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Prospect Positional: 3B

by Matthew Foreman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

This week’s Prospect Positional will cover third basemen, a position in which there have been two high-profile graduations and includes many of the top power prospects in the minor leagues.

Note: All statistics are current through Sunday, April 27.

Updated top-15

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
1 1 Miguel Sano Twins DL
2 2 Kris Bryant Cubs Tennessee (AA)
3 3 Maikel Franco Phillies Lehigh Valley (AAA)
4 7 Joey Gallo Rangers Myrtle Beach (High-A)
5 N/R Ryan McMahon Rockies Asheville (Low-A)
6 12 D.J. Peterson Mariners High Desert (High-A)
7 5 Garin Cecchini Red Sox Pawtucket (AAA)
8 8 Colin Moran Marlins Jupiter (High-A)
9 N/R Rio Ruiz Astros Lancaster (High-A)
10 N/R Eric Jagielo Yankees Tampa (High-A)
11 6 Rosell Herrera Rockies Modesto (High-A)
12 N/R Mitch Nay Blue Jays Lansing (Low-A)
13 9 Christian Villanueva Cubs Iowa (AAA)
14 10 Matt Davidson White Sox Charlotte (AAA)
15 N/R Hunter Dozier Royals Wilmington (High-A)

Graduates

Rank Name MLB Team
4 Nick Castellanos Tigers
11 Mike Olt Cubs

Castellanos is hitting for roughly the league average with some decent power while playing an average third base. This is roughly what was expected from him, and I think he could have a big second half of the season.

Olt is hitting below the Mendoza Line but is slugging in excess of .500 due to his power. Luis Valbuena has spent more time at third base as part of a platoon, so Olt’s future role is still up in the air.

Small sample size

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
1 1 Miguel Sano Twins DL
8 8 Colin Moran Marlins Jupiter (High-A)

Sano injured his UCL while playing for Estrellas of the Dominican Winter League. Dr. James Andrews confirmed that the injury was merely a strain and prescribed rest as the remedy for the injury to have Sano ready for spring training. Sano ended up having Tommy John Surgery performed in mid-March and could play in games in the Arizona Fall League in September.

Moran’s season started last week after resting his left knee after spraining his medial meniscus. He’s more of a high-floor guy than a prospect with a high ceiling, but a third baseman who hits .300 with a good number of walks and good defense is a solid player.

Superb performance

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
2 2 Kris Bryant Cubs Tennessee (AA)
4 7 Joey Gallo Rangers Myrtle Beach (High-A)
5 N/R Ryan McMahon Rockies Asheville (Low-A)

Kris Bryant is doing everything the Cubs want to see: hitting for average, hitting for power and increasing his walk rate. As long as he keeps hitting, he could be launching balls into Waveland Avenue before the end of the year. Bryant’s making his major league debut in 2015 is more likely, but a September call-up is not out of the question.

To say that Joey Gallo is exceeding expectations is an understatement. He has increased his walk rate, decreased his strikeout rate and his isolated power is nearly as high as his 2013 slugging percentage, which was second in the South Atlantic League. He still strikes out too much, but he could put up a line similar to Adam Dunn’s 2004-2010 peak when he averaged .253/.381/.533 with 40 home runs, 30 doubles and 180 strikeouts per season.

Ryan McMahon was a second-round pick in 2013 and hit .321/.402/.583 during his 59-game introduction to professional baseball. He was a quarterback in high school, which makes him a prototypical Rockies pick (former high school and college quarterbacks drafted by the Rockies include Todd Helton, Michael Vick, Russell Wilson and Kyle Parker). McMahon has lit up the South Atlantic League in 2014, though Asheville is one of the most offense-friendly parks in baseball, particularly to left-handers (right field is 297 feet, and the right-center gap is 320 feet). Despite the unique dimensions of his home park, he is hitting .321/.429/.679 with one double and three home runs at home and .267/.365/.733 with three doubles and six home runs on the road. His Low-A power surge notwithstanding, he projects as a future .300 hitter with the power to hit 20 home runs. If he continues to mash, he could see a significant bump in his prospect status.

Holding serve

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
6 12 D.J. Peterson Mariners High Desert (High-A)
7 5 Garin Cecchini Red Sox Pawtucket (AAA)
9 N/R Rio Ruiz Astros Lancaster (High-A)
10 N/R Eric Jagielo Yankees Tampa (High-A)
12 N/R Mitch Nay Blue Jays Lansing (Low-A)

D.J. Peterson was the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of the University of New Mexico. He hit .303/.365/.553 with 13 home runs in Short Season-A and Low-A in 2013, though his season ended early after a pitch broke his jaw. Promoted to High-A High Desert for 2014, Peterson has put up a respectable line, though he should be hitting for more power in such an offense-friendly environment. He has the potential to hit .300 with 20 home runs, so even if he is forced to move to first base, he will still be an above-average player at that position.

