Newman’s Own: Best Third Baseman of 2012

Seeing prospects in person is my passion. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to visit parks in five different leagues — collecting information and video on 200 legitimate prospects or more. The lists released over the next few weeks will highlight the best prospects I’ve seen in person at each position during the 2012 season. The rankings will be adjusted based on projected position at the major league level, not present position (in italics if ranking includes position shift). After writing the first three lists, I realized there’s really no way to keep statistical information out of the equation completely and focus on scouting/projection alone. This has caused me to hedge my bets a bit on high ceiling talents and focus more on the complete player. Additionally, understand this is not meant to be a complete list of the best prospects at each position across all of Minor League Baseball, but the best of what I’ve seen.

Previous Rankings:
The Catchers
The First Basemen
The Second Baseman

1. Mike Olt, Texas Rangers

After being underwhelmed by what little I saw of Olt in Arizona, multiple contacts spent the season talking up Olt as a plus defender at third base with above average offense for the position. And while I’m still not ready to drink the kool-aid without hesitation, Olt receives the nod for the top spot due to his combination of high floor and the fact he has already debuted for Texas. On a list full Single-A or below players, upper level production is at a premium. In this instance, Olt, and Davidson for that matter, reap the rewards.

2. Matt Davidson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Few players make the jump from the California League to the Southern League and increase offensive output significantly. Matt Davidson did just that posting a 134 wRC+ while being young for the level of competition. His swing is long and Davidson profiles as a fringe average defender, but Pedro Alvarez produced a 2.9 WAR season fueled by power and walks in spite of high strikeout totals and defensive shortcomings. Davidson may follow a similar blueprint resulting in an above average regular at the big league level.

3. Travis Harrison, Minnesota Twins

After watching Harrison in person, I wonder if the Twins made a mistake by not challenging the young third baseman with a Beloit assignment to begin the 2012 season. At present, Harrison is a balanced player combining equal parts hitting ability and power projection. Additionally, he was a better defender than I was expecting to see given the reports of his being destined for first base. Expect him to transition nicely to full season baseball in 2013.

4. Edward Salcedo, Atlanta Braves

Salcedo is a physically imposing prospect with power potential at the third base position. However, his contact tool has developed more slowly than expected causing strikeouts to pile up while free passes dwindle. He’s still the highest ceiling bat in the Braves organization, but that’s due more to a lack of talent than status earned through strong production and scouting reports. If his peripherals don’t begin to take a turn for the better in Double-A, his value will take a hit.

5. Garin Cecchini, Boston Red Sox

Without question, Garin Cecchini had a productive season in Greenville of the South Atlantic League. Supporters will point to 46 extra base hits and 51 stolen bases and call me crazy for not ranking Cecchini in the top-3. In all honesty, they have a point on paper. Of course statistics are just a piece of the puzzle. In person, Cecchini scouts more like a tweener who whose skills would fit beautifully at second base. After looking for comparable big leaguers, I wonder if Daniel Murphy with more speed is fair.

6. Mitch Walding, Philadelphia Phillies

I have no idea what happened to Mitch Walding in the New York-Penn League, but he collapsed shortly after seeing him put on a spectacular batting practice display and a handful of great swings in game action. For now, he receives the benefit of the doubt from me because I trust my eyes more than lower level stats. However, Walding’s struggles have made him a must see for me in the South Atlantic League next season as few players make as strong a first impression as Walding did.

7. Dante Bichette Jr., New York Yankees

I have little doubt the Yankees prospect can hit after seeing him shorten up multiple times with two strikes and guide two singles off of Tim Hudson while on rehab assignment. However, I do question Bichette’s defensive ability, as well as his maturity after watching him yawn and horseplay his way through pre-game drills. At 19, he is likely to repeat the South Atlantic League where I’ll receive additional looks in 2013. After a disappointing season in Charleston, Bichette has the hitting ability to rebound should he develop a more professional approach.

8. Patrick Leonard, Kansas City Royals

Power projection? Leonard has it as the former fifth round pick slugged 14 home runs in his short season debut while maintaining a 10+% walk rate. On the field, he made a stronger first impression than uber-prospect Bubba Starling. With Lexington now a Royals affiliate, I’ll have ample opportunity to follow up on Leonard in 2013. A better look at his defensive abilities will help complete the profile.

9. Rio Ruiz, Houston Astros

In Greeneville, Ruiz presented with advanced plate discipline for his age and strong defensive chops. He struck out a couple of times on questionable pitches, but my first impression was of a prospect with a balanced set of skills. In seeing Ruiz, Lance McCullers Jr. and a brief glimpse of Carlos Correa, the future is bright for Houston fans after a strong 2012 draft.

