Third base is a position loaded with MVP potential and top-flight power, and there are a number of players whose ultimate defensive home may not be the hot corner. While many of the top prospects saw their stocks increase, the struggles of others led to major drops.
The rankings are broken into three parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next five prospects in alphabetical order and some prospects who could provide some fantasy value in 2015 but are not among the top 15. As always, these rankings are done with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on a standard 5x5 league, but other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Highest Level: AAA Iowa (Pacific Coast League)
2014 Statistics: .355/.458/.702 with 22 HR (68 games, AA Tennessee); .295/.418/.619 with 21 HR (70 games, AAA Iowa).
Bryant has top of the charts in-game power and is able to make consistent contact, but his amazing 2014 was not without concerns. He made 21 errors, further fueling talk that his defensive home may be in the outfield, and struck out 162 times (18th most in the minors), raising more concerns about his ability to hit the better pitching at the major league level. Nevertheless, Bryant pounded a minor league-leading 43 home runs to go with 34 doubles, 86 walks and 15 stolen bases. During his peak, Bryant could put up Paul Goldshmidt-like numbers, hitting .300 with 30+ home runs and 15 stolen bases on an annual basis. Expect him in the major leagues before Memorial Day.
2. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
Highest Level: AA New Britain (Eastern League)
2014 Statistics: None, injured (Tommy John surgery)
2013 Statistics: .330/.424/.655 with 16 HR (56 games, High-A Fort Myers); .236/.344/.571 with 19 HR (67 games, AA New Britain)
Sano won’t turn 22 until May 11, but it seems as if he has been a top third base prospect since the Carter Administration. His signing process turned was the subject of a documentary, Ballplayer: Pelotero, and he has been lighting up HR leaderboards since he hit 20 in 293 PAs for Elizabethton of the Appalachian League in 2011. Sano was slated to make his major league debut for the Twins in 2014, but missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery during spring training. Sano’s power is unquestioned, but his high strikeouts are a product of an approach that can get overly power-happy. His peak numbers should be a .280 hitter with 40 home runs. While he steals bases now, Sano will continue to fill out and slow down, which may force him to first base. Expect him in the major leagues no earlier than September 2015, and more likely not until 2016.
3. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Highest Level: AA Frisco (Texas League)
2014 Statistics: .323/.463/.735 with 21 HR (58 games, High-A Myrtle Beach); .232/.334/.524 with 21 HR (AA Frisco)
Gallo is the third member of the list who has the potential to hit 30+ home runs on an annual basis at the major league level. He may have the most power of the bunch, but he also has the biggest question marks surrounding his approach and high strikeout totals. Gallo’s first half of the season was a clinic, as he had more singles (28) than extra base hits (33) while leading the Carolina League in home runs despite an early-June promotion to AA. He hit well over his first six weeks in AA, but seemed to hit a brick wall at the end of July, hitting .170/.294/.472 with 42 strikeouts over his last 27 games. Gallo struck out an eye-popping 115 times over 291 PA in AA (39.5%), and there are serious concerns regarding both his ability to make consistent contact and his approach, which is often described as swing-from-the-heels. Gallo has the potential to turn into a low-average, high-OBP home run machine in the mold of Adam Dunn, but his strikeouts could lead to a career more similar to Russell Branyan. His peak potential is .275 with 40+ home runs, and he could see time in the outfield as he is blocked by Adrian Beltre.
4. D.J. Peterson, Seattle Mariners
Highest Level: AA Jackson (Southern League)
2014 Statistics: .326/.381/.615 with 18 HR (65 games, High-A High Desert); .261/.335/.473 with 13 HR (58 games, AA Jackson)
Peterson’s power falls substantially behind Bryant, Sano and Gallo, but he has the potential to hit 25+ home runs at the major league level. Peterson started 2014 slowly, hitting just .267/.306/.381 through his first 25 games, but caught fire, raising his season line to .326/.381/.615. After leaving the hitter-friendly High Desert (and the California League in general), Peterson continued to hit, putting up a solid line in AA. Peterson’s defense at third base is passable, but he is likely to move to first base long term due to Kyle Seager. Peterson’s peak is similar to Seager, as he should hit 25 home runs with an average around .270.
5. Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
Highest Level: Serie Nacional de Béisbol (Cuba)
2014 Statistics: N/A
Tomas agreed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks in late November, and the Diamondbacks quickly stated that it was their intention to play him at third base. Tomas has the power to hit 25+ home runs, but he has a tendency to chase pitching out of the strike zone and he prone to trying to hit everything over the fences. He should hit above .270, which will allow him to display his power. He has below-average speed and a strong arm, and may end up playing left or right field in the long term.
6. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
Highest Level: Philadelphia (National League)
2014 Statistics: .257/.299/.428 with 16 HR (AAA Lehigh Valley); .179/.190/.214 with 0 HR (16 games; Philadelphia)
Franco had a brutal first half of the season, hitting just .209/.267/.318 through the end of June, but he seemed to take a big step forward in the second half, hitting .324/.344/.580 over the season’s final 55 games. Franco has well above-average power, and has the potential to hit .265 with 25+ home runs. His range is poor, but he has soft hands and a strong arm, and should be able to supplant Cody Asche in 2015. His long term home is likely to be first base, as he played 23 games there for Lehigh Valley in 2014, as well as five more for the Phillies.
