It’s funny how much third baseman are like eggplants. Why am I drawing this off the wall parallel? No reason, other than I didn’t know how to open, and the first thing I saw was an eggplant. Yes, a real eggplant not a eggplant emoji, or item represented by said emoji. Here we are on a Sunday, not talking about the minor league happenings of the last week, but heading full steam ahead into the our off-season prospect coverage. Crazy to think we’re two seasons into my tenure here at Razzball as the resident Prospector In Chief. Memories, tears, and promise rings. Today we dive into the chilly waters of the hot corner. Not the most exciting group I’ll profile over the next few weeks, but not every position is as stacked as outfield. Ya dig? That’s not to say there aren’t a collection of future fantasy stars, as well as fantasy relevant talents outside the top 5. The top three names of Guerrero, Senzel, and McMahon should be familiar to all, as they’re some of the top talents presently in the minors. Unlike outfield and shortstop, there’s a particular profile associated with 3rd. It’s a power position, and one expected to produce some of the top middle of the order bats. The top 5 is filled with those, but the next 5 is where things get interesting. As always, remember my personal preference weighs heavy on this ranks (these ranks are my personal preference after all…), and the ability to stick at the position long term is taken with a grain of salt. I’m looking for the best bats with 3Bs on the back of their minor league baseball cards.
Unquestionably one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball, Vlad Jr.’s hype is about to reach mania type levels over the next 6 months. At just 18 the spawn of Vlad started flashing very real game power over the last few months. Advanced approach, even more power to come, and the bloodlines, Vlad Jr. looks like a middle of the order masher for years to come. The only real negative is the questions surrounding Guerrero’s future position. Will he stick at 3rd or settle in across the diamond at first? Some foresee a future in a corner outfield spot, time will tell.
While Senzel’s ceiling is far lower than Vlad Jr’s his floor is as high as anyone. The former 2nd overall pick is as ready made for an everyday role in the majors as any prospect. He’s shown the ability to hit for average, get on base, and provide moderate power, that might play up in Great American Ballpark. My expectations for production are very similar to that of Alex Bregman. Very good across the board player, but his greatest strengths lie within his hit tool. He was shut down for the remainder of the season with a bout of vertigo. I could see how that might limit ones ability to hit a baseball. Cust Kayin.
The Rockies find themselves in the envious position of having one of the top 3rd baseman in all of baseball in Nolan Arenado, and one of the top 3rd base prospects in Ryan McMahon. The latter rebounded heavily this year from a disastrous 2016 campaign. With a .374 batting average in AAA, it’s easy to make the case that McMahon had the best statistical year in the minors this season. He showed improved approach slashing his strikeout by 10%, while tapping into more power. There’s zero chance he sticks at 3rd in the Rockies organization, and he was used at first and second base at points during the season. There’s an outside shot that McMahon is the starting first baseman for the Rockies as early as April of 2018, making him a pre-season darling in the making. Here’s another example of a player being ranked at a position he more than likely won’t log much time at.
After a string of disappointing power years for the 2014 1st rounder Chavis tapped into his game power and slugged 31 homers between high A Salem and AA Portland. He dropped his strikeout rate into the low 20’s while maintaining an acceptable walk rate. His power is evident upon contact, but his approach, and inability to hit lefties will always limit his batting average. Making him more of a Paul DeJong type with split issues. Though it should be noted his approach isn’t quite as hyper-aggressive as DeJong’s. With Rafael Devers at third, and news of Chavis playing some first in the Arizona Fall League it’s very likely he too moves off the position.
5. Colton Welker, 3B Rockies | 2017 Level: A | 2017 Stats: .350/.401/.500 6 HR, 33 RBI, 5 SB
Ranking 67th on my Mid-season top 100 list, a groin injury caused him to miss 2 and half months of the season. Effectively stealing the second half of Welker’s 2017. A rare mix of contact and power make Welker yet another potential elite bat in Colorado’s system. He’s still just 19 and there’s a chance he could move off the position, but his upside is as high as anyone on this list not named Guerrero.
Controlled violence is the best way to describe Andujar’s swing. Witnessing his batting practice exploits first hand, massive raw power and bat speed are very present. Unfortunately he doesn’t always tap into his raw power in games due to a rather flat, maybe even downward slopping bat path. He’s continued to limit strikeouts and hit for a high amount of contact at every level. And there’s reason to believe he could make the right adjustments to draw more from his raw power in games. Should be up in the Bronx within the next few weeks, with an outside shot of breaking camp as the starter, that’s if he’s not dealt over the offseason. Should stick at third long term, and develop into an above average fielder at peak.
7. Nolan Jones, 3B Indians | 2017 Level: A | .317/.430/.482 4 HR, 33 RBI, 1 SB
The second rounder out of Philly Area Holy Ghost Prep, is starting to make good on some of his prospect hype heading into the 2016 draft. This season has been a true breakout showing an improved approach, and more game power than he flashed in his pro debut. Jones combines contact, plate discipline, projectable power, and the ability to stick at the hot corner.
After two and half years of moderate power and production, Anderson tapped into his raw power in 2017, riding it to a late season callup. I see the Marlins top hitting prospect as a high floor player that could produce solid fantasy seasons in deeper leagues of 16 teams plus. Long term I’d expect a line of .270, 20 HR, 75 RBI at peak, with maybe a little more batting average upside than power. Should be a factor in Miami in 2018.
9. Jake Burger, 3B White Sox | 2017 Level: A | 2017 Stats: .263/.336/.412 5 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB
The 11th overall pick in the draft had a storied college career, surpassing the 20 home run mark in consecutive seasons at Missouri State. His mix of plate approach, contact, and power made him one of the very top hitters in this year’s class. There are some concerns that he’ll face similar issues to 2016 Pirates first rounder Will Craig, who is yet to hit for power with wood bats. I’m a little more cautious on Burger than others, because if the power ain’t there, then Burger don’t play.
Riley has bounced on and off of my top 100 lists, ranking 174th most recently on my Top 200. I’m not sure if Riley is a Razzball reader because there was a fire under his booty in the second half. Upon promotion to AA Mississippi in mid-July the former 1st round supplemental pick hit .315/.389/.511 with 8 homers in just 48 games. Riley has reached the 20 homer mark in each of first two full professional seasons, and the Braves seem focused on keeping him at 3rd. He showed improved plate discipline from 2016, cutting down his strikeout rate from A ball, while walking at a near 10% clip in AA. Riley is still probably a year away, but looks like he could be a decent source of power.
11. Ryan Vilade, 3B Rockies | 2017 Level: RK | 2017 Stats: .308/.438/.496 5 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB
Here’s my surprise of the list, but I’m enamored with Vilade’s mix of power, contact, approach, and athleticism. Technically Vilade is a shortstop (I know Miketron I’m contradicting my shortstop post already), but he’s expected to move off the position, and his bat looks like it will play anywhere. Already showing the ability to make hard contact, best exemplified by his elite 26% LD%, Vilade has power to all fields. The whispers are the 2017 second rounder could see a full season assignment out of camp next year, making Vilade one of the more unheralded talents of the current draft class. Plus not sure if you realize this, but the Rockies do a great job of plucking talent at 3rd.
The prospect community as a whole is very split on what Neuse projects out to be. He strikes out a lot, has only hit for middling power, and despite great numbers at the A ball levels was a little old for the competition at 22. On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the production, and third base isn’t exactly the deepest position in the minors.