Oakland Athletics: Who Should Start at Third Base in 2016?

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Sep 29, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia (26) throws to first from third for the out during the third inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Harris: A lot of rumors are floating around regarding the possibility that Danny Valencia might be the center of some chemistry issues in the Oakland A’s clubhouse. I also read a report that would seemingly conflict with that, stating the team chemistry was off from the start of the season due to the influx of new faces in the clubhouse. Since Valencia was not claimed off waivers until August, that would suggest he may not be at the center of the issue, so I do not want to get too caught up in rumors.

Without jumping into trade scenarios, adding a free agent 3rd baseman does not look likely. Billy Beane stated that next season would be a rebuilding season so that would likely rule out shelling out a big contract or adding a player that is way past his prime. In analyzing the current A’s roster and their minor league affiliates, I believe the best option the A’s have to man 3rd base next season is Danny Valencia. Defensively, Valencia is clearly the most reliable option at the hot corner among all the candidates on the roster. The league average for fielding percentage at 3rd was .958 in 2015 and Valencia was well above par at .980. Let’s take a look at the other A’s big league and minor league options:

Brett Lawrie: Lawrie’s fielding percentage at 3rd was .937 last season and his career average at is .956. Additionally, Lawrie offers a huge offensive upgrade at 2nd base over Eric Sogard and having his bat at 2nd base helps make up for the fact that the A’s no longer have Josh Donaldson’s bat in the lineup. If it turns out that Valencia is a cancer in the clubhouse and the A’s trade him, Lawrie would be first in line to man the position.

Max Muncy and Tyler Ladendorf: Muncy and Ladendorf’s fielding percentage at 3rd in the minors are similar and right about at the major league average. However, neither player’s bat is a proven commodity, which is a must for the position. If there is an issue with Valencia and either of these 2 have a huge Spring, he could possibly get the nod at 3rd to start the season or maybe even both of them as a platoon.

Marcus Semien: The A’s do not have anyone in the minors that has a glove that will be major league ready in 2016 so Semien and his solid .984 fielding percentage at 3rd in the minors are not an option. Plus, Semien’s pre-Ron Washington fielding percentage was .940 and was .972 after Washington began working with him so I am intrigued to see how that plays out in 2016.

Mark Canha: Even though he has played some 3rd base in the past and has looked slick over at 1st base, he fielding percentage at 3rd in the minors in 2014 was just .909 and his minor league career average is just .922.

Renato Nunez and Ryon Healy: Both of these minor leaguers played for Double-A Midland last season and they both have promising bats but neither of their gloves are ready for the majors yet as their fielding percentages at 3rd were just .931 and .937 respectively. For those who think that Ron Washington could waive his magic wand and get them on track, know that Marcus Semien showed promise with his glove in the minors than either of these players. Plus, I would be more willing to take on that risk if I knew how their bats could handle Triple-A pitching.

All things considered, I think Valencia is both the most reliable bat and the most reliable glove the A’s have at their disposal to man the hot corner in 2016.

Next: Mixed Feelings