For many owners, Third Base is a tough spot. It’s a top-heavy position that has a quick drop off and creates situations where owners will inherently need to sacrifice one category or another should they not be able to grab one of the top-tier players. This is a power position. Getting home runs and RBI needs to be paramount with average being a close third. While speed and runs can come elsewhere, missing on the power spots can be detrimental to the overall lineup.
On the south side of Chicago, the position has been a bit of a turnstile of late. This year a battle will brew once again to determine the starter with two young, promising players bringing their games to Spring Training to earn the job. Conor Gillaspie and Matt Davidson are not yet household names, but fantasy owners should get to know them. Gillaspie held down the fort most of last season, but the acquisition of Davidson from Arizona has to mean that the White Sox are not sold on Gillaspie being their Third Baseman in the future.
But why not? Gillaspie showed signs last season of blossoming into a strong player. His walk rate remained steady from his 2012 season in the minors though his strikeout rate increased slightly. Hitting only .245 will raise some eyebrows, but the fact his BABIP has dropped off so drastically could allow this to recover some in 2014. The White Sox got 13 home runs in 134 games, but only saw him drive in 40 runs in that stretch. Gillaspie has actually not driven in more than 67 runs during any season at any level since turning pro in 2008.
Expectations for Gillaspie, if he win the job though, should be higher than his 2013 finish. Should his ISO jump back up 10 points to his levels in Triple-A in 2011 and 2012, we could see closer to 20 home runs. Gillaspie’s plate discipline will generate walks and help his contact rates and BABIP move back up. While his .245 average may never be .300, but certainly an uptick to the .265 area gives him a respectable mark even if he strikes out at a similar rate. In a league that does not punish for it, Gillaspie’s marks keep him a borderline starter if he were to win the job outright.
Davidson was one of the most highly thought of prospects in the Diamondbacks organization and one would think he was brought in not just to compete, but to play. Throughout the his time in the minors, Davidson has demonstrated more pop by hitting better than 20 home runs across various levels in each of his last three full seasons while driving in better than 80. Not only has he shown more consistent power, but also he has been able to walk more often than Gillaspie despite the higher strikeout marks.
The questions on average should be limited as he has shown he can hit near .280 with enough plate appearances and his BABIP mark has been well north of .300. The upside here seems to be far greater than what Chicago would receive from Gillaspie, but both could prove valuable if a platoon situation is avoided. Davidson’s power makes him more intriguing and he could provide enough production to flirt with the top-10 come the end of the year. For fantasy owners, he is the player we should hope wins the job outright.