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February 4, 2016

Get to Know

Third Base Prospects

by Ben Carsley

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Previous entries in this series:

The corner is indeed hot for 2017 and beyond, but for 2016 it’s fairly tepid. Nailed it.

Names for 2016

Joey Gallo, Rangers
How’s your risk tolerance? If you like rolling the dice, Gallo is arguably the fourth- or fifth-best fantasy prospect in the game today. He is a legitimate threat to hit 30-40 homers from third base on a routine basis, and while he’s likely to be a drag on your team average he’ll reach base enough and sting enough baseballs to matter in R and RBI, too. The problem? Gallo struck out in 46 percent of his 123 MLB PA, 39.5 percent of his 228 Triple-A PA and 33.6, percent of his 146 Double-A PA last season. Gallo’s entire profile is as boom-or-bust as each hack he takes. I’ve long been the high man on him and I’ve long been optimistic he’ll make up for his whiffs with his pop, but I won’t lie: I’m a little nervous. Considering Adrian Beltre’s injury history, we can at least fully expect Gallo to get some more seasoning with the Rangers this year.

Brandon Drury, Diamondbacks
Brandon Drury is the anti-Gallo; he doesn’t do anything super well, but also has no glaring weaknesses. Despite hitting just seven bombs last year scouts think he has the pop to challenge for at least 15 homers a year, and while he struggled in his MLB debut Drury is a career .285/.334/.440 hitter in the minors. He can man both second and third base, and while that versatility should help him stay in or near the majors for a long while, he’s currently part of a logjam in Arizona that includes Jean Segura, Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, and Jacob Lamb. Odds are Drury will eventually separate himself from that lackluster pack, but he’s far from a safe bet to do so in 2016.

Richie Shaffer, Rays
Things looked pretty bleak for Shaffer heading into 2015, but the former first-round pick had the best season of his professional career, smashing 26 homers between Double-A and High-A before limping his way through 88 PA in the majors. Shaffer lacks much (or really anything) in the way of upside, but he does have 20-homer power (if he ever receives 400-plus PA, which, well ...) and he should be in for some playing time in 2016, even if it’s not routine. The hope here is that Shaffer plays 3B, 1B, and maybe even OF for a few years while playing enough against left-handers to matter in TDGX-sized leagues. Then again, this is the Rays we’re talking about, so perhaps they’ll view Shaffer as a cheap source of power and play him more often than you’d think in the coming years.

Renato Nunez, Athletics
Like Shaffer, Nunez is attractive for his power potential and is likely to move to first base down the line. I like Nunez’s hit tool just a bit more, though, and while he doesn’t profile as someone who’ll start at third base in good fantasy leagues, you can’t ignore 20-plus homer power in this day and age. Nunez has little in front of him—an oft-injured Jed Lowrie, the defensively challenged Danny Valencia and the Eric Sogard-y Eric Sogard—so he could force his way to the majors if he does in Triple-A what he did in Double-A last year. Still, there’s a lot of downside here.

Colin Moran, Astros
It’s tempting to totally bury Moran from a fantasy POV, and that’s in large part because his profile is a substantial disappointment relative to his draft position. But “not as good we thought” doesn’t equal “totally useless,” and Moran is actually a sneaky buy-low investment in TDGX-sized fantasy leagues. Moran just keeps hitting, and while he hasn’t flown through the majors for a polished college bat he’s clearly mastered Double-A and is ready for a test at the next level. Moran lacks the power to profile as a top-20 third baseman, but he can hit .280 or better and might challenge double-digit bombs in Houston. He’s certainly not a top-150 fantasy prospect, but he might be a top-250 guy in my book, though he loses all value if he can’t retain 3B eligibility.

Eric Jagielo, Reds
I view Jagielo a lot like I view Shaffer, only a year further out and with a more checkered injury history but more friendly contextual factors (as of now). Another guys who’s probably not a first-division starter, but who could be fantasy-relevant if he gets playing time because of his power potential. God knows there’s nothing in Cincinnati in his way.

