Organizational droughts: third base

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

When was the last time your team developed a star third baseman? To the stat cave! Let me just move this laundry basket out of the way so you can get to the stat cave ...

Welcome back to another installment of organizational droughts, in which we look for the last star player developed at each position by every team. You know, "star players." Like Darwin Barney and Cliff Pennington. The best of the best. You can find the rest of the series here.

The rules are simple: We're looking for players who accrued four wins or more in a single season with their original organization, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Rich Aurilia had a great 2001 season as a shortstop for the Giants, for example, but they had to go back to Chris Speier in the '70s because Rich Aurilia was drafted by the Texas Rangers. Them's the rules.

For whatever reason, third-base droughts have been a big deal with a couple organizations over the last couple decades. The Cubs had a procession of various goofs after Ron Santo, and between Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen, there were a whole lot of "Say, you're not Mike Schmidt"s muttered in Veterans Stadium.

Here's who fares the best and the worst...

Still with the team

Nationals - Ryan Zimmerman (6.2, 2010)
Rays - Evan Longoria (7.5, 2011)
Giants - Pablo Sandoval (6.0, 2011)
Mets - David Wright (6.9, 2012)
Padres - Chase Headley (6.2, 2012)

This list reads like a Who's Who of today's top third basemen. Of the players up there, only Chase Headley and Pablo Sandoval aren't under team control past 2014, so I'd reckon the bidding is going to get pretty fierce for them. There just aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to snag a good third baseman in free agency over the next few years.

Recent past

Rangers - Hank Blalock (4.6, 2004)
Dodgers - Adrian Beltre (9.6, 2004)
Athletics - Eric Chavez (4.7, 2005)
Astros - Morgan Ensberg (6.3, 2005)
White Sox - Joe Crede (4.8, 2006)
Tigers - Brandon Inge (4.9, 2006)
Rockies - Garrett Atkins (4.9, 2006)
Marlins - Miguel Cabrera (5.8, 2006)
Braves - Chipper Jones (7.3, 2008)

I guess 2006 was "Give false hope to a team" year. Or maybe Miguel Cabrera sucked the life force out of those guys and never looked back.

If the Dodgers had given Beltre a 10-year, $100 million deal after that 2004 season, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed. And the rest of the NL West would have been screwed and screwed and screwed.

This category has two of the weirdest, saddest career arcs. First, Hank Blalock was an All-Star at 22, his first full season after being the No. 3 prospect in all baseball. He never took an at-bat after he was 29. Injuries, poor plate discipline ... I don't care what the reasons are. But if Jason Giambi is still around with a job (or Chad Tracy, for that matter) what happened to Blalock? No idea.

The same goes for Garrett Atkins. He probably wants to sneak inside Coors and set the humidor on fire. After raking in the minors and snagging some votes in both the Rookie of the Year voting and the MVP in successive years, Atkins disappeared. He's the same age as Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth, you know.

It feels really, really strange to include Joe Crede in the "recent past" category, but all that means is that his season was fewer than 10 years ago. That's the cutoff point for this series, by the way.

Not-so-recent past

Reds - Chris Sabo (5.0, 1991)
Mariners - Edgar Martinez (6.6, 1992)
Indians - Jim Thome (7.5, 1996)
Brewers - Jeff Cirillo (4.8, 1999)
Phillies - Scott Rolen (5.5, 2001)
Pirates - Aramis Ramirez (4.1, 2001)
Cardinals - Placido Polanco (4.5, 2001)
Angels - Troy Glaus (4.3, 2002)
Red Sox - Shea Hillenbrand (4.2, 2002)
Twins - Corey Koskie (4.2, 2003)

For fantasy baseball players of a certain age, a good "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" kind of question is "How high was Jeff Cirillo drafted in your league?" After hitting .326/.401/.461 for the Brewers in 1999, he was traded to the Rockies. (For two players who are still active, mind you.) He was supposed to hit .400/.450/.600 with 30 homers and a billionty runs scored and RBI. He went third overall in my league. Alas, that was the beginning of the end of the Golden Era of Coors, at least as far as fantasy baseball was concerned.

The Mariners had … less luck with Jeff Cirillo. The franchise has had exactly five different four-win seasons by a third baseman in their 37-year history: two by Adrian Beltre, and three by Edgar Martinez.

Chone Figgins qualified by WAR for the Angels in 2009! He was worth eight wins. But he was drafted by the Rockies, so he doesn't qualify for the Angels. Or Mariners, for that matter. Though I don't think he would have qualified for the Mariners anyway, let me check ... nope, nope, he wouldn't have qualified.

If you think this category can't get worse for the Mariners, knock on wood. Placido Polanco's on a one-year deal with the Marlins.

Shea Hillenbrand was pretty good once upon a time, and for the ladies, here's a picture of his ass. And his llama. Dude loves his animals.

Also of note: Chris Sabo.

Distant past

Yankees - Gil McDougald (4.6, 1951)
Cubs - Ron Santo (4.9, 1972)
Orioles - Doug DeCinces (6.8, 1978)
Royals - Kevin Seitzer (4.2, 1988)

In case you were wondering, Cal Ripken didn't become a full-time third baseman until he was 36, and he was more of a two-win player by then. Also, Doug DeCinces is now elected to the Guy Whose Baseball Card I Had 3000 Of Without Realizing He Was Good Hall of Fame, joining previous inductees Bill Doran, Brian Downing, and Rance Mulliniks.

Almost went with "Wade Boggs" for the Yankees to troll Red Sox fans. But if you don't get back to '51 with McDougald for the Yankees, you have to go with Red Rolfe in '39. Before that? There is no before that. The Yankees are pretty good at pilfering third basemen. But they aren't so hot at drafting or developing them.

Ron Santo was perhaps the most predictable name in this entire article. Okay, he's at least tied with Evan Longoria and David Wright. But you knew that Santo was going to make an appearance.

Nope

Diamondbacks
Blue Jays

The Diamondbacks got a three-win season from Mark Reynolds in 2009. I wanted to see if that was the least valuable 40-homer season according to Baseball Reference. Nope! Not even close. Thinking Adam Dunn is going to need to get to 3,000 hits for a chance at the Hall of Fame, everybody.

The Blue Jays had Kelly Gruber, Eric Hinske, and Brett Lawrie all qualify by the WAR benchmark, but none of those players were drafted by the Jays. Gruber came over from the Indians, Hinske from the Cubs, and Lawrie by the Brewers. Tony Fernandez had a three-win season after shifting to third in '99, but that's about as close as they came.

Tempted to crown the Blue Jays with the leaden sombrero on this one, but the Yankees have been around since the beginning of baseball. They win. And there you have it: Developing third basemen just gets in the way of championships and pennants. It was probably Moneyball before Moneyball was Moneyball. Which doesn't explain the Cubs. Still ... give me a few weeks to work this out.

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