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Talking Chop Round Table: Braves Third Basemen

As part of season reviews for major league players and top prospect ranking for minor league players, we here at Talking Chop thought it would be a fun idea to get all of our bloggers together with the help of Google Docs and debate the various aspects of each position in the Braves organization.

The participants are, yours truly (gondeee, indicated by MG), yondaime4 (indicated by MF), royhobbs (indicated by DH), and cbwilk (indicated by CBW).

The round table for third basemen in the Braves organization is after the jump.

MG:  One of the things that will be talked about ad nauseum this off-season will be the decline of Chipper Jones. Was it just an off-year or is this a sign of things to come? I like Chipper too much to say that it was the latter, but my baseball gut tells me it's probably a bit of both. Chipper didn't have his swing right, but he was also slowed by his aging body.
DH:  One thing I haven't heard a whole lot of people talk about this year was the WBC hangover effect.  Combine this with the age and his deteriorating body, and we have 2009 Chipper.  I have to imagine a guy like Chipper is very routine based, and something like the WBC does more than sufficiently at breaking up his off-season routine.  He looked awful and unprepared at the WBC, and even though he relinquished his spot on the roster early on, the damage was done.  He didn't exactly get his normal off-season routine, and began the season unprepared.  I'm not saying that a full and proper off-season regimen would have protected him from the noticeable decline this season, but I certainly think it would have helped.
CBW: The really scary thing, in both a positive and negative way, is that even a declining/injured Chipper is still one of the best players on the team. The guy has been amazing to watch over his career and really is one of the best players in history, but you have to be realistic about him; he's turning 38 early next year and you have to expect that he'd start to decline. We have plenty of players in our lineup who'd be thrilled with an .818 OPS for a season, but it's got Chipper talking about retiring if he has another year like this. I think there's no doubt he was dogged by nagging injuries; you could clearly see at times that his oblique was hurting him, his legs have been sapped of all their spring, and I really think his hands were hurting him. He played in more games than he had in any of the previous 5 seasons and I think that was a huge negative; he needs those 25-35 games off. I know it just didn't work out right with Infante being hurt so long and trying to make a playoff push at the end, but if he's going to rebound and play like a solid, if lesser, version of the old Chipper, he needs those days off. I really think Chipper can be good and effective for at least two more seasons, but they have to take care of him.

MG:  The real travesty here is that we have no one on the radar who could take Chipper's place. This makes me think that we'll stay with Chipper for as long as his contract runs.
CBW: First, I think the Braves are going to let Chipper play as long as he wants to and I'm very convinced that he's not willing to hurt the team by playing past the point where he's good. Most guys don't know when to hang it up, but I feel like Chipper will pick the right time. I kind of doubt he'll make it the full three years, but you never know. I guess the only real positive about Donnel Linares being an older player is that you could pretty easily see him moving seamlessly through AA and AAA and being ready to contribute to the Major League team by late 2011 as a 28 year old. He's not going to be a long term answer, but it's not out of the question that he could provide some short term help. And I've maintained for a while now that Brandon Hicks is actually our best 3B prospect. If you look at him, his body is very similar to Chipper's, so it's easy to envision him at 3B. And he's got the power to make it work, so if he can get himself to work more on hitting line drives and letting the homers happen, he could become a solid, long-term third baseman for Atlanta. And, if nothing else, our consistent depth at pitching, particularly left handed pitching, should allow us to trade for a young third baseman.

MG:  As lean as our second base and shortstop positions are with prospects, third base has got to be the worst. At least at second there's Campusano and at short there's Hicks, and at each of those there's also a Jones before you get to the fodder. At third there's just no one. Linares wins it because he had a good season, but he's old for a prospect, and Hanson hasn't gotten out of complex ball yet. We have no organizational depth at third... none. 
CBW: Like I said above, I still think Hicks is our best 3B prospect, but yeah, of the guys who actually play the position now, it's not good. Linares is definitely way too old for the Carolina League, but he did play very well there once he got used to playing in the US. I was very impressed by the amount of English he picked up over the course of the season. So I'm thinking he'll probably be able to move up to AAA right away next year and probably be able to hold his own, so at least that gives you a guy you can look at fairly immediately. I love Wes Timmons and I think he should get a shot to help a Major League team, but he's turning 30 next season and isn't someone I could ever see being a Major League regular. Van Pope is an oustanding defender, but he just can't hit. He didn't deserve the promotion to AAA, and it really wouldn't surprise me to see him cut out of Spring Training next year. Jordan Kreke played decently enough, even though he was old for Danville and he's got a thick, powerful body and I don't think his defense is as bad as all those errors. So maybe he's got a chance to become something, but he is old, so it needs to happen next year. Samuel Sime has two unimpressive seasons at Rome and even though he physically looks great, I'm just not impressed by him. Adam Coe has a terrible attitude and, to me, is looking to become the next Eric Campbell. So that leaves Hanson, who like you said hasn't gotten out of the GCL. But, he did make huge improvements this year from the year before, and if he starts out at Rome as a 20 year old he'll be the right age at the right level. He made a ton of errors, but I haven't seen him play so I can't really make much comment on his defense. Frankly, I put him at first on my list cause I think he's the only guy in the organization at third who actually played well at an age appropriate level, and therefor the only one I really consider a true prospect.

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