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.
And in case you missed it, please check out the initial Prospect Positional column for third basemen this season. It features more in-depth scouting notes as well as a recap of each player’s 2014 campaign.
The Top 10:
1. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (Low-A Greenville, South Atlantic League)
2015 Stats: 68 G, 292 PA, .291/.320/.444, 43 R, 7 HR, 27 XBH, 41 RBI, 3.8% BB%, 17.5% K%
Devers moves up to the top spot on this list after the respective graduations of Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano to the major leagues. 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, as he’s tied for fourth in the South Atlantic League in doubles (19), tied for fifth in total bases (123) and tied for sixth in home runs (seven) and RBI (41).
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, .450+ SLG, 22-25 HR, 25+ 2B
2. Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto, California League)
2015 Stats: 77 G, 331 PA, .285/.375/.469, 45 R, 7 HR, 37 XBH, 40 RBI, 10.3% BB%, 28.4% K%
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). The 20-year-old left-handed hitter also demonstrated his big-time raw power with 18 home runs over 126 games. McMahon’s promising bat has translated as hoped in the California League this season, as he’s continued to pile up extra-base hits while also improving his walk rate. Unfortunately, with a career-high strikeout rate (28.4%) and unsustainable .399 BABIP, his .285 batting average through 77 games appears to be partly rooted in luck.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, .350+ OBP, 22-25 HR, 30+ 2B
3. Brandon Drury, Arizona Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno, Pacific Coast League)
2015 Stats: 81 G, 348 PA, .295/.330/.391, 29 R, 3 HR, 24 XBH, 41 RBI, 5.2% BB%, 14.1% K%
Drury is having a good-but-not-great season this year after a breakout 2014 campaign between the High- and Double-A levels. The 22-year-old began the season back in the Southern League, where he posted a disappointing .676 OPS with three home runs over 67 games for Double-A Montgomery. Drury has been much better since moving up to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in late June, however, amassing a .365/.443/.481 batting line, six doubles and an 8/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 games at Triple-A Reno. He lacks a clear path to playing time in the big leagues, with Jake Lamb, Yasmany Tomas and, to an extent, Aaron Hill ranking ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, but Drury should get a crack at the major leagues by mid-2016 at the latest.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, .400+ SLG, 15-20 HR, 25+ 2B
4. Eric Jagielo, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton, Eastern League)
2015 Stats: 58 G, 248 PA, .284/.347/.495, 36 R, 9 HR, 27 XBH, 35 RBI, 7.3% BB%, 23.4% K%
Jagielo has been on the disabled list at Trenton since mid-June, when he sustained a bruised left knee. The injury wasn’t expected to cost the 23-year-old much time, but there hasn’t been an update about his status in several weeks. A first-round draft pick back in 2013 out of Notre Dame, Jagielo was enjoying strong 2015 campaign for Trenton prior to landing on the disabled list, with an .842 OPS, nine home runs, 16 doubles and 35 RBI through 58 games. On top of that, the left-handed hitter had trimmed his strikeout rate (23.4%) in his first taste of the Double-A level, though it did come with a decreased walk rate (7.3%). Jagielo is not going to hit .280-plus for the entire season, especially given his .342 BABIP, but it’s a very good sign that both his power and on-base skills have carried over to the Eastern League.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 20-25 HR
5. Richie Shaffer, Tampa Bay Rays (Triple-A Durham, International League)
2015 Stats: 73 G, 312 PA, .265/.357/.545, 42 R, 19 HR, 36 XBH, 49 RBI, 11.9% BB%, 27.9% K%
Shaffer has been on a tear since moving up to Durham in late May, batting .268/.348/.626 with 12 home runs in 35 games for the Bulls. The 24-year-old third baseman opened the season at Double-A Montgomery, where he posted a .262/.362/.470 batting line with seven home runs and 10 doubles in 39 games. Between both levels this year, the 2012 first-rounder already has tied his career high in home runs - and he’s done so in a little more than half the games it required in 2014, when he batted .222/.318/.440 with 19 long balls in 119 games at Montgomery. Shaffer lacks a clear path to playing time in the major leagues at the hot corner, but the Rays conceivably could try to get Shaffer’s bat in the lineup at first base or designated hitter if need be.
