Third base is a position where it's easy to make an impression on scouts. It's home to many players with powerful bats and strong arms, and the nature of the hot corner lends itself to spectacular defensive plays.
Since MLB.com started in 2001, the vast majority of clubs have had a third baseman who at one time ranked among the elite prospects in the game. We identify the best of those players for each organization below.
Not every blue-chip prospect panned out, evidenced by the presence of Andy Marte on two lists -- the Braves and Indians, and nearly the Red Sox, too. But Evan Longoria, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman already have become the best third baseman in their franchise's history, and Kris Bryant, Matt Chapman and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. eventually could claim that distinction as well.
American League East
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The most-hyped prospect in recent memory, if not ever, Guerrero appeared on three straight preseason Top 100 lists, ranking as MLB Pipeline’s Nos. 34, 3 and 1 prospect from 2017-19, respectively. After making his highly anticipated big league debut on April 26 last season, he produced a .272/.339/.433 line with 15 homers, 26 doubles and 69 RBIs in 123 games for the Blue Jays, finishing sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle
Yes, Mountcastle was in our top first-base prospects story as well, but before he moved to first, he spent two years as one of the top prospects at the hot corner, landing on our top 10 at that position in 2018 and the start of 2019. He’s pretty much hit wherever he’s played, with his best position being the batter’s box.
Rays: Evan Longoria
Taken by Tampa Bay with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 Draft out of Long Beach State, Longoria made it up to Double-A during his pro debut and opened the next year as MLB Pipeline’s No. 16 prospect. After a strong 2007 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A, he jumped to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list ahead of 2008, when the infielder captured AL Rookie of the Year honors and finished 11th in MVP voting. He became a three-time All Star for the Rays, batting .270/.341/.483 with 261 homers and 892 RBIs across 10 seasons before joining San Francisco in a December 2017 trade.
Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Scouts considered Devers the best left-handed bat in the 2013 international class, and he proved them correct after signing for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic. He ranked as the top third-base prospect (and No. 4 overall) on MLB Pipeline's mid-2017 Top 100 list, played a key role in a 2018 World Series championship and led the Majors with 359 total bases last season.
Yankees: Drew Henson
If Henson had concentrated on either baseball or football after leaving high school, he might have been a star slugger or quarterback, but instead he only played briefly in the Majors and the NFL. He signed for $2 million after signability concerns dropped him to the third round of the 1998 Draft, then juggled two sports while battling Tom Brady for Michigan's starting job in 1999 and running the Wolverines' offense in 2000. Worried that he wouldn't give up football, the Yankees sent Henson to the Reds in a trade for Denny Neagle in July 2000, then reacquired him for Wily Mo Pena the following spring and signed him to a six-year, $17 million contract when he agreed to focus on baseball. While he's regarded as a two-sport bust, he hit .280/.345/.480 with 13 homers in 69 games in high Class A in 1999 as a 19-year-old with little pro experience, giving a glimpse of what might have been.
American League Central
Indians: Andy Marte
Signed by the Braves for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, Marte blossomed into the game's top third-base prospect in 2004 and ranked second behind Ian Stewart entering 2005 and behind Ryan Zimmerman entering 2006. Yet he changed teams twice in one offseason, going to the Red Sox for Edgar Renteria in December 2005 and to the Indians in a package for Coco Crisp and David Riske seven weeks later. A lack of plate discipline proved to be his undoing in the big leagues, where he hit just .218/.276/.358 in parts of seven seasons. He died in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic in January 2017 at the age of 33.
Royals: Alex Gordon
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Draft, Gordon immediately ranked as MLB.com's No. 13 prospect ahead of his first full season and jumped up to No. 2 on the list the following year, when he batted .247/.314/.411 with 15 homers during a 151-game rookie campaign. He didn’t truly blossom until he made a full-time transition to left field in 2011, and since then the 36-year-old lifelong Royal has racked up three All-Star selections and seven Gold Glove Awards while producing a .263/.342/.415 battling line across the past nine seasons.
Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
Castellanos, whom Detroit took with the No. 44 pick in the 2011 Draft, climbed MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list for three straight years, ascending from No. 51 in 2012 to No. 15 in ’14. He finished eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting that year, posting a .700 OPS with 46 extra-base hits, and continued to improve in each subsequent season before Detroit traded him to the Cubs at the 2019 Trade Deadline. The deal transpired during a career-best offensive season for Castellanos, who slashed .289/.337/.525 with 27 homers and an MLB-leading 58 doubles between the two teams. With his strong track record of production to point, the Reds signed the 28-year-old free agent a four-year, $64 million contract in January.
Twins: Miguel Sano
The buzz about Sano started even before he signed, and it grew when the Twins set a franchise record for an international sign by giving him $3.15 million back in 2009. The 2013 Futures Gamer spent four years in our Top 100, starting in 2012, reaching as high as No. 4 in 2014. Since reaching the big leagues, Sano finished third in 2015 Rookie of the Year voting and made the All-Star team in 2017, participating in the Home Run Derby that year.
