With the latest Alex Rodriguez performance-enhancing drugs scandal looming large over baseball, the New York Yankees have started to look for the answer at third base for years to come. Former Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis has already been signed for this season, but he is not a long-term option at the position. Therefore, that leaves the Yankees to look towards their minor league system for grooming their third baseman not only of 2014, but also of the future.
David Adams is likely to get the first crack among those in the minor league system. At 25 years old, Adams is one of the few minor league infielders on the team’s 40-man roster. With the ability to handle both second base and third base, Adams enters Spring Training in contention for a spot as a reserve infielder. Many scouts rave about Adams’ bat, which is considered to be advanced for a minor leaguer, with good power from gap-to-gap. He displayed this with Trenton last season, as he led the team with a .306 batting average and was second in doubles with 23. He then took his talents to the Arizona Fall League, where half of Adams’ 24 hits went for extra bases. Should Adams not make the team, he will begin the year in Triple-A, though Youkilis’ injury history and uncertainty regarding the future of Alex Rodriguez make it likely he will see time in the Bronx at some point this season. However, Adams’ versatility could also work against him for 2014. With Robinson Cano’s contract up at season’s end, there is a chance that the Yankees could elect to move forward with Adams at second base down the road.
If such is the case, the Yankees could move forward with New Jersey native Rob Segedin in the future. The 24-year-old will likely open the season in Trenton. Segedin moved to the outfield last season, but is transitioning back to third base this season. After being named as a Florida State League All-Star last season, Segedin struggled initially with Eastern League pitching. However, he did start to get his swing down towards season’s end, and came through with a game-winning triple in game two of the Eastern League Division Series, which sprung the Thunder towards a series win and a berth in the Eastern League Championship Series. Segedin could be one of the breakout stars of the system this season, as he has started slow when moving up a level in two years straight, much like Brett Gardner once did while moving through the minors. Right now, it would not be a stretch to predict Segedin getting off to a hot start, and moving up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre if/when David Adams gets the call to the Bronx. For his long-term potential, Segedin’s versatility in the field could earn him a look in a reserve role in New York as soon as the spring of 2014, but it is more likely that he could be looking at a mid-season 2014 call-up to try his hand at the hot corner for the big club.
Another alternative at the Double-A level could be right fielder Tyler Austin. Last season’s MiLB.com “Breakout Prospect of the Year” has limited experience as a third baseman, though is generally believed to be much better defensively in the outfield. The Yankees discussed moving Austin back to third base this off-season, but for now, it appears that the idea of such a move has stalled. At 21 years old, it is not too late for Austin to shift back to third base, but he has just 24 games of experience at the position, none of which has come in full season ball. This would likely stunt his development slightly, pushing back his major league ETA as he adapts defensively. Many both in and out of the organization believe it is highly unlikely that Austin moves out of right field, as he is widely viewed as the long-term answer for the team at that position, possibly replacing Ichiro Suzuki as soon as 2014.
In the lower levels of the New York Yankees farm system, the only name of note is Dante Bichette, Jr. A former first-round pick, many believed Bichette was a top-ten prospect at this point last season. However, while playing in the South Atlantic League for his first year in full-season baseball, Bichette failed to live up to the expectations that come with top prospect status. Bichette produced a batting line of .248/.322/.331 with Charleston, hitting just three home runs during the year. Right now, it is far too soon to give up on Bichette developing into an impact player in the future, but it is also realistic to admit that he is a long way from making it to the Bronx, if he ever does. In order to Bichette to someday get his chance, he will need to hope that none of the options ahead of him in the organization break out and prove to be a reliable long-term option.
Ultimately, the future of third base will all boil down to Alex Rodriguez. The New York Daily News does not believe he will be back, and some within the Yankees organization seemingly hope he will not return and they find a way out of the albatross of a contract signed in 2007. However, if A-Rod wants to return, he will be back, and his performance will go a long way towards determining how soon the Yankees truly need to find his replacement. If he comes back and is no longer able to play third base within a year or two, Adams or Segedin could be in the perfect position to succeed. If Rodriguez plays the next few years at third base before needing to move to first base or designated hitter full time, Dante Bichette, Jr. could be the man to take over. However, in the end, how soon the Yankees need to have their third baseman of the future lies solely in the hands of the highest-paid player in baseball history.
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