25 & Under Rankings (2018): Top 5 Third Baseman: Where Does Devers Fit & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Who are the next wave of superstars in Major League Baseball? That’s what we are about to dive into, as we go position-by-position, looking for the best players who are 25-years old or younger (as of April 1, 2018). Obviously, things will be slightly skewed to those who have already reached the Majors and produced, but minor leaguers and their upside will not be ignored.

There was a time that third base was viewed as a virtual waste land, but that clearly is no longer the case.  The position has seen a significant influx in talent in recent years, especially as some top shortstop prospects have shifted to the hot corner, and there is more talent on the way (as well as the arrival of Rafael Devers).  Who is the best of the next generation?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles
Age – 25

Machado appears primed to move over to shortstop full-time this season, but he’s primarily been a third baseman in recent years and therefore we’ll continue to keep him on this list.  Regardless of the position what is there to say that we don’t already know?  While he struggled to hit for a strong average in 2017 (he hit .259 due to a .265 BABIP), he’s already entrenched himself as one of the elite hitters in the game and that simply isn’t going to change.

 

2) Jose Ramirez – Cleveland Indians
Age – 25

Note – Ramirez would’ve been #1 on our 2B rankings, but he’s expected to be the primary 3B in ’18 (with eligibility at both spots already) with Jason Kipnis playing 2B therefore was left off the rankings

Ramirez emerged as one of the elite hitters in the game in ’17, regardless of position, after hitting .318 with 29 HR and 17 SB.  For the second straight season he was also a doubles machine, showing that there is still room for growth in his power:

  • 2016 – 46 doubles (and 3 triples)
  • 2017 – 56 doubles (and 6 triples)

While others around the league changed their approach to add power, Ramirez’ 39.7% fly ball rate is hardly a concern and his 14.1% HR/FB is obviously a realistic mark.  The fact that he couples that upside with a strong approach, posting a 5.4% SwStr% and 25.4% O-Swing%, and what is there not to love?

 

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3) Alex Bregman – Houston Astros
Age – 24

With Carlos Correa entrenched as Houston’s starting shortstop the team shifted Bregman to third base and he’s quickly proven to be one of the most productive players at the position.  In his first full season in the Majors he hit .284 with 19 HR, 71 RBI, 88 R and 17 SB, only showing signs of how much better the production could get.

He’s already shown a tremendous command of the strike zone, with a 6.4% SwStr%, 25.8% O-Swing% and 21.7% line drive rate, and the power should continue to grow (39 doubles, 5 triples and 19 home runs last season).  He’ll put up at least one season of .300/25/10, and could produce multiple years like that.

 

4) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox
Age – 21-years old

We recently talked about Devers in detail, which you can read by clicking here.  While we may expect some struggles in 2018 (aka growing pains), long-term it’s obvious just how high the upside is.

Struggles should be expected from a 21-year old who, at least to an extent, will be learning at the highest level.  Still he’s just starting to tap into his power potential (and delivered 30 HR between his time in the minors and Majors in ’17).  The question is going to be his contact rate, after posting a 10.9% SwStr% in the minors and 12.4% in the Majors, though with his “worst” Whiff% being 16.67% against offspeed pitches the development should come in time.  While we expect some bumps along the road, he’ll get there before too long.

 

5) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
Age – 19

Generally a 19-year old wouldn’t be included in these rankings, but Guerrero is an exception to the rule.  The son of a Hall of Famer, Guerrero split time between Single-A and High-A last season showing an impressive batted ball profile (especially for an 18-year old, regardless of the level):

  • Strikeout Rate – 11.8%
  • Walk Rate – 14.4%
  • Swinging Strike Rate – 8.4%

While it’s possible he opens the year back at High-A, it won’t be long before he reaches Double-A and could reach the Majors as soon as 2019.  Considering his already impressive approach and the potential to grow into his power potential rather quickly it’s only a matter of time.  In a year or two don’t be surprised to see him sitting atop these rankings and he will be a fixture for the next five years.

 

Just Missed:

  • Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees (Age – 23) – You could argue that he belongs in the Top 5, though it’s clear the Yankees have concerns as they continue to find reasons to keep him pinned at Triple-A
  • Joey Gallo – Texas Rangers (Age – 24) – Strikeouts… Strikeouts….  Strikeouts…  While the power is obviously there, the elevated strikeout rate makes it likely he consistently hits in the .225-.240 range
  • Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins (Age -24) – He’s very similar to Gallo, but you have to add in the health concerns, off-the-field issues and talk about his weight. In other words the risk/uncertainty is simply too high right now
  • Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds (Age – 23) – With Eugenio Suarez entrenched at 3B, at least for now, the biggest question is going to be where the Reds find playing time (and they are experimenting with Senzel at second base and shortstop)

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

** ORDER ROTOPROFESSOR’S 2017 DRAFT GUIDE TODAY **
Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
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Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

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