White Sox: Josh Fields
As a quarterback at Oklahoma State, Fields set a school record with 55 career passing touchdowns and a Cotton Bowl mark with 307 passing yards, but he preferred baseball and went 18th overall in the 2004 Draft. His raw power and athleticism were undermined by an inability to make consistent contact in the Majors, leading to a .234/.303/.421 line in parts of five seasons.
American League West
Angels: Dallas McPherson
A second-round pick out of The Citadel in 2001, McPherson really jumped on the map with an OPS over 1.000 in 2003. He catapulted to No. 36 overall in our 2004 Top 50 and then sky-rocketed to No. 12 on our 2005 preseason list after a 40-homer season. That season looked like one where he’d settle in as the Angels third baseman, but injuries and poor performance kept that from ever happening.
Astros: Colin Moran
If the Astros had been unable to come to terms with Mark Appel in 2013, they would have chosen Moran with the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft. The North Carolina product went No. 6 to the Marlins before coming to Houston in a six-player deal in July 2014, but his biggest contribution to the Astros came as part of a package used to acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pirates in January 2018. Scouts thought he had some of the best hitting ability and plate discipline in his Draft class, but he hasn't shown the same patience in Pittsburgh and his lack of power and defensive skills undercuts his value.
A’s: Matt Chapman
We’d love to say we were on Chapman all along, right from the moment he was the A’s first-round pick in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton, but that might be some revisionist thinking. He did make our Top 100, debuting at 100 on our preseason 2017 list, and he has obviously gone on to out-perform that ranking with a pair of Gold Gloves, an All-Star appearance and MVP votes in each of the last two seasons.
Mariners: D.J. Peterson
Peterson was thought to be one of the better pure college hitters in the 2013 Draft class and the Mariners were thrilled to get him at No. 12 overall that June. He made our Top 100 in both 2014 and 2015, as he looked like the real deal with 31 homers in his first full season. He never put it together and hasn’t played a game in the big leagues.
Rangers: Hank Blalock
A third-round pick from a San Diego high school in 1999, Blalock won the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League batting title (.361) in his pro debut and finished second in the Minors in hitting (.352) in 2001, earning acclaim as the game's best position prospect. He pushed Mark Teixeira to first base and ranked higher than slugger Joey Gallo would with the Rangers when he came along a decade later. Blalock earned All-Star Game berths in each of his first two full years in the Majors but injuries and a decrease in production resulted in just three more seasons as a full-time regular.
National League East
Braves: Andy Marte
While his big league career didn’t amount to much (.634 OPS) and his life ended tragically, Marte was one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball. He was No. 14 on our very first Top 50 ranking in 2004 and moved into the top 10 the next season. He made his big league debut with the Braves in that 2005 season, then was traded twice that offseason, first to the Red Sox then to the Indians, where he was still a top 15 prospect prior to the 2006 season.
Marlins: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera set a Venezuelan record when he signed for $1.9 million in July 1999, and he was in such demand that one spurned scout started a false rumor that the slugger had elephantiasis. A certain first-ballot Hall of Famer, he broke into the big leagues and won a World Series at age 20. Since then he has collected a Triple Crown, two MVP awards, four batting titles and 11 All-Star Game selections.
Mets: David Wright
Selected 38th overall out of the Virginia prep ranks in the 2001 Draft, Wright cracked Baseball America’s Top 100 list for the first time in 2003 (No. 75) and entered MLB.com's Top 50 list at No. 29 in ’14. Though he would make his big league debut at the midseason mark that year and quickly become the face of the franchise, ultimately earning seven All-Star selections, a pair of Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves during his 14-year Mets tenure, a chronic back injury limited Wright to 77 games from 2015-18.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Part of a loaded 2005 Draft class, when the Nationals selected him fourth overall, Zimmerman appeared in 67 Minor League games that summer before the Nats brought him up as a September callup. Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 6 overall prospect ahead of the 2006 season, he slashed .287/.351/.471 with 20 homers, 47 doubles and 110 RBIs as a rookie, finishing runner-up in the NL RoY voting. The two-time All-Star and lifelong National won his first World Series title in 2019, his 15th year with the organization. Altogether, he’s produced a .279/.343/.475 line with 270 homers, 401 doubles and 1,015 RBIs in 1,689 games.
Phillies: Alec Bohm
This was a close call with Maikel Franco, who spent two years in the Top 100. Bohm has, too, including being No. 30 on our 2020 list, and gets the nod as “more hyped” because he was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 Draft and then backed it up by reaching Double-A and raking in the Arizona Fall League in his first full season.
