Luke Hughes VS Danny Valencia

Both men will get their shots at third base this spring.

...Danny Valencia turned in the defensive play of the game with a run-saving stab-and-throw to end the sixth inning.

That's from Joe Christensen's update this afternoon, following the Twins' 3-2 victory over Puerto Rico.  While Valencia is currently scheduled to start the season in double-A New Britain, there's no doubt he'll be pushing Luke Hughes for the top spot for third base prospects in the Minnesota system.

Hughes, 24, is slated to be Rochester's starting third baseman this summer.  He's also off to the World Baseball Classic, where a strong performance could position him for an early appearance in Minnesota this summer.  The Aussie hit .319/.385/.551 in 285 at-bats for the Rock Cats in 2008 before being promoted to Rochester, where his .778 OPS wasn't too shabby for a first time around in triple-A.  While his defense isn't attracting a lot of attention, over the last two seasons it's been Luke's offense that's driven him through the system.

Valencia, also 24, will probably be starting the season with the Rock Cats.  Hot on the heals of Hughes, Danny's offense is even better.  A .920 OPS in single-A last summer earned him a promotion to double-A, where .289/.334/.485 is a pretty good line for your first time around.  He's a .305/.361/.485 career hitter in the minors, and with what he's done so far this spring, he's stock in the organization has done nothing but rise.

Looking at their career history, right now Valencia walks more and hits more extra-base hits, in spite of being the same age.  The reason Hughes is currently in front of Valencia on the depth chart is because Hughes was signed as an undrafted free agent back in '02, giving him five years in the MInnesota farm system; Valencia was a 19th round draft choice in '06, giving him two years and some change in the system.

Of course, if Deibinson Romero can pick up where he left off prior to his injury last summer, he could be pushing both men for their jobs as well.  So if Romero steps up his game, don't be surprised to see Hughes and Valencia battling it out for the same position while on the same club in Rochester.  Right now the definition in the third base organizational depth chart is clear, but both men have an opportunity to take the proverbial bull by the horns and force the organization's hand...whether that's by promoting Valnencia to triple-A or Hughes to the big league club.

If you're into the jostling of minor league depth charts and the future of the team, this is one position battle you should definitely keep your eyes on.

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