The Hot Corner In The NL Central
Aside from Aramis Ramirez no other NL Central third basemen surpassed the 100 games played mark. Only David Freese sniffed the 100 game mark in 2011, falling just short at with 97. Though it’s tough basing everything off of a post season run Freese showed the kind of hitter he can be in the postseason. It is dangerous evaluating off of postseason hype, but Freese should have had this breakthrough in seasons prior. Assuming health, which for him could be a big gamble, he can put it all together and be a .280-25-100-90 work horse on the hot corner.
As it stands now Freese is more of less in a class by himself among the NL Central third basemen. Not quite at the Ramirez and Rolen level, but well above the likes of what takes the field for the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates. Here is who he be measured against moving into 2012.
Ian Stewart split the 2011 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs, totaling two stints in each spot. He batted .156 with six doubles in 48 games with the Rockies and hit .275 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs in 45 games in the Minor Leagues. A change of scenery might help Stewart, who hit 25 home runs in 2009 and was considered a rising star but never gained a solid footing in the Majors.
Reds third baseman Scott Rolen was limited to 252 at-bats in 2011, hitting .242 with five homers, one stolen base, 36 RBIs and 34 runs scored. Rolen continues to deal with injuries and shoulder problems which again cut short a season. The 36-year-old has only reached 350 at-bats once in the past four campaigns and is a significant injury risk for 2012. When healthy he is one of the game’s best at the hot corner and his defense alone will keep him on the field.
For the Astros Jimmy Paredes hit .286 with a pair of homers, five stolen bases, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored in 168 at-bats during his rookie season. Paredes didn’t distinguish himself in his initial Major League action but he didn’t look out of place either. The 22-year-old didn’t hit for a lot of power in the Minors so his upside for 2012 isn’t very high from a power perspective but Paredes has shown he can hit for average. Which for the Astros happens to be the case for most of the roster.
Aramis Ramirez completed his sixth season with at least 30 doubles and 25 homers. He got off to a slow start, hitting two home runs in the first two months of the season. Ramirez has a career .261 average in April and playing in Miller Park early in the year could help him boost those numbers. Ramirez has a lifetime .270 average and .503 slugging percentage at Miller Park, hitting 15 homers and 25 doubles there.
Pedro Alvarez was a big disappointment in 2011, as he hit four homers, stole one base, drove in 10 runs and scored eight times while hitting .191 in 235 at-bats. Alvarez entered 2011 as a budding prospect but got off to a slow start and was eventually sent to the Minors. He didn’t show much more after returning to the Bucs in September and is a major question mark heading into 2012. The addition of Casey McGehee gives the Pirates another option at third base, though the club has insisted that Pedro Alvarez will get the first crack at holding onto the starting role.
Our towns David Freese missed time early in the season due to a broken hand but produced reasonable numbers when healthy. In only 97 games in 2011 Freese hit .297 with 10 homers, 55 RBIs, 41 runs scored and one stolen base. He set a postseason record with 21 RBIs, which has everyone drooling about a possible breakout campaign in 2012. From time to time he still shows he has room to grown defensively but a full offseason and being healthy going into 2012 should help.
By the time 2012 is said and done here is how I see things shaking out amongst the NL Central three baggers.
- Aramis Ramirez
- Scott Rolen
- David Freese
- Ian Stewart
- Jimmy Paredes
- Pedro Alvarez
Looking ahead: There is still a lot to prove for Freese in 2012. The NL Central already has an established senior class of third basemen in Aramis Ramirez and Scott Rolen. Rolen’s defense, for now, keeps him ahead of Freese and Ramirez’s ability to do it year in and year out keeps him atop the class at this point. If Freese can stay healthy enough to play 145+ games and sure up his defense even a little look for him to overtake Rolen amonth the pecking order of NL third basemen.
Follow Derek on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze