Top 10 Third Baseman Prospects (Preseason 2017 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Third base has seen an influx of top options at the Major League level over the past few seasons, with the emergence of players like Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado.  The pipeline currently looks fairly shallow, though there are a few names emerging at the top who can make an impact before long.  There also are some intriguing options who may not be highly graded currently, but have the potential to put things together.  Who are the best third base prospects?  Let’s run them down:

 

1) Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds
Grade – A-
ETA – 2018

He may have been the second overall selection, but currently Senzel is the best prospect of the class.  Seeing a lot of time at Single-A (210 AB) he hit .329 with 7 HR and 15 SB, showing even more power potential by adding 23 doubles and 3 triples (.567 SLG).  The stolen base total is deceiving, as he’s not likely going to be a big-time contributor (though he should be able to chip in 10+ per season), and he also saw his numbers buoyed by a bit of luck (.392 BABIP).  Those two things should not take away from the performance, especially as he showed a strong command of the strike zone:

  • Strikeouts – 19.7%
  • Walks – 12.9%

He’s 21-years old (he’ll turn 22 in June) having been drafted out of college and should move quickly through the system.  It’s not out of the question that he gets a taste of the Majors in 2017, though a 2018 arrival is far more likely.

 

2) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox
ETA – 2018
Grade – A-/B+

We’ve heard about the power potential that he possesses, and in the second half of the season he started to show it in games as he not only hit 7 HR, but added 24 doubles and 6 triples over 267 AB.  If you simply doubled that for a full season, you’d have 74 extra base hits and as he gains strength and experience it’s easy to imagine some of those doubles and triples turning into home runs.

He has also showed a tremendous approach at the plate, with a 17.2% strikeout rate at High-A this past season.  The fact that he didn’t lose that (51 K over 267 AB) as the power emerged is an even more promising sign.

Having played the entire season at 19-years old, Devers has the potential to take a significant step forward and emerge as one of the truly elite prospects in 2017.

 


 

3) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
Grade – B+
ETA – 2020

He’s the son of former great Vladimir Guerrero, so we know he has the bloodlines for success.  Considering his age (17-years old), his plate discipline is impressive (12.7% strikeout rate, 12.0% walk rate) and the potential is there to fully tap into his power potential as he matures and gains experience.  He’s not burner, but the speed is average and he showed an ability to steal bases in his first taste of professional baseball (15 SB in 20 attempts over 276 PA).

The biggest question hanging over him is where he fits defensively, with there being a good chance that he ultimately settles into a corner outfield slot.  That said, with his upside at the plate the Blue Jays are going to find a place for him to call home before long.

 

4) Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves
Grade – B+/B
ETA – 2019

Riley showed significant power upside at Single-A in 2017, as a 19-year old in his first full season of professional baseball, as he slugged 20 HR while adding 39 doubles and 2 triples.  Now the question is going to be if he can make consistent enough contact to fully tap into his potential.  A 27.1% strikeout rate, especially in the lower levels of the minors, is an eye-opening number.  Couple that with little speed and not the best ability to draw walks (7.2%) and there’s reason to believe that his overall upside will be capped.  There’s enough power to keep him on radars, and at his age there’s time to adjust.  He just needs to take a step in the right direction or his value is going to drop quickly.

 

5) Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees
Grade – B
ETA – 2018

While he hit just 2 HR in 319 PA upon arriving at Double-A, there’s more power than that in his bat (10 HR in 251 PA at High-A).  He’s still 21-years old, so there’s plenty of time for him to fully tap into the power potential, especially with Yankee Stadium as his future home.  When he unlocks that, to go along with his ability to make consistent contact, the upside is tremendous:

  • High-A – 12.0%
  • Double-A – 13.2%

While he may fly under-the-radar a little bit, there’s the potential that he takes a significant step forward and emerges as one of the elite third base prospects in the game.

 


 

6) Hunter Dozier – Kansas City Royals
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

At 25-years old the time has come for the former eighth overall selection in 2013 to show his true value and upside.  He showed signs in 2016, including getting his first taste of the Majors, as he combined to hit 23 HR (as well as 45 doubles and 1 triple) across three levels.  He doesn’t have much speed, so the question comes down to how the power develops and if he can make consistent contact.  The latter has always been an issue, though he did make strides last season:

  • Double-A (110 PA) – 20.9%
  • Triple-A (434 PA) – 23.0%

Obviously that’s not a highly impressive mark, especially with the potential for it to jump a little bit further.  Barring a further improvement there the average could be limited, so unless he taps in and starts slugging 30+ HR (unlikely) he’s a solid, but unspectacular prospect.

 

7) Jeimer Candelario – Chicago Cubs
Grade – B
ETA – Already Arrived

After hitting .219 at Double-A Candelario erupted at Triple-A, hitting .333 with 9 HR over 264 AB.  The big difference was luck, with his BABIP going from .261 to .383.  Obviously he’s not as good as the Triple-A mark, with the truth likely sitting somewhere in the middle.  He showed a good eye at the plate (17.2% strikeout rate, 12.3% walk rate at Triple-A), so the real question is if the power is going to develop (he had 39 doubles, 4 triples and 13 HR last season).  Now 23-years old it’s not something we’d be willing to bank on.

 

8) Ke’Bryan Hayes – Pittsburgh Pirates
Grade – B
ETA – 2019

A first round pick in 2015, Hayes disappointed in his first full season of professional baseball.  Playing at Single-A he hit .263 with 6 HR over 65 games, with much of his year being wiped out by a broken rib.  We don’t want to overlook the potential, as there’s power in his bat that should develop in time.  Don’t write him off quite yet, as if he can regain health he’ll have the potential to take a significant step forward.

 


 

9) Brian Anderson – Miami Marlins
Grade – B
ETA – 2017

When you look at a third baseman who hit .265 with 11 HR and 3 SB over 483 AB between High-A and Double-A, you wonder why he’d be on our radars.  However his plate discipline in 301 AB at Double-A was impressive:

  • Strikeout Rate – 17.1%
  • Walk Rate – 10.4%

He hit .243 at the level, but a .274 BABIP was the reason why.  At 23-years old he shouldn’t be far from arriving, though he’s still young enough to expect some more power to develop (he’s likely a 15-20 HR type in the Majors).  He’s seen some time at 2B in the past, a spot that his bat would profile better, though he only manned 3B last season.

 

10) Matt Chapman – Third Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2017

Power…  Power…  Power…  Chapman has more than enough, after slugging 36 HR over 514 AB between Double and Triple-A last season.  The question is going to be if he can make enough contact in the Majors to tap into it:

  • Double-A – 29.2%
  • Triple-A – 30.6%

That’s obviously something to watch, and could turn him more into a Chris Carter type player in the Majors.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does limit his overall upside.

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Frangraphs, Baseball Reference

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

2 comments

  1. SS says:

    Man, are you sleeping on Lucas Erceg! He’s better than 4-10 on this list. It will look like a silly mistake by mid year.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Erceg was definitely in the mix for the last spot on the rankings. He’s an interesting name to watch and certainly could rise quickly!

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