Maybe my perception is off, but the fantasy options at third base are stacked right now. Cabrera, Wright, Longoria, Hanley Ramirez, A-Rod, Beltre, Brett Lawrie, and his teammate Jose Bautista are a formidable group. At some point in the next year or two a slew of third base prospects with huge potential will ascend to the major leagues, I’m talking about Nick Castellanos, Mike Olt and Nolan Arenado. Since I was able to see each of these guys this week there wasn’t a better time to write them up for your reading pleasure.
Nick Castellanos: Outside of Wil Myers, who I wrote about yesterday, there probably isn’t a prospect who I pull for more than Nick Castellanos. It may be my bias for hitters who forgo using batting gloves but my undying affection is probably due to my infatuation with his swing when he was drafted. Castellanos has opened his stance since those days, which makes sense given his ability to extend his arms drive pitches thrown anywhere near the plate. The swing is still smooth, but he’s relying more on his wrists than he did in the past. This allows him to let the ball travel deep in the zone and fire barrel of the bat to drive the ball. I wonder if this change has created a hole in his swing that would be exploited by pitches up and in but a larger sample size is needed to make that determination. Right now, he’s a towering yet slender hitter with great contact ability but an aggressive approach. The approach is too aggressive for my tastes. In almost all of the plate appearances I saw this week he chose to swing at the first pitch and generally looked like he was up there to swing. His minor league numbers suggest he has the ability to draw walks, but I wonder if his walk percentage is due, in part, to being pitched around. His approach certainly does not suggest he’ll be walking a lot. For many Castellanos’s power potential is his biggest question mark. He a big guy with good loft in his swing and the power will show up in the box score as he grows. The important fantasy numbers? He projects to be a .280 hitter with 20 home run power. Though, I caution you to be patient with him, he’s by far the most raw of this group. He’ll have more highs and lows as he irons out his game than the average Double-A hitting prospect.
Mike Olt: Writing about Jurickson Profar last week gave me ample opportunities to watch 23-year-old third baseman Mike Olt. The Rangers farm hand may be the hottest hitter in the minor leagues right now, pummeling 10 home runs over the past two weeks. In the box, Olt stands upright showing off his muscular 6’2″ frame. Unlike Castellanos, Olt is extremely disciplined at the plate. But when Olt decides to swing his cuts can be absolutely vicious. The power he has displayed in the minor leagues is very real, so don’t be surprised if he’s hitting between 25-30 homeruns annually, especially if he finds his home in Arlington. But, those home runs will come at a cost though, as Olt has plenty of swing and miss in his game which will suppress his batting average. He can best be described as a three true outcome player and strong defender. He has the ability to stick at the hot corner, but Beltre’s long contract looms. If the Rangers keep him he could be forced to first base where he would become a far less interesting prospect.
Nolan Arenado: Until last year Arenado’s defensive future was in question, downgrading his prospect status. But, during his time in the California league he made managing his weight and working on his defense a priority, alleviating concerns he may need to shift across the defensive spectrum. Arenado’s body is still a work in progress and I suspect his lower half and upper body to continue to mature. A right handed hitter, Arenado has an open stance, a wide base and a slight leg kick. He’s got an excellent load that puts his hands in the perfect position to get quickly though the zone while maintaining a level swing plane. From his loaded pre-swing position, Arenado is able to bring his hands straight down into the hitting zone without wasted movement. Right now he doesn’t have much loft in his swing, but he still projects to hit for power due to his good bat speed and contact ability.
My powers of prognostication tell me a commenter will ask me to rank these guys for fantasy purposes, so here it is.
1. Nolan Arenado
2. Mike Olt
3. Nick Castellanos