01/18/11 11:00 AM EST
Prospect Watch: Top 10 third basemen
Royals' Moustakas heads up a very intriguing group
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
It's not an overwhelming crop of third basemen making their way up organizational ladders, but it's still an intriguing Top 10. The top of the list is just about ready to reach the big leagues, while some of the names at the bottom are exciting, but still far away from getting to that highest level. Not everyone on this list will ultimately stay at the hot corner, but, conversely, there's bound to be some shortstops who will move over in the future as they mature, which will add some more depth at the position.
1. Mike Moustakas, Royals: Just about everything went well for this 2008 first-round Draft pick. Moustakas tied for the Minor League lead with 36 homers, was second with 124 RBIs and third with his .630 slugging percentage, all while getting promoted to Triple-A midseason. Some are concerned about his ability to stay at third, but he's got a plus arm and decent hands over there. He's knocking on the door and should bust through it at some point in 2011.
2. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians: Chisenhall has long had a reputation of being one of the best pure hitters around. As he's close to being big league ready, that hasn't changed a bit, especially after he shook off a shoulder strain to hit .294/.364/.505 in the second half of 2010. The Futures Gamer should be able to hit for average and pretty good power, using all fields well. There's not a whole lot blocking his path in Cleveland.
3. Brent Morel, White Sox: Morel fits more the mold of a batting-title contender than a power-hitting type, sort of a right-handed Wade Boggs type (without the walks). That's not to say he has no pop, but it's not as big a part of his game right now. He has hit .305 in the Minors since being drafted in 2008, and that should continue. He's very good with the glove, even showing the ability to play shortstop if needed. A good spring could land him the job at the hot corner for the White Sox on Opening Day.
4. Matt Dominguez, Marlins: Ever since high school, Dominguez has prided himself on his glove, and there's no question he could play Gold Glove-caliber defense in the big leagues right now. The question is just how much will he hit. He made some strides in 2010 with his approach, though there's plenty of room for improvement and he should grow into more power. There's an opening at third in Florida now, and if he shows this spring he's ready for big league pitching, he could break camp with the Marlins.
5. Miguel Sano, Twins: Minnesota jumped in and signed the most sought-after international prospect in 2009, and there's a good reason why. Sano is a physical specimen with tools aplenty. He split time at third and shortstop during his debut, but he might be too big for the latter position already. Just 17, he might have more growing to do. He's got everything he needs to be a good defensive third baseman and his bat will likely play just about anywhere, with above-average raw power and excellent bat speed.
Top 10 third base prospects
6. Bobby Borchering, D-backs: The 2009 first-rounder (No. 16 overall) had a very strong finish to his first full season, showing the hitting ability and power from both sides of the plate that made him one of the most sought after high school hitters in that '09 Draft class. He should hit for decent average and power as he progresses, and while he strikes out a bunch, he's got a pretty good idea of the strike zone. His glove lags behind his bat by a good margin, and some foresee a move to first base in his future.
7. Josh Vitters, Cubs: Chicago pushed Vitters up to Double-A when it had a hole to fill, and while he didn't put up good numbers at all, the organization was pleased with how he prepared and dealt with the adversity. He still has the great swing, bat speed and raw power that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 Draft. He hasn't been so great at making adjustments and doesn't draw walks at all. He's not great defensively, but has a good arm and should be able to stay at the hot corner. The 2011 season could be a big one for Vitters.
8. Zack Cox, Cardinals: Signability concerns allowed St. Louis to get the best pure college hitter in last year's Draft class at No. 25 overall. He signed right at the deadline and got his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League, so he'll make his official debut this April. Cox is a line-drive machine with a very good approach, and it's unclear just how much power he'll have as a pro. Some see him as a second baseman in the future, but for now, the Cards will let him man the hot corner as he begins his pro career.
9. Kaleb Cowart, Angels: A two-way star in high school, the Halos are honoring Cowart's wishes and letting him hit. The switch-hitter has plenty of power potential from both sides of the plate. He's got great bat speed, but like many young hitters, has plenty to learn about pitch recognition. A standout pitcher, his plus arm will work just fine at third, though he's likely to be known more for his bat than his glove as he progresses.
10. Nick Castellanos, Tigers: A first-round talent as one of the better high-school bats in the 2010 Draft class, Castellanos dropped into the Tigers' lap at No. 44 because of bonus demands, but Detroit was able to get it done. Tall and thin, Castellanos has good power potential from the right side of the plate, though there's some debate over just how much. The same is true for how well he'll do in the average department, but if everything comes together, he could be a .300-25-homer-type third baseman with an average glove at the hot corner.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.