by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There is a lot of talent coming at third base, though after the latest wave of youngsters have fallen flat thus far (like Mike Moustakas and Brett Lawrie), can we trust them? Where do the potential newcomers fit into the rankings? Let’s take a look at how things shake out:
5) Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Phillies (21-years old)
He has never stepped foot on a Major League diamond, but he’s almost assured his first taste in 2014 and that gives him a slight edge over someone like Kris Bryant (whose upside nearly gave him the edge). There is definitely risk with Franco, but the one thing we know for sure is that he has as much power as anyone.
Between Single & Double-A in ’13 he launched 31 HR while also hitting .320. For a power hitter it’s amazing that he also could post a 12.0% strikeout rate, which should allow him to continue to hit for a good average (though a 12.6% line drive rate does call that into a little question).
The other question is if he is best suited to move across the diamond to 1B or not, though for now Ryan Howard is going to block him there. Regardless, his power (and the potential for it to continue playing in Philadelphia) places him squarely on this list.
4) Brett Lawrie – Toronto Blue Jays (24-years old)
He was supposed to emerge as a must use option, but injuries and struggles have continually sabotaged him. He’s never hit more than 11 HR in a season. He’s never stolen more than 13 bases in a season. For his career he’s hit just .269. So why do we still hold out hope?
He’s young, for one, and has shown flashes including the second half of 2013 (.283 with 6 HR and 7 SB). There’s power potential (27 HR in ’11 between Triple-A and the Majors) and speed potential (30 SB in ’10), and putting that skillset in Toronto could yield a 20/20 season.
He also has proven that he can make good contact (16.1% career strikeout rate) and has the potential to hit for a better average. There’s still a lot to like, it’s just a matter if he puts it all together.
3) Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies (23-years old)
Arenado didn’t post big numbers in his Major League debut, hitting .267 with 10 HR in 486 AB. However he made good contact (14.0% strikeout rate) and hit the ball extremely hard (23.8%), so there’s obviously more upside in the average department (.296 BABIP).
There’s also some power in his bat, despite what he showed in 2013, having hit 29 doubles and 4 triples last season. It’s just a matter of him putting it together, but there’s the upside of a .300 hitter with 20+ HR routinely.
2) Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins (20-years old)
He’s never played in the Majors, but he takes the #2 spot because of the power. After hitting 28 HR in 2012, he followed that up with 35 HR between Single & Double-A in 2013. There’s little doubt that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark and also should get his first taste of the Majors in 2014.
The downside? He needs to do a much better job of making contact. He had a 27.4% strikeout rate in 2013, including a 29.3% at Double-A (233 AB). He’s still young, but as he continues to move up the ranks there’s going to be the fear that the number regresses even further.
If he can’t make contact he could prove to be a drain on your average, despite the power. It’s not enough to send us fleeing from him (obviously), but it’s something to keep in mind.
1) Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles (21-years old)
Was there any doubt as to who the top spot on this list was going to go to? While his knee injury could limit him early in 2014, he already has a full year in the Majors and has proven that he can thrive there. In 667 AB he hit .283 with 14 HR, and the numbers are only likely to get better.
The average is real, given his 15.9% strikeout rate and 20.6% line drive rate. He also added 51 doubles (and 3 triples), so as he gets older and stronger the HR are going to come. There’s an awful lot to like and he’s just going to get better and better over the coming years.
- Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs (22-years old) – He has only played 36 professional games, so there is going to be time for him to make his mark. Come next season, he’s almost assured to make it.
- Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals (25-years old) – Is he destined for a platoon role in Kansas City?
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: