Originally posted on Cardinals Farm  |  Last updated 12/26/13
The next position in our series is surprisingly weak in my opinion. I really did not realize how weak third base was until I researched the position. The position was made weaker when Carson Kelly moved to catcher. While Kelly hasn’t caught an official game behind the plate, the Cards feel like he will be able to stay there. I could see the Cardinals addressing the third base position during the early positions of the 2014 draft. Let’s take a look at the top five players at the third base position. #5 – J.J. Altobelli It is unclear if Altobelli will stick at third base as shortstop is his primary position. We will put him in this category because he played the majority of his games in 2013 at third. He was forced away from shortstop due to Kenneth Peoples-Walls, who is a higher ranked prospect. Altobelli is not a typical third base type as he has below average power and would be considered a “slap hitter”. He could easily slide back into the shortstop position for 2014. Altobelli played with the Short-Season Rookie Level Johnson City Cardinals in 2013 and had moderate success. A couple of options for him in 2014 include a reserve role for the Peoria Chiefs or possibly a starting spot on the Short-Season State College Spikes. If I had to pick today, I would go with the first option. #4 – Danny Stienstra Stienstra, the Cardinals 12th round pick in 2011 out of San Jose State, is a very interesting prospect with an interesting skill set. He  moved to third base in 2013 to accomodate Jonathan Rodriguez, who played first for the Palm Beach Cardinals. Like Altobelli, Stienstra has limited power, but a great contact ability. Over a full major league season, you would be lucky to get 10 home runs out of him, but most likely a .300 average. After suffering an almost 200 point OPS decline from 2012, I think Steinstra may begin the 2014 season back at Palm Beach. The thing that might push him to Springfield would be his advanced age as he will be 25 for the 2014 season. #3 – Ronnierd Garcia  Garcia, an international signee, finally had a breakthrough season in 2013, but it should have been a breakout season. After spending two years in the Carribean and a year with the Gulf Coast Cards, Garcia was finally able to get away from the Cards complex in Jupiter in 2013. In 59 games for the Johnson City Cards, Garcia hit 5 home runs and had an OPS a tad over .800. There are a couple of issues with Garcia. First, at age 23 he was facing much younger pitchers, in fact, he only had 4 at-bats against older arms. Second, his strikeout total of 53 in 59 games was a bit high. Garcia needs to move quickly through the full-season squads to be an impact prospect. The Peoria Chiefs appear to be a perfect fit for Garcia in 2014. The then-24-year-old will be ready for a full-season of minor league ball and it will be a make-it or break-it season for Garcia as far as his prospect status goes. #2 – Matt Williams Like many of those above, third base may not be the position Williams plays in 2014. I am putting him on this list because it was his primary position in 2013 for the Palm Beach Cardinals. Williams numbers have declined since his rookie minor league season in 2011 after being selected in the 15th round out of Liberty University. Williams has some good tools that could make for a breakout 2014. Williams has sneaky power and above average speed. To go along with those tools, Williams doesn’t strike out, which shows positive plate discipline. In 2013, his BB:So rate was nearly 1:1 which is incredible. Williams got a small taste of Springfield in 2013 and saw limited action. A full-time spot will do him good. I would expect Williams to be a full-time starter for Springfield, either at third base or shortstop, both appear to be openings as of now. I don’t see Williams heading back to Palm Beach as there are others ready at that level. Williams has the tools, hopefully he can put it together in 2014. #1 – Patrick Wisdom Quite possibly the only “true” third baseman on this list, Wisdom is head-and-shoulders above everyone else on this list and it really isn’t close. In my opinion, Wisdom is the only one on this list that has a good chance of making the major leagues, and will probably be the only one to appear on our top 50 list. Wisdom is the last of the “big 3″ third basemen that were drafted in 2012. Carson Kelly has been moved to catcher, for now, and Stephen Piscotty is fully entrenched in the outfield. These moves may be a testament at how well the Cardinals think of Wisdom. With all of that said, he has a lot to work on in Spring Training and during the regular season, with plate discipline being at the top of the list. In 2013, Wisdom struck out 137 times in 129 games and had an OBP of just .313. These numbers are somewhat surprising considering his rookie season of 2012 with the Short-Season Batavia Muckdogs. In 65 games, he struck out just 58 times and had an OBP of .373. But again, that was against weaker competition. If he can figure things out, he could be an elite top-10 prospect who could hit 20-30 home runs and drive in over 100 runs. Wisdom should open the season as the everyday third baseman for the Palm Beach Cardinals. Expect his power numbers to drop a little as Roger Dean is very pitcher friendly. What we should be watching is his OBP and K numbers. If he can figure things out, a late season appearance with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals is not out of the question. Others to watch for Trevor Martin was primarily a DH in 2013 and only made 12 starts at third base in 41 games. It is hard to imagine him sticking at third base for a full season due to below average defense. Martin’s bat may force him into the lineup somewhere. Jesus Ustariz, a recent selection in the Rule 5 draft for the Cardinals, could also join the third base mix, but only has two starts at the hot corner in the past two years. If either one of these stick at third base, they could join this list. It is quite obvious that the third base position is weakened with the loss of Carson Kelly. In fact, I might call it the weakest position in the system, even though the player at the top (Wisdom) has a chance to be something special. Like I said in the introduction, look  for the Cardinals to address the third base position in the upcoming draft. They will be looking for more prototypical third base types who have power and know the position well. Next week we look at a new-found strength in the Cardinals system, left-handed starters. Follow me on Twitter @CardinalsFarm or on Facebook. If you have any questions, you can e-mail me at StlBabyBirds@yahoo.com.  
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