Sizing Up The Third Base Prospects

Will Duncan Remain at 3B?

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' third base prospects. Which 3B prospect has the highest upside? Which are the ones ready to make a Major League impact soon? Who needs to make their mark quickly? <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Third base is either the deepest position for the Yankees at the minor league level or the least stocked position, depending on what the Yankees plan on doing with Eric Duncan and Marcos Vechionacci. If both remain third baseman, the Yankees are stacked with two blue chip prospects at third base. However, there's talk of moving Duncan over to first base and moving Nacci over to shortstop.

Highest Ceiling

Marcos Vechionacci: While Duncan is the safer pick and probably does have the highest upside, we're going to put Marcos Vechionacci with the highest ceiling among the Yankees third base prospects simply because Duncan, who will most likely start at AA-Trenton in 2005, also happens to be the third base prospect closest to the Majors (we can't really give two spots to the same player). Vechionacci, at just 18 years old, has one of the more mature approaches at the plate. He's a switch-hitter, equally dangerous from both sides of the plate, and has a lot of projection to him. Also ranking as our shortstop prospect with the highest ceiling, rather than rehash his offensive attributes, we'll focus on his defense at third base.

"Right now, he is very solid for such a young age", Yankees instructor Andy Stankiewicz told PinstripesPlus.com. "He is smooth in the field and doesn't make a lot of mistakes which are common in players even a couple years older than he is. It appears that we are going to let him play shortstop for a while but you get the feeling that with his offensive ability, he may end up at third base."

Nacci's fellow GCL teammate, Christian Garcia, had nothing but praise for him. "He's simply going to be a superstar", said Garcia. "He's the best defensive third baseman I've ever seen. Put it this way, I don't see any weaknesses at third base. When I'm pitching, I'd rather have "Nacci" at third base".

Closest to the Majors

Eric Duncan: Seemingly a Yankees' prospect forever now, it is hard to believe that Duncan has logged a little less than a season and half in the Yankees' minor league system, but yet also appears to be the third base prospect closest to the Majors. After finishing the 2004 campaign hitting .258 with 16 home runs his first full season, Duncan is in line to begin the 2005 season at AA-Trenton at the tender age of 20 years old. In 2004, Duncan hit 43 doubles and 16 home runs. His extra-base hit percentages were off the charts for such a young player and he showed unbelievable patience at the plate...so much so, that his batting average was rather fluky.

Now armed with a first baseman's mitt, Duncan has been working out over at first base during Spring Training this year. It remains to be seen just how much playing time Duncan will log over at first base. The smart money says Duncan will be the everyday third baseman for the Trenton Thunder next season, picking up 10-20 games over at first base. Duncan, who has made enormous defensive strides at third base the last two seasons, does have Alex Rodriguez blocking him at the hot corner in the Bronx and increasing his versatility is only going to aid his progression.

Duncan has drawn comparisons to Chipper Jones and Hank Blalock for his opposite field power. After adding 10-15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, while already being one of the hardest workers in all of baseball, it is not beyond the realm of possibility for Duncan to have a David Wright-like ascension to the Major Leagues in 2005.

Bronson Sardinha: Sardinha sure hasn't set the world on fire since being the Yankees' 1st round draft pick back the 2001 draft, drawing very little fanfare, but that comes with high expectations as a "money" guy (first round pick). The bottom line is Sardinha has quietly put three good offensive seasons together since coming out of high school, averaging 11 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 75 runs scored, 60 RBI, and 63 walks per season as a professional!

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school, Sardinha has been tried out in left field and center field in years past before moving him over to third base in 2004. The experiment at third last season had its fair share of snags as Sardinha committed 43 errors in 118 games (third most errors in all of minor league baseball) at third base in two stops between Tampa and Trenton last season. It remains to be seen if Sardinha will get a chance to remain at third base or not. His bat will keep him in the lineup, but he may make the switch back to the outfield in 2005.

The "Sleepers"

Yosvani Almario-Cabrera: Almario-Cabrera is perhaps one of the more intriguing Yankees' prospects. He certainly has a few questions marks: At 24 years old, does he have enough projection in the tank to be a difference maker? Is he a third baseman? If not, will he settle in and play one particular position? The Yankees' 18th round draft pick in the 2004 Draft hit .346-2-17 with seven stolen bases in the Gulf Coast League last season, while playing every position except catcher and pitcher.

He had a fantastic professional debut last year but will have to be challenged in 2005. Playing a majority of his games at third base and in the outfield last year, Almario-Cabrera could break Spring Training as the starting third baseman for the Charleston Riverdogs. If he can have another good year next season, Almario-Cabrera will be one to keep an eye on. He has all the tools in his bag!

The Jury is Still Out

Hector Zamora: One of the nicest guys in the Yankees' farm system, Zamora could still qualify as a "sleeper" at third base for the Yankees, if not for the fact he played in the NY-Penn League in his third consecutive season last year. Blessed with one of the better eyes at the plate (two straight years of 30+ walks in short-season baseball), it is remarkable that the Yankees haven't challenged Zamora to this date. Perhaps it is because he hasn't produced the power numbers normally associated with third baseman, or he hits into too many double plays, or whatever. The bottom line is there is no clear cut reason why Zamora has made permanent residence in Staten Island.

Zamora, who just turned 23 years old in October, still has the chance to become a good prospect for the Yankees. Baseball is all about confidence. Perhaps the Yankees should show some in Hector and challenge him next season to see what he's capable of, possibly letting him skip a level and send him up to Tampa.

Hector Gonzalez: A 35th round draft pick in the 2003 MLB Draft out of high school, Gonzalez has played in the Gulf Coast League for two straight seasons. He hasn't shown much offensive success in limited action as a professional and he has played the majority of his games at third base. He has more potential than he's shown thus far, but he'll have to put up some numbers before anybody gets too excited about him. He just turned 20 years old in February, so he does have time on his side to make his mark.

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