The rankings for third basemen are broken into three parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next five prospects in alphabetical order and a list of those who could provide some value in 2015. As always, these rankings are done from a scouting perspective but with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on standard 5x5 league categories, though other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
Garin Cecchini, Boston Red Sox
Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Top 10:
1. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins (Double-A Chattanooga, Southern League)
Few prospects in the minor leagues have as much usable in-game power as Sano, who missed the entire 2014 season after having Tommy John surgery. A physically strong right-handed hitter with a linebacker build, Sano, 22, showcases elite power to all fields, easily lofting the ball out of the park with big-time backspin carry. With legitimate 80-grade power, he has the potential to be one of baseball’s premier sluggers upon arriving in the major leagues, and is more than capable of hitting 30-plus home runs in his prime. Expect Sano in the major leagues no earlier than September 2015, and more likely not until 2016.
Fantasy Upside: .260/.340/.520, 30+ HR
2. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (Double-A Frisco, Texas League)
Gallo led all minor league hitters with 40 home runs in 2013, and then improved on that total last season with 42, finishing one long ball shy of Kris Bryant’s MiLB lead. The 21-year-old’s impressive 2014 campaign began at High-A Myrtle Beach, where his refined approach and optimized swing produced a .323/.463/.735 batting line with 21 home runs and respective strikeout and walk rates of 26.0 and 20.7 percent over 246 plate appearances (58 games). The slugger hit another 21 dingers in 68 games following a midseason promotion to Double-A Frisco, but his approach was exploited by Texas League pitchers and resulted in a .232/.334/.524 batting line with respective strikeout and walk rates of 39.5 and 12.4 percent over 291 plate appearances. There are serious concerns regarding Gallo’s ability to make consistent contact as well as his approach, but he has the potential to be a low-average, high-OBP home run machine at maturity.
Fantasy Upside: .250/.330/.550, 35+ HR
3. Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile, Southern League)
Drury hit .300/.366/.519 with 35 doubles and 19 home runs over 107 games with High-A Visalia last season before a promotion to Double-A Mobile. The 22-year-old continued to rake in the Southern League, posting an .821 OPS with 11 extra-base hits (four home runs) in 29 games. Drury makes a lot of hard contact and laces sharp line drives to the deepest parts the park, the kind of line drives that make it easy to envision many of his doubles clearing more fences as he develops. He projects as a first-division regular in his prime, though his path to the major leagues will be determined by the health and productivity of Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 15-20 HR
4. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (Low-A Greenville, South Atlantic League)
Devers tore up the Dominican Summer League last year and earned a quick promotion to the Rookie Gulf Coast League, where, as the league’s third-youngest hitter in the league, he batted .312/.374/.484 with 17 extra-base hits in 42 games. Devers, now 18, has continued to mash this year in his full-season debut at Low-A Greenville, and it will be interesting to see his capacity to make adjustments over the course of an entire season. He may not remain at third base in the long term as he continues to grow and fill out, but his potential to hit for both average and power at his peak will make him an impact player regardless of position.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 22-25 HR
5. Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto, California League)
McMahon put up impressive numbers in his 2014 full-season debut at Low-A Asheville, ranking second in the South Atlantic League in runs (93), doubles (46), OPS (.860) and RBI (tied 102). Meanwhile, the 20-year-old left-handed hitter showcased his big-time raw power with 18 home runs over 126 games, and he’s likely to surpass that total this year playing in the California League. He’s also shown a good approach early in his career, though it does come with some swing-and-miss, which suggests his potential to hit for a respectable average and consistently get on base.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 22-25 HR
6. Rio Ruiz, Atlanta Braves (Double-A Mississippi, Southern League)
Ruiz began 2014 as the top third base prospect in the Astros organization, but the team’s acquisition of Colin Moran pushed him down the depth chart, and ultimately led to him being dealt to the Braves during the offseason. Ruiz turned in a breakthrough performance last season at High-A Lancaster, batting .293/.387/.436 with 50 extra-base hits over 131 games, although his numbers were inflated playing in the hitter-friendly California League. Ruiz projects to hit for average and get on base at a favorable rate, but questions remain about both his defensive profile and power potential.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, .340+ OBP, 13-15 HR
7. Colin Moran, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi, Texas League)
Moran started slowly last season but turned things around to bat .294/.342/.393 in the Florida State League before being dealt to Houston at the non-waiver trade deadline. He performed well after moving up to Double-A with his new club, too, posting a .760 OPS in 28 games. Moran, 22, has a mature approach and good feel for hitting, but with 11 career home runs in 778 plate appearances, it’s difficult to envision him ever hitting for power.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 10-12 HR
8. Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Texas League)
Dozier overcame a slow start last year to earn a midseason promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, but he struggled mightily at the more advanced level, hitting just .209 with 70 strikeouts in 267 plate appearances. The 23-year-old hasn’t shown the bat that was expected at the time he was drafted, struggling to hit for both average and power, but there’s still a lot to like in his size and strength.
