MINORS: 2013 top 3B prospects

This week we continue our annual review of the top prospects in baseball by position, focusing on third base. This position is clearly one of significant strength, but very few prominently figure into their organization's plans this season. In the column about first base prospects, Mike Olt (TEX) was mentioned as a prospect who could ultimately win time at that position. Given that third base is his natural position, he is listed here as well. Rob Gordon mentioned Jedd Gyorko (SD) in his column last week about second base prospects on the news that the Padres would give him a long look there. He is also a natural third baseman and will be noted here also.

Eight third base prospects (including Gyorko) appear on the HQ100. This is significantly more than the first base crop (only one) and second basemen (three). Not only is this a position of depth, it is a position with very high upside.

The dollar ranges listed below represent projected values for 2013 and are broken down in $5 dollar increments. (Linked players appear in his individual team's organization report or individual PlayerLink page.)

$5-$10
Jedd Gyorko (SD)

He is on pace to win the second base job outright after getting off to a hot start in spring training, though he'll have to prove himself with the glove. The 24-year-old split time between 3B and 2B in '12 while smashing 30 HR. He wasn't particularly good with the glove at 3B and it is a long shot that he'll provide value with his defense at 2B. Regardless, he should hit enough to justify a starting role. Long-term, he still projects as a 3B where his polished bat fits.

$1-$5
Taylor Green (MIL)
Josh Vitters (CHC)
Zack Cox (MIA)
James Darnell (SD)
Mike Olt (TEX)
Conor Gillaspie (CHW)
Brandon Laird (HOU)

Similar to Gyorko, Olt doesn't figure to play much 3B in '13 unless Adrian Beltre falls victim to the injury bug. Olt is looking to add the outfield to his defensive repertoire and has been seeing time in RF. Once Beltre leaves Arlington, Olt should take over 3B full time. He has significant raw power and hit 28 HR in Double-A. Upon his promotion to the big leagues, he suffered, however, hitting .152 in 33 AB.

Three players who are likely to win Opening Day jobs include Darnell, Gillaspie, and Green. Darnell is another Padres farmhand who is a natural 3B, but will likely be jettisoned to the outfield for the time being. He only had 133 AB in '12 after experiencing a significant shoulder injury. The 26-year-old had earned 62 AB with San Diego in '11 and '12 and has proven himself to be a decent offensive producer. The jury is out on whether he'll win a starting job down the line, but he can hit. Gillaspie was recently acquired from the Giants and he should win a job as he is out of options. He has to contend with the likes of Jeff Keppinger, Brent Morel, and Josh Bell for time at 3B and he should earn at least a bench role. The 25-year-old is a good, natural hitter with a contact-oriented approach, but limited pop. The Brewers have a need for corner infielders and Green could fill the void. He could see action at both 3B, his natural position, and 1B. He has 140 AB in the big leagues with a .207 BA and 3 HR. His power output dropped in '12, but he's a solid overall hitter.

Likely to start the year in Triple-A are Vitters, Cox, and Laird. Vitters is struggling with a quad strain which is keeping him out of exhibition action currently. He's never been much of a patient hitter, but the 23-year-old has excellent raw tools. It is highly likely to see him get some playing time in Chicago by midseason. The Marlins have more questions than answers at this point and Cox is a good bet to get at least moderate playing time this season. He was acquired from the Cardinals in July '12 and he hit .254 with 10 HR between Double-A and Triple-A. Laird has to contend with Matt Dominguez with Houston, but he is no longer on the 40-man roster. He was claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September '12 and was immediately summoned to the big leagues. He offers good power and a decent glove, but doesn't possess the plate patience the Astros covet.

 

Top 15 3B Prospects
1. Miguel Sano (MIN)
2. Anthony Rendon (WAS)
3. Mike Olt (TEX)
4. Nolan Arenado (COL)
5. Jedd Gyorko (SD)
6. Kaleb Cowart (LAA)
7. Matt Davidson (ARI)
8. Wilmer Flores (NYM)
9. Joey Gallo (TEX)
10. Miles Head (OAK)
11. Corey Seager (LA)
12. Maikel Franco (PHI)
13. Richie Shaffer (TAM)
14. Stephen Piscotty (STL)
15. Garin Cecchini (BOS)

It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see a few of these Top 15 prospects make their way to the big leagues this season. Rendon doesn't have much pro experience and missed most of the '12 campaign with a broken ankle. He has the advanced, pure hitting skills to do damage at any level of baseball. There was talk at midseason last year for Arenado to be summoned to Coors Field. He doesn't have the power profile as others on this list, but he should hit for a very high BA because he makes such easy contact with a short stroke. Additionally, his defense continues to improve. Davidson had a productive season in '12 after hitting 23 HR in Double-A and reducing his strikeout rate. He'll move up to Triple-A and wait for the call to the big leagues.

If you like power—and who doesn't—Sano and Gallo provide as much pop as any prospects in baseball. Sano, 20, obliterated pitching in the Low-A Midwest League and led the league in HR (28) while finishing second in walks. His bat speed is unmatched in the organization and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Twins move him along quickly. Gallo was a supplemental first round pick in '12 and set the rookie-level Arizona League record for HR. His secondary skills lack and he needs a lot of work to move himself into the upper echelon of prospects.

Cowart is a shining star in a rather mundane Angels system and he provides value on both sides of the ball. His plate coverage needs work, but he offers above average power from both sides while possessing a solid glove. He'll likely take the next step to Double-A. Flores has seemingly been a prospect for years and he finally broke through in a big way by slugging 18 HR between High-A and Double-A. He's still very young and the Mets will continue to be patient with his development. Not the most gifted athlete, but a talented hitter, Head provided consistent run production in his first season in the Athletics organization. He doesn't run well and his hands are below average which might necessitate a move to 1B. All about projection, Seager was a first round pick in '12 and had in easy time in the rookie-level Pioneer League. He knows the strike zone and offers good glovework on the left side of the infield.

Franco remains among the more unheralded infielders in the minors. He has significant raw power, but needs work with the rest of his game. Shaffer is another first round selection from '12 that had an impressive pro debut. He has a clean, level swing to make easy contact and he should be able to sustain a high BA. The 2012 draft provided several intriguing 3B and Piscotty is another in that lot. He may not have the raw pop and hitting ability as the others on this list, but he has a sound all-around game. He stole 51 bases in '12 at Low-A, but Cecchini is all about the bat. He was healthy all season and hit .305 while showing innate knowledge of the strike zone. Don't expect the same SB output going forward, but his power should develop and exceed his '12 HR total of 4.
 

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