10. Conor Gillaspie, San Francisco Giants

The oldest “prospect” on this list, Conor Gillaspie is your classic tweener with little left to prove at the minor league level. One can’t help but be at least a little impressed by his contact tool, but Gillaspie’s power and defense lag behind. He’ll never unseat Sandoval at third base in San Francisco, but even venturing to write another team would bite on Gillaspie as a starter based on his current skill set may be stretch.

11. Rosell Herrera, Colorado Rockies (SS)

Why don’t I pay much attention to short season batting lines? Herrera is a good example. After hitting .284/.361/.449 in 2011, the teenager cratered in Asheville of the South Atlantic League to the tune of .2o2/.271/.272 to begin the year. He was better after a return trip to short season, so maybe his second trip through the SAL will prove more fruitful. Herrera has all the tools to become a quality prospect, but is as unrefined as a prospect can be at this stage.

12. Brandon Drury, Atlanta Braves

Braves fans in desperate need of a hitting prospect to be excited about rallied about Brandon Drury’s .347/.367/.525 triple slash line last off-season. Another classic rookie league warrior, he struggled mightily in the first half (.187/.226/.270) before a respectable second half turnaround (.279/.323/.407). Drury had a few moments throughout the season where he presented as a big league bat. His defense at third base was also better than expected.

13. Francisco Martinez, Seattle Mariners

Once considered a top-5 prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization, Martinez struggled to a .227/.315/.295 triple slash line in Double-A. At 21, he was admittedly young for the level of competition, but I saw a fringe prospect with an iffy set of tools. On the field, it was abundantly clear Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino and Stefen Romero were considerably better prospects than Martinez.

14. Kyle Kubitza, Atlanta Braves

Kubitza was on his way to becoming a nice little sleeper in the Braves organization until a .156 July put a stop to that. In finishing with a .239/.349/.393 line, he established himself as a fine organizational player with a bit of upward mobility if things break right. For me personally, his loose hands and above average bat speed leave some room for improvement going forward.

15. Jason Esposito, Baltimore Orioles

Yes, Esposito was a former high round pick from Vanderbilt. Unfortunately for the Orioles, every concern about his bat entering the draft was proved accurate as the 22-year old posted an anemic .537 OPS in the South Atlantic League. To add insult to offense, Esposito didn’t present as the plus defender I was expecting to see. His combination of tools and skills leaves him more of an organizational player than premium big league defender with a fringe bat he was reported to be.



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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


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Tak
Member
Tak
3 years 10 months ago

Where’s Nick Castellanos? Yes, he’s moved to RF but there’s a shot he moves back to 3B later down the road, depending on Miguel Cabrera’s situation.

Natsfan
Guest
Natsfan
3 years 10 months ago

What do you think of Anthony Rendon? I know, he only played 43 games due to injury but he has to be one of the most exciting 3B prospects out there, am I wrong?

Natsfan
Guest
Natsfan
3 years 10 months ago

He hasn’t played anything but 3B in the minors, nor has there been an indication to move him off…Rizzo said he was going to play him at 3B in an interview after the draft as well.

Natsfan
Guest
Natsfan
3 years 10 months ago

No, but I noticed the “projected position” part in the intro after I posted this so I was just clarifying that he *is* seen to be a 3B, as opposed to moving him to OF or 2B

masonzippo
Member
masonzippo
3 years 10 months ago

Do you think the Twins held back Harrison because Sano was playing 3rd in Beloit?

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 10 months ago

I really feel like Olt was rushed, he strikes out a lot, so skipping AAA seemed like a poor decision from a development standpoint. It also seems a shame that Olt will have to be moved across the diamond seeing as his defense at 3b is supposed to be good, is there any chance he could fake it in the OF for a couple of years until Beltre starts needing to DH/ play 1b? Of course this is a great problem for the Rangers to have, we have a great big league SS and 3b and also two really awesome prospects knocking on the door.

Matty Brown
Member
Member
Matty Brown
3 years 10 months ago

Your articles disappoint me because i’m a Jays fan and you weren’t able to watch their players :(

nik
Guest
nik
3 years 10 months ago

Mike, you didn’t get a chance to see Maikel Franco (thought you were a SALLy guy), or he didn’t make your top 15?

rusty
Guest
rusty
3 years 10 months ago

Mike, I enjoy these lists — it’s a good balance to the volumes of discussion that are based on second-hand reports and too many hours looking at stats pages.

