Stocking the Scout Team: Third Base
The third base position holds some of the most promising young players in baseball, headlined by Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Kris Bryant. Prospects just a couple of years ago, they’ve now graduated and are dominating the big leagues. It will be nearly impossible for the next crop of third base prospects to reach the heights those three already have, but names such as Joey Gallo, Rafael Devers, and Ryan McMahon are quite exciting. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of prospect depth behind them, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t some intriguing players out there. You probably haven’t heard them yet, but it may be time to keep an eye on these five under-the-radar third base prospects.
Pedro Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
The term “projection” is generally used for pitching prospects, but I’d say Pedro Gonzalez exemplifies the word pretty well for a hitter. Listed at 6’4” and 160 pounds, Gonzalez impressed with eight home runs and eight stolen bases as an 18-year old in Rookie-Ball last season. The plate discipline wasn’t great, but it’s hardly a concern at this point in his career. It’s impossible to confidently say just how much power Gonzalez will end up with, but he has great bat speed and room to add plenty of strength to his frame. Gonzalez currently has solid speed, though that could evaporate as he develops more power. The Rockies are currently playing him at shortstop, though the hot corner seems most likely to be his home once he fills out. It’s anyone’s guess as to how and where Gonzalez ends up, though he’s one of the more exciting short-season players out there. It will be forever and a half until he arrives, though his (possible) home park, (possible) tools, and (possible) upside are (possibly) worth the wait.
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees
An intriguing player since signing with the Yankees prior to 2012, Andujar saw his stock peak following a promising 2014 campaign. Alas, Andujar batted just .243/.288/.332 last season and was pushed off most Yankees top prospect lists. A lack of plate discipline put a damper on his plus power, and evaluators lost faith in the 21-year old’s hit tool eventually becoming average. But 2015 wasn’t a complete disaster, with Andujar hitting a strong .277/.325/.400 in the second half of the season once adjusting to High-A. He followed a similar trend in 2014, which is partially why his overall numbers have been rather lackluster. Andujar’s a bit of a polarizing prospect, with scouts unable to agree on his power projection and speed, but they all agree that it won’t matter if he can’t cut down on his free swinging ways. On the bright side, Andujar’s dropped his strikeout rate to start this season and his plus power and average speed could shine through once he gets more experience in the minor leagues.
Bryce Denton, St. Louis Cardinals
Denton, a second round pick in last year’s draft, had about as poor a professional debut as you can have. The third baseman was handed a challenging assignment in the Gulf Coast League and was overmatched in 44 games, hitting a mere .194/.254/.245. Although the debut was far from comforting, Denton was one of the youngest players in the draft class and the struggles can be partially excused. This season will prove to be a big one for Denton, and there’s confidence that he can bounce back. Denton brings plus power from the right side and it should be able to play given his solid bat. Although the 18-year old is more of a project than the Cardinals anticipated and will be a slow mover, Denton has a loud bat and could see his stock rebound with a strong 2016.
Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox
This is going to shock you, but the Red Sox have an interesting prospect in their farm system. No, really. Possibly lost among the big names that pepper the minor leagues for Boston, Michael Chavis has flashed serious power in his short time with the team. The 20-year old hit 16 home runs with eight steals in 109 games at A-Ball last season, though it also came with a 30.6% strikeout rate and .223 batting average. Still, Chavis was considered to have an advanced bat when drafted in 2014, so the plate discipline should improve. The first rounder could end up with plus power and a solid hit tool (along with a handful of stolen bases) but the strikeouts will need to decrease for that to happen. Chavis got off to a torrid start this season–hitting .356 with a halved strikeout rate early on–but he’s now sidelined and may need surgery for a sprained thumb ligament.
Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
DeJong pulled a reverse-Denton in his professional debut last season, doing nothing but hit. He launched eight home runs with a .288/.360/.438 line and 13 stolen bases in 56 games at A-Ball and was aggressively assigned to Double-A this season. He has a polished bat with plus power, which could make quite a few teams regret letting him fall to 131st overall. The 22-year old did last until the 4th round for a reason, however, as DeJong may not be able to stick at third base and could end up at first base where he isn’t nearly as valuable. It’s also worth mentioning DeJong has gotten off to a Denton-esque start this season, so investing may best be delayed a bit. Still, DeJong isn’t far from the big leagues and has much less risk in his profile than the other players on this list. Provided a Double-A assignment doesn’t prove to be too aggressive, DeJong should be able to rake his way to the big leagues fairly quickly.