Breaking Down the Third Basemen for 2010
Part 5 of 8 in the Dragons 2010 Positional Preview
Today we look at the third base position.
Hands on deck: Jose Gualdron, Frank Pfister.
While the last positional preview featured a spot that appears to be decided for the Dragons in 2010 (shortstop with Mariekson Gregorius), the third base position may be the polar opposite. Jose Gualdron and Frank Pfister saw time at third base in Dayton in 2009 and could return. Henry Rodriguez and Yen-Wen Kuo (see Breaking Down the Second Basemen) were discussed earlier and could be in the mix.
Over the last several seasons, third base has been a strong position for the Dragons. Juan Francisco held down the hot corner in 2007 and led the Midwest League in home runs. Brandon Waring took over in 2008 and was selected as the third baseman on the MWL full-season all-star team. In 2009, Carlos Mendez settled in at third base and hit .308 for the Dragons, second only to Chris Heisey in the entire Reds organization among full-season players.
If nothing else, the path to third base at Fifth Third Field for Mendez in 2009 proved how unpredictable Minor League Baseball can be. On opening night in '09, Pfister was the starting third baseman and Gualdron started game two. Mendez did not even make the club out of spring training and was still in Sarasota, having batted just .250 the previous year at Billings. But before the end of April, Mendez was hitting in the cleanup spot in the Dragons batting order. He became a fixture at third base and had an outstanding year.
Jose Gualdron is a 22-year-old native of Venezuela who has played five seasons in the Reds organization. He started the 2009 season with the Dragons, splitting time at third base with Frank Pfister while serving as the first back-up at both shortstop and second base. He remained with the Dragons for the first two months of the season, appearing in 25 games and batting .205 with one home run and nine runs batted in (83 at-bats). In late May, he strained his hamstring and endured a short stint on the disabled list. Once he was healthy enough to return to action, there was a greater need for a utility infielder with the Sarasota Reds and Gualdron was sent there, where he finished the season. With Sarasota, he appeared in 36 games and batted .231 with 2 HR and 10 RBI. Overall, his combined numbers in 2009 were .220 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 191 at-bats.
Frank Pfister (pronounced FIST-ur) was drafted by the Reds in the 17th round in 2008 out of NCAA Division III power Emory University in Georgia, where he had enjoyed one of the most productive careers in school history. At Emory, Pfister led the Eagles to the 2007 D3 College World Series and was named Most Valuable Player of the South Regional Tournament while setting the school single-season record for hits. In 2008 as a senior at Emory, he was named his conference's MVP, Gold Glove third baseman for the South Region, and he became the highest drafted player in school history when the Reds selected him.
Pfister was the Dragons opening night starting third baseman in 2009 and remained with the club throughout the first half before being sent to the Billings Mustangs when the Pioneer League season began in June. Pfister appeared in 32 games with the Dragons and batted .214 with 0 HR and 11 RBI (112 at-bats). Once assigned to Billings, his struggles initially continued. After his first 16 games there, he was batting just .169 with only three extra base hits. But starting July 17th and continuing through the end of the season, Pfister played in 47 games with Billings and batted .292 with eight doubles, a triple, and a home run in 161 at-bats. He finished at .259-1-24 in 63 games (220 at-bats). Overall for the year with Dayton and Billings, Pfister combined to hit .244 with 1 HR and 35 RBI in 95 games.
Henry Rodriguez and Yen-Wen Kuo: See Second Base preview.
There is no "stand-out" candidate for the Dragons 2010 third base job, but as Mendez proved in 2009, anyone on the list, or a player who has not even entered the picture yet, may emerge to keep the impressive string of Dragons third basemen alive.
2009 Dragons Third Basemen
Carlos Mendez: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.
Jose Gualdron: Will battle for a job with Lynchburg or Dayton in 2010.
Frank Pfister: Will battle for the Dragons third base job.
Kevyn Feiner: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.