The hot corner lived up to its namesake this season for the Chicago Cubs. It featured the National League MVP in Kris Bryant and one of baseball’s rising stars in Javier Baez. Six players logged time at third base and collectively they batted .275/.358/.481 with 36 doubles, two triples, 30 home runs, 88 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
As Kris Bryant gets better and better, it’s hard to argue with the front office’s decision to delay his service clock to earn seven years of control. Bryant became just the fourth player in Major League history to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years joining Cal Ripken Jr., Ryan Howard and Dustin Pedroia on the list. He also nabbed the Hank Aaron Award and earned his second All-Star nod starting at third base with the rest of his infield brethren.
In 100 games started at third, he batted a tremendous .293/.381/.549 with 20 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 64 RBI and six stolen bases. In the playoffs, he was equally as stellar batting .307 with three home runs and eight RBI and smashed two solo home runs on consecutive nights in Game 5 and Game 6 of the World Series.
One of the biggest knocks on Bryant when he was drafted was if he would be able to stick at third base, but likely has quieted the doubters after posting a 7.7 UZR mark which would have ranked seventh in the majors with more time at the position. The last out of the World Series was fielded by Bryant and he made a tough play look easy. With Kyle Schwarber healthy again, it’s possible that Bryant won’t be called on as much to cover the outfield, but with Joe Maddon at manager, almost anything is possible.
Whenever Bryant spent time in the outfield, Javier Baez or Tommy La Stella took his place. Baez started 36 total games at third base and often showed off with the leather making some impressive bare handed grabs. At the plate, Baez wasn’t as flashy hitting just .236/.301/.385 with 10 doubles, four home runs, 17 RBI and four stolen bases. La Stella was the opposite of Baez hitting a solid .287/.368/.404 with six doubles, one triple, one home run and seven RBI and was well below average with the glove. Both players expect to be utility men going forward.
Three others registered limited time at third base including Jeimer Candelario, Chris Coghlan and Munenori Kawasaki. They combined for one hit in eleven at bats and two walks. Of the three, Candelario is the only one under team control currently as Coghlan and Kawasaki are free agents.
Candelario, the switch-hitting 22-year old showed promise as he split his time in the minors between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He batted a combined .283/.376/.464 with 39 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs and 77 RBI. He continued to show strong defensive skills with a strong arm. With Bryant, Baez and La Stella the Cubs top options at third, it’s hard to see where Candelario fits going forward and he likely profiles as trade bait and could probably start on a few teams already.
Cubs 2016 Position Reviews
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