There certainly doesn't appear to be.
"Third base is not a position where we're extremely deep," said Chuck LaMar, assistant general manager in charge of player development and scouting.
If the Phillies are forced to reach into their minor-league system to fill a need at third base, Kevin Frandsen is the most likely candidate. The Phillies signed the 29-year-old Frandsen after he hit .250 with no homers and 14 RBIs in 54 games with the Angels in 2010. In five major-league seasons, four with San Francisco, Frandsen played 228 games and batted .243. In 2007, when he played in 109 games for the Giants, covering 264 at-bats, Frandsen hit .269 with five homers and 31 RBIs and a .331 on-base percentage.
Frandsen has been building a pretty strong case for himself since he was reinstated after serving a 50-game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball drug policy. He tested positive for Ritalin in May. He quickly advanced from Clearwater to Reading to triple-A Lehigh Valley after he returned and has been one of the IronPigs' hottest hitters.
In 10 games since he returned July 8, including three at single-A Clearwater and three at double-A Reading, Frandsen is batting .341 (14 for 41) with a homer and five RBIs. The righthanded batter is hitting .404 against lefthanders.
Frandsen said he tried to keep sharp during the suspension by taking batting practice at high schools and colleges near his home in San Jose, Calif.
"I wanted to come back ready to go," he said by phone from Pawtucket, R.I. "I felt I owed that much to the Phillies because they showed faith in me by signing me. I feel good, and deep down I know I can provide some help to fill a need. An opportunity is all I need."
Including games with Lehigh Valley before he was suspended, Frandsen had a club-record seven-game multihit streak, which ended Monday at Pawtucket. Overall in the minors this season, Frandsen has a .327 average with four homers and 24 RBIs in 40 games. His OBP is .377.
Frandsen has played half the games at shortstop and has also played second base, but he's recently been positioned at third.
"He can play all three infield positions, but he's probably more comfortable at second and third base," LaMar said. "He missed two months, and when you miss that much playing time in the middle of the year it usually takes quite a few at-bats before considering him. We thought he'd need to play in the lower minors a little longer, so it's remarkable what he's done so far. But he's got to play more."
The Phillies consider Carlos Rivero a prospect and are pleased with the progress he's showing at Reading; they have him on their 40-man roster to protect him. But the 23-year-old Venezuelan isn't ready to make the step up to the majors. Rivero, who has good power and soft hands but is still learning to hit breaking pitches, has been moved from shortstop to third base.
"He's a good defender and is hitting very well lately," LaMar said, "but he's still young."
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Rivero, signed by Cleveland when he was 17 and claimed by the Phillies after last season, is batting .275 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs. He's batting .379 in July.
Meanwhile, Travis Mattair, a third baseman at Lakewood whom the Phillies drafted in the second round in 2007, has been a disappointment. Mattair began the season at Clearwater before he was demoted to Lakewood.
"He's still got to prove he's a prospect," LaMar said. "We hope he ends up in Clearwater by the end of the season."
Last season, the Phillies had Cody Ransom to fill in for Polanco, but the 35-year-old is now with the Diamondbacks, who called him up last week from Reno of the triple-A Pacific Coast League. Ransom had made the PCL all-star team and batted .330 with 25 homers and 86 RBIs.
(Rookie, 16-12, third place, Gulf Coast League North Division)
Jim Birmingham's pro career is off to an impressive start.
The 6-foot-5 native of Pine Hill, Camden County, who signed with the Phillies after he impressed their scouts at an open tryout at Lakewood on June 19, has seven saves and a win in nine appearances with the GCL Phillies. He has an 0.61 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 142/3 innings. He's allowed four hits.
"I'd always been a starter except for a couple times in high school when I closed games," Birmingham said by phone from Clearwater. He attended Overbrook High. "But I'm really enjoying it. There's an adrenaline rush when you come in to close."
Birmingham pitched for Penn as a freshman before transferring to Coastal Carolina. He was drafted in the 25th round by Washington after his senior year at Overbrook, then again in the 33d round by San Francisco after his junior year at Coastal Carolina. Both times, he decided to stay in school.
