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Position Preview: Third Base

We have the best returning starter at the hot corner in all of college baseball... if that’s where Corbin decides to play him.

College World Series - Vanderbilt v Michigan - Game Two Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

With two weeks before first pitch in the MLB4 Tournament in Arizona, we continue our position previews with the one that will hinge entirely on where Corbs decides to play A-Mart: Third Base.

*Click here for the First Base Preview, Shortstop Preview, and Second Base Preview.

Returning Starters

#16 Jr. UTL Austin “A-Mart/Bond Car” Martin (.392/.486/.604)

You’re not a fan of college baseball, let alone Vanderbilt baseball, if I need to type more than one word about Austin Martin. He is the best hitter in college baseball. Full stop. Don’t give me any of your Spencer Torkelson nonsense.

In 2019, Martin led the National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores in batting average, on base percentage, hits, triples (tied with Philip “Seymour” Clarke), and being hit by pitch (which in my book is a mark of pitchers just haaaaaaating to have to face you).

Martin will start every game (knock on wood) and be counted upon to be the top run producer in the lineup. Whether he leads off, bats 3rd, or does the Mike Trout best-hitter-in-the-2-hole thing, he is our most potent offensive weapon.

...but where will Corbs play him on defense?

Let’s see what A-Mart, himself, says about that:

Well, that cleared up absolutely nothing.

Here’s the thing: If Corbs plays Martin at 3rd, he will be our best defensive third baseman. If he plays Martin at CF, he will be our best defensive outfielder. If he plays Martin at SS, he will not be our best defensive shortstop (that nod goes to freshman IF Carter Young), but he will still be pretty damned good, and it will indicate that Corbs is trying to max out Martin’s draft potential.

What would I do? Well, I’d start him at CF, to maximize his speed and range. Had Jayson Gonzalez not decided to sit out the 2020 season, this would have made such a decision even easier, as Corbs could justifiably want Gonzo’s power bat in a lineup that lost Bleday, Scott, Paul, Clarke, DeMarco, and Infante. With Gonzo out of the mix, is 3rd base even a debate anymore?

Again, if Corbs wants Martin to start at 3rd, he will stay there all year. Here are the potential third base options if Martin starts at CF, SS, or anywhere else:

The “Can’t Lose” Kid

#25 Fr. IF Parker Noland (N/A)

Prepare yourself: I aim to run the oh so tangential tie between freshman third baseman Parker Noland and the early 90s Fox Sitcom rip-off of Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, into the damned ground.

For those who lack the cultural refinement to know about this Tim Stack vehicle, all you need to know is this Wikipedia description of the title character to get a sense of what I aims to fill the comments section with if Noland wins the hot corner jerb:

The title character Parker Lewis often narrates in shows. Just like his best friends Jerry Steiner and Mikey Randall and (in the second half of the series) Parker’s girlfriend Annie Sloan, his prime concern is achieving and maintaining coolness.

Listen. If a Ferris Buehler-esque nickname worked wonders for former Commodore great Walker Buehler, a Ferris Buehler rip-off sitcom character nickname will serve Parker Noland just fine.

In fact, it can’t lose.

Oh, and he’s good at baseball and shit. He started at third in the November exhibition game against Michigan and went 1 for 3. Additionally, he was 2 for 6 with 4 RBI in the two exhibition games against Okie State.

*Note: I reserve the right to change his nickname to “Mariner,” because there was “Noland” in Waterworld.

The Human Hyphen: Justyn-Henry-Ricky-Bobby

#42 So. UTL Justyn-Henry Malloy (.067/.364/.067)

I’ll just paste in what I wrote about him w/r/t 1st base earlier:

Ricky-Bobby neither Shaked, nor Baked during his freshman campaign. Though he got 15 at bats in 14 games in ‘19, Ricky-Bobby managed just one hit. He’s much more talented than that slash line, of course, but will face an uphill battle for playing time at either corner infield position or DH. Keep your eye on him, though, as he has the bat talent to break out. Eventually.

The Conclusion

It’s Martin’s job, unless he wins a better job, like SS or CF. Then it will be Noland. Listen, I really can’t be more certain than this. Even Martin doesn’t know for sure where he’ll play two weeks from now.