Analyzing Two Third Base Options For The White Sox

by Kyle Johansen

When I first read that Brent Morel was the favorite for the White Sox everyday third base job, I felt a little guilty for having no idea who he was.  In his cup of coffee in 2010 he was not very impressive at first glance, with a line of .231/.271/.415.  The 65 at bat sample was influenced by a .261 BABIP and his three home runs show that he does have some pop.  While Morel only projects to hit around 15 home runs in a full season, he can definitely handle the bat, putting up a .320/.348/.503 line at Triple-A last year in 324 at bats.

What makes the 23-year-old Morel an intriguing option is the 25 SB he had at High-A in 2009. The previous year he also stole 12 in 263 plate appearances, so double digit steals seems possible.  However, as Morel has advanced through the system, some of the steals have been left behind.   In 526 plate appearances in 2010 he was just 8 for 13 on the base paths.

A third baseman that hits 15 home runs does not sound too appealing to fantasy owners, even with a decent batting average.  If Morel can tap into some of the skill that helped him steal 25 bases at Double-A, we may have ourselves a useful player.   What’s more likely though is that Morel will struggle a bit with his first extended look in the majors.  From a fantasy perspective, I would rather see Cuban prospect Dayan Viciedo (who turns 22 in March) win the third base job.

Here is Viciedo’s 2010 ML line:

106 AB
.308 BA (.365 BABIP)
.321 OBP
.519 SLG
5 HR
17 R
13 RBI

Viciedo is a hacker, with no intention of taking a free pass when he walks up to the plate. Despite his 1.9% walk rate and 24% K-rate last year, Viciedo had good reason to be hacking having hit 20 home runs in 343 Triple-A at bats before being called up to the majors.  With regular playing time Viciedo should be a threat to hit 20+ homers in 2011.  It is also apparent from his lack of plate discipline that Viciedo is not a .300 hitter, he should be happy to hit over .270 with extended at bats.

Viciedo has moved briskly through the White Sox system, beginning his professional career at Double-A in 2009 before moving up to Triple-A last year.  At just 21-years-old and with so few professional at bats, Viciedo’s performance shows that he possesses significant upside.  The downside is that once Major League pitchers get the book on Viciedo’s free swinging ways, there will be many slumps in the young slugger’s future.  Viciedo must improve his walk rate to succeed long term in the majors.

The veteran candidate to take over the White Sox third base job is 29-year-old Mark Teahen.  With 52 games played at the hot corner for the Sox in 2010, Teahen may actually have the best chance of being named the opening day starter despite Morel’s current designation as the “favorite.”  As a former first round pick of the Royals, Teahen looked primed for a breakout year as a fantasy 3B after his age 24 season in 2006 that saw him hit .290/.357/.517 in 393 at bats.  Ever since that year, however, Teahen has regressed at the plate with his next highest slugging percentage coming in at .410 in 2007 and plummeting isolated power that has not topped .147 since 2008.

While Teahen’s career line of .268/.330/.415 is not exactly attractive, it may look very similar to Brent Morel’s numbers in 2011.  The difference between the two is defense; Teahen has always been a below average fielder while Morel appears to be the favorite for the job due to his superior defensive skills.

As long as you don’t play in a league that uses OBP, Viciedo would be a decent source of power at a thin position and could be a serviceable corner infielder.  Either Morel or Teahen should be free agent fodder if one of the two wins the job outright and both are capable of close to 15 homers with a handful of steals, making them usable as injury replacements but nothing more.  With Morel there is at least the possibility of some upside in the speed department, but overall I hope to see Viciedo steal the starting job.

What are your thoughts of these two third base options?  Who would you prefer to see win the job?  Who has the higher upside?

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