2017 was a solid season for third base call-ups. Rafael Devers took MLB by storm getting the call early into the season, and getting a full season under his belt before turning 21 in October. Along with Devers, we saw the debuts for Matt Chapman, Jeimer Candelario, Miguel Andujar, and Christian Arroyo. Fast forward to 2018, and there are a number of players that should be reaching the majors, and could potentially provide a solid boost to your fantasy roster this season, and for the foreseeable future. After bringing you my breakdowns on first basemen and second basemen, I bring you the third installment of minor league prospects in “That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: Third Basemen 2018.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
Minors: .323/.425/.485/13 HR/76 RBI
Arguably the most talked about prospect in the minor leagues, Guerrero Jr. built off his successful 2016 slashing .323/.425/.485 in 2017. His hitting instincts and mechanics mirror those of his father. Guerrero Jr. has great bat speed, hand-eye coordination and the ability to barrel the ball up with precision. His plate discipline is what sets him apart from the field. Guerrero Jr. was one of few players to accumulate more walks (76) than strikeouts (62). There’s no question he’s going to hit upon arriving to the majors. However, there is a slight question as to where he will play defensively. After playing outfield, Guerrero Jr. played third base in 2017. His range and speed are average, but his throwing arm is above-average. Given his stocky size, he may be destined to stick in the outfield if he continues to add mass. Regardless if he plays corner outfield, third base, or designated hitter, he’s going to get his at-bats, and that’s what makes him a huge target in fantasy baseball. Last season, I projected Guerrero Jr.’s ETA to be around 2021, but his advanced bat has put him on track to reach the big leagues in 2019, and we may see a September call-up in 2018. If you’re looking for the next minor leaguer to take MLB by storm, I’d suggest hopping on Guerrero Jr. immediately in dynasty/keeper leagues. For redraft leagues, we are still a year out before you want to target him.
Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds
Minors: .321/.391/.514/14 HR/65 RBI
The second overall pick in the 2016 draft has made a name for himself in his first two season of minor league baseball. We’ve grown accustomed to the top collegiate hitters moving quickly through the minors and Senzel is well on his way to adding to the list that features fellow third basemen Kris Bryant and Alex Bregman. Senzel’s quick bat, advanced approach and power allow him to make consistent contact. Senzel reminds be a lot of Bregman, but where he lacks Bregman’s speed he makes up for in power. Senzel’s played third base in the minors and — given his plus arm — he could stay there throughout his career. The question remains where the Reds may look to play Senzel when he gets the call. The Reds currently have more-than-capable players at each position and it may take an injury, or trade to clear up a spot for Senzel. With there not being much left to prove, it’s only a matter of time for Senzel to get the call to Cincinnati. From there, he should see everyday at-bats and easily reach the 20+ home run plateau per season.
Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees
Minors: .315/.352/.498/16 HR/82 RBI
Majors: .571/.625/.857/0 HR/4 RBI
After a brief stint with the Yankees in 2017, Andujar finds himself in the perfect position to claim the Yankees starting third base job. 2017 saw Andujar surpass his 2016 numbers (.273/.332/.410/12 HR/83 RBI). What makes Andujar a special player is his ability to adjust at the plate and on the field. While he may not posses the greatest speed, his arm is his greatest tool and he could possess the strongest arm out of any minor league prospect at the position. Assuming he progresses with his footwork and doesn’t try to rush every throw, he has the ability to be a plus defender at the major league level. I expect Andujar to win the starting third base job out of Spring Training and he should provide fantasy owners with a solid average, 15+ home runs and the ability to score and drive in 70+ runs. The Yankees already feature Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, but Andujar could be a nice addition given the fact that when he gets on base, the top of the Yankees order will be right around the corner looking to drive runners in.
