1. Rice JR 3B Anthony Rendon
*** 2010: .407/.544/.832 – 68 BB/21 K – 226 AB
*** 2011: .337/.536/.550 – 82 BB/30 K – 202 AB
There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.
2. Georgia Tech JR 3B Matt Skole
*** 2010: .343/.448/.708 – 45 BB/34 K – 233 AB
*** 2011: .362/.457/.570 – 43 BB/31 K – 221 AB
It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.
3. Vanderbilt JR 3B Jason Esposito
*** 2010: .397/.492/.660 – 37 BB/33 K – 262 AB
*** 2011: .357/.425/.552 – 16 BB/36 K – 230 AB
Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.
4. Southern Mississippi JR 3B BA Vollmuth
*** 2010: .380/.495/.733 – 44 BB/50 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .304/.417/.546 – 38 BB/55 K – 207 AB
Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up
5. Arizona JR 3B Andy Burns
*** 2010: .282/.358/.565 – 20 BB/41 K – 177 AB
The only thing I don’t like about Andy Burns is the fact he had to sit out in 2011 after the former Colorado prep star transferred from Kentucky to Arizona. Every thing else is positive including his very good defensive tools (like the two guys sandwiched around him on this list, Burns is a former shortstop), plus arm, above-average speed, quick bat, and good raw power. He also has what could be a great separator if he hopes to crack this draft’s top five rounds: the proven ability to hit with wood. On top of all those legitimate reasons why I like Burns, I also have a strong instinctual feel for him. That’s almost certainly worth nothing to 99.9% of the readers out there, but I know my Mom likes it when I share stuff like that.
6. Miami JR 3B Harold Martinez
*** 2010: .328/.403/.672 – 33 BB/50 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .328/.416/.424 – 29 BB/38 K – 198 AB
Had a weird moment when I was just about to start writing about Harold Martinez at the same time he came to the plate in the 4th inning against Florida during Regional play. Then I stepped away for a bit only to return to the still unfinished entry on Martinez exactly as he stepped up to bat in the 7th. Now that I see it typed out I realize it probably isn’t all that weird, but after writing about draft prospects almost non-stop over the past week and a half, I may be beginning to lose my mind.
As a prospect, Martinez does more than just time his television appearances well. He typifies what this uninspiring college third base class is all about: heavy duty of the word “but.” His defensive tools are solid and he certainly looks the part of a player capable of manning the hot corner, BUT his inconsistency making the routine play and erratic arm keep him from claiming third base as a sure fire long-term defensive home. He’s already plenty strong with the frame to get even bigger, BUT his above-average raw power fell off big time in 2011, in no small part because his long swing was geared towards the aluminum. He was a highly touted prep player who has played well over three years of competitive ACC ball, BUT he hasn’t dominated the competition in quite the way many had hoped. He’s a solid, potential top five round selection, BUT not a player you can pencil in as a long-term answer at third unless some of questions about his game are answered professionally.
7. Nebraska JR 3B Cody Asche
*** 2010: .335/.393/.565 – 18 BB/45 K – 209 AB
*** 2011: .337/.437/.668 – 36 BB/39 K – 208 AB
“Really like his approach, but have been underwhelmed by his overall package thus far” – that’s what I had in my notes re: Asche coming into the year. I’m happy to say that I’m no longer underwhelmed and now considered myself appropriately whelmed by his performance. I wasn’t alone in worrying that he wouldn’t stick at third coming into the year, but am now ready to go out on a limb and say I think his athleticism and instincts make him underrated at the position. Despite his very powerful throwing arm he’ll never be a good defender at third, but if his plus raw power would look really good if he can at least play at or around average defense as a pro.
8. Clemson JR 3B John Hinson
*** 2010: .370/.433/.635 – 27 BB/40 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .333/.389/.504 – 22 BB/28 K – 228 AB
A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself have told me some teams question Hinson’s ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on my limited looks of him, I can’t say that I necessarily agree with that assessment, but his defensive skillset (good athlete, iffy arm) may make him better suited for second base than third. At either spot, he’s got the bat to make him a potential regular with a couple breaks along the way. He’s got a relatively high floor (easy to see him as a big league utility guy with pop) with the upside of a league average third baseman.
9. Texas State JR 3B Kyle Kubitza
*** 2010: .332/.433/.563 – 38 BB/41 K – 229 AB
*** 2011: .305/.445/.527 – 52 BB/46 K – 220 AB
Kubitza has many of the key attributes you’d want in a third base prospect – good raw power, solid arm strength, and a patient approach at the plate. The biggest question he’ll have to answer is on the defensive side, but I’m on board with the idea that good pro coaching can help him through some of his concentration lapses in the field.
10. TCU SO 3B Jantzen Witte
*** 2010: .415/.455/.592 – 9 BB/17 K – 147 AB
*** 2011: .365/.431/.515 – 28 BB/31 K – 241 AB
I do love a good draft-eligible sophomore, and Witte qualifies as one of the best in 2011. His defensive tools at third base are outstanding, worthy of consideration as top five (with Rendon, Esposito, maybe Burns…) in the college third base class. His swing and approach is geared towards hitting line drives and getting on base, but there’s still enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers honest.
11. Virginia JR 3B Steven Proscia
*** 2010: .325/.377/.548 – 22 BB/41 K – 252 AB
*** 2011: .354/.399/.527 – 17 BB/30 K – 237 AB
Most people love coffee. Every few months I’ll try a little sip, but it just doesn’t work for me. So many people enjoy it every day that I’m smart enough to know that it isn’t “bad” per se, but rather a specific taste that I