Each week I will look back at my prospect rankings from last year and examine the top performers, as well as those who did not live up to my lofty expectations. In every case, it’s not my rankings that were wrong, but the player who did better or worse than they should have. I’m kidding of course; I’ve got my share of hits and misses, but this series is really about looking forward and what players to target and who to cash in on if you can.
Last week, I shared my poor results at second base, but I redeemed myself with last year’s Top 25 Third Base Prospects. We had some big graduations this year, and there is still plenty of upside left for this year’s upcoming list. The big remaining prospects: Joey Gallo, Rafael Devers and Ryan McMahon aren’t listed below because I had already ranked them very aggressively. While they’ll still move up, it won’t be as drastic on mine as on most industry lists. I even hit on a few of the lesser-known prospects who had a lot of success this year. As bad as things turned out last week for me, they’ve gone right at third base in 2015.
The Graduates (2015 rank in parenthesis)
(1) Kris Bryant, Cubs: Bryant had a huge year for the Cubs, with 26 HR, 99 RBI and a .275 AVG. He led all third basemen with a 37.5% Hard Hit rate edging out Josh Donaldson’s 37.1% mark, and got better as the season went on. His 30.6% K rate is concerning, but with a solid walk rate I’d expect to see gradual improvement there. He’ll always be a high strike out guy, but when you put up a 6.5 WAR seasons in your rookie year, it’s a little easier to overlook. Check out the spray chart and you’ll see the pull power, but he went the opposite way 23.8% of the time and 35% to center field. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the sky is the limit for Bryant, but I believe there’s more power still to come from this perennial future All-Star.
(3) Miguel Sano, Twins: If Bryant was hitting the ball hard in 2015, then Sano was crushing them. With a 43.2% hard hit rate and a 26.5 HR/FB%, Sano looks very much like he’ll be one of the game’s best power hitters. His K rate was worrisome at a ridiculous 35.5 %. He walked 15.8% of the time at just 22 years old though, so I’d suspect we’ll see him improve that mark over time. What we have is prodigious power, and if he can keep 3B eligibility, he’ll be one of the best fantasy assets in the game. This is a fun video from jd villaman showing each of Sano’s major league home runs this year. WOW!
(7) Maikel Franco, Phillies: Overshadowed by Sano and Bryant, Franco had a successful major league debut this year hitting .280/.343/.497 in 335 PA. In half a season, Franco hit 14 HR with 50 RBI giving us a glimpse of what the future may hold for the 23-year-old third baseman. He may not have the power of our top two graduates, but he does a much better job making contact with just a 15.5% K rate to go with a surprisingly much-improved 7.8% walk rate. I like this bat a lot and he should probably be ranked among the top 10 third basemen for dynasty leagues.
Other Graduates: (15) Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks.
(12) Matt Chapman, Athletics: Of Chapman last year, I wrote “He struggled in his brief debut last year but has the ability to break out in a big way in 2015“. I’m pretty sure that 23 home runs in 304 High-A at bats qualifies as breaking out, but if not he’ll still get a lot more publicity this year than last. The power is legitimate, and at 22-years-old I would look for Chapman to take another big step forward next season.
(18) Jeimer Candelario, Cubs: 2014 was a disaster for Candelario, but he sure got himself back on track in 2015. He showed a greatly improved approach at the plate as well as a bit more power. Candelario was rewarded with a trip to the AFL where he earned a Co-Player of the Week award his first week there. There may not be a ton of upside here, but Candelario is putting himself back on the prospect map with his recent play.
(21) J.D. Davis, Astros: Davis is a power-hitting third baseman who was a 3rd round pick for the Astros in 2014. Last season he demolished High-A with 26 HR and 101 RBI in 485 at bats. His strike out rate is way too high and he’s a little old for his level, but he showed tremendous growth in 2015. Another season like last and he’ll be a household name.
(6) D.J. Peterson, Mariners: Fortunately for Peterson, a move to first base will hide what would have been a drastic drop in the third base prospect rankings. While he’s doing well in Arizona right now, 2015 was a complete disaster for the once top prospect. He was supposed to have plus power, but saw his HR output drop from 31 to 7 this year. In fact, all of his numbers took a nose-dive as he failed to improve in his age 23 season. The move to first base will only decrease his fantasy value that much more, as he’s unlikely to ever put up the kind of numbers a high-end 1B would. I’m not writing Peterson off completely, but something drastic would need to happen for him to get back to his once-shiny prospect status.
(16) Garin Cecchini, Red Sox: In 2012 and 2013, Cecchini set the prospect world abuzz with his stellar BB/K rates, high batting averages and stolen base prowess. Fast forward two years later, and there’s just no semblance of the same person. Here are the numbers:
Couple his offensive collapse with the move to the outfield and Cecchini won’t be ranked anywhere heading into 2016. It’s time to move on from him even in deep dynasty leagues if you haven’t already.
The New Faces
Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates: The son of former major-leaguer Charlie Hayes was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2015. Ke’Bryan has plus hit tools to go with what is described as a very high baseball IQ. At 18 years old, he hit .333 in Rookie ball before getting a late year promotion to West Virginia. He’s likely 4 years away, but with his bat speed and ability to make solid contact, he’s worth keeping an eye on in deep leagues.
Video from Baseball America
Gilbert Lara, Brewers: Lara was signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 for $3.1 million. As expected, he was moved to third base late last year where he profiles as a power-hitting right-handed hitter. He didn’t show much of his huge power potential last season, but at 17 years old, he was one of the youngest players in the minors. Lara is a total upside play for fantasy owners, but if things do come together we’re looking at a very special talent.
Video from Fangraphs
JaCoby Jones, Tigers: Jones was moved to third base following his trade to the Tigers at the deadline last year. He has big-time tools, but has never really put it together – though he reached 16 HR/ 24 SB last year after 23/17 in 2014. His power/speed combo makes him very intriguing for fantasy purposes. While the strikeouts are too high (28.3% last year) and he’s moved out of the middle infield, I really like the move to Detroit for Jones. Currently he’s hitting .379 in the Arizona Fall League with a pair of home runs; sometimes a change of scenery is just what a player needs. Here’s a look at his first HR as a Tiger; hopefully there are lots more to come.
Video from minorleagueball
Next week I will take a look at shortstop prospects, even though nothing really exciting happened with that group.
Head on over to Fantasy Rundown for more minor league prospect news, draft prep advice, off-season happenings, rankings, and tons of other baseball related links.