Fantasy Upside: .250+ AVG, 15-18 HR
9. Alex Blandino, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona, Florida State League)
The Reds usually don’t offer their top draft picks aggressive promotions in their professional debuts, but they decided to move Blandino up to Low-A Dayton in late July, a reflection of his strong performance in the Pioneer League. The 22-year-old rewarded the organization by batting .261/.329/.440 in 34 games at the full-season level, amassing 30 extra-base hits (eight home runs) in the process.
Blandino played all over the infield at Stanford, but the Reds are developing him as a shortstop—at least for now—and he’s held his own at the position so far. That said, there’s a good chance he’ll be forced to move to third base in the future, though questions remain about whether he’ll provide enough power to be a corner infielder at the highest level.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 12-15 HR, 7-10 SB
10. Renato Nunez, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland, Texas League)
Nunez benefitted from playing everyday last season in the California League, as Venezuelan third baseman overcame a pedestrian first half to bat .279/.336/.517 with 60 extra-base hits (29 home runs) and 96 RBI in 563 plate appearances for High-A Stockton. The 21-year-old’s calling card is his plus raw power and it already plays in games, but he’s still incredibly raw with little approach and plate discipline, as evidenced by his 113 strikeouts against 34 walks last season. Nunez can turn around a good fastball, but off-speed stuff can give him fits, especially when he’s in pull-everything mode rather than using the whole field. Lastly, Nunez’s defense at third base was noticeably better last season, confirmed by a drop from 39 to 15 in his overall errors total, though he’ll still have to work to remain at the position.
Fantasy Upside: .240+ AVG, 20-22 HR
The Next Five (Alphabetical Order):
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton, California League)
Selected by the A’s with the No. 25 overall pick last June, Chapman spent most his professional debut at Low-A Beloit, where he batted just .237/.282/.389 with 16 extra-base hits and a 46/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 202 plate appearances.
The 22-year-old’s above-average raw power shows more in batting practice than games, as his swing generally isn’t conducive for consistent in-game power at the moment. However, that could change with a full season in the California League.
Trey Michalczewski, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem, Carolina League)
Michalczewski enjoyed a quietly good full-season debut last year at Low-A Kannapolis, batting .262/.340/.403 with 44 extra-base hits in 116 games, though he struggled over the season’s final month following a promotion to High-A.
A 6’3”, 210-pound switch-hitter, Michalczewski has a clean swing from both sides of the plate, and it’s easy to envision him showing more power with improved contact skills and a more refined approach. None of his tools jump off the page at the moment, save for maybe his above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but there’s definitely a lot to like about this 20-year-old prospect.
Jomar Reyes, Baltimore Orioles (Low-A Delmarva, South Atlantic League)
Reyes offered a taste of his potential last summer in his stateside debut, as the then-17-year-old batted .285/.333/.425 with 16 extra-base hits over 53 games in the Gulf Coast League. He has good strength in his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame and a knack for making hard contact to all fields, both of which should help the 18-year-old open even more eyes this season in the South Atlantic League.
Jhoan Urena, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucie, Florida State League)
Urena put himself on the map last season with an excellent showing in the Short-Season New York-Penn League, batting .300/.356/.431 with 26 extra-base hits in 75 games. The performance convinced the Mets that Urena was ready for a more serious challenge, as the club decided to assign him to High-A St. Lucie for the 2015 season, bypassing the Low-A level entirely. At 6’1” and 200 pounds, Urena is physically mature for his age, but the switch-hitter already demonstrates an advanced feel for hitting, with a line-to-line approach and effortless raw power. He’s likely to continue mashing lots of doubles over the next couple years, but his strength and knack for barreling the ball should eventually produce above-average over-the-fence power.
Drew Ward, Washington Nationals (High-A Potomac, Carolina League)
Like so many others in this section, Ward was impressive in his full-season debut last year, batting .269/.341/.413 with 39 extra-base hits (10 home runs) in 115 games for Low-A Hagerstown. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter has good bat speed and generates decent lift after contact, which suggests many of his doubles could begin to clear fences in the coming years. Beyond that, Ward employs an advanced and patient approach for a player his age, especially in terms of his feel for the strike zone and pitch recognition.
2015 Fantasy Value:
Matt Davidson, Chicago White Sox
Kyle Kubtiza, Los Angeles Angels
Giovanny Urshela, Cleveland Indians