"It wasn't a hard decision the first time I was drafted," he said. "The second time was a little more difficult, but I decided to get my degree and figured I wouldn't [regress] at Coastal Carolina because it's a good program."
Birmingham said the level of play in the GCL is similar to that of college ball, except that the hitters are more free-swinging.
"That enables you to work pitches off the plate because sometimes they'll chase them," he said.
Birmingham is teammates with another former pitcher at Penn - Paul Cusick, who is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in seven appearances out of the bullpen.
"I hosted Paul on his recruiting visit to Penn," Birmingham said.
(AAA, 57-42, first place, International League North Division)
Phillippe Aumont, the 6-7 righthander the Phillies acquired when they traded Cliff Lee following the 2009 season, has been shut down since June 30 with elbow tendinitis. But Chuck LaMar, assistant general manager in charge of player development and scouting, said there's no cause for concern.
"There's no structural damage. It was a precautionary move," LaMar said. "He should be back very soon. We like him as a prospect."
Aumont, a 22-year-old reliever, was promoted from double-A Reading after recording four saves, holding opponents to a .195 average, and striking out 41 in 31 innings. His numbers were less impressive at Lehigh Valley before he went on the disabled list. In 72/3 innings he has allowed 11 hits and opponents are batting .324 against him.
The adjustment to Lehigh Valley from double A also has proved problematic for 23-year-old reliever Justin De Fratus. In 13 games covering 19 innings, the righthander has a 5.21 ERA. He got his first save Thursday. De Fratus was promoted after getting eight saves and going 4-0 in 23 games at Reading.
"His numbers indicate he's struggling, but he's making the adjustment to a higher level," LaMar said. "He just has to get better command of his fastball and more consistency with his slider. He needs refinement. We expect him to start next season in triple A."
(AA, 51-47, third place, Eastern League Eastern Division)
So far, the decision to move righthander Josh Zeid to the bullpen appears to be a wise one.
The numbers indicate the 6-5 Zeid, a 10th-round draft pick out of Tulane in 2009, has more the makeup of a reliever. In 11 starts, he went 2-3 with a 6.80 ERA as batters hit .290 against him. As a reliever, he has 16 strikeouts and two saves in 11 innings with a 2.45 ERA while holding hitters to a .190 average.
"He didn't handle the starting role that well so we put him back where he's more comfortable, and he's throwing very well," LaMar said. "He has a great arm and three quality pitches. He's definitely a reliever at this point."
(Low A, 15-12 second half, 48-47 overall, tied for second place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)
Lefthander Jesse Biddle, 19, the Germantown Friends grad picked by the Phillies in the first round (No. 27 overall) in 2010, appears to be getting better as the season goes along. Biddle was named South Atlantic League pitcher of the week July 15 after he threw seven shutout innings against Greenville. He followed that effort Thursday by allowing two runs over six innings.
In his last 10 starts, Biddle is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 581/3 innings, he has 59 strikeouts and allowed 38 hits.
(High A, 11-16 second half, 50-46 overall, sixth place, Florida State League North Division)
In a perfect world, Jonathan Singleton, one of the Phillies' top hitting prospects, would be viewed as the club's corner outfielder of the future. But after struggling defensively in left field, the 21-year-old has been moved back to first base.
"He's a first baseman," LaMar said. "He's doing well. He's in a year of adjustment from the South Atlantic League. We like where he is. He's one of the best hitters in the organization."
The lefty-hitting Singleton, who was picked as the SAL's most outstanding major-league prospect while playing at Lakewood last season, still must show he can handle lefthanded pitching. He's batting .179 against lefties with 29 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. Meanwhile, he's hitting .319 against righthanders with an OPS of .878. At the start of the season, Baseball America ranked Singleton No. 39 among its top 50 major-league prospects.
(Rookie ball, 17-17, fifth place, New York-Penn League Pinckney Division)
Harold Martinez, the newest third baseman in the Phillies organization, is off to a respectable start in his first pro season. Heading into the weekend, the 6-3, 210-pound 21-year-old was batting .273 with eight doubles in 88 at-bats. The Phillies chose Martinez in the second round of the June draft, one of the picks they received in return for Jayson Werth. The son of a Cuban defector, Martinez was drafted out of the University of Miami.
- Ray Parrillo
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743