For next year, I’d highly recommend you check out Tulsa — the Rockies have basically completely given up trying to develop prospects in the altitude of Colorado Springs (which to a lesser extent affects their A+ team in the Cal league), so the key window for a lot of their top guys is AA. This year included Arenado and Rutledge (before his call-up), next year, Kyle Parker, Corey Dickerson, and possibly more advanced players from this year’s Asheville team.

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 10 months ago

Your Bichette comments are interesting because a big part of the Yankee reasoning for drafting him (as well as another 1st round pick Cito Culver) was a new focus on character and work ethic in their draft. Yet in all of the prospect write ups I see for Yankee prospects these kind of comments pop-up. Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and now Dante Bichette all have questions of attitude/work ethic/make-up of some kind.

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 10 months ago

holy cow, Daniel Murphy with speed would actually be a good player!

Tyler
Guest
Tyler
3 years 10 months ago

Every time these lists come out Mike says, explicitly, as he has with everything he has written on the site, that he will only talk about players he has actually seen in person with his two eyes. People, please get this in your heads and do not take it personally if there is a legitimate prospect you like that is omitted from something Mike writes (which again he mentions time and time again) because HE WILL ONLY WRITE ABOUT THOSE WHO HE HAS SCOUTED PERSONALLY.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

Hey Mike, it doesn’t seem like there have been many Blue Jays prospects on these lists? Is that because you haven’t seen their teams as often, or are their position prospects just not very good, in your subjective opinion? .

YanksFanInBeantown
Guest
YanksFanInBeantown
3 years 10 months ago

Will Bichette hit for power? It was a bit disconcerting to see his ISO fall off a cliff this year when his calling card was supposed to be huge right handed power.

And I think you might be being a little harsh about his makeup. He’s 19 years old, God forbid he have fun playing baseball.

Preston
Guest
Preston
3 years 10 months ago

He’s 19 at A ball, this was an aggressive promotion for him. After how successful he was in his debut I get wanting to get him into full season ball, but maybe he should have been working on his D in extended spring training and mashing at SI this year instead of struggling in Charleston. The power is there, it will come if and when he starts making better contact. I’m much more concerned about his D, the fact is that league average production for a 1b is just so much higher than 3b, his probability of being a big league player drops dramatically if he can’t handle the hot corner.

Bookbook
Guest
Bookbook
3 years 10 months ago

If it was just one day, I’ll wait before reading too much into the Bichette attitude issue. If it’s a meme… Well, folks in every field of endeavor fail to reach their potential. (On an unrelated note, I hear that Ryan Anderson turned out to be an excellent chef.)

Paul
Guest
Paul
3 years 10 months ago

Given the fairly low upside of the guys on this list, I doubt that it would change his ranking, but I think you should stick with your own assessment of Olt. When I saw him in the Futures Game it reminded me of LaPorta’s AA season where he was being heavily hyped similar to Olt. I was shocked at how badly he was overpowered by the FB. Yes, those are the best prospects airing it out, but 90% of MLB relief pitchers throw that hard. It’s one thing for a guy to strike out a lot because he works deep counts and sits on the FB. When a guy strikes out as much as Olt because he’s swinging through the FB, that’s big problems.

WillC
Guest
WillC
3 years 10 months ago

Where would you rank Kaleb Cowart in the 16 and on list?

Dugmat
Guest
Dugmat
3 years 10 months ago

So…how bad is Aderlin Rodriguez’s fielding for him not to get a mention?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
3 years 10 months ago

I thought Cecchini had no more than 55 speed and he was just using good baseball instincts against inexperienced competition. Remember Jeremy Hermida’s stolen base totals?

Shawn
Guest
Shawn
3 years 10 months ago

Who do you think has the higher upside as a hitter between Bichette Jr. and Rio Ruiz? They seem to be two of the more interesting guys offensively after you get past Olt and Davidson.

jmount78
Member
jmount78
3 years 10 months ago

Liked your comments on Bichette. I live near the Kannapolis Intimidators and go there quite often. Made it a point to watch Bichette several times and was a little disappointed. Maybe I bought into the hype a little too much or just remembered how his dad played, but he never seemed to have solid at bats when I watched him.

As far as hustle on the field, he seemed to go after the ball with an aggressive attitude. I liked that part of his game.

As a Braves fan, I feel like we have a black hole at 3rd for prospects. Hard part will be not to judge their performances to Chipper. GREAT ARTICLE!

big dog
Guest
big dog
3 years 9 months ago

great work and read very much appreciated

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