My prospect position series continues with a look at third basemen.
Third base is not a deep position in baseball. Like its counterpart at first base, there really isn't much power emerging at the infield corners. Teams are looking for power, but finding some guys that can at least hit for average.
If you are in a keeper league and have found a third baseman giving you some production, don't get greedy. Some highly rated prospects like Lonnie Chisenhall have already been returned to their minor league homes. How long do we wait for Brett Lawrie? He's hitting .204 as I write this. And how about Jeff Keppinger? The White Sox picked him up for his reliable bat. Reliable? It's May and he's hitting .188. My point? This is not your grandfather's third base. Or your father's. There aren't many Miguel Cabrera type hitters sitting out there. Oh, I can go on. Remember when the Rockies were really excited about Ian Stewart? Well, as my cousin Vinnie used to say, "forget about it."
Here is my rather limited list of third base prospets:
IMPACT THIRD BASEMEN
Miguel Sano - Twins
What a pleasure it is to see a Twins player listed as a top prospect. Unlike Kyle Gibson, Sano has a chance to be an impact player. The only problem? He'll be strutting his stuff at a home run graveyard. Sano has legitimate power. He is young and raw, but he is hitting .368 with 10 homers and 31 RBI already this season. He's only in High-A, so he has time to develop. If you're looking to the future, he's your guy.
Anthony Rendon - Nationals
I love this guy's advanced hitting mechanics. He's already a professional hitter. He won't flash much power, but as he moves forward, his batting average and speed on the bases will help you. He'll be a fill-in on the Nationals roster until the club decides what to do with him. I'd like to see him get traded out from under Ryan Zimmerman, but that probably won't happen.
Nolan Arenado - Rockies
As he matures and gains experience, I think Arenado is going to go crazy with big hits and homers in Coors Field. His swing was made for that place. He can hit breaking balls already and he's only going to improve. Target him if you haven't already. His power is real. His attitude could hurt him if he gets too big for his game cap, but from a pure talent standpoint, Arenado is the real deal.
There are some other third basemen at the beginning of their careers that intrigue me. I do not think they are impact hitters, but they can hit. They include:
Cody Asche - Phillies
The Phils are quickly approaching a turning point. Will they go with some young players in the near future? Certainly, their long-term answer isn't Michael Young. It could be Asche. He's a solid hitter and is improving at third base. He's currently hitting .273 in Triple-A and I look for his arrival fairly soon. He has three homers and has knocked in 22 runs. He deserves a chance. You can do worse for your fantasy team as a player for your long-term bench.
Maikel Franco - Phillies
He's only in High-A, but Franco has shown power in his brief career. He has a ton of doubles and so far this season he's hit eight home runs and driven in 32 with a .291 batting average. Those numbers do not guarantee major league success. They do show that he has the ability to hit the ball with authority. What I like is his very good contact rate. Remember the name. Keep your eye on his progress. I'll be watching him, I can assure you.
Matt Davidson - Diamondbacks
Davidson has been a bit overlooked in the Diamondbacks' promotion program. The same happened to Chris Owings at shortstop. He's another guy I hope gets traded, because third base belongs to Martin Prado for now and for the next 30 years since he was the centerpiece of the Justin Upton deal. Davidson is hitting .289 at hitter-friendly Reno. He has four homers and 25 RBI. That's the number I like the most.
Joey Gallo - Rangers
Gallo has plenty of power to play third base, no doubt about that. He hit 22 homers last year in his rookie year. He is raw defensively and he's still learning to hit. The challenges will increase as the pitching improves, but keep your eye on him. He could be the heir apparent to Adrian Beltre if Mike Olt doesn't get his act together.
Zack Cox - Marlins
The Cardinals drafted Cox to eventually be their third baseman of the future. It didn't work out, and he was traded for Edward Mujica. He's a gap hitter, but when I saw him I felt more power could emerge. He has a .289 composite minor league batting average. So far this season, he's hitting .328 at Triple-A for Miami. I like his bat. I like the fact he plays for an organization needing help. I look for him to land in Miami soon. Or Houston. Keep your eye on this guy. He's a little under the radar.
Jake Lamb - Diamondbacks
Here's another D-Backs prospect that is making some noise and raising some eyebrows. The problem, as is the case with Matt Davidson, is that there is no place for him to play. Lamb is very young and very inexperienced. He's at High-A Visalia where he's hitting a very fine .342 with four homers, 16 RBI and a strikeout rate that's too high. I like his upside, but it's too soon to know what kind of player he will become.