Christian Arroyo – Tampa Bay Rays
Minors: .396/.461/.604/4 HR/16 RBI
Majors: .192/.244/.304/3 HR/14 RBI
Arroyo was part of the return after Tampa decided to move nearly every piece from their 2017 roster. Given the move, Arroyo immediately competes for the starting job out of Spring Training. While the power numbers have never been eye-popping, Arroyo makes contact nearly every at-bat. His line-drive approach and contact ability make him the perfect number to hitter in any lineup. While he neither possess great speed nor the ability to beat out infield hits, Arroyo could find himself batting leadoff for the Rays. While he doesn’t strikeout a lot, he doesn’t draw walks as he usually makes contact on any pitch he finds desirable. Tampa is a great landing spot for Arroyo. There won’t be as much pressure to win as there is in San Francisco, and he’s going to get the at-bats once he solidifies a spot on the team. In time, I could see Arroyo developing into a double-digit home run candidate, but in the meantime, he’s going to have a high average and OBP, but other than that he won’t bring much to the table in fantasy baseball. He’s a much better actual baseball player than what he will bring to the table in fantasy. Still, if you’re looking from depth at the third base position, or potentially shortstop, Arroyo could be useful.
Michael Chavis – Boston Red Sox
Minors: .282/.347/.563/31 HR/94 RBI
Power has always been with Chavis, but with his power came struggles. 2017 was a bounce-back year for Chavis as he absolutely obliterated pitching throughout his stops in Advanced-A and Double-A ball. Reports suggest the key to his renaissance was understanding that not every ball he hits needs to leave the ballpark. Changing his approach, along with the ability to hit pitches the other way, while learning how to hit with two strikes allowed Chavis to get back on the patch to getting his call quicker rather than sooner. With Rafael Devers locking down third base and Pedroia starting at second, Chavis may have to be patient in 2018. If an injury were to happen at second or first he could see the call immediately. I do see a few options for Chavis. With Devers possessing the build of a first baseman, I could see the Red Sox eventually shifting him to first while Chavis taking over at third. Also, the other possibility could be having Chavis spend more time at second, or first, which allows other options to happen across the infield. Scouts compare Chavis to Jedd Gyorko. If that’s the case, the Red Sox could be getting another power bat to help a lineup that has young talent with the ability to hit the long ball. Look for Chavis to get his call at some point this summer, and when he does he could be a sneaky source of power numbers off the waiver wire.
Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves
Minors: .275/.339/.446/20 HR/74 RBI
Regardless of the Braves issues in terms of signing bonus money, and having to forfeit a number of players (Manfred definitely abused his power here), they’ve done a phenomenal job at rejuvenating their minor league system. Riley capped off a second-straight season with 40+ extra-base hits. While the number wasn’t as high as his 2016 total (61), Riley was able to generate 41 during the 2017 season. At 6’3″ 220lbs, Riley possesses the powerful frame to generate lift on the baseball. Again, with all power hitters, strikeouts are a concern. However, he took strides in 2017 cutting down on strikeouts and putting questions in check on his ability to stick at third base. Riley possesses one of the better throwing arms of minor league third baseman and has the ability to move to the outfield if need be. Still a year from his call, I’d suggest monitoring Riley’s movement throughout this season, and offseason, as he is on pace to be the next best Braves power-hitter.
Ke’Bryan Hayes – Pittsburgh Pirates
Minors: .278/.345/.363/2 HR/43 RBI
Regarded as one of the best all-around hitters in MiLB, Hayes has shown the ability to shoot the ball to all gaps while using his plus-speed to take extra bases. There’s no question he will develop power as he adds mass to his 6’1″ 185lb frame. He shows a mature approach at the plate, and has shown patience which was reflected in his [41:76] BB:K ratio. He’s an above-average defender and has the necessary tools to stay at the position in the majors. Hayes rebounded from an injury-plagued 2016 season that saw him play in 67 games raising the number to 108 in 2017. With David Freese on the decline, and durability has been an issue, Hayes could be the answer within the next few seasons as the Pirates use a Band-Aid to hold down the position in the mean time. Now is the time to start monitoring Hayes’ progress in the minors. He should be owned in dynasty leagues that allow minor league pipelines. Owners in dynasty/keeper leagues should look to acquire Hayes next season, as 2020 will be the season to draft Hayes in the later rounds or add him off the waiver wire.