Garin Cecchini is the Rodney Dangerfield of prospects due to the lack of respect he receives. He has hit for a high average at every level but has moved slowly and is currently blocked by Will Middlebrooks, though Xander Bogaerts’ poor range at shortstop could result in a more expedient position switch than earlier believed to be necessary. Cecchini is hitting above .300 in Triple-A and is near the pace to hit 30 doubles for his third consecutive season. He could be trade bait, as he could be an average third baseman at the major league level this season, and, if his power flourishes, he could be an elite third baseman.

Rio Ruiz was drafted in the fourth round in 2012 and agreed to a $1.85 million signing bonus despite his not playing baseball during his senior year of high school due to a blood clot. He is doing well at High-A Lancaster, hitting nearly .300 and is on pace to exceed 40 doubles despite being the fifth youngest player in the league at the start of the season. Ruiz has the talent to hit .300 with 15-20 home runs, though he is a below-average defender who could end up at first base despite his solid arm.

Eric Jagielo was drafted 26th overall by the Yankees out of Notre Dame for his polish and potential to hit .275 with 20+ home runs. He has displayed his power in 2014, hitting four home runs and three doubles through his first 23 games at High-A Tampa. He is hitting below .250, and will have to cut down his strikeouts (22 in 98 plate appearances) or else he is unlikely to reach his potential.

Mitch Nay has the talent to hit 20-25 home runs while hitting .280, but he is not a great athlete and is a particularly poor defender. He looked the part of a burgeoning minor league slugger when he hit .300/.364/.426 as part of a season where he was named the MVP of the Northwest League playoffs. He is hitting below .300 for 2014, with four doubles and zero home runs. If Nay does not hit for power, it is unlikely he will make an impact in the major leagues.

Struggling

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
3 3 Maikel Franco Phillies Lehigh Valley (AAA)
11 6 Rosell Herrera Rockies Modesto (High-A)
13 9 Christian Villanueva Cubs Iowa (AAA)
14 10 Matt Davidson White Sox Charlotte (AAA)
15 N/R Hunter Dozier Royals Wilmington (High-A)

Maikel Franco broke out in 2013, hitting .320/.356/.569 across two levels, ending the season in Double-A. He has struggled mightily in 2014 for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, with his batting average below the Mendoza line. He has come on lately, as he finally hit his first home run of the season last Thursday, and he was hitting just .111/.200/.130 through the first 15 games of the season. Franco still projects as a .265 hitter who hits 25+ home runs on an annual basis.

Rosell Herrera had a great season with Low-A Asheville in 2013, hitting .343/.419/.515 with 33 doubles and 16 home runs, but he has struggled in 2014, hitting .264 with a sub-600 OPS in High-A Modesto. Herrera is beginning to make a transition to third base this year, as he has spent roughly half of his games there after spending only approximately 25% of his games at the hot corner in 2013.

Christian Villanueva led the Double-A Southern League in extra base hits in 2013 with 62, slugging 41 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs while hitting .261/.317/.469. A slick defender, he has struggled at the plate in 2014, hitting under .200 for Triple-A Iowa. He has substantially increased his walk rate and is on pace for approximately 50 doubles. Villanueva needs to start hitting or either Kris Bryant or Javier Baez will get the first opportunity to take over at third base for the Cubs.

The Diamondbacks traded Matt Davidson to the White Sox in the off-season, giving Davidson the opportunity to become the starting third baseman. Despite hitting .308/.341/.564 during spring training, the starting third base job was given to Conor Gillaspie. Davidson has struggled in 2014, hitting under .200 with 38 strikeouts through 23 games. He still projects as a .270 hitter with 15-20 home runs, but if he continues to struggle against advanced pitching, he may never get another opportunity.

Hunter Dozier was drafted by the Royals with the eighth overall pick in 2013 out of Stephen F. Austin State University and immediately put up a solid .308/.397/.495 line with 30 doubles and seven home runs in 69 games. He also walked 38 times and struck out 37, but much of his damage was done with Rookie-level Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League, where many of his opponents were recent high school graduates. Dozier has struggled in 2014, hitting just .241/.337/.291 with four doubles and zero home runs through 22 games. Dozier has the talent to hit .285 with 15-plus home runs, so if he can maintain his recent hitting streak during which he is hitting nearly .400 over his past eight games, he could get moved up to Double-A relatively quickly.

On the bubble (listed alphabetically)

Updated Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
Bubble N/R Rafael Devers Red Sox Extended Spring Training
Bubble N/R Luis Encarnacion Phillies Extended Spring Training

Rafael Devers and Luis Encarnacion were two of the most sought after third base prospects available in the international market in the past year. Devers, who received $1.5 million from the Red Sox, has a sweet swing from the left side but may end up as a 1B/LF-type. Encarnacion, who received $1 million from the Phillies, is more likely to remain at third base and has more power. Both players should be assigned to affiliates in the Gulf Coast League in the next few weeks, and likely won’t be in the major leagues until 2017 at the earliest.

Matthew Foreman
Matthew Foreman is a baseball prospect writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.