National League Central
Brewers: Ryan Braun
Following his selection by Milwaukee with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 Draft, Braun raced through the Minor Leagues to make his big league debut in May 2007, after opening the season as MLB.com's No. 17 prospect. He made an immediate impact upon arriving, batting .324/.370/.634 en route to Rookie of the Year honors in the NL, and has earned six All-Star selections during his 13-year career in the organization. He finished first and second in the MVP voting in 2011-12, respectively, averaging .326/.394/.596 with 37 homers, 37 doubles and 32 steals per season during that span.
Cardinals: Nolan Gorman
One of the better power hitters in the 2018 Draft class, Gorman smashed 17 bombs and reached full-season ball during his pro debut, after the Cardinals had selected him with the No. 19 pick in the first round. He opened 2019 as MLB Pipeline’s No. 61 prospect but endured a challenging first full season, batting .248 with 15 home runs and a 29.7 percent strikeout rate, albeit as a 19-year-old who spent half of the season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he was more than three years younger than the circuit’s average player. Going into the 2020 season, Gorman was ranked by MLB Pipeline as baseball’s 47th-best prospect.
Cubs: Kris Bryant
Bryant went No. 2 overall in the 2013 Draft after out-homering 223 of the 296 NCAA Division I teams as a San Diego junior, then won every conceivable Minor League player of the year award in 2014, when he led the Minors in home runs (43), extra-base hits (78), total bases (325), slugging (.661) and OPS (1.098). He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2015, won an MVP Award and World Series ring in 2016 and has been everything the Cubs hoped for.
Pirates: Pedro Alvarez
With all due respect to current Pirates third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, Alvarez was hyped beyond belief starting with his Draft year, when the Pirates took him No. 2 overall out of Vanderbilt in 2008. He was a top 10 prospect in 2010, the year he made his big league debut. His best year came in 2013, an All-Star campaign that saw him lead the NL in home runs and while he hasn’t quite been the elite player many predicted, he did hit over 160 big league homers.
Reds: Nick Senzel
While it’s true Senzel didn’t play a game at third during his big league debut season in 2019, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 Draft played the hot corner exclusively during his first year-plus of pro ball. He debuted at No. 56 on our 2016 midseason Top 100 list and climbed from there, coming in at No. 26 prior to the 2017 season and peaking at No. 7 on the 2018 preseason list.
National League West
D-backs: Matt Davidson
Taken by Arizona in the first round (No. 35 overall) of the 2009 Draft, Davidson appeared on the D-backs' team list for three straight years, climbing from No. 8 in 2011 to No. 4 in 2013, when he also ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 77 prospect. Though he flashed promise that year as a rookie, posting an OPS of .768 with three homers in 31 games, Davidson struggled to carve out a spot in Arizona’s lineup and didn’t return to the big leagues until 2016, as a member of the White Sox. He averaged .224/.291/.435 with 23 homers and a 35.1 percent strikeout rate as a regular for the South Siders during 2017-18 and spent all of ’19 with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, totaling 33 homers and 101 RBIs in 125 games.
Dodgers: Andy LaRoche
The son of one big leaguer (Dave) and brother of another (Adam), LaRoche spent two seasons at Grayson County (Texas) CC and planned on transferring to Rice, creating signability concerns that dropped him to the 39th round of the 2003 Draft. Then he went out and starred in the Cape Cod League and projected as a 2004 first-rounder, so the Dodgers signed him for $1 million. He consistently produced throughout the Minors but not in the Majors, where he hit .226/.304/.336 in six seasons with four clubs. Los Angeles did get something out of him, using him to acquire Manny Ramirez in a 2008 trade that paid off with a pair of NL West titles.
Giants: Angel Villalona
Villalona drew Miguel Cabrera comparisons when he signed for a club-record $2.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2006 and he homered 17 times to match his age in low Class A two years later. His lack of plate discipline and conditioning should have been warning signs, however, and his career went off the rails when he was charged with murder in the Dominican in September 2009. He didn't return to the United States until 2013 and topped out in Double-A.
Padres: Sean Burroughs
After being selected by the Padres with the No. 9 pick in the 1998 Draft, Burroughs, a product of the California prep ranks, spent the next four years on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list, spending 2000-02 ranked inside the top 10 and peaking at No. 4 in ’02. He made the club’s Opening Day roster that year and was an everyday player for San Diego for much of the next four seasons, producing respectable batting averages but offering little in the way of power. He appeared in eight games with the Rays in 2006 but battled off-field issues during the subsequent years and didn’t resurface in the big leagues again until 2011, when he batted .273 in 78 games with Arizona. He spent the 2014-17 seasons playing in the independent Atlantic League and batted .328/.398/.409 for Bridgeport as a 36-year-old in ‘17.
Rockies: Ian Stewart
Though Nolan Arenado has been the best at the position in Rockies history and was a Top 100 prospect twice over, he didn’t have nearly as much hype as Stewart, the No. 10 pick in the 2003 Draft. Stewart hit our rankings four times, peaking as high as No. 2 prior to the 2005 season, with his 30-homer performance in his first full season acting as the catalyst.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.