The hot corner will live up to its nickname in this year's MLB draft.
While the overall crop of talent in the 2013 draft class is down a bit compared to recent years, third base has its share of quality major league prospects, especially at the collegiate level.
In fact, just among college third basemen, there's likely to be at least two of them picked within the top-10, and maybe even a third. A couple more could be selected by the time Round 1 is done, too.
Here's a breakdown of the best of the best at the position.
No. 1: Kris Bryant, San Diego
Bryant, college baseball’s runaway home run leader with 31, is the premier power bat in this draft and a likely top-three pick. The only players expected to go ahead of him are right-handed college pitchers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray.
How powerful is Bryant? Well, in addition to having what Jim Callis of Baseball America recently dubbed 80 power (on the 20-80 scouting scale), the righty slugger has actually out-homered the vast majority of Division I teams by himself.
As you can see in the video, Bryant generates his power from a wide base and minimal stride that allows for good balance throughout his swing and a quick weight transfer.
Baseball America, which pegged Bryant as the third-best (subscription required) draft prospect, has more:
He has adopted a wider base and a simpler approach at the plate this year, and he has impressed scouts with his ability to turn on inside fastballs or go the other way with sliders over the outer half. His plate discipline and ability to consistently barrel up a variety of pitches make him a safe bet to be at least an average hitter, and many scouts think he’ll be better than that.
Bryant's walk rate shows an improved approach, too, as he's walked 62 times (against 42 strikeouts) in 58 games as a junior. Whether that sort of advancement holds once he's facing pitchers in the high minors will be a key part of his development.
The downside here is that Bryant may have to move off third base as a pro. It's likely that the team that drafts him will see if he can stick initially, but right field or first base could be his eventual destination. No matter where he ends up, though, his power bat should profile, as long as he continues to make enough contact.
No. 2: Colin Moran, North Carolina
Moran has been gaining steam throughout the spring and has vaulted into a guaranteed spot within the top-10, if not the top-five, as a junior.
Moran's approach from the left side stands as his primary asset, as he sports a 20-to-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 games. Simply put, he's got a good eye and makes lots of hard contact.
It is no wonder he earned the distinction of "Best Strike Zone Discipline," per Baseball America.
Still, there are concerns, as Keith Law of ESPN Insider (subscription required) points out:
At the plate, Moran has a great eye and generates good bat speed, with solid extension through the zone for average power or a tick above. He takes a long stride forward in the box but keeps his weight back, also keeping his hands very deep, with good hip rotation as well. It's not a pretty swing, and it's not that consistent -- his hands come set in a different spot from swing to swing, and on some swings his front side goes soft (where he rolls over his front foot).
Beyond that, there are questions as to whether he can handle third base, although he's shown improvement there, which bodes well going forward, provided he can continue to work at it.
While the power, currently average or slightly above, projects to get better, Moran's approach will be what makes him a safe bet to climb through the minors fairly quickly.
No. 3: D.J. Peterson, New Mexico
While Bryant is the top power hitter in this class, Peterson is considered to be among the best pure hitters in the draft, proving that there is, in fact, quite some talent to go around at third base.
His hitting mechanics are sound, with quick, strong hands, and he shows the ability to make adjustments on the fly. He has keen pitch recognition skills and already has a pro approach to his at-bats. While New Mexico plays at an elevation higher than Coors Field, scouts say Peterson’s power is legitimate.
ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required), though, cautions that while Peterson's bat is legitimate, the Lobos play in "the same park where the Albuquerque Isotopes play, also known as 'home of the 6.00 ERA.' " In other words, Peterson's numbers are inflated.
And stop us if you've heard this before, but the biggest catch with Peterson is his defense. He's very likely to shift across the diamond, which would undercut his value a good deal (and it's also why he's listed among Bleacher Report's top first base draft prospects).
Peterson will be a first-rounder, but just how high he goes will depend on how the first 10 or so picks play out, which could have a domino effect on Peterson's ultimate landing spot since some teams like him more than others.
Also worth mentioning: His brother Dustin, out of Gilbert High in Arizona, is also an infielder who might not get picked too much later than his older sibling.
No. 4: Eric Jagielo, Notre Dame
Jagielo can't match Bryant's power, Moran's approach or Peterson's pure bat, but the junior is a mix of the three. That puts him squarely in the first round.
The lefty-hitter smacked 13 homers, second-most in the Cape Cod League last summer, as Baseball America (subscription required) points out.
Jagielo utilizes an upright, open stance that produces results that look nicer than his actual set up, load and swing (see video). Here's Law's take (subscription required):
Jagielo loads his hands very high and deep, creating a longer path to the ball, compensating with strong hands and forearms that allow him to make solid contact even when he has to fully extend his arms to cover the pitch low and away.
While Jagielo didn't take to third base full-time until last year—he'd seen time in the outfield and first base early in his collegiate career—he's shown enough defensive ability to stay there with a little work.
No. 5: Chad Pinder, Virginia Tech
Major League Baseball teams typically covet power at third base, but that's not quite Pinder's game, which makes him a bit trickier to evaluate than his fellow college hot cornermen.
Per Baseball America (subscription required), the junior...
...projects to hit 15 a year at the pro level—not ideal for the hot corner, but playable considering his defense. Pinder shows good defense at third, with solid range and the ability to come in on balls well. He also has a strong arm. Some scouts think that he could provide solid defense at second base, where his bat might profile a little better.
He did hit seven homers this spring, but if he's going to be a big league regular, it seems as though Pinder will need to either tap into some more pop or at least be amenable to a position switch (which his strong defense could make possible) to allow his righty stick to play up.
Pinder's name is expected to be called at some point on Day 1, which encompasses Rounds 1 and 2.