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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Descalso to get shot at third base?

One report has St. Louis Cardinals second base prospect Daniel Descalso joining the spring third base scrum, but it seems an isolated thought.

I have received several queries regarding a comment from the most recent installment of his always-informative Wednesday weekly chats in which Post-Dispatch writer Joe Strauss made this statement:

“Descalso and David Freese are the only LISTED third baseman so far due in camp.” (caps are Strauss’ emphasis)

If true, this position change would be new and significant news, as several minor league-knowledgeable readers noted.

Daniel Descalso (Brian Walton photo)Spring training rosters released this week by the Cardinals only group Daniel Descalso with the infielders, without specifying position. The 23-year-old will be attending his first major league spring training camp after having been added to the 40-man roster in November.

Our 10th-ranked Cardinals prospect at TheCardinalNation.com/Scout.com does have some experience at the position defensively, but it was three years ago. In his 2007 professional debut, Descalso spent about 2/3 of his time at third base (47 games) with the rest (23 games) at second between Batavia and Quad Cities. That is the last time he had meaningful time at the hot corner.

The next season, he was almost exclusively a second baseman between Palm Beach and Springfield (110 games), with a bit of time at short (a dozen contests) and a pair of token appearances at third. In 2009, he was exclusively a second baseman with the exception of 21 at-bats taken while a fill-in at first base. Descalso also played second base with Team USA and in the Arizona Fall League after leaving the Memphis club.

Daniel Descalso (Brian Walton photo)Offensively, Descalso would seem to be lacking in what is traditionally expected from a third baseman. Short of his very hot first half in 2009 with Springfield, he has not stood out with the bat. His career minor league OPS is .746 and he has just 18 home runs in 1277 plate appearances as a professional.

In a Thursday off-line exchange, Strauss referenced an item at the ESPN site labeling Descalso at third base. I was unable to find that in a brief search, and in ESPN’s Keith Law’s top ten Cardinals rankings coincidentally released Thursday (ESPN Insider content), Descalso is listed at his normal second base position. It may not matter as Strauss acknowledges whatever he read may simply be someone’s projection.

Actually, as Strauss pointed out, Descalso not being at third would only strengthen his central point. Other than Freese, there is not another player on the major-league roster or invitee list with third base as his primary position. Of course, there is still time to address it, though I doubt it will be with Descalso, who is realistically a year away. At this point, he is the longest of long shots to make the 2010 Cardinals out of spring training at any position. Just to make sure though, I have a query in to the Cardinals. If I receive an unexpected positive response, I will ensure I share it here.

In-house reserve options in big league camp may include Joe Mather, Allen Craig, Ruben Gotay, Julio Lugo and Tyler Greene. Starting third baseman Brendan Ryan also has played some third base in the majors. None are likely considered third base starting material if Freese fails or is injured.

Some combination of the above along with recently-signed minor league journeyman infielder Kevin Howard will likely man third base in Memphis in 2010. Howard did not score a big league camp invitation.

Free agents still on the market capable of playing third each have questions. They include Joe Crede (health), Felipe Lopez (money) and Melvin Mora (age and money). Others without jobs for 2010 now listed as first basemen who played third in their younger, healthier days include Russell Branyan, Hank Blalock, Nomar Garciaparra and Greg Norton. Hardly an inspiring lot.

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