7. Colin Moran, Houston Astros
Highest Level: AA Corpus Christi (Texas League)
2014 Statistics: .294/.342/.393 with 5 HR (89 games, High-A Jupiter); .304/.350/.411 with 2 HR (AA Corpus Christi)
Moran started slowly, but came on in June, hitting .310/.359/.423 in the Florida State League before being traded to Houston at the trading deadline. Moran has a great eye and good bat control, but serious questions remain about his power. He hit seven home runs and 27 doubles in 2014, a low total considering other first round corner infielders from Division I schools include Kris Bryant and D.J. Peterson, both of whom showed more power potential. Moran profiles as a solid defensive third baseman who hits .300 with 10 home runs, similar to Martin Prado.
8. Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals
Highest Level: AA Northwest Arkansas (Texas League)
2014 Statistics: .295/.397/.429 with 4 HR (66 games, High-A Wilmington); .209/.303/.312 with 4 HR (AA Northwest Arkansas)
After a slow start in April, Dozier’s bat came alive in May and June, leading to a mid-June promotion to AA, where he struggled, hitting just .209 with 70 strikeouts in 267 plate appearances. While he has not shown much power during his time as a professional (15 HR in 851 PA), he has the potential to hit 20 home runs while hitting .300. As was shown during his time in AA, Dozier still needs time to hone his game and cut down his strikeouts. Dozier has the potential to be an above-average third baseman with soft hands and a strong arm, but his footwork and defensive actions are below average. The Royals have Mike Moustakas at third base and Christian Colon waiting in the wings, but Dozier should be able to push them both out of the way when he is ready.
9. Rio Ruiz, Houston Astros
Highest Level: High-A Lancaster (California League)
2014 Statistics: .293/.387/.436 with 11 HR (131 games, High-A Lancaster)
Ruiz began 2014 as the top third base prospect within the Astros organization, but finished behind newly-acquired prospect Colin Moran. Ruiz had a fine year, improving nearly every statistical category, but not enough to account for the excellent hitting environments in the California League and, in particular, at home in Lancaster. Even more curiously, Ruiz hit better on the road, putting up a .314/.417/.439 line while hitting .270/.355/.433 at home. Ruiz’s defense is not his strong suit, and he may need to move to first base (where Jonathan Singleton is currently settling) or DH. Ruiz has the potential to hit .300, but questions remain about defensive acumen and power, which could lead to single-digit home run output.
10. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Highest Level: Rookie Level (Gulf Coast League)
2014 Statistics: .337/.445/.538 with 3 HR (28 games, Dominican Summer League); .312/.374/.484 with 4 HR (42 games, Rookie GCL Red Sox)
After tearing up the DSL, Devers was promoted to the GCL, where he was the third-youngest hitter in the league. Devers’ line was impressive, but statistics in the low minor leagues are particularly unreliable and serve to validate beliefs rather than support new conclusions. He may not remain at third base in the long term, as he continues to grow and fill out, which may force him to first base or a corner outfield position. He has the talent to hit .300 with 20 home runs at his peak, which would make him an effective player without regard to position.
Next Five (Alphabetical Order):
Alex Blandino, Cincinnati Reds (2014 draft, 1st round, 29th pick). Currently a shortstop, but profiles better at third base. Potential to hit .300 with 15 home runs.
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (2014 draft, 1st round, 25th pick). Profiles as a solid defensive third baseman who hits .280 with 30+ doubles and 5-10 home runs.
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (2014 draft, 1st round, 26th pick). Above-average power (20+ homers) who is currently playing shortstop, but his long-term home is likely third base, though he could be moved to second.
Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies (.282/.358/.502 with 18 HR in 126 games with Low-A Asheville). Nice swing from left side and power to hit .280 with 20 home runs, but struggles against same-side pitching, hitting .220/.302/.353.
Mitch Nay, Toronto Blue Jays (.285/.342/.389 with 3 HR in 120 games with Low-A Lansing; .189/.250/.216 with 0 HR in 11 games with High-A Dunedin). Potential to hit .280 with 20-plus home runs, but power has yet to show up.
2015 Fantasy Value (Alphabetical Order):
Gavin Cecchini, Boston Red Sox. Super blocked in Boston, but could see time as RH bat off bench or in the event of an injury.
Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks. Unlikely to see time in Arizona unless Yasmany Tomas struggles at third base and Jake Lamb cannot fill the void. Potential to hit .275 with 15 HR; could be moved to second base due to plethora of 3B options in Arizona.
Adam Duvall, San Francisco Giants. Blocked by Brandon Belt at first and Casey McGehee at third base, but could see time in San Francisco due to injury or if McGehee is unable to replicate his hot start from 2014.
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona will give Yasmany Tomas the first bite at the apple at third base, but Lamb could see time if Tomas struggles on defense or if Tomas is moved to the outfield due to injury. Brandon Drury is directly behind and is more highly regarded.