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Braves offseason questions: Is a platoon on the way at third base?

Will Rio Ruiz get a chance to play in 2017?

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Third base has been pretty bare in Atlanta since Chipper Jones retired.

Adonis Garcia manned the position in 2016 and held his own. Garcia wasn't great by any means, hitting .273/.311/.406 with a 90 wRC+ and 0.8 WAR in 134 games. Garcia turned it on down the stretch (as did the rest of his teammates) and hit .293/.333/.456 in the second half.

Defense was a big concern for Adonis after a rough 2015 debut; he did improve but still graded out poorly at -7 runs saved.

Some had written Rio Ruiz off as a prospect after struggling in 2015. He showed up to spring training with a different body – he had met with John Hart a few months earlier about getting himself in better shape – and was surprisingly promoted to Triple-A after a strong showing in the spring.

READ MORE: Will Nick Markakis be traded this winter?

Ruiz went on to hit .271/.355/.400 with a 118 wRC+ as one of the youngest players in the league. He ended the season strong with a .880 OPS in August. His defense improved, too. The real concern here is that while he crushed right-handed pitching, he was putrid against southpaws (.203/.293/.229).

Could a platoon be on the way?

It so happens that Garcia, a righty, is a much better hitter against lefties. He has a career 122 wRC+ against southpaws and just an 85 wRC+ against righties.

Ruiz, a lefty, is a much better hitter against righties than lefties. Or at least he was at the highest level of the minors.

The free agent options are few and far between. Justin Turner is really good and having a big October, but he's likely to be out of the Braves' price range. That would be a dream scenario. Luis Valbuena is an interesting option, though he's coming off hamstring surgery. Martin Prado made sense before he inked a three-year deal with Miami. There's not a whole lot else out there unless the club dives into the trade market.

The early money is the Braves going with some combination of Garcia and Ruiz at third. It allows them to see what they have in Ruiz without throwing him into the fire, and it doesn't clog anything up for a handful of promising prospects in the system. Coppolella could decide to make things interesting and hit the market, but I wouldn't bet on it. There are bigger areas of need.

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