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O's minor leaguers in '09 -- Third basemen

While there were different opinions about the order of the shortstops in the Orioles' minor league system, almost everyone agreed that there is a lack of promise and depth at the position.

Orioles fans hope that will change with the addition of 2009 second-round draft pick Mychal Givens to the organization next year. For now, however, the shortstops in the organization are a collection of middle-of-the-road players who hope to surprise the analysts and make contributions in the major leagues.

There is a little bit more promise with the third basemen in the organization, thanks to the midseason trade of closer George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the deal, the Orioles acquired Double-A Bowie Baysox third baseman Josh Bell and right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson.

Despite only playing 33 games for the Baysox, Bell easily earns the top spot in my rankings.

Brandon Waring, who played in 62 games at third base with the Single-A Frederick Keys and Baysox this season, would be at No. 2. I ranked him as the top first baseman in the organization, however, so I didn't include him in this list.

Here is how I would rank the top five third basemen in the Orioles' minor league system.1. Josh Bell

2. Tyler Henson

3. Levi Carolus

4. Tyler Kelly

5. Tyler Stampone

Bell batted .289 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs for Bowie after being acquired from the Dodgers. He also had five doubles and 18 runs scored.

The 22-year-old infielder, who could compete for a job in the major leagues as early as next season, hit .296 with 11 home runs, 52 RBIs and 30 doubles in 94 games for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in the Dodgers' minor league system.

Defensively, in my opinion, Bell could use a little bit of work. He committed 24 errors in 127 games this season, including seven after joining the Baysox. With that said, I've seen him make some excellent defensive plays at third base.

Personally, I don't think Bell's defense will hurt his path through the organization, but it's always good to eliminate the mistakes before getting to the major leagues.

At No. 2, I went with Henson because he has shown flashes of promise during four seasons in the Orioles' minor league system. His batting average isn't too high -- .267 in 132 games between Frederick and Bowie -- but the power potential makes him an intriguing prospect.

Henson collected nine home runs, 31 doubles and 74 RBIs this season. The 21-year-old utility player also picked up 18 stolen bases, which adds another dimension to his game.

Throw in the fact that he played a significant amount of time in the outfield this season -- 59 games combined at the two levels -- and this versatility adds bonus points to the discussion.

The biggest negative about Henson is that he strikes out about once per game. I'm sure Orioles fans hope that number decreases as he climbs the ladder through the organization.

Thanks to his strong performance to begin the season with the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds, Carolus earns the third spot on my list.

The 22-year-old infielder was a little old for the New York-Penn League, but he batted .320 with one home run, 25 RBIs and 13 doubles in 44 games before being promoted to the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds. Carolus earned a spot in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.

After joining the Shorebirds, Carolus hit .250 with one home run and seven RBIs in 17 games.

I'm curious to see how Kelly develops through the offseason. The 21-year-old infielder was an above-average hitter at Cal-Davis, where he was a teammate of Orioles minor league relief pitcher Eddie Gamboa in 2008.

Kelly batted .265 with one home run and 18 RBIs in 61 games for the IronBirds this season.

The Orioles' 13th-round selection in the 2009 MLB draft, who was also picked for the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, was second on the team with 31 runs scored. Kelly received the 2009 Team MVP award from the IronBirds.

Stampone makes it onto my list because he exceeded all expectations this season.

An undrafted free agent from William and Mary, the 22-year-old third baseman hit .305 with three home runs and 26 RBIs in 36 games for the Rookie-level GCL Orioles.

It's going to be an uphill climb for Stampone to make it to the major leagues, but he deserves credit for his impressive debut season in the organization.

How would you rank your top five third basemen in the organization?

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