Now that first and second base are in the books, it is time to turn our attention to the hot corner. We continue our look at possible impact prospects for the 2017 season, with five third basemen who may be ready for The Show in 2017.
Once again, this isn’t a top prospects list. You won’t see names like Rafael Devers, Ke’Bryan Hayes or even Valdimir Guerrero, Jr. because they are far away from their big league promotions. You won’t seem Austin Riley, whose second half surge that led Rome to their SAL title has him fast-rising amongst baseball’s best third base prospects. This is not a rankings of any sorts, it is merely five prospects who could see enough big league time in 2017 that they impact their team’s play.
So, who’s in store for 2017?
Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox
Moncada is the best prospect in all of baseball. He should be, considering the record-setting amount of money the Red Sox invested in him, breaking the bank for $63-million after the penalties were tacked on to their original $31.5-million bid. The fact that thus far he looks like he is worth the money speaks volumes for their young future star.
He got his first taste of the majors this season during the Red Sox pennant chase. He didn’t do anything fascinating in limited action, although he made headlines for poor base running on a pop fly that made some question if he was mentally prepared for the next level. While the 21 year old may have some maturing left to do, he is ready for prime time.
Originally signed as a second baseman, the Red Sox locked up Dustin Pedroia through 2021, so Moncada is going to take the helms at the hot corner. He played third while in Boston and has been playing out in the desert in the Arizona Fall League as well. The Red Sox know they will have to exhibit some patience at such a tough position, but Moncada’s pure athleticism and cannon of an arm should enable him a quick transition to third. He can hit for power, he can hit the gaps, he can hit for average, and he can fly on the base paths. Moncada is special, and if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he will be up by May.
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics
Chapman was the Athletics 2014 first round pick out of Cal Sate Fullerton. He was drafted as a good hitter, with smart instincts in the strike zone, still looking to unleash that raw power. He was also drafted as one of the best defenders in the nation with an arm second to none.
Since then, his defense has remained excellent, and that arm hasn’t lost a tick. His presence at the plate, however, has come into question as he has found the power (and then some), but it has come at the sacrifice of his once-solid contact hitting.
That being said, he was the Midland League Player of the Year in the Double-A Texas League before a brief promotion to Triple-A. He slashed .244/.33/.521 with a career-best 29 home runs and 26 doubles. He also posted a career-worst 29.2 percent strikeout rate, a number that has been continually on the rise since the start of his big league career. His power presence is helping him counter the high strikeout rates with an improved walk rate (a career-high 11.7 percent), but it still would be nice to see him revert back to the numbers he put up in college.
There is a bit of a cluster at third after Ryon Healy’s successful 2016 campaign, but Chapman’s defense may be too good to keep in the minors too long. He struggled in his small 18-game stint in Triple-A, so don’t expect him on the Opening Day roster. That being said, his 2017 big league debut isn’t far away.
Paul DeJong, St. Louis Cardinals
DeJong was the Cardinals fourth round draft pick in 2015 out of Illinois State. He slashed .333/.427/.605 with 14 home runs and 15 doubles in his final collegiate season, and while the bat may look like he should have gone higher, the glove is what saw him fall. Once again, the Cardinals swooped in and struck gold.
DeJong has never seen a Triple-A pitch, so he is the first of three reaches to close out this list. There is just something special about him that has one of those typical Cardinal prospect success stories written all over him. He slashed .260/.324/.460 this season in Double-A blasting 22 home runs and 29 doubles. He is a bit of a free swinger, striking out 140 times and walking just 40, but with the run production he is proving capable of, that could be overlooked. His glove is still far behind, as he committed 16 errors in 289 total chances (a .945 fielding percentage), so the Cardinals have been working him at shortstop as well, where he has played this fall out in the AFL.
DeJong will start the season in Triple-A Memphis without a question, but with the Cardinals in a seemingly transitional state (they are never in a full rebuild), DeJong could be moved up aggressively as a power bat off the bench in a third base/ shortstop utility role. Those are the guys that seem to come out of nowhere for the Cardinals.
Who else made the cut? Head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full list by clicking on the link below:
MiLB: Five third basemen who could impact 2017