Our Pre-season fantasy prospect rankings continue with the hot corner. As a reminder, the rankings I am putting together is for fantasy impact and will only include prospects that have a legitimate chance of reaching the Major Leagues in the next one to two years and therefore warranting immediate consideration for those in all keeper formats.
The Third Base edition has clearly defined tiers…
- Top 10 Talent
- Immediate Impact Players Fighting for a Role
- Quick Rising Young Talent
Regardless if you play in redraft, keeper, deep keeper and/or dynasty formats, this list should have something to help you develop your strategy.
Tier #1 – Top Ten Talent
These first three players are well-known by most fantasy owners. They all have similar skill sets as well as similar areas that need development. They all possess an elite power tool that nearly all scouts and talent evaluators believe will translate at the Major League level. Hand in hand with the plus, plus power (35+ HRs) is the propensity to strike out at an alarming rate (28%+). These three have separated themselves extensively from the rest, but only slightly from one another. These could easily be argued in different order, but for fantasy impact purpose, this is how I see them…
1. Kris Bryant, CHC –> ETA…Early 2015
Bryant is #1 on my list (and most everyone else’s) because he has separated himself by showing a legitimate hit tool. In his first full pro season he slammed 42 HRs, 110 RBIs and slashed .325/.438/.661. He ended 2014 in AAA, Iowa, and has a chance to win the starting 3B job out of Spring. Chicago cleared some of the log jam by trading Luis Valbuena to Houston this Winter. Of course it still leaves, Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Tommy LaStella as possible starters at 3B. What seems most likely is that Bryant starts back in AAA and is up in June after the Super 2 deadline has passed. You will likely see him going in the middle rounds of your redraft leagues, so be prepared to spend a relatively high pick if you want him. He should come in and hit for power immediately. If he improves his contact rate, he could be an MVP type player very quickly as he is capable of swiping double-digit bases as well.
2. Miguel Sano, MIN –> ETA…Late 2015
Sano was a Top #5 overall prospect going into 2014 before his season was tragically ended before it began due to Tommy John surgery. In his last two full seasons, Sano hit 32 (2012) and 35 (2013) HRs respectively. Like Bryant, he has 80 power grade and also has a high strikeout rate (26% career). He ranks #2 on my list because he does not appear to have as high a ceiling on his hit tool and has an injury concern. He appears ready to roll this spring and is on the 40 Man roster. He will need much of 2015 to shake off the rust and get his swing in order. Once the Twins are out of contention, there is a chance they bring him up to join a young nucleus in Minnesota. He does have potential to stick at the position long-term due to his arm strength.
3. Joey Gallo, TEX –> ETA…Early 2016
The final 3B prospect in the top-tier is Joey Gallo. He may have the most pure power of the three if that’s even possible to discern. Despite swirling rumors that Texas was going to call him up last season, the Rangers brass wisely kept him in AA, Frisco, to end 2014. He finished with 42 HRs, 106 RBIs and slashed .271/.394/.615 for the year. He does walk quite a bit and has hit for a decent average in the low minors, he 33.9% career strikeout rate will likely limit him to a .250 hitter at the Major League level. Long term he projects more as a corner outfielder or possible 1B, but his initial exposure will likely be taking over for Adrian Beltre at the hot corner at some point in 2016. If Beltre gets hurt this year, the time-table may be moved up. Meanwhile, working on his contact rate of his violent swing would improve his chances of success beyond HRs at the next level.
Tier #2 – Immediate Impact Potential Fighting for a Role
The drop off begins and drops off hard. Although there are things to like about these guys, there are bigger holes in their game and they are not considered a “sure thing” as the guys above.
