After three weeks of looking at catcher, first base, and second base prospects, we finally start to hit on some of the elite minor league players this week and next. At least half of the names below require immediate consideration for dynasty leagues, and a handful more deserve monitoring. The offensive standard for third basemen, as laid out by Kevin Jebens, is high, but there are at least a half-dozen below that I project will achieve those marks. Third base is currently a position of strength, prospect-wise, both with near-ready players and those a few years away. For even more third base prospects, check out The Prospect Grid.
The Best of the Best
Power is the name of the game with our first three elite prospects. Asking which of them had more power would be like asking which tequila will knock you out faster. Kris Bryant comes in first and is currently the best prospect in baseball (Spoiler Alert: Top 100 coming out in February). He will always come with a high strikeout rate, but he walks at a decent clip, and the power should translate to 30+ home runs in the majors. Joey Gallo also has massive power, hitting 42 home runs as a 20-year-old last year across A and AA. Still young, Gallo draws a lot of walks but strikes out at an alarming rate. If he can improve his contact rates at all, he’s a star. Finally, Tommy John surgery took a year away from Miguel Sano‘s development, but this is someone I had ranked #2 heading into 2014. Sano has phenomenal cosmic power but also an aggressive approach, likely resulting in high strikeout rates.
Following those three would be a tough act for anyone to follow, so we’ll leave it to youngsters Ryan McMahon and Rafael Devers. McMahon has good power, a solid approach and a really nice looking left-handed swing. Just 20 years old, Ryan will play in high A to open next season and could be an impact player as soon as 2017. Devers, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, has an advanced approach at the plate, hitting .322/.404/.506 last year as a 17-year-old across the DSL and GCL. He has good power potential and can hit to all fields.
No top-tier third base list would be complete without D.J. Peterson. Peterson has good power, hitting 31 home runs across A and AA last year. His future will likely be at first base with Kyle Seager signed long-term in Seattle. His bat should play at either position, though his fantasy value takes a hit with the move.
There’s still power in this second tier among some lesser-known players. With Franco leading the way, it’s a group worth watching.
After hitting 31 home runs in 2013, Maikel Franco hit just 16 last year in AAA while posting a line of .259/.299/.428. His brief debut in the majors was even uglier, but this is still a player with a lot of potential, especially power-wise. He may start 2015 back in AAA as the Phillies look to get him back on track.
Known more for the players they were traded for, Brandon Drury and Rio Ruiz come in next. Acquired by the Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade, Drury has good power and should hit for a decent average. Drury added versatility to his game, looking comfortable at second base in the AFL. The team will give him more looks there in 2015, and that could really help his fantasy value. Traded to the Braves in the Evan Gattis deal, 20-year-old Ruiz has a very good approach at the plate. He should be able to maintain a good batting average as he progresses, providing value even if his raw power never fully develops. Ruiz is a name for deep dynasty leagues who could move up the list with a solid AA season in 2015.
Power-hitting Renato Nunez hit 29 home runs last year in high A ball. Though he improved from 2013 across the board (ISO, BB%, K%, AVG, OBP, SLG), he still has work to do with his discipline at the plate. A toolsy player, Nunez needs to show his progress wasn’t just a product of the California League.
Recent draft picks Hunter Dozier and Matt Chapman round out this tier. A first round pick in 2013, Dozier really struggled after being promoted to AA last year, hitting .209/.303/.312. The big right-handed hitter has some raw power and a good approach at the plate. Chapman was a first round pick in 2014 by the Athletics. He possesses plus power and, as a former 98-mph-throwing pitcher, a ridiculously strong arm for third. He struggled in his brief debut last year but has the ability to break out in a big way in 2015.
While most of the names are more known in this group, their name value may exceed their long-term value. A couple of very young players join in here as well.
Eric Jagielo and Jake Lamb both have big left-handed power that should play in the major leagues. Jagielo can hit to all fields, but like most power hitters, his strikeout rate is too high, sitting at 26% last year. He should start this season in AA but needs to improve his approach before getting too optimistic about a big league promotion. Lamb barely qualifies as a prospect after 126 major league at bats in 2014. His line of .230/.263/.373 shows that maybe he was rushed to the show. With Yasmany Tomas getting a look at third, Lamb may have more minor league seasoning ahead. He combines plus power and strong defense, but he strikes out way too much.
With much less power, Colin Moran and Garin Cecchini follow. Traded to the Astros last season, Colin Moran is a big left-handed hitter without the power you’d expect from his frame. He makes very good contact, though more geared towards line drives. Although Moran will likely never live up to his high draft selection, he has a decent floor and is only a year away from the majors. Cecchini has a beautiful left-handed swing combined with a strong approach at the plate that should allow him to hit for a solid average. He walks at a high clip but lacks the prototypical third baseman power. There likely isn’t a spot in Boston’s crowded roster for Cecchini in 2015, but with his approach and versatility, he’ll surely see some time in the bigs.
I promised some young players to watch, so here they are. Miguel Andujar was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2011. He has good power, a solid approach and a great arm for the hot corner. At just 19 years of age, Andujar hit .267/.318/.397 in A ball last season. Secondly, drafted out of high school in 2014, Ti’Quan Forbes has plus speed, makes good contact and has some developing power. Just 18 years old, it is all projection now, but he has a ton of tools and bears immediate watching.
Finally, 2014 was not kind to Jeimer Candelario and Matt Davidson. Candelario struggled in high A, hitting .193/.275/.326 and ending up back in A ball. His 2014 line in A Ball was worse than what he posted in 2013 at the same level. All is not lost though, as he just turned 21 and has plus power potential and generally a good approach at the plate. After looking like he would be the White Sox third baseman in 2014, Davidson really struggled in AAA, striking out 30% of the time while hitting .199. Davidson has plus power though and could end up a solid regular if he can get his average up to .250.
Other Prospects to Know
2014 draftees J.D. Davis and Taylor Sparks are interesting players to watch. Drafted in the third round, Davis has plus power, and as a two-way player in college, he has a cannon of an arm for third base. Davis hit .293/.371/.508 across low A and A ball in his professional debut last year. A second-round choice, Parks has plus speed and power. The problem is that he is super aggressive, striking out 35% of the time in rookie ball last season. Sparks had 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 198 at bats, which gives you an idea of the tools he possesses.
From the 2013 draft, Drew Ward, 20, is a big, powerful left-handed hitter who hit .269/.341/.413 last year in A ball. He strikes out too often and may outgrow third base, but there is good potential in the bat. A few years away from the majors, there is plenty of time for things to come together.
Finally two names that can’t be forgotten: Cheslor Cuthbert and Christian Villanueva. Cuthbert has been sliding down prospect lists for the past five years. Still just 22 years old, it isn’t time to write him off just yet. He has some power, a decent approach and a strong arm for third base. There may not be a lot here, but he could be serviceable if Moustakas continues to flounder. As the second Cubs third-base prospect that went backwards last year, Villanueva struggled mightily in AAA, hitting .211/.283/.372. Once demoted to AA, he still under-performed his 2013 season with a .248/.310/.385 line. He has some power potential and is excellent defensively, but his lack of discipline severely limits his ceiling.
Honorable Mentions to Carlos Belen (Padres), Kevin Padlo (Rockies), Ryan Rua (Rangers), Dante Bichette (Yankees)
Still need more rankings? Head on over to Fantasy Rundown, where Goose has compiled Prospect Rankings from all the top sites on the web along with rankings for the 2015 season and the best baseball links available.