When the 2017 season opens, there will be a stud at third base for each of the Cubs’ top five affiliates. While previous breakdowns revealed that first base and shortstop were a little thin and young, the hot corner is one of the top positions in a system filled with power, solid arms, and the potential for five very solid major-league players. The problem is only one man at a time can play third base for the Cubs and that man is Kris Bryant. And he’s locked up through at least 2021
Still, the current crop of corner men is an asset to the organization. From Iowa down to Eugene, there are players who can hit the ball out of the park at a moment’s notice. That’s not something the Cubs have at every any other position.
5. Matt Rose – I had also featured Rose in the first base profile, but he should actually be the star third baseman in Myrtle Beach this year. It will be interesting to see how well his power shows up seaside, where the wind blows in almost every day. One of the keys to evaluating Rose this year will be paying attention to his road splits. He’s always had a good eye at the plate, he just got off to a bad start in 2016 before regrouping and having one of the best months of the year in August, when he hit seven home runs. I’m really excited to see what Rose can do in 2017, whether it’s at first or third base.
4. Jason Vosler – Whenever I see Vosler hit, he reminds me of Mark Grace at the plate. Admittedly, that more about the way he hits without any batting gloves than it is the results he generates. While Grace was a singles and doubles hitter, Vosler tends to hit doubles and home runs. He’s coming into his own more and more and should begin the year at AA Tennessee. Even so, Vosler’s career path is going to rely more on what happens with Jeimer Candelario than on his own development.
3. David Bote – It has taken a couple years, but Bote finally blossomed last season, hitting over .400 down the stretch to help Myrtle Beach to a second consecutive title. I first saw him at Kane County in 2014, where he displayed an outstanding glove and arm to offset a bat that was a little bit behind. Bote began last year as a utility man for the organization before finding a home in Myrtle Beach and taking off. He can play third base, but has also played second and even a little bit at first. I think the Pelicans put him there for convenience, but, like Matt Rose, Bote can play a little bit of everything. He will be at Tennessee in 2017 and may actually will play more second than third. More important than his position is what he showed at the end of 2016, which is the ability to hit for power and to be a leader on the team.
2. Wladimir Galindo – At just 19, Galindo is on the precipice of becoming the next major power hitter in the organization. Although he may not hit for as high an average as Eloy Jimenez, I think he’s actually going to hit more home runs. That begins in 2017, when he will start the season in South Bend.
1. Jeimer Candelario – Heading into 2017, the question for Candelario is not his ability, but whether he will he be a Cub much longer. The switch-hitting third baseman impressed many at Iowa in the second half of 2016 and chances are that, even with Christian Villanueva’s release, Candelario’s ascension to Chicago is still on hold for the time being. There’s just no place for him. While the reality of the matter is more nuanced, it mainly comes down to whether the Cubs get more value in him as part of their depth or as part of a trade.
There are some other lower-level prospects who could switch over to third in the coming years, including Isaac Paredes and Jonathan Perlaza. It would not surprise me to see them play there at Eugene and Mesa this year, respectively.
The Cubs are extremely lucky that they have five guys at this corner spot who can really smash the ball. I also like the fact that Bote and Rose can play other positions and that Galindo is only 19. There’s still hope for all of them to be retained as prospects for the Cubs, but I think Candelario’s days are numbered. In spite of any potential looming trade, the Cubs still are pretty stacked at third.