The Cardinal organization has had a good run with third base prospects in the last half decade or so, getting very good production out of Allen Craig (since moved off the position) and Matt Carpenter (moved off the position and then back to the hot corner this season), as well as David Freese, who was not drafted by the Cardinals but his bat really blossomed after coming here (and has had all the petals fall off of it since leaving). If you remember the kettle of crud this club had starting at 3B in the dark days of 2008 - 2010 (Mark DeRosa, Felipe Lopez, Pedro Feliz) after injuries derailed the Cardinal careers of Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus, well, the last 3-4 seasons have been a much needed improvement.
The former two both have long term contracts with the club now and with Carpenter entrenched at 3B, utility men like Greg Garcia capable of filling the lineup card at 3B in a pinch, and journeymen like Scott Moore around in case something disastrous happens, the Cardinals should be in good shape with third baseman at the major league level for at least the next 5 seasons or so. That's more than a lot of teams can say right now, and it's why guys like Chase Headley still have such solid trade value despite nearly a full season of offensive struggles.
The Cardinals farm, however, is pretty much bereft of talent at the third base position. Right now, not a single guy on this list even profiles as a major league utility player or platoon starter, much less a regular on even a bad baseball team, which the Cardinals haven't been since the Tony La Russa era started.
The real stinker here is that John Mozeliak spent the better part of the top half of the draft in 2012 on third baseman, only one of which is still at the position (though all three are with the Cardinals organization):
- Stephen Piscotty wasn't expected to stay that the position for very long, and 20+ errors in less than 50 games in A ball pretty much cemented his move to the outfield, and he's been the hitter everyone thought he was going to be and surprisingly deft in the outfield.
- Carson Kelly was the big high school bat in that draft for the Cardinals, struggled defensively at 3B and offensively pretty much everywhere, and is now a catching prospect who has looked solid defensively but still isn't hitting.
- Which leaves Patrick Wisdom to carry the water as the club's last stand out of the Three Amigos from the 2012 draft.
I've spilled my thoughts on Wisdom plenty of times over the last five months here, but it breaks down like this: He can look absolutely great defensively at the hot corner, but is prone to sloppy plays and bad throws enough that he reminds you a bit of Starlin Castro at time -- always trying to make the routine play look spectacular, and end up looking sheepish after it all goes wrong. I still think he can be an above average glove at third base, however, so that's not really my biggest issue with Wisdom.
I don't think he's ever going to hit enough to challenge for a spot on a major league roster. Wisdom has tons of raw power, most all of it to the pull side of the field -- and he knows it. Which is why he tries to pull damn near everything and ends up rolling over a lot of ground balls to the right side. He's been a bit better about this in 2014, but his first couple of months in AA have exposed another weakness: He struggles to make contact. Currently he's striking out 31.1% of the time, which only looks good if you're Xavier Scruggs and looks bad if you're just about anybody else. At least when Scruggs put the ball to the bat in AA he hit tape measure shots -- Wisdom's hit just 4 home runs on the season.
Now, his gap power has shown up some this season, with 12 doubles among his 37 hits so far, but nearly all are to the pull side down the line or in the left center field gap. Wisdom is a dead pull hitter and in an age of defensive shifts that's an absolute killer for any offensive player unless you can hit a boatload of home runs. What's more, his tendency to pull the ball keeps him from making better contact as well as unlocking more of his raw power and turning it into the usable variety.
The worst part: This is the best third base prospect the Cardinals have.
Jermaine Curtis was a kinda/sorta prospect a few years ago and looked to be the starter at 3B this season for Memphis, until the club brought in 30 year old journeyman Scott Moore to take pretty much all his playing time there. Which tells you all you need to know about Jermaine Curtis as a prospect.
In the low minors, you have a smattering of middle infielders taking turns playing third base: Breyvic Valera, Ildemaro Vargas, and Jacob Wilson at Palm Beach (before Wilson got promoted to AA); Michael Schulze and Cesar Valera at Peoria -- none of those guys profiles as a third basemen in the big leagues outside of Valera and his ability to play there rests solely on his ability to be the left handed Placido Polanco, who was never really a third baseman by craft, just one that played there out of necessity.
So why not bring up a third baseman from extended spring training to fill those positions? Well, as you can see from the chart above, there really aren't any to bring up. The only guy younger than the average age of his league is De La Cruz, who has just a half season of professional play under his belt in the DSL of all places.
There's a word for the Cardinals minor league prospects at 3B, and that word is...