February 13, 2014
Get to Know
Third Base Prospects
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Third base is currently short on impact but long on floor, which isn’t a solid place to be when Kris Bryant and Miguel Sano are about to enter the mix. While Miguel Cabrera’s departure from the position will be a blow to fantasy leagues the world over, those two power-prospects will do their best to make up the difference. In the meantime, Nick Castellanos, Matt Davidson and fantasy zombie Mike Olt have a chance to break camp with starting jobs and could add even more depth to the position. Overall, speed is the one skill this position doesn’t address (outside of David Wright and a few others), and it doesn’t appear that anyone in the visible horizon is going to change that aspect.
Names for 2014
Nick Castellanos – Detroit Tigers
The old saying goes that a year away from a position makes you better suited when you return to it, right? No? Well, let’s try it anyway, it worked for James McDonald. How good (or bad) Castellanos is in the field hardly seems relevant as long as the Tigers are committed to playing him there. His bat didn’t take a year off from anything, as Castellanos was productive at Triple-A despite being one of the youngest regulars in the league. He gains value being part of a dynamic lineup, and can be expected to contribute immediately, with a slash line that will likely resemble a second-division third baseman. He’s got first-division upside, with more weight on his hit tool than his power tool for the time being. 20 home runs are a possibility eventually, though. He also doesn’t (or didn’t) use batting gloves, so that’s a reason to root for him.
Matt Davidson – Chicago White Sox
First and foremost: plus-plus hair game. Davidson should be in the majors sooner than later, with many expecting him there Opening Day. White Sox GM Rick Hahn recently intimated otherwise, but that could be GM speak, in that most teams don’t like to hand rookies jobs from the get go. Even with a quick pit stop in Triple-A, Davidson should contribute meaningfully to both the White Sox and your fantasy team this season. He’s got holes in his game and his swing, but he’s been a consistent producer at every level. Might those holes be exploited more frequently in the majors? Certainly so, but he’s got power, plays in a hitter-friendly park, and should be able to attain a batting average in the .260s, if not better.
Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs
There’s not much left for me to tell you about Bryant except that I wouldn’t anticipate a meaningful fantasy contribution until the second half of 2014 at the earliest. We know he has power in spades—the question is whether he’s going to make enough contact for the power to flourish immediately. Also, if I were to choose a walkup song for him, it would be “These Eyes” by The Guess Who.
Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins
Sano is in much a similar position as Bryant, though perhaps poised to contribute slightly sooner, thanks to more at-bats at a higher level. Still, he should begin his season in the minors and while success is assumed, a stumble here or there could delay his arrival. When he does arrive, expect a solid, but not exceptional handle on the strike zone, paired with plenty of whiffs and plenty of power. My choice for his walk up song: “The Man” by Aloe Blacc.
Mike Olt – Chicago Cubs
Bless the AL/NL Central for their hot corner-copia. Olt is a victim of too much hype and too much expectation, followed by too much doubt. His failure was epic, no doubt – but prospects fail all the time – it’s how they respond to that failure that determines what they’ll be. It’s possible that Olt doesn’t recover from a 2013 season that was so sunk it would make the Andrea Doria look upright, but we should give him the opportunity. It appears his eye troubles were the result of allergies, and if that issue is cleared up, it’s fair to evaluate him as is. He has a chance to come away with the starting job with a strong spring training, and if he does so, a low-average, moderate-power player could emerge.
Others: Christian Villanueva (Cubs), Zack Cox (Marlins)
Names for 2015 and Beyond
Garin Cecchini – Boston Red Sox
Cecchini might end up in left field or at first base, but the best position for his bat is the hot corner. It’s not a traditional profile in that it’s not power-heavy, but Cecchini can get on base early and often. He shows impressive control of the strike zone and can wear out the gaps even if the ball isn’t going over the fence. It’s possible he develops some late blooming power, but even with 15-18 home runs as a ceiling, there’s plenty of value here. Of the names on this list he’s the most likely to swipe some bases, though be wary of scouting his box scores as his minor-league stolen-base totals belie his average speed.
