Seems to be in the same position as Adam LaRoche and Johnny Estrada — he’ll have to play his way out of a job. Of course, unlike the other two, he’s a veteran Bobby is already comfortable with. On the other hand, his window of opportunity is short, with one of the best prospects in baseball coming up behind him. He lacks LaRoche’s offensive potential, and he isn’t at a position — or a good enough third baseman — where you’d sacrifice offense to get his glove in.

Mark set career highs in plate appearances and games last year. He was used more off of the bench and less to start games than in the past, largely because the regulars were relatively healthy and slump-free. And he didn’t play very well, hitting .263/.316/.383. Some of it’s just singles that didn’t fall, but the signs of plate discipline he’d showed prior to 2002 are still missing and he doesn’t have enough power to compensate. If he doesn’t do better, he’d be a below-average third baseman, and the Braves don’t have the luxury of too many below-average players. DeRosa almost has to hit over .280 with 20 homers to contribute at all.

I have no evidence for this, but I don’t think that the Braves really want DeRosa to be the third baseman. He’s the default candidate, but they’re having Eli Marrero practice at the position, they brought in Russ Branyan as a minor league free agent, and they’ve talked up Wilson Betemit. Meanwhile, they didn’t bring in a quality utility infielder. If DeRosa is the third baseman, we’re staring Jesse Garcia in the face. If someone else is there, DeRosa can handle his usual utility role and the Braves’ bench is far stronger.

Mark DeRosa Statistics –