Prospect Watch: Top 10 third basemen
Bryant, Gallo, Sano bring plenty of power to the hot corner
MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.
If chicks dig the long ball, then there's no doubt third base is the sexiest position among prospects. It's home to the three best power prospects in the game in Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Joey Gallo (Rangers) -- the last two Minor League home run champions -- and Miguel Sano (Twins). It will be interesting to see how many of these guys remain at the hot corner in the long term, because position changes have been hinted at for at least eight of them, and only Jake Lamb (D-backs) projects as a quality defender.
1. Kris Bryant, Cubs
Since signing for a $6,708,400 bonus, a record for a Cub and for a college position player, Bryant has gone deep 52 times in 174 games and led the Minors in homers (43), extra-base hits (78), total bases (325), slugging (.661) and OPS (1.098) in his first full pro season. Of the three players considered among baseball's best prospects -- Twins outfielder Byron Buxton and Astros shortstop Carlos Correa are the others -- Bryant will make the swiftest impact. Ready for Wrigley Field right now, he should hit for a lot of power, draw plenty of walks and play a capable third base.
2. Joey Gallo, Rangers
Gallo has more raw power than fellow Las Vegas native Bryant and any other player in the Minors -- and perhaps in the Majors as well. He came within a homer of becoming the first slugger to lead the Minors in that category in consecutive seasons since Eric Anthony in 1988-89, and Gallo now has 104 longballs in 296 pro games. His bat and his defense need polish, so he could wind up at first base or in the outfield, but his power will play huge at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
3. Miguel Sano, Twins
He got somewhat lost in Bryant and Gallo's wake while missing the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but Sano can match their top-of-the-scale power. He controls the strike zone much better than Gallo and is similar to Bryant in that regard. Sano had well-above-average arm strength before he hurt his elbow, and while that should bounce back, his hefty frame and defensive inconsistency could lead to an eventual move to first base.
4. D.J. Peterson, Mariners
The 12th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Peterson has lived up to his reputation as one of the best all-around hitters of the crop by homering 44 times in 178 pro games and driving in 111 runs while reaching Double-A in his first full season. His exceptional bat speed may make him a rare power threat in Safeco Field, though he'll need to ratchet down his approach to continue hitting for average and improve his agility to stay at the hot corner.
5. Maikel Franco, Phillies
He ranked second in homers and RBIs in the Dominican League this winter, strengthening his chances of taking over an infield corner for Philadelphia in 2015. Franco possesses two well-above-average tools in his power and arm strength, but to get the most out of them he'll have to tighten up his plate discipline and swing and improve his range.
6. Jake Lamb, D-backs
A so-so junior season at Washington in 2012 and a broken hamate bone in his first full pro season in '13 limited his hype, but Lamb broke out in 2014 by winning the Double-A Southern League MVP award and batting title (.318) and hitting four homers after his first big league callup in August. Lamb doesn't have the highest offensive ceiling on this list, but he might be the best all-around player, as he can produce high batting averages and on-base percentages to go with average power while providing good defense.
7. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
Signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, when scouts considered him the top left-handed bat available on the international market, Devers made his U.S. debut last season and a year ahead of schedule. Devers is built to hit for power with a compact swing with lots of bat speed and loft, and he also manages the strike zone very well for a teenager. He has the arm and instincts to play third base, though his footwork and consistency need a lot of improvement.
8. Garin Cecchini, Red Sox
Though he's now blocked at third base in Boston by Pablo Sandoval, Cecchini ranks as one of the best pure hitting prospects in the game and should be able to find a place to play -- either at another position or with a new team via trade. He excels at controlling the strike zone and making repeated line-drive contact, and his instincts make him an asset on the bases despite his fringy speed.
9. Colin Moran, Astros
Houston strongly considered taking him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 Draft before choosing Mark Appel instead. Then the Astros acquired Moran from the Marlins in the Jarred Cosart trade last summer. One of the best hitters available in '13, Moran hit for average as expected in his pro debut, though his stock dropped when he didn't show as much power or control the strike zone as well as hoped. Scouts also give mixed reviews about his ability to remain at third base.
10. Rio Ruiz, Braves
After the Astros acquired Moran, they deemed Ruiz expendable and shipped him to Atlanta in a three-prospect package for Evan Gattis. Signed for $1.85 million as a fourth-rounder in 2012, Ruiz is quite similar to Moran -- he has slightly less pure hitting ability but more raw power and perhaps a better chance to cut it defensively at third base.
Ryan McMahon was a star quarterback at Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.), following in the tradition of Heisman Trophy winners John Huarte and Matt Leinart and college stars Colt Brennan and Matt Barkley. He left the gridiron to sign with the Rockies as a second-round choice in 2013, a wise move considering his bright future on the diamond. He slammed 18 homers and led the Class A South Atlantic League with 102 RBIs in his first full pro season, a testament to his all-around hitting ability.
The Royals surprised much of the industry when they used the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 Draft on Hunter Dozier, but they believed in his ability, and his selection helped them save enough money to sign supplemental first-rounder Sean Manaea. Dozier reached Double-A in his first full pro season and though he admits he tinkered with his swing too much, he has the strength and approach to hit for average and power.