Ryan Mountcastle – Baltimore Orioles
Minors: .287/.312/.489/18 HR/62 RBI
Mountcastle becomes an intriguing name in 2018. With Manny Machado set to become a free agent after this season, the Orioles have options if they aren’t able to keep Machado for the long term. If they were to lose Machado, or trade him, Tim Beckham could shift to short, and Mountcastle could assume the everyday role at the hot corner. Mountcastle possesses a great approach at the plate that allows him to generate solid backspin on the ball. Great pitch recognition allows him to hit balls to every part of the field, and he possesses solid power than could one day see him turn into a 25+ home run hitter. His defense is suffice enough to remain at third, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his chance to star at Camden Yards. While 2019 could be the year he earns a job out of Spring Training, a September call-up isn’t out of the realm of possibility for this season.
Jake Burger – Chicago White Sox
Minors: .263/.336/.412/5 HR/29 RBI
The White Sox selected Burger with the 11th pick in the 2017 draft. The Missouri State slugger was regarded as one of the best collegiate hitters in last season’s draft and he got off to a solid start in a shortened 2017 minor league debut. At 6’2″ 210lbs, the stocky slugger draws comparisons to Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas. Not the most gifted athlete, Burger should hit for average and power in the majors while learning to get more loft on the ball. He may not look like your prototypical third basemen, but Burger has a strong work ethic and will put in the necessary work to develop into a big league-ready player. As I’ve mentioned often, polished collegiate bats tend to move quickly in the minor leagues and 2018 will be a season for Burger to add to that notion. While the White Sox will use Yolmer Sanchez at third in 2017, Burger should get every opportunity to win the job in Spring Training of 2019. If you’ve follow the White Sox you know we are years removed from solid production that Joe Crede used to bring to the South Side of Chicago. It’s only a matter of time before Jake Burger becomes a household name and holds down the hot corner for years to come. If you are looking for prospects with the ability to hit 25+ home runs and driving 90+ runs, Burger could be that exact prospect.
Hunter Dozier – Kansas City Royals
Minors: .243/.341/.441/4 HR/13 RBI
2017 was a forgotten year for Dozier who only featured in 33 games due to an oblique injury. 2016 was a monster year for Dozier who slashed .296/.366/.533 with 23 HR and 75 RBI. It’s not everyday that we see a prospect at 26 years-old, but Dozier is long overdue for his shot after waiting in the wings while the likes of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer played everyday for the Royals. I still think it’s a shame Cheslor Cuthbert got the shot after Moustakas went down with an ACL injury in 2016. I’m not taking anything away from Cuthbert as he was a more than capable third baseman, but Dozier could’ve provided power that they didn’t receiver from Cuthbert. As with nearly every power-hitting player, Dozier does rack up strikeouts. He accumulated 123 in in 544 2016 at-bats, which was down from the 151 he racked up in 523 2015 at-bats. He was on pace to rack up close to 200 as he accumulated 50 in 129 at-bats last season. Regardless, Dozier is going to hit, and he’s going to hit for power. It remains to be seen if he’s going to start the season at third or first. First seems the likely answer, but Dozier has spent the majority of his minor-league career at third and corner outfield. Each season, I breakdown players that I deem waiver wire gems. Dozier could be targeted as late-round fliers, and if he starts hot I guarantee he will be a player that is targeted heavily off the waiver wire. If you’re looking for a player that is entering 2018 with everyday at-bats and will supply power, Dozier is your guy!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 25th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #101 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Professor Mark Rush. By day Mark is the well respected Law & Political Professor of Washington & Lee University and by night is the Chief Editor as well as a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles are published every Monday morning and his primary focus is starting pitching.
The link above is to listen on our blog talk radio website. You can listen to the show directly on the homepage of majorleaguefantasysports.com without the annoying popups and obnoxious ads that are on the blog talk website. It will be playing automatically during the show time.