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Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Third Base (2023)

by Chris Clegg | @RotoClegg | Featured Writer
Jan 23, 2023
Josh Jung

While third base may feel a bit shallow for Fantasy Baseball purposes, the position could be on the rise with many talented prospects playing at the hot corner. In my prospect rankings, I have six players with third-base eligibility in my top 20 overall. Who are those players, and what can you expect from them for fantasy? Let’s look at my top-five 3B prospects for fantasy baseball.

(Each player included still holds MLB Rookie eligibility)

Be sure to check out each installment of FantasyPros’ Top 5 Prospects Per Position series:

Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Third Base

Below are the top-five 3B prospects that could emerge for fantasy managers in 2023.

Gunnar Henderson (3B – BAL)

Henderson significantly rose in prospect rankings in 2022 thanks to a swing change that allowed him to get to high fastballs more easily. Yes, it was minor, but his flattened bat path did lead to tangible results. The results came with improved contact driving more confidence and better plate discipline in Henderson’s game.

Henderson put on an impressive showing in the Minors and his small Major League sample. Across 503 MILB plate appearances, Henderson posted an impressive 107.2 mph 90th percentile exit velocity. For reference, MLB average last year was 103.7. He also hit the ball consistently hard, with a 92.2 mph average and a 52.7 percent hard-hit rate. There is no denying that Henderson has plenty of power.

Henderson displayed great plate discipline as well. He had just a 17.8 percent chase rate in the minors. That number stayed impressive in his 132 MLB plate appearances. Some have expressed concerns about his ground ball rate, which is valid if you look at just 2022. It was a bit high at 59.8 percent in the Majors. It was not much better in Triple-A at 50.3 percent. But you can rest in the fact that he has not posted numbers like that throughout his career and at just a 40.2 percent ground ball rate in 208 Double-A plate appearances.

All the numbers point to Henderson being the top baseball prospect, which he is for me. You can also expect solid performance for 2023 as Henderson brings a high floor to hit with solid power and sneaky speed.

Jordan Walker (3B – STL) 

Walker was drafted as a massive power hitter with hit tool concerns. He put those concerns behind him very quickly, as he had a strong 2021 but an even better 2022. He spent the full season in Double-A, where he slashed .306/.388/.510 with 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Based on the profile, you may be surprised that he stole bases than home runs hit. But that shows you the athlete Walker is.

Walker hits the ball harder than nearly every prospect in baseball. He posted a 107.9 mph 90th percentile exit velocity for the regular season with a 45 percent hard-hit rate. Walker had a 111.1 mph 90th percentile exit velocity in the Arizona Fall League. He is one of the safer bets among prospects to be a consistent 30-home-run bat.

The speed is surprising, but Walker was clocked at 29.9 feet per second in the AFL. Despite the bigger frame, Walker can steal 10-15 stolen bases early in his career. Walker is a dude, and he owns the field. There is a strong possibility he does not have 3B eligibility for fantasy leagues beyond 2023, though. With Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt locking up the corners, Walker is likely to be in a corner outfield spot which he looked good at in the Arizona Fall League. Expect an early 2023 debut for Walker.

Miguel Vargas (3B – LAD) 

Vargas is one of the safer profiles among third-base prospects, and I feel comfortable that he will hit enough to be a successful Major League hitter. Vargas struggled out of the gate in Triple-A last year but still managed a .304/.404/.511 slash with 17 home runs. He debuted with the Dodgers down the stretch but saw inconsistent playing time, leading to poor performance. That does not concern me with what we have seen from Vargas throughout his professional career.

He will get the chance to shine and hopefully get everyday at-bats in Los Angeles with Justin Turner no longer manning the hot corner. While he does not have a flashy profile, he will likely be a solid performer. He has reasonable contact rates, low chase rates, and good hard-hit and exit velocity numbers. Vargas is an excellent buy in both dynasty leagues due to some prospect fatigue, but could also prove to be a redraft value.

Josh Jung (3B – TEX)

Jung seemed like he would potentially spend the entire 2022 season with the big league club in Texas before a torn labrum set him back. He lost most of the season and did not return to rehab until late July. Jung made his Major League debut in September and posted solid power numbers in both the Minors and Majors despite having an injury that usually limits power upon returning. He powered 14 home runs in 239 combined plate appearances last season.

Long term, Jung profiles to have an above-average hit or better hit tool with above-average power. Not only is he great for redraft leagues, but he seems like a safe bet to get everyday Major League at-bats making him a great buy in redraft leagues as well. A 20-25 home run season with a .275 batting average seems like a reasonable expectation for 2023.

Curtis Mead (3B – TB)

Among these five prospects, Mead seems to fly under the radar more than any, but he belongs in the top tier of third-base prospects. During the pandemic, Mead went home to play in the Australian Professional League and returned as a different player. His 2022 season was limited to just 331 plate appearances due to injuries but he still managed to hit 13 home runs, steal seven bases and slash .298/.390/.532 between Double-A and Triple-A.

Mead’s data shows that he belongs in the upper tier of third-base prospects. He posted strong exit velocities last year to pair with a hard-hit rate north of 50 percent. Pair that with solid plate discipline(80% Z-Contact/24% chase), and you have the makings of an excellent hitter. He hits the ball to all fields well but can also get home runs power. His defense is the question of how he fits in the Rays’ plans, but regardless the bat will play.

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