Wilmer Flores - Mets
Flores is ranked as an average quality player, with no really special tool. He has good mechanics and he has some power in his bat. It remains to be seen if Flores can hit quality pitching. He hit 18 homers last season over two classifications. This season he is hitting .272 with three homers at Triple-A Las Vegas. There are those that feel he isn't quick enough to play second base, so third base is where he'll likely profile.
David Adams - Yankees
Currently playing third base for New York, Adams is a good hitter. He should be able to hit major league pitching for average. He doesn't run much and he doesn't have much power. A broken leg cost him a chance to play for the Mariners, as he was discussed when Seattle traded Cliff Lee. Adams is about a .280 hitter. He won't hurt you, but he won't help much in the home run category either.
The following guys have been disappointments or haven't responded as expected. Each has been highly touted. I've seen the first two players in this group extensively.
Mike Olt - Rangers
Olt tore up the Arizona Fall League a couple seasons ago, built his reputation with a loud fall bat and really hasn't hit with authority since. Olt has struggled with fastballs up in the zone. He's hitting .139 with one homer and one RBI in Triple-A. He was the subject of extensive trade talks the past two seasons, but the Rangers wouldn't let him go. I don't think that's the case right now. He has to turn it around quickly to be on the top prospect radar going forward. If he does, he could jump back to the impact list. Quickly.
Kaleb Cowart - Angels
I watched him struggle in the Arizona Fall League and I still don't know what the Angels see in him. Especially as a No. 1 draft pick out of high school. That's the key. He came out of high school. Keep in mind he was one of the highest ranked players in the country because he could also pitch - and pitch well.
Other teams may have drafted him as a pitcher, but not the Angels. He's a big, strong switch-hitter. We have to wait and see what maturity and experience do for him. As of now, he's hitting .199 at Double-A Arkansas, a high classification for a 20-year-old prospect.
Cheslor Cuthbert - Royals
Cuthbert is playing at High-A where he's hitting .259. He only has two homers, but he has 17 RBI. The Royals are set at third base, but Cuthbert is still in development so there's no rush. He's a quality defender, but he doesn't really bring any major tool to his game. I don't project him to be more than an average major league player
Luis Jimenez - Angels
Jimenez is on the parent club's roster, but the results aren't good. He's hitting .232 with no homers and a mere two RBI in 69 at-bats. Making matters worse, he has 24 strikeouts and two walks.
Other Names to Follow:
Avery Romero - Marlins
Rio Ruiz - Astros
Alex Santana - Dodgers
Travis Harrison - Twins
Dante Bichette, Jr. - Yankees
Mitchell Walding - Phillies
Patrick Wisdom - Cardinals
Adam Duvall - Giants
Rickie Shaffer - Rays
Drew Robinson - Rangers
Matt Dean - Blue Jays
Mitch Nay - Blue Jays
Matt Skole - Nationals
Seth Mejias-Brean - Reds
I'm in Baltimore on Tuesday to watch the Orioles and Yankees. Manager Buck Showalter is still upset about the blown calls yesterday at first base. He has good reason.
The Orioles will be looking again at Jake Arrieta and T.J. McFarland as potential spot starters.
Amazing that both Mike Zunino and Wil Myers are scuffling in minor league baseball.
Don't look for Juirckson Profar to remain with the Rangers. I think when Ian Kinsler comes back. Profar returns to playing minor league ball.
Speaking of scuffling - Mike Olt is the poster boy.
Is this the same Indians team that I couldn't watch last season? I didn't like the pitching this spring training and I'm still not convinced. But the energy is so much better.
Eric Chavez is amazing when you watch him play all the time.
I liked the original bird in the Orioles logo. It's still on all the gates and seats. The new bird looks like the bird in Angry Birds. Too cute. I also wish their hats were all white.
From Baltimore, I'm going to Washington to see the Nationals and Phillies.
Corbin shut down the Rockies in Colorado. Take note.
Is Clayton Kershaw Sandy Koufax? Not yet, but he's getting closer, isn't he? For those that follow my work, that's the comp I used on RotoWire when I first saw him years ago. The comp for Aroldis Chapman was Sam McDowell.
I took a flyer on Josh Lindblom. Yikes!
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and at MLB.com in the Voices section.