Position Battles: Third Base
NOTE: This Post Originally Appeared on CollegeAndMagnolia.com
Here's the bad news for 3B. Auburn has a whopping ZERO players who started at 3B in 2011. None. In fact, Auburn may have been a bit spoiled these past two seasons with Dan Gamache (2010) and Wes Gilmer (2011) handling most the majority of the duties these past two seasons. Gilmer handled an impressive 40 starts at the hot corner for AU last year. Gamache picked up the other 11.
That's not to say Auburn hasn't had anybody else fill in at 3B over the past two years:
- Self- 1 Inning 4/5 (Troy)
- Zach Alvord- 1 inn 4/17 (LSU)
- Self- 3 Innings 4/27 (Tex Southern)
- Self- 2 Innings 3/17/10 Alabama A&M
- Creede Simpson- 2 innings 4/16/10 Vanderbilt
Still, the only player with any actual starting Third Base experience in an Auburn Uniform? Justin Bryant.
To me, it's pretty simple. Auburn needs someone who is agile, doesn't have to have incredible range left/right but does need solid reaction and north/south mobility. Also, Third Base is an ideal location to stash a (potential) power bat. If Auburn is trying to move towards a more speed heavy offense, you obviously need speed guys and traditionally, baseball speed is coming from 4 main positions(2B/SS/CF/OF). You can go speed at 3B, but to me, that produces an uneven lineup. I've always seen the hot corner as an offense first position.
Justin Bryant. It's got to be. He has experience there. He can bring pop. He has a solid glove. Looking up and down the roster I'm trying to pick out another guy that immediately jumps out to me and says: "Yeah, that guy, proto-typical Third Baseman". I just can't find one. Craig Shirley is a possibility, but he's more of a 1B/DH (a position he's more comfortable with) and I'm sure in a pinch Mitchell "Rat" Self can fill the role or even spell the every day Third Baseman if need be. Still, Third Base seems like an ideal slot for JB to start a 2012 comeback.
The Dark Horse:
Just as a say Justin Bryant is the favorite, there are always other players who could battle and beat the presumptive favorite out. That could be Chase Williamson. The freshman from UMS-Wright played every position (and played them well) and does project better as a RHP/SS. However, he has experience at 3B and both hit and pitched during the Fall World Series. If his bat stays solid then there's no reason Auburn should only use him one day out of the week.
The Wild Card:
Creede Simpson. This is what I call a wild-hair idea. I'm not sure where I first heard about it (though I think it was on InsideTheAuburnTigers) but apparently and supposedly, Creede Simpson has gotten a bit of infield work in fall. Granted, this is a position he hasn't played since High School, but if it is playing an infield position? It's probably Third Base. It always brings up an interesting strategy. IF (and this is a big "if") You slot Creede at 3B then you can go all speed in the OF (Maybe Ryan Tella/Jay Gonzalez/Bobby Andrews) but it also brings up a problem because you are then sacrificing a potential power bat (like Craig Shirley, Pat Savage, Cullen Wacker, or even Justin Bryant). It's purely speculation at this point, but I'd rather see Creede in CF and JB at 3B just to give Auburn some stability.