Staying Hot In The Hot Corner

Vanderbilt's Alvarez leads a talented group of returning third basemen


Nov. 29, 2007

By Douglas Kroll

CSTV.com

 



DOUG KROLL

Doug Kroll is an editor for CSTV.com, focusing on baseball.
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With third base known as the hot corner, it is only fitting that the nation's best player in 2008 will reside there. Vanderbilt's Pedro Alvarez enters his junior season as the favorite for Player of the Year, and could be the second straight Commodore junior to capture the honors after David Price won the Dick Howser Trophy this past season.

 

Looking at the list of the best returning third basemen, it isn't as strong as the lists of first basemen and catchers, but there are certainly some big-time names to know. While there's certainly a drop-off after Alvarez, there is plenty of talent, especially from teams you may not think of as national contenders.

 

Just look at the season that Hofstra freshman Matt Prokopowicz had in 2007. He hit .416 with six homeruns and 52 RBI on a team that went 20-34. Not bad for a guy that was recruited out of Long Island by Auburn.

 

Here's a look at the top returning third basemen in the nation, with some names you have heard of, and a couple you may not have.

 

1. Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt- The junior enters the 2008 season with the notion that he will likely be the top pick in the MLB Draft in June. Think it will affect his numbers? Think again. He's got former teammate David Price to talk him through what it was like, and as we all know, Price ended up doing quite alright in 2007 before being the No. 1 pick.  Alvarez, meanwhile, showed no signs of a sophomore slump. A year after winning the Freshman of the Year award, he hit .386 with 18 homeruns and 68 RBI. When looking at the error column for third basemen, it's tough to know how great of a fielder they actually are, and that is the case with Alvarez. Sixteen errors in each of his first two seasons is nothing to brag about, but it isn't horrible either. Expect some more monstrous numbers out of the New York City native, on a Commodore team that will be playing angry all year after an earlier-than-anticipated exit from the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

 

2. Matt Hague, Oklahoma State- It is pretty impressive that Matt Hague hit .353, and that was fourth-best on his Washington team. For the second straight season, Oklahoma State will bring in the highest-profile Division I transfer, after reeling in Matt Mangini from N.C. State last offseason. Hague will look to continue his dominance at the plate, leaving Seattle as one of the best hitters to ever wear a Huskies uniform. The Kent, Wash. native led Washington with 13 homeruns last season while knocking in 49 runs. His numbers are also impressive in the field, as he committed only nine errors and finished with a .944 fielding percentage. Hague's senior bat will add to an already potent Cowboys lineup, which will look to find the same success it had in getting to the Super Regionals in 2007.

 

3. James Darnell, South Carolina- Think the Gamecocks will be pretty good? Ray Tanner's club enters the 2008 season with one of the best first basemen in Justin Smoak, one of the best catchers around in Phil Disher, and then there's James Darnell over at third base. Not too shabby. Entering his junior season, Darnell led the Mash Brothers last season with a .331 average, while knocking out 19 of the Gamecocks' nation-leading 113 homeruns. His 13 errors are pretty standard for a college third baseman, and after a summer in which he finished second in the Cape Cod League with eight homeruns, it could be another very big year for Darnell and the Gamecocks.

 

4. Logan Forsythe, Arkansas- The SEC just continues to have some of the top third basemen in the country, especially looking at this list and finding that three of the top four are from one of the nation's elite conferences. Forsythe is definitely one of the best. The junior had a breakout year in 2007, after struggling in a limited role as a freshman. He led the team with a .347 average, hit nine homeruns and finished with 55 RBI. Not to mention one of his greatest assets is his defense. After committing only 11 errors a year ago, Forsythe went on to star with Team USA, and made just one error in 50 chances, a .980 fielding percentage. Coming off an impressive summer, it should be another great year in Fayetteville for Forsythe.

 

5. Gil Zayas, St. John's- The Red Storm burst back onto the scene last season, with a nice run through Big East play that led them into the Myrtle Beach regional, and it wouldn't have been possible without the intimidating presence of 6-foot-3 senior Gil Zayas. While his power numbers weren't very big for someone with his size (four homeruns), he still led the Red Storm with a .353 average, and was solid in the field as well. Hoping to repeat last year's success, much of the 2007 expectations will fall on the shoulders of Zayas,

 

On The Radar: Jason Stidham- Florida State, Jermaine Curtis- UCLA, Matt Prokopowicz- Hofstra, Brad Glenn- Arizona, Chris Dominguez- Louisville, Conor Gillaspie- Wichita State

 

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