We all know that third base is among the shallowest positions in fantasy sports, but the future appears bright. Not only are two of the game’s biggest stars transitioning there (Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez), but there are several youngsters either already in the majors or on the cusp of getting there. Who is the future of the position? Let’s take a look:
1) Brett Lawrie – Toronto Blue Jays – 22 years old
Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Shaun Marcum, injuries delayed his major league debut in 2011. When he finally arrived he showed everyone just what was possible, hitting .293 with nine HR, 25 RBI, 26 R and seven SB in 150 AB. The fact of the matter is, those looking for a reason to be skeptical are really going to have to dig deep to find something.
- His average came courtesy of a realistic .318 BABIP and 18.1 percent strikeout rate
- He has stolen as many as 30 bases in a season (at Double-A in 2010)
- The Blue Jays lineup is deep and, even if he hits sixth, he is going to get ample opportunities to both score and drive in runs
The only potential issue is his 17.0 percent HR/FB, which could regress. Obviously we don’t want to read too much into his 18 HR at Triple-A prior to his recall, having come in the Pacific Coast League. However, while he hit just eight HR in ’10 he also had 35 doubles and 16 triples, so it is not a stretch to think that, as he gets older and stronger, more balls will fly over the fence.
He has the potential to routinely hit .280 with 20/20 production or more. He has a bright future ahead of him and is a great player to target in all formats.
2) Pablo Sandoval – San Francisco Giants – 25 years old
We are consistently going to be concerned about his weight, which is going to be the albatross hanging over him. If he can keep himself in shape, he has proven that he can be a consistent .300-plus hitter as he makes contact and can carry a BABIP of .320 or better.
He also has shown more than enough power, hitting 20-plus HR twice in his career. The big "if," however, is if he can keep his weight in check and stay healthy. There have been reports from Henry Schulman that, “Pablo looked good to me, but Bochy said, ‘He knows he’s got a few pounds to lose. We had a good talk.’ Gained 25 pounds.”
It’s worth keeping an eye on the situation, but the fact is that Sandoval brings too much to the table to ignore.
3) Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals – 23 years old
I have already given my projection for Moustakas for 2012 (click here to view), so I am not going to go into too much detail on him here. The fact is that Moustakas has consistently started off slow at a level only to figure it out and prove how good he can be.
It was no different in the major leagues last season, having hit .352 with four HR, 12 RBI, 10 R and two SB in 88 September AB. Sure, the skeptics will point to a .370 BABIP over the month, but that really was the only number that looks out of place. He also posted a 10.8 percent HR/FB and 12.0 percent strikeout rate, both numbers he could potentially maintain.
It’s easy to write Moustakas off due to his poor start, but that would be a mistake. He has proven time and time again that he can be a productive player and his September explosion could just be the start of things to come.
4) Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies – 20 years old
A second-round pick in 2009, Arenado put his name on the map in 2011 at Single-A by hitting .298 with 20 HR, 122 RBI and 82 R over 517 AB. He followed that up by running roughshod over the Arizona Fall League, hitting .388 with six HR and 33 RBI over 121 AB. Talk about opening up some eyes.
Those numbers are impressive, but what may have been more impressive were his 53 strikeouts vs. 47 walks at Single-A. The fact that he can produce such lofty numbers, at any level, with the ability to make consistent contact gives us reason for optimism. Throw in the fact that he’ll be playing in Coors Field and you have to wonder what will be possible.
He will likely open the year at Double-A and, with a hole at third base this season, could conceivably reach the majors late in 2012. If it is ’12 or ’13, he has the potential to become one of the better options at a weak position extremely quickly.
5) Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals – 21 years old
Many would argue that the Nationals netted the best player in the draft for three years running in Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. The sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Rendon has not yet made his professional debut, though that hasn’t stopped the hype machine.
With Ryan Zimmerman currently at third, someone will have to move to accommodate both players, but time will tell who ultimately shifts (or is dealt). From the Nationals perspective, they needed to add as much talent as possible, regardless of the position, so you have to regard them for that.
We’ll also have to wait and see how aggressive Washington chooses to be with Rendon, but if the talent matches the hype, Rendon will be helping the Nationals before we know it.
Make sure to check out the rest of our Rising Star articles: