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Looking Back at What Was: Third Base

July 30, 2010 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 30 July 2010: Cleveland Indians third baseman Jayson Nix.
Source: Yardbarker.com

Note: This is the third in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.

For a half of the 2010 season, the Indians had a lame-duck third baseman, a guy who seemed to just be there collecting a paycheck and many fans couldn’t wait to get rid of him. After the trade deadline passed, the Indians found themselves with no third basemen, just an ugly three-headed monster of warm bodies that they threw at the position, and caused Tribe fans to wonder which half of the season was worse.

Yeah, it’s safe to say third base is a glaring hole on this Indians team.

The Indians opened the season with Jhonny Peralta as the starting third baseman, as he was for most of 2009. Peralta had become a ghost of his former self, hitting 11 HR, with a misrable .316 OBP (.690 OPS) in 2009. His defense had become erratic at best, and there was no way the Indians were picking up his option, short of a spectacular season.

Peralta unsurprisingly failed to live up to even modest expectations, hitting 7 HR with a .308 OBP (.698 OPS) in 334 at bats. He probably did far more damage than good to this team when he broke Asdrubal Cabrera’s arm in May. He was shipped off to Detroit for a mid-level prospect (and I was shocked the Indians received that much), and the Indians decided to go in-house for a stopgap at third because they did not want to rush prized prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, a 2008 first round draft pick.

Enter Nimartuena.

That’s the three-headed hydra of Jayson Nix, Andy Marte, and Luis Valbuena, whom manager Manny Acta said would all get a crack at the third base job. Nix was mostly a second baseman who had shown surprising power (and not much else) since he was picked up off waivers from the White Sox in late June. Marte was the failed prospect who seemed happier just riding the bench in obscurity. And Valbuena was the team’s opening day second baseman and Acta was trying to give him another chance.

It’s hard to say that any player really “seized” the job, but after about three weeks Acta began giving the majority of the starts at third to Nix with Marte as the occasional backup (Valbuena was playing more second base after the injury to Jason Donald). Nix hit 14 home runs … with a .281 OBP (and a .676 OPS, yuck). Calling Nix’s defense at third base which is admittledly a position he isn’t familiar with) an adventure is a generous compliment. The Indians are sending Nix to winter ball to work on that.

So the Indians end 2010 with a lot of uncertainty at third base. Prospect Jared Goedert showed a lot of promise in the first half of the season, then fizzled out in AAA. That, coupled with questions about his defense, kept him from being a September call up and he might find himself on the outside looking in sometime next season. Chisenhall is an exciting prospect, but so was Marte, so that’s not a sure thing.

The Indians seem to have decided that they can wait on Chisenhall and suffer through another season with Nix as a stopgap. While I don’t think the Indians should spend big bucks on a rental third baseman, I must say the prospect of watching Nix for another whole year is disturbing. I really think the Indians should give Goedert another looksie in spring training, or see if they can catch a little lightning in a bottle with a spring training invite (like they did with Austin Kearns in 2010). Either way, Lonnie can’t get here fast enough.

Tags: Andy Marte Asdrubal Cabrera Austin Kearns Jared Goedert Jason Donald Jayson Nix Jhonny Peralta Lonnie Chisenhall Luis Valbuena Manny Acta

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