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Hot Corner Hot Stove: Garrett Atkins

Age: 28
Bats/Throws: Right
Height/Weight: 6'3", 215 lbs
Contract Status: 2008: $4.38 MM 2009/2010: Arb Eligible

2008 - Garrett Atkins 101 402 62 122 22 3 14 63 22 53 1 1 .303 .339 .478

Profile: Good offensive third baseman in his prime with a lot of power when he can pull the ball. Doesn't go the other way often but can drive it up the middle. Having a good overall season, but splits tell a different story. Adequate defender who is sure handed, but doesn't have the range to stand out.

Pros: Atkins hits right-handed, and would be a good bat to slide in right behind Justin Morneau, enabling Ron Gardenhire to split up his three biggest bats of the moment who are all left-handed hitters: Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. At just 28 he's still in his physical prime, and because he's under team control for the next two seasons is more than just a rent-a-player. Looking long-term, by the time Atkins would reach free agency at age 31 the Minnesota farm system will be in a good position to indicate whether internal options are ready to step into the void. He's an excellent contact hitter, and has superior recognition of the strike zone: his strikeout rate for his career is 14.1%, and he rarely swings at pitches out of the strike zone. Every year since becoming a regular in 2005, he's been above league average in line-drive percentage, with a career ratio of 23.1%.

Cons: His splits are curious, posting a 1.205 OPS versus southpaws this season, but only a .709 OPS versus right handers. Addtionally, he hits .346/.383/.551 at home, but only .259/.294/.401 away from Coors field. Splits are always expected of players, even the best ones, but these are pretty drastic differentials. His walk rates are half of what they were last year. Atkins' isolated power is .174, which isn't horrible, but it's low for a power hitter and his lowest since 2005. In the field, any lack of fundamental defense at third base will draw heavy criticism from Twins fans; if a replacement isn't at least as good in the field as Nick Punto (or for that matter, Corey Koskie), there will be some discontent--whether it's warranted or not. Finally, because he's under team control for another two seasons, his asking price will be steep.

Conclusions: I like Garrett Atkins, and he brings a lot of good things to the table, but two things scare me away from him: those splits, and his potential asking price. He'd be a good fit in Minnesota and would definitely make this team better, but my preference is with another option.

Be sure to drop by later for a review of the next player on our list. In the mean time, what are your thoughts on the Rockies third baseman?