Garin Cecchini, Brewers

Others: Cheslor Cuthbert, KC; Christian Villanueva, CHC; Yandy Diaz, CLE

Names for 2017 and Beyond

Ryan McMahon, Rockies
Yes, McMahon has benefited from favorable contextual factors for most of his career. That’s important to bring up, but if you write him off simply because of it, you’re missing out on a gem. In my book (no, not that one), McMahon is one of the more underrated fantasy prospects in the game today. He’s got enough power to challenge for 20-plus bombs, should hit for respectable averages and is a near-lock to remain at third base. Add in that he’s on track for a 2017 debut, and there’s truly a lot to like here. Is he likely to remain a Rockie? Probably not, thanks to Nolan Arenado, but no matter where McMahon ends up he’s a potential top-10 fantasy 3B in his prime years. It pains me to admit this, but Craig Goldstein was totally right about him.

Rafael Devers, Red Sox
Listen, I get it. Devers’ potential is sky-high, he’s done nothing but annihilate baseballs since entering professional ball and he should reach High-A as a 19-year-old in 2016. If you want to sell out for upside, Devers is your guy. I’m just saying look at Devers’ anemic walk rate and defensive profile before we anoint him a top-20 dynasty league prospect. I’ll change my tune if Devers continues mauling as he climbs the ladder or if it somehow becomes more likely that he’ll stick at third, but to me right now, he profiles as a good but not special fantasy first baseman. I’m pretty sure I just lost my Red Sox Nation card.

Jomar Reyes, Orioles
Reyes was featured in our Just Missed the 101 list, and I’d personally be surprised if he doesn’t make Bret Sayre’s dynasty 101 iteration. Reyes is sort of a poor man’s Devers (let’s ignore how absurd it is to call a Low-A prospect a poor version of another Low-A prospect) in that he’s got double-plus power potential, a potential plus hit tool and is probably not a third baseman. But Reyes’ hit tool isn’t quite as advanced as Devers’ right now, and he’s even less likely to stick at the hot corner than is Boston’s wunderkind. I feel like Reyes hasn’t gotten the play he deserves from a national dynasty perspective. Let’s change that.

Oh, also, Reyes was born in 1997. You are old.

Austin Riley, Braves
Thank you, Braves, for keeping Riley in the batter’s box and off the mound. Considered by most to be a better pitching prospect than a hitter, Riley started proving the doubters wrong in 2015, mashing to a .351/.433//586 line in Danville after hitting seven homers in the GCL. Riley is forever away but he has a very enticing power/hit tool combo, and while he’s not a lock to stay at third he’s certainly got the arm to do so. Look for him to be a fast-riser in dynasty rankings.

Oh, also, Riley was born in 1997. You are old.

Jhoan Urena, Mets
The pros: Urena has an intriguing hit tool and power from both sides of the plate. He reached High-A at the age of 20. He’s capable of manning third base right now. The cons: Urena has yet to show he can use his power in games. He clearly wasn’t ready for High-A yet. And there’s a good chance he can’t remain at third base, at least for most of his career. The overall picture: Grab Urena if your league rosters 150-plus dynasty leaguers and he’s available. There’s a pretty good chance he’s a top-101 name at this point next year. Just understand there’s plenty of risk in the profile.

Matt Chapman, Athletics
You might look at Chapman’s defensive tools and his 23 homers from a year ago and think we’ve really got something here, but alas, Chapman was a 22-year-old in the Cal League. That doesn’t mean we should totally discount what he did, of course, but it does mean we should take it with a Japhet Amador-sized grain of salt. Chapman is a lock to stay at third and he does have the power to challenge for 20 homers some day, but there’s a good chance the hit tool limits the utility of his good-not-great natural pop. Consider him an interesting dynasty proposition, but don’t get carried away.

Hunter Dozier, Royals
Double-A has been very, very unkind to Dozier. On the one hand he’s still just 24, but on the other hand he has more contact issues than the iPhone 4. Dozier struck out in over a quarter of his PA last season, and while scouts think there’s natural plus power in his swing that doesn’t really matter if you can’t make contact. He’s a lock to stay at third, so maybe a Luis Valbuena-ish future is in story, but even that looks like a best-case scenario at this point. We’re rapidly headed toward “we hardly knew ye” territory.

Others: Jeimer Candelario, CHC; Trey Michalczewski, CHW; Ke’Bryan Hayes, PIT; Michael Chavis, BOS; Rio Ruiz, ATL; J.D. Davis, HOU; Kevin Padlo, TB

We Hardly Knew Ye (Fantasy Value)

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Fantasy,  Dynasty Leagues

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Prospectus Feature: Th... (02/03)
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Fantasy Article Get to Know: Second-Ba... (01/27)
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Fantasy Article Get to Know: Shortstop... (02/10)
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