Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Top 5 Third Base Prospects for 2011
In articles like this, websites typically give readers a list of the best overall prospects at any given position, but the intention here is to focus on just those prospects who are most likely to provide owners with the most significant fantasy impact in the 2011 season.
Thus, a guy like Chicago White Sox prospect Dayan Viciedo—who should be beat out by fellow prospect Brent Morel—is not on my list.
Ditto for Josh Bell in Baltimore, who has been blocked by the recent acquisition of Mark Reynolds.
Here is my list of the five third base prospects who will likely have the most impact at the major league level in 2011:
5. Matt Dominguez, FLA
2010 Performance: .252, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 0 SB, 61 R (at Double-A Jacksonville)
The former first round pick (No. 12 overall in 2007) was a shortstop in high school, but has been transferred to third base due to the presence of Hanley Ramirez in Miami.
The Marlins have already announced they are going to give Dominguez a shot to win the job at third base during spring training. It seems like an awfully big step for the ballclub, considering the fact that he hit just .252 in Double-A.
But the Marlins are a small-market team committed to their plan. They need to do more with less, and in the current baseball market they feel he may be their best option. Of course, if he starts the year in with the parent club, his service time starts ticking towards arbitration, so the club is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.
He is an excellent defender with a plus arm.
Caveat emptor! As with Cox, I expect Dominguez will have a negative impact on his fantasy league owners in 2011.
4. Zack Cox, St L
2010 performance: .429, 9 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB, 67 R (at Univ of Arkansas)
Cox was considered one of the top hitters coming out of college last spring. He was selected by St. Louis out of Arkansas in the first round of the June draft (No. 25 overall) and will eventually take over as the Cards’ starting third baseman.
The question entering the 2011 season is whether the ballclub, starving for offense in a somewhat punch-less lineup, is prepared to promote him to the major leagues in his first full professional season.
The organization considered promoting him late last year, but ultimately decided not to do so—but that doesn’t mean they won’t give him a shot this year, in spite of the fact he played in just four pro games in 2010.
The club will likely start David Freese at third base as the team heads north out of spring training, but it’s entirely possible Cox will move through the Cardinals system quickly and join the major league team after midseason.
He has exceptional bat speed and is projected to hit for a solid BA and over 20 home runs, but I expect it will take a couple of years for him to get settled in the Show. For that reason, I can only say “buyer beware” if he makes the Cardinals in 2011.
3. Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE
2010 Performance: .278, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 3 SB, 81 RBI (at Double-A Akron)
Chisenhall is one of the best hitters in the minor leagues. He is a plus-hitter with excellent bat speed, a short stroke and solid power to all fields. He projects to hit for over 20 HR in the Show.
He has accumulated over 600 plate appearances at Double-A and should start the season in AAA. His competition in Cleveland is not especially formidable, with Jayson Nix (.224 in 2010) and Luis Valbuena (.193) seemingly the only obstacles keeping him from taking over as the Tribe’s starting third baseman.
It is a near-certainty he will be the Tribe's starting third baseman by Opening Day 2012, but it would seem that a solid start in Columbus (AAA) would could lead to a promotion after the all-star break.
2. Brent Morel, CWS
2010 Performance: .322, 10 HR, 64 RBI, 8 SB, 65 R (combined stats at AA and AAA)
Morel, 23, has the inside track on Chicago’s third base job as spring training approaches. The White Sox made him a September call-up last year and while he hit only .231 with 3 HR in 65 ABs, he showed that his glove is ready for the big leagues.
The likelihood that he sticks as the 2011 Opening Day starter increased when the White Sox signed DH Adam Dunn and re-signed 1B Paul Konerko and C AJ Pierzynski—their power capabilities in the middle of the lineup will permit the team to be patient with Morel’s offense while taking advantage of his defensive skills.
Mark Teahen started last year as the club’s third baseman, but he struggled at the hot corner and is being viewed as a super-utility player. Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, who is known for possessing a powerful bat, lacks plate discipline and defensive refinement and is still probably a year or two away from taking his place in the White Sox lineup.
For all of these reasons, Morel would seem to be the guy you want to target in your auction/draft, at least for this season.
1. Mike Moustakas, KC
2010 Performance: .322, 36 HR, 124 RBI, 2 SB, 94 R (combined stats at AA and AAA)
Moustakas, 22, is clearly the best of the class of prospects at third third base.
Last year, he pummelled Texas League (AA) pitching to the tune of .347 with 21 home runs in just 259 ABs before earning a promotion to the Pacific Coast League (AAA). After arriving in Omaha, he hit .293 with 15 homers in 225 AB, demonstrating that he is close to being major-league ready.
It has been suggested ‘Moose’ is capable of making an early-season jump to the major leagues in 2011, just as Mike Stanton did in Atlanta last year. But it's likely he will either start the season as the Royals' Opening Day third baseman or return to Triple-A for a full half-season.
He lacks plate discipline and while his selectivity improved in Double-A last year, he hit just .293 and drew only eight walks in the PCL—a league considered to be a hitter’s mecca.
I think he needs more seasoning before making the jump to the big leagues for good, so the betting here is he’ll start the 2011 season in the minors and make his debut with the Royals in July.