Ed. note: Every year we publish a series of articles entitled “Where Do We Go From Here?” in which we analyze what the Braves need to do in order to get better the following year. Here’s the intro to the series. The first is by Rusty S.
The Incumbent Adonis Garcia: Garcia will be 32 in 2017, and is coming off of a 2016 season of 0.2 WAR, posting a .273/.311/.406 slash line, including 14 Home Runs in 532 at-bats. Garcia’s 1.1 oWar was mostly offset by a -0.8 dWar, and he was actually sent back to AAA Gwinnett in May to learn how to play left field. I don’t know what happened at Gwinnett, and baseball is not supposed to be that easy, but somehow when Garcia returned from Gwinnett he seemed to be a significantly less bad defensive 3rd baseman.
For his Major League career, Garcia has a .274/.307/.430 slash line and 0.9 WAR in 723 AB’s. In 1014 AB’s at the AAA level he had a .296/.336/.423 slash line, and 19 HR. Garcia spent his early years playing in Cuba, and his US career did not start until age 27. While he may have some time left on the good side of the development curve he is undeniably on the wrong side of the age curve. With over 1700 Major League and AAA AB’s, we have a good idea what kind of offensive player Garcia is. We have most likely already seen his best major league season.
Garcia’s career oWar is a passable 2.0, and if his later season defensive improvement is somehow real, he could be a tolerable option for the next year or two. Garcia seems like a good guy, who I like to pull for. The Braves options for 3B in 2017 are limited, and it appears that they are satisfied to bring Adonis Garcia back.
Free Agents Justin Turner: With the exception of Turner, there does not appear to be a free agent 3rd baseman who would be a significant upgrade over Garcia. Turner hit 27 home runs for the Dodgers in 2016 as a 31-year-old. He would make sense at the right price and years, but given the market at the hot corner, I suppose that he will be priced far above what the Braves would pay.
Prospects Rio Ruiz: Lefty-hitting Ruiz will be 23 in May, and is coming off a .271/.355/.400 slash line at AAA Gwinnett, with 10 HR in 465 AB’s. Ruiz is currently ranked as the Braves’ #15 prospect according to MLB.com.
Ruiz had a disappointing season at AA Mississippi in 2015; however, he has been quite young for his league at every level. I can imagine Ruiz earning a platoon with the right handed hitting Garcia in the near future, or taking the job totally when the Braves decide to go younger there. In 2017 I do not project Ruiz to be an upgrade from Garcia, although Ruiz’s higher minor league on base percentages suggest one measure that could separate the two. MLB.com lists Ruiz as an adequate prospect defensively.
I expect eventually that Ruiz’s best Major League season will be better than Garcia’s proves to be, but I don’t see anything in his Minor League numbers that indicate that it will be significantly better. Because he has been young for his leagues though, that assessment could change if Ruiz repeats AAA in 2017 and demonstrates more power.
Austin Riley: Riley had an interesting season at Rome, hitting 20 HR in 495 AB. Still only 19, it will be some years before the Braves’ #13 prospect has any impact on the Major League team. Neither Ruiz nor Riley are listed in the top 10 MLB prospects at 3B, or in the top 100 of MLB prospects. This does not provide confidence that either will ever provide the Braves a competitive advantage at the position.
I have no idea what 3rd basemen might be available in trade (is Longoria available? do we care?) — but the Braves do not appear to be inclined to check. They have stated that they are not ready to start trading pitching prospects, and the only real trade chips on the roster seem to be outfielders (Markakis, Smith, Kemp, Inciarte). In any case, the Braves have indicated that they are more interested in starting pitching than upgrading at 3rd base.
Oh, and Don’t Forget
Kevin Maitan: Maitan was born in 2000. (People my age may insert their favorite expletive here.)