The Dodgers entered spring training with very few questions as to what their roster would look like this year. However, Hanley Ramirez’s thumb injury has forced Don Mattingly to move Luis Cruz over to shortstop, and the Dodgers will now how have to cycle through some options at third base.
Although Hanley’s bat and presence in the lineup cannot be replaced, the team has a bevy of super-utility guys who are more than capable of fielding the position.
Here’s a look at the four guys most likely to man the hot corner for the first two months of the season until Ramirez returns and Cruz can slide back over to third.
Salary: $1.5 million
2012 stats: .219/.321/.281, 1 HR 10 RBIs, 6-6 SB, 3.8 AB/K, 6.4 AB/BB
Spring Training: .212/.316/.242, 0 HR 3 RBIs, 3-3 SB, 3.3 AB/K, 6.6 AB/BB
Although Punto provides no power whatsoever, he is a great situational hitter. He can double into the gaps, and is one of the most versatile glovemen in the game, with the ability to play every infield position.
Punto also brings intelligent base running as you can see by his impressive stolen base rate. Although he primarily played second with the Dodgers last season after coming over from the Boston Red Sox, Punto will have no problems at all playing third base.
Punto also has the benefit of being in game mode after playing second base for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic where he hit .421/.476/.526 with five runs scored and 10 total bases in five games.
He raved about his WBC experience, encouraging his Dodger teammates to participate should they get the opportunity. Punto is a veteran, and he’s ready to go.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Salary: $2.25 million
2012 stats: .273/.342/.387, 4 HRs 26 RBIs, 1-3 SB, 8.8 AB/K, 10.3 AB/BB
Spring Training: .200/.283/.350, 1 HR 5 RBIs, 0-0 SB, 8 AB/K, 8 AB/BB
Hairston brings considerably more pop than Punto does. However, Hairston should see playing time in the outfield as well.
He was one of the Dodgers’ most reliable players off the bench in 2012 with both the bat and the glove.
Hairston’s season ended prematurely due to an injured hip that required surgery. But Hairston appears ready to go for 2013.
Much like Punto, Hairston is a veteran utility man, and is capable of playing any position on the field. Hairston is a nice right-handed compliment to Punto, but Hairston will spell the corner outfielders from time-to-time as well.
Salary: $8.29 million
2012 stats: .191/.258/.284, 2 HR 17 RBIs, 0-1 SB, 4.4 AB/K, 12.5 AB/BB
Spring Training: .333/.348/.467, 1 HR 7 RBIs, 0-1 SB, 6.4 AB/K, 45 AB/BB
It’s been two long seasons for Juan Uribe in Los Angeles. Compiling a .199 average in two seasons in blue, Uribe became a complete afterthought last season after the acquisitions of Ramirez and Punto, and the emergence of Cruz.
However, his contract is completely untradeable, so he’s still here, and still plugging away.
Uribe has actually had a great spring training, showing some bat speed and putting up solid numbers.
With Ramirez out for about two months, Uribe has one more chance to redeem himself and prove to Dodgers fans that he is still a viable player.
Uribe’s redeeming factor, at least for the Dodgers, has always been his solid glove, and ability to handle any infield position. He opened 2012 at third base, and he could very well open 2013 there again.
The way Uribe has played in his two years in L.A., Dodgers fans will be happy with anything he can provide.
2012 stats: .251/.340/.332, 1 HR 17 RBIs, 4-6 SB, 3.7 AB/K, 8.1 AB/BB
Spring Training: .306/.346/.367, 0 HR 4 RBIs, 1-3 SB, 4.1 AB/K, 24.5 AB/BB
Although Herrera has been playing mostly in the outfield for the Dodgers in Spring Training, Herrera is still an option to consider at third. He’s a guy who can literally play any position. He’s a mixture of a younger Uribe and Punto, a good situational hitter, with a little bit of pop. Herrera is also a switch-hitter, so, like Punto, he’s a nice option to slide in between Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis at the bottom of the order.
Although lacking the experience of the prior three players, Herrera was another guy who was big off the Dodgers’ bench early last season, and seems to provide a boost whenever called upon.