San Francisco Giants 2017 Position Preview: Third Base

Sep 10, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez (10) bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Giants won 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez (10) bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Giants won 11-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Third base for the San Francisco Giants looks entirely different from last year, but different doesn’t seem to be a bad thing.

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Third base is probably the position that will look most different for the San Francisco Giants entering 2017. Of the top two on the depth chart heading into next season, one started 2016 in Triple-A after being a non-roster invitee, and the other was a Minnesota Twin.

After a trade at the deadline sent Matt Duffy (and a pair of prospects) to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Moore, Eduardo Nunez figures to be the everyday third baseman next season. Nunez was having a career year with the Twins in 2016, earning himself a trade to a contending team.

His first few weeks with San Francisco were a little rough, but he had a big September that helped keep his team afloat in the postseason chase. Before a hamstring injury cut his season short by about a week, Nunez was slashing .313/.349/.425 on the month, and had stolen eight bases in 21 games. His speed made an immediate impact for the team, and his 13 stolen bases finished two behind Angel Pagan for the team lead, despite playing only 50 games in San Francisco.

Nunez came to the Giants with a reputation as a subpar defender, but quickly put that behind him as the regular third baseman. He came up with spectacular play after spectacular play, looking a lot like the 2015 Gold Glove finalist, Duffy.

If Nunez can replicate his success from 2016, he will make a fine addition to the Giants’ lineup on an everyday basis. His speed is unmatched on the Giants’ team, and he can be a solid leadoff option.

Behind Nunez, Conor Gillaspie will be back for the second season of his second stint with the Giants. The former first-round pick took on a role as a bench player and pinch hitter, and after some growing pains, grew into the role to become a good option. Overall in 2016, Gillaspie hit .262/.307/.440 in 101 games with eight doubles, four triples, and six home runs.

Gillaspie’s biggest contribution to the season came after Nunez went down in late September with the hamstring strain. Taking over the everyday role, Gillaspie hit .500 with three extra-base hits and four runs batted in overt the last week of the regular season. His legend grew in the postseason.

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Gillaspie hit the game-winning home run in the wildcard game against the New York Mets, and came through with a go-ahead, two-run triple against Aroldis Chapman in NLDS game three. Game four saw Gillaspie pick up four hits and an RBI.

Having a player like Gillaspie, a guy who doesn’t let the moment get too big, is a great piece to any bench. He makes a solid backup, and if need be, he can step in and play on both corners of the infield.

On the younger side of the depth chart, Christian Arroyo is being groomed as the Giants’ third baseman of the future. “The future” likely means at least 2018, when Nunez becomes a free agent, but Arroyo is not far off if the process needs to be fast-tracked. The Giants’ top hitting prospect went through a rough 2016 in his first taste of Double-A, but he is still only 21 and has a lot of time to catch up.

The team also has Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza on the 40-man roster, and both are capable of stepping in at third base from time to time. Newly-signed Orlando Calixte also has some minor league experience at third base, and is on the 40-man roster as well. Miguel Gomez, a minor leaguer who was protected from the Rule V Draft, has undergone a transition from catcher to corner infielder, and has mostly played third base.

Next: Giants 2017 Position Preview: Second Base

Third base appears to be in good hands with Nunez, and the depth chart is well-stocked behind him with experienced players like Gillaspie, Tomlinson, and Adrianza. The future looks bright as well, with Arroyo now having a clear path to a big league job.