4. Maikel Franco, PHI –> ETA…Early 2015
Formally a Top 20 prospect, Franco’s stock took a hit after a brutal 2014. He did turn it on in August which earned him a taste of Philly. He has plus power and everything else is questionable to translate to the “Bigs.” He has a strong arm which gives him a chance to stick at Third and Cody Asche isn’t scaring many pitchers. Maikel could win the starting job out of Spring Training. They have already started his “clock” so the only reason to send him back the Lehigh Valley is if they want him to develop more. If Philly can find someone to take Ryan Howard’s contract (or he gets hurt), Franco could find himself starting at 1B as early as this year. Either way, power and opportunity makes him a fantasy impact early in 2015. He is worth a late round flier and could pay off quickly.
5. Jake Lamb, ARI –> ETA…Mid 2015
Like Franco, Lamb spent some time in the Majors last year. At 126 ABs, his prospect status stays intact by 4 ABs. He does not have elite talent or the power that Franco has but his “all around” game is all above average. He has a career .321 batting average in the minors and has developed some power with lots of extra-base hits. He walks over 11% and strikes out almost 22%. Strikeout rate is a little high for not being a pure power hitter, but his approach has improved and this could certain translate to a better contact rate going forward. He has a plus glove and above average arm. Fantasy Owners will likely avoid him as Cuban Import, Yasmany Tomas, is rumored to be starting at 3B. Tomas may transition to LF during the season so they can get Lamb’s versatility in the lineup.
6. Garin Cecchini, BOS –> ETA…Mid 2015
Cecchini is the first prospect on this list that has no power to speak of. He might run into a pitch on occasion, but he has a smooth swing looking to drive the ball and reach base. In 2013 he had a 1:1 K/BB ratio with plus speed and plus hit tool. 2014 was a down year, but he did see time in Boston to get his feet wet. He is blocked now by Panda and Holt as the primary backup, but an injury to Sandoval is not out of the realm of possibility. His versatility gives him an opportunity to get in the lineup when called up and he could make an impact in leagues that are not driven by power stats.
7. Giovanny Urshela –> ETA…Early 2015
Urshela might be the least known name on this list. He has never really been a highly regarded prospect, especially in fantasy circles, as his glove has been known as his strongest asset. The encouraging development is that Giovanny has seemed to improve against the better competition at the higher levels of the minors. In 2014 over AA and AAA he had 59 extra-base hits and struck out only 12%. His average has also improved but he could take a few more walks. He does not have typical 3B power, but could be an upgrade overLonnie Chisenhall for the Tribe if he struggles this year. Probably not worth a draft pick, but Urshela is worth monitoring as mid-season free agent pickup if he receives playing time this year.
Tier #3 – Quick Rising Young Talent
This last group will unlikely see the Majors in 2015. They are all worth keeping an eye on and could rise quickly this year to be worth keeper spots depending on the depth of your league. In Real Deal Dynasty Baseball, all three of the prospects below have been traded at least once this Winter.
8. Colin Moran, HOU –> ETA…Late 2016
Former #6 overall pick in 2013, Moran has shown virtually no power which caused Miami to move on from him when they had an opportunity to improve their pitching staff. He still shows a plus hit tool, but not much else. He makes good contact (15% K rate) but doesn’t get on base other than the hit. He is someone to keep an eye if the power develops.
9. Rio Ruiz, ATL –> ETA…Late 2016
Ironically, Ruiz was expendable once Houston acquired Moran last year. Atlanta was happy to score him in a huge return on the Evan Gattis trade this off-season. It looks like he may develop plus power, but he has already shown excellent plate discipline with a career 215/148 K/BB ratio. He has also improved his hitting numbers the better the competition. He may only be 20, but he looks to move quickly through the upper minors and could be raking in Atlanta by the end of 2016 and years beyond.
10. Renato Nunez, OAK –> ETA…Late 2016
Nunez had a breakout season in High A, Stockton, in 2014. His power tool is developing into a plus tool with 29 HRs and 96 RBIs, but his contact rate and plate discipline needs to continue to improve before he could be considered ready for the Major Leagues. He improved across the board in 2014 and he is a player to watch in 2015 as he brings his tools to the upper minors. I expect to see him in AA all year with a good chance to see Oakland in 2016. Deep Keeper and Dynasty Leagues should be looking to stash him now before it’s too late.
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