Fantasy Upside: .240+ average, .420+ SLG, 20+ HR
6. Jomar Reyes, Baltimore Orioles (Low-A Delmarva, South Atlantic League)
2015 Stats: 54 G, 216 PA, .283/.343/.424, 20 R, 2 HR, 20 XBH, 24 RBI, 6.5% BB%, 20.4% K%
Reyes has been on the disabled list since mid-June after suffering a sprained thumb. While the injury did not require surgery, it did force Reyes to immobilize his hand for several weeks. The 18-year-old was off to a promising start to his full-season debut, batting .283/.343/.424 with 20 extra-base hits (two home runs) and 24 RBI through 54 games for Delmarva. Reyes’ performance this season, which led to him being named an All-Star in the South Atlantic League, is particularly impressive given his age and the fact he made the jump directly to Low-A from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
7. Rio Ruiz, Atlanta Braves (Double-A Mississippi, Southern League)
2015 Stats: 71 G, 265 PA, .222/.331/.284, 20 R, HR, 12 XBH, 16 RBI, 13.4% BB%, 19.6% K%
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. As some scouts feared, the 20-year-old’s production hasn’t carried over outside of the Cal this season. Specifically, Ruiz has struggled to hit for either average (.222) or power (1 HR, .284 SLG) in his first taste of Double-A baseball, but he’s still drawing walks (13.4%) and getting on base (.331) at a respectable clip.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, .340+ OBP, 13-15 HR
8. Colin Moran, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi, Texas League)
2015 Stats: 42 G, 176 PA, .268/.330/.369, 15 R, 0 HR, 15 XBH, 31 RBI, 8.0% BB%, 17.1% K%
Moran missed over a month of action earlier this season (from April 30 to May 29) with a non-displaced fracture of his jaw after he was struck by an errant pickoff attempt as he slid back into second base. The 22-year-old has shown an advanced feel for hitting and good on-base skills this season in the Texas League, but, as has been the case since the Marlins drafted him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft, his power has been nonexistent. Moran clubbed two dingers in 123 plate appearances late last season at Corpus Christi, but this year’s he’s hit zero in 176 triples to the plate, giving him 11 in 866 plate appearances as a professional.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, .340+ OBP, 10-12 HR
9. Alex Blandino, Cincinnati Reds (High-A Daytona, Florida State League)
2015 Stats: 72 G, 310 PA, .295/.372/.428, 41 R, 6 HR, 22 XBH, 30 RBI, 7-for-17 SB, 9.7% BB%, 15.5% K%
Blandino had just completed an excellent first half at High-A Daytona when he landed on the disabled list on July 3 with an undisclosed injury. Prior to that, the 22-year-old had offered consistent production over 72 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, ranking second in on-base percentage (.372) and OPS (.800) as well as tied for sixth in home runs (six). Some doubt whether the Stanford product will be able to remain at third base long term, but his impressive bat should be a clean fit at either second or shortstop if he’s forced off the position.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 12-15 HR, 7-10 SB
10. Trey Michalczewski, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem, Carolina League)
2015 Stats: 73 G, 304 PA, .254/.339/.403, 35 R, 6 HR, 25 XBH, 44 RBI, 10.2% BB%, 20.1% K%
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, but he struggled over the season’s final month following a promotion to High-A. The 6’3”, 210-pound switch-hitter certainly hasn’t struggled this season in his return to the Carolina League, as he’s shown more consistent power as well as a refined approach as a younger player in an advanced league. None of Michalczewski’s tools really 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.
Fantasy Upside: .250+ AVG, .420+ SLG, 25+ 2B, 15+ HR
The Next Five (Alphabetical Order):
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton, California League)
Chapman missed the first month of the season with a knee injury, but since then the 2014 first-round draft pick has quickly made up for the lost time. Taking full advantage of the hitter-friendly ballparks in the California League, the 22-year-old Chapman has already hit 14 home runs and 13 doubles through 53 games, while 58% percent of his hits have gone for extra bases. Chapman has always shown above-average raw power in batting practice, but this is the first time it has translated consistently in games.
Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Texas League)
Dozier has struggled this season in his return to the Texas League, batting just .217/.280/.357 with 26 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and 30 RBI through 77 games. He’s also striking out at a 27.4% clip to go along with a career-low 8.3% walk rate. And to make matters worse, the 23-year-old third baseman has had his OPS drop with each month, posting a .662 OPS in April, .622 OPS in May and then a .590 OPS in June. Dozier hasn’t lived up to expectations since the Royals made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft, but it’s still entirely too early to think he doesn’t have a future in the major leagues.
Renato Nunez, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland, Texas League)
Nunez benefitted from playing every day last season in the California League, as Venezuelan third baseman overcame a pedestrian first half to bat .279/.336/.517 with 29 home runs, 60 extra-base hits and 96 RBI in 563 plate appearances for High-A Stockton. The 21-year-old missed the first month of the 2015 season with an injury, but he’s steadily improved since returning to the point where he’s now sitting on a respectable .259/.320/.444 batting line, 11 home runs and 21 extra-base hits through his first 57 games in the Texas League. Nunez’s success against more advanced pitching is a direct result of his more refined approach, a notion evidenced by his improved strikeout (20.1% down to 15.1%) and walk (6.0% up to 7.6%) rates. It’s also worth noting he’s been red hot of late, with a .364/.375/.545 batting line, 20 hits, six extra-base hits and seven RBI in his last 12 games.
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, where he batted .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. However, the 20-year-old switch-hitter struggled during his time in the challenging Florida State League, batting .229/.265/.286 with zero home runs in 40 games before landing on the disabled list in late May with a broken hamate. Don’t be surprised if the Mets give Urena a more appropriate assignment upon returning from injury.
Drew Ward, Washington Nationals (High-A Potomac, Carolina League)
Ward was impressive last year in his full-season debut, batting .269/.341/.413 with 10 home runs and 26 doubles in 115 games for Low-A Hagerstown. Suffice it to say the 20-year-old left-handed hitter hasn’t fared as well this season as a younger player in the Carolina League, as he’s batting just .241/.326/.333 with three home runs and 13 doubles through 75 games. The good news is that Ward possesses good bat speed and generates decent lift after contact, which suggests many of his doubles could begin to clear fences as he develops physically and gains experience.
2015 Fantasy Value:
Matt Davidson, Chicago White Sox
Kaleb Cowart, Los Angeles Angels
Cheslor Cuthbert, Kansas City Royals
Previous installments from Prospect Positional series:
First Basemen (6/24/2015)
Starting Pitchers (6/3/2015)
Third Basemen (5/13/2015)
Rotoworld Season Pass Prospect Rankings (Updated weekly)
*All stats reflect games through July 7.