Candelario had a higher SLG, while Perdomo had a higher OBP. However, Perdomo had the higher SLG with RISP.

The table shows a second tier of Longoria and Rivera– each with OPS+ over 100, and above average SLG. Longoria had a higher SLG and average exit velocity. Rivera had a higher OBP and line drive percent.

The table shows Josh Rojas and Jace Peterson in a third tier. Their strength was SLG with RISP. Jace Peterson’s batting was better than Josh Rojas, but not enough to enter the second tier.

Let’s compare their defense in the following table:

2023 Season, except Perdomo. Data from The Fielding Bible and Baseball Savant.
Data from The Fielding Bible and Baseball Reference.

Last season, Jace Peterson’s defense at third base was outstanding. They are all above average defenders at third base, with a possible exception of Josh Rojas. Noteworthy is that in only 24 fielding attempts at third base, Geraldo Perdomo earned 2 Outs Above Average (OAA).

Jeimer Candelario. Jeimer Candelario and Geraldo Perdomo are both excellent defenders and excellent batters. This season, Jeimer Candelario has the higher average exit velcoity on his batted balls.

Last season, Jeimer Candelario had a batting slump. With the help of fomrer Diamondbacks hitting coach, Darnell Coles, he bounced back. In March, Coles said that changes in Candelario’s approach would improve his batting (and they did!). Those two changes were:

  • Mental focus on the middle of the field instead of his natural tendency to pull the ball would keep his bat in the zone longer. My view is that the change was a mind set more than a physical change because his pull percent increased. Secondarily, he increased his percentage of hard hit balls.
  • Mental focus on line drives instead of fly balls would reduce his pop-ups in the infield. Secondarily, his line drives increased, which is a positive change.

The following table shows the effectiveness of those changes.

Data from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

On 28 July, Candelario left the game early after a collision with the Mets’ second baseman. He said at the time he felt something in his shoulder but later determined he did not hurt his shoulder. Much was written about him possibly being traded at the deadline. Eight teams were in the race to acquire him per MLB Trade Rumors. A few of the acquiring teams were the Yankees, Angels, Cubs, and Phillies.

“But I’ve always said that [you are] going to have some ups and downs in your career, in your life. You can’t sit and cry. You’ve got to be a man. You’ve got to be a grinder to get back to that normal life.” — Jeimer Candelario, 2023

Geraldo Perdomo. Geraldo Perdomo is in the same tier as Jeimer DCandelario. Geraldo Perdomo’s distinguishing strength is that he gets on base. His .389 OBP is the highest on the Diamondbacks. In a recent 7-day period (21-27 July), his .550 OBP was amazing.

In 2022 Geraldo Perdomo showed he can play third base. But he can play shortstop, too. Next season, when shortstop Nick Ahmed becomes a free agent, it is uncertain whether the Diamondbacks will re-sign him. If they do not re-sign Ahmed, it’s very likely that Perdomo plays shortstop, taking Perdomo out of the running for everyday third baseman. The two reasons:

  • The Diamondbacks’ shortstop prospects (even Blaze Alexander) are about a year away from being ready to play in the Majors.
  • When the Diamondbacks acquire players, they proabbly will not acquire a shortstop because of their bigger need for pitching.

In December, Makakilo presciently wrote: [in 2023] Geraldo Perdomo’s performance will be surprisingly impressive for two reasons:

His OPS+ will improve to average because of the deep batting strengths (swinging strikes, contact percentage, walk to strikeout ratio, and wOBA with RISP) that he demonstrated last season.

His defense will be awesome because that’s his wheelhouse, because he proved his defensive prowess after the All-Star break, and because without shifts his position on the field will be shortstop, where he had his best OAA.

Emmanuel Rivera. Rivera’s line drive percent was the highest of the five players. That is significant because this season’s increase in hard hit percent. Those two things often lead to sustained excellence in batting.

And an increased hard hit percent was not his only batting improvement. The following table shows:

  • Compared to 2022, Rivera improved his percentage of hard hits for fastballs and changeups. That improvement is very significant because his batting results will continue to improve.
  • Compared to 2022, his run Value per 100 pitches and his SLG made significant improvement against breaking pitches and off-speed pitches.
  • Compared to 2022, in general he lowered his percentage of whiffs.
Data from Baseball Savant.

The following table shows that in each the last three 7-day periods, Emmanuel Rivera had a higher OBP. With OBP above .340, he joins the group of 5 Diamondbacks who are Fire Starters/Builders (an important component of winning team).

Data from Baseball Reference.

“You never want to make a mistake when you are out there, but [when it happens] you just got to be ready for the next pitch . You know that pitch is coming; a ground ball and another opportunity to make a good play.” — Emmanuel Rivera, 2021

Evan Longoria. Longoria has the highest average exit velocity of the fiveplayers. As you would expect, his SLG is the highest of the five players.

This season in high leverage situations, he has been outstanding. Lets look at two Baseball Reference statistics:

  • .871 OPS in high leverage situations.
  • 126 sOPS+ (compares his high leverage performance to other batters in the Majors).

Evan Longoria is a leader in the clubhouse, providing an intangible contribution.

“As the group goes, you go, and I think that our best mentality is kind of that. And so just trying to reinforce that every day. Not one person has to carry this team. We’ve proven that.” — Evan Longoria, 2023

Josh Rojas (traded to the Mariners). The 2021 AZ Snake Pit’s unsung hero, he has achieved success with the Diamondbacks. In 2021 and 2022, he earned a total of 4.0 bWAR.

This season he struggled defensively (negative DRS at each of third base, second base, and shortstop) and he struggled offensively (OPS+ fell from 112 to 69). On 18 June, Josh Rojas was optioned to AAA.

From 2 to 17 July, he did not play because of a back injury. In July (through 27 July), his .333 OBP and .423 SLG show he has recovered. The more important question is how much has he improved his defense and offense. On 29 July, he was called up due to an injury to Evan Longoria, so we may soon know the answer.

“Rojas always hustles and gives his all on every play. He is a max effort player, squeezing every bit of performance out of his body that he can.” — Jack Sommers, 2022

Jace Peterson. Like Josh Rojas, Jace Peterson is comfortable playing many positions. Jace Peterson is like an upgrade from Josh Rojas for two reasons:

  • Peterson’s batting statistics are better.
  • Peterson’s defense at third base is better.

“Most of my reps are geared towards third right now. But my mindset wise, I’m still kind of prepared to do whatever [position] we need [infield or outfield].” — Jace Peterson, March 2022

Summary of Part 1.

This season the Diamondbacks have good depth at third base. In the next two seasons, the Diamondbacks will need to decide who will be the everyday third baseman. The players with experience in the Majors are in three tiers:

  • Jeimer Candelario and Geraldo Perdomo.
  • Evan Longoria and Emmanuel Rivera.
  • Jace Peterson & Josh Rojas(traded to the Mariners).