This week we’re going to take a look at the third base position down on the farm. The big league spot is potentially up for grabs. Brandon Drury was the only player to start more than 30 games at the position in 2022, with Kyle Farmer and Mike Moustakas being next on the list. Drury was traded to San Diego at the trade deadline, so he’s no longer in the future plans. As of now both of those players are set to return for the 2023 season. With both players in their 30’s there’s a good chance that someone else is going to be playing the position sooner rather than later.
With the new prospect rankings coming out next week we’re still looking at the post-trade deadline rankings for this one and only three guys were listed as third basemen on the Top 25 Cincinnati Reds prospect list, but three others who were listed at other spots saw time at the position this year, too.
Starting all the way down at the lowest level of the minors, Carlos Sanchez had a heck of a debut at the plate for the Dominican Summer League Reds. The 17-year-old split his time between third base and right field, but we’ll touch on that later. At the plate he hit .355/.506/.442 with four doubles, a triple, and two home runs. He also walked 40 times with just 28 strikeouts in 46 games played while stealing 14 bases in 18 attempts. With two weeks to go in the season he was still hitting over .400, but a slump in his final seven games of the year kept him from reaching the mark.
It’s tough to expect a much better offensive season from a 17-year-old at the plate. But third base may be a position he leaves behind in the future. He made 11 errors in 18 games at third base – good for a .788 fielding percentage. Given his age he could be given more time to work things out, but he did have real struggles defensively at the position in his debut.
The Arizona Complex League Reds had several guys play third base throughout the summer, but the two players that were drafted by Cincinnati in the first round both played third in limited action after they signed.
Cam Collier is still 17-years-old for another two weeks but he’s already put together a big season at Chipola Junior College and got a taste of professional baseball. The 18th overall pick in the draft was rated as the #2 prospect in the draft by The Athletic’s Keith Law but dropped to the Reds at 18 and signed a deal for a well overslot bonus. Collier graduated high school early so he could enroll in college and become draft eligible early. While playing at one of the country’s top junior college programs he hit .333/.419/.537 with 25 walks and 33 strikeouts as a 17-year-old who should have been a junior in high school. After signing he played in nine games with the ACL Reds and hit .370/.514/.630 with more walks than strikeouts.
14 picks in the draft later the Reds got to call a name from the podium once again and this time it was 18-year-old Sal Stewart. Some publications had him as the top high school hitter in the entire class. Like Collier, he didn’t play much after signing thanks to the late draft date these days. In his eight games that he did play, the 32nd overall pick in 2022 hit .292/.393/.458 with four walks and five strikeouts. There are some questions about whether or not he can stick at third base long term, but for now it seems like Cincinnati is going to keep him there and see how things play out.
The next player to look at is one who didn’t actually play in the Reds farm system this season. Nick Northcut was acquired as the player to be named later in the Tommy Pham trade with the Boston Red Sox. Northcut wasn’t announced as the player coming back to Cincinnati until September 14th when the minor league season was coming to an end (except for Triple-A).
Known for his power, Nick Northcut didn’t disappoint in that aspect in 2022 as he hit 26 home runs for High-A Greenville (not to be confused with the former rookie-level team for the Reds who played in Greeneville) in 77 games before moving up to Double-A Portland for the final 26 games of the season that saw him add another four home runs and reach 30 for the season. Northcut also hit 18 doubles. But that’s about where the good news ends. He struggled to make contact, striking out 151 times in 428 plate appearances and he drew just 25 walks while hitting .219 and posting a .276 on-base percentage.
The final player to talk about here is Christian Encarnacion-Strand. He was another player that was acquired during the season, but unlike Northcut he was named at the time and saw action within the Cincinnati farm system. Like Northcut, Encarnacion-Strand is also known for his power and he showed it. After starting the season in High-A Cedar Rapids and playing 74 games there he was promoted by the Twins to Double-A Wichita. He was only there for a few weeks before he was traded. The Reds sent him to Double-A Chattanooga where he spent the final six weeks of the season.
Between his two stops in Double-A he played 48 games, and with another 74 in Cedar Rapids he finished with 122 games played that saw him put up Triple Crown caliber numbers. Encarnacion-Strand hit a combined .304/.368/.587 with 31 doubles, 5 triples, 32 home runs, and 114 runs batted in. Defensively his numbers looked ugly overall as he posted an .887 fielding percentage at third base on the season. However, looking at the season as a whole hides the fact that in his first 58 games at third he made 20 errors before getting four days off. After he returned to the lineup he only made three errors in his final 36 games played at third base on the season, including zero after arriving in Chattanooga.
We covered several players in the second base write up who also saw plenty of time at third base and should be considered in the discussion. Rather than repeat all of the things that were previously said and written about each of Tyler Callihan, Nick Quintana, and Spencer Steer – you can check in with last week’s State of the Farm: Second Basemen article.
The wild card here is Noelvi Marte. We’re going to cover him in the shortstop write up next week, but it’s worth noting here that after spending his entire career as a shortstop that Cincinnati has asked him to play third base this offseason in the Arizona Fall League. The other wild card is Elly De La Cruz. While the organization does see him as a shortstop, he did see some action at third base at times in 2022 in order to get some other shortstops in the organization time at the position, too.
This is certainly a strong position on the farm and that’s without even considering guys like Noelvi Marte who is just now in the past few weeks getting his first time at the position out in Arizona and Elly De La Cruz. Two of the post-trade deadline top 10 prospects, including the number two guy, as well as Christian Encarnacion-Strand who will be climbing up the list next week when the rankings are updated give the position a very high upside. But even beyond that there is some depth with starting potential.
With the depth, high-end prospects, and one high-end prospect who has performed in Double-A this position is going to get the best grade so far and it’s going to get an A. For this grade I am giving it a tiny boost due to Noelvi Marte potentially being considered there by the organization, or an eventual move there by Elly De La Cruz down the line. Among the group there are several players that project as every day third basemen and some better than that.
Third Basemen Stats