The last list of hitting prospects concludes with a whimper. Third base is the weakest of the prospect lists to date and it features a couple of repeat visitors from the “Top 5 Prospects at Second Base” piece. The hot corner lacks high-end talent, and there are questions abound beyond the top prospect for when the others will reach the bigs. On the plus side, third base is loaded with top-shelf established talent that’s young and old. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do anything to enhance the excitement generated by the prospects featured below.
5. Andy Young (ARI)
I discussed Young in-depth previously among the second base prospects. You can read my write-up here. Since he’s also included in this piece, I’ll point out that in addition to playing 69 games at second base in the minors last year, he also played 29 games at third base, per FanGraphs.
4. Bobby Dalbec (BOS)
Dalbec is a “three true outcomes” (TTO) hitter with ample thump, swing, and miss in his game. On the plus side, he has cut back on the negative TTO outcome fanning in 24.7% of his plate appearances at Double-A and Triple-A combined last year after punching out in 32.4% of his plate appearances at High-A and Double-A combined in 2018. Even with the gains made last year making contact, he hit only .239. He’ll be an average liability in fantasy, but he walked in 13.0% of his plate appearances, meaning how he’s evaluated needs to be different in leagues that use OBP instead of or in addition to average.
The other true outcome that hasn’t been addressed is his over-the-fence pop. He slugged 27 homers in 562 plate appearances in the upper minors last year. MLB Pipeline grades his power as a 60, while FanGraphs has a 50 current grade and 55 future grade on it. It’s worth noting that FanGraphs also grades his raw power as a 70 though, so perhaps he could tap into more than they’re expecting.
Further elaborating on tapping into more pop, Shelly Verougstraete tweeted out a graphic and some numbers showcasing Dalbec’s gains on pulled fly balls.
Bobby Dalbec’s Pulled FB%
2016 – 18.8%
2017 – 20.0%
2018 – 18.0%
2019 – 32.4% 😍
Sprinkle in an increase in contact from 62% to 70%.
He’s going to be banging a bunch of doubles off the Green Monster…if they don’t go over 💪 pic.twitter.com/nJjtjhoUSW
— Shelly Verougstraete (@ShellyV_643) January 8, 2020
Rafael Devers is firmly entrenched at the hot corner for the Red Sox, but Dalbec could push Michael Chavis for playing time at first base, or Chavis could play some second base to open a path for Dalbec, too. Dalbec’s not a prospect who’s worth drafting and stashing in most redraft formats. His 2020 value is most likely limited to AL-only formats and 16-team mixers or larger if/when he gets a look for the Red Sox.
3. Ke’Bryan Hayes (PIT)
Hayes ranked as the 36th-best prospect in baseball on MLB Pipeline’s last top-100 list of 2019, but it’s important to recognize a great deal of his value is tied to his defense. They grade his arm and field as a 60 each. Although, they also grade his hit a 60, power a 50, and run a 55. The offensive grades are average or better, but his actual production has been a bit underwhelming.
In 480 plate appearances in Triple-A last year, he hit .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers, a 9.0 BB%, 18.8 K%, and 92 wRC+. He did steal 12 bases in 13 attempts and if you couple that with his penchant for putting the ball in play, he could see his average improve significantly this year and fall more in line with his plus tool grade. MLB Pipeline’s write-up indicates they expect him to add more home run power as he physically matures, but last year’s power display was disappointing in the juiced-ball landscape.
Colin Moran is the incumbent third baseman, but he’s far from indispensable. In fact, he ceded playing time to Jung Ho Kang last year before Kang was designated for assignment. In two years with the Pirates, Moran has amassed only 0.8 FanGraphs WAR (fWar). When Hayes is ready, he should have little trouble pushing Moran to the bench. After performing eight percent worse than the average Triple-A hitter last year, Hayes can probably afford to marinate a little longer back at that level. Like Dalbec, Hayes isn’t a prospect worth drafting and stashing. However, Hayes’ speed and stolen base proficiency in today’s game of avoiding unnecessary risks on the basepath could push him into 12-team mixed league relevance. Having said that, he’s probably more like a 14-team mixer and NL-only option when he debuts this season.
2. Alec Bohm (PHI)
Ranking Bohm was difficult. He probably has a more difficult path to playing time than Dalbec and Hayes and he has fewer than 300 plate appearances in the upper minors, with all 270 of them coming at the Double-A level last year. Still, he’s the most likely of the trio to be useful in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers and the higher ceiling ultimately won out in ranking him second.
He made the most of his 270 plate appearances in Double-A last year, belting 14 homers and posting a .269/.344/.500 slash with a 10.4 BB%, 14.1 K%, and 146 wRC+. Jarrett Seidler of Baseball Prospectus described his hit tool as a potential plus while referring to his raw power as his “calling card.” MLB Pipeline graded his hit and power as 55 each.
Versatile Scott Kingery is listed as the starting third baseman on the team’s depth chart after bouncing back from a dreadful rookie campaign in 2018. If he reverts back to pre-2019 form, Bohm could supplant him at the hot corner. Furthermore, if Scott Kingery, Didi Gregorius, or Jean Segura suffer an injury, there’s positional flexibility to move them around and open the door for Bohm. Of course, this is all contingent on Bohm doing his part and continuing to rake in the minors. Bohm’s yet another prospect who doesn’t need to be drafted and stashed, but he’s someone to monitor during the year and pounce on when called up.
1. Nick Solak (TEX)
Solak bookends this list with another guy who was included among the second base prospects. He ranked third on that list and you can read my write-up of him here. His ranking of third on that list speaks to how the hot corner stacks up to the keystone position, but Solak’s a solid, if unspectacular option in redraft leagues nonetheless.
Read more about fantasy baseball’s top prospects:
- Top 5 Prospects at Catcher
- Top 5 Prospects at Outfielder
- Top 5 Prospects at First Base
- Top 5 Prospects at Second Base
- Top 5 Prospects at Shortstop