Colin Moran – Miami Marlins
Like Cecchini, Moran is a pure hitter who could ultimately lack the power profile that typically adorns third baseman. He’s got a sweet swing that could generate somewhere between 15-20 home runs down the line, but his stiff actions in the field leave him in very real danger of shifting across the diamond where his upside is more like 2013 James Loney—usable, but not ideal for a sixth-overall draft pick.
Joey Gallo – Texas Rangers
Ahh, like a breath of fresh air following the two hit/on-base-heavy prospects, Gallo harkens back to the traditional third base profile. Gallo proffers top of the scale power and little else. Of course little else is required to be a valuable commodity in fantasy if one can mash 40+ dingers in a season. Pedro Alvarez is walking proof of that. Of course, Gallo most gets compared to a player like Alvarez, or even Adam Dunn, who thanks to their whiff-heavy approach. That said, neither of those players struck out 35 percent of the time in Low-A, which makes Gallo a riskier proposition. There’s a hefty payload if Gallo pans out, but he’s going to need to make significant adjustments just to reach the majors, much less become a 30-plus home-run hitter there, and that’s before we get to the possibility that he’s not a third baseman.
Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies
Already being labeled a steal for the Rockies in the second round, McMahon was a multi-sport athlete in prep school who has shown better than advertised baseball skills after signing. As he continues to focus on just one sport, while using the athleticism garnered from playing two, McMahon could even exceed the projections placed on his tools, and they’re not timid projections either. He’s had “plus” hung on both his hit and power tools, which should only play up within the Rockies system. Whether he ends up in Coors field or not, the Rockies play in hitters’ havens throughout the minor leagues, which will only increase his prospect stock before he reaches the majors.
Kaleb Cowart – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Cowart suffered through a rough season, getting displaced as the Angels top prospect, which in itself was damning with faint praise. He spent 2013 as a 21-year-old at Double-A, amassing a 580 OPS. This isn’t a death knell for his prospect status thanks to his age and a solid defensive profile, but he’s going to return to Double-A in 2014 and will need to show significant improvement. Even with adjustments, there are going to be questions because he will be repeating the level. Cowart struggled badly against right-handed pitching and never found a groove at the plate. Ultimately, he might be a better real-life prospect than fantasy asset, because he offers little speed and a questionable hit tool. There’s plus raw power in his bat, but whether he can make it functional will be the question.
Eric Jagielo – New York Yankees
Pronounced jah-guy-low (I only recently found out myself), Eric is a first-round pick of the Yankees, and thus deserves a mention thanks to our east coast/northeast/Yankees bias. He’s not the sexiest package, but he might actually be more valuable in fantasy than on the field. He’s got a solid hit tool with the chance to be above-average, as well as power that could grade out plus down the line. Add in the favorable home park and baby, you’ve got a stew going! He didn’t reach Low-A last season, so it doesn’t appear he’s on the fast track—though instant success could change that—which will lower his value a bit. That said, a .270s average and possibly 25 home runs isn’t anything to sneeze at (you’ll ruin the stew), so the payoff might be worth the wait, depending on the depth of your league.
D.J. Peterson -- Seattle Mariners
Like others on this list, Peterson is questionable to stick at the position, but he has the bat to play anywhere. He has the potential for plus hit and power tools, with the ability to move quickly thanks to his polished approach. Peterson isn’t a high-ceiling monster in fantasy as he’ll add little to nothing in the speed categories, plus his future home in Safeco isn’t exactly a power hitter's best friend. Still, he’s a worthwhile add in deep keeper or dynasty leagues. If you’re in a shallower league, you might want to hold off due to lack of ceiling.
Others: Jeimer Candelario (Cubs), Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks), Rio Ruiz (Astros), Patrick Wisdom (Cardinals), Renato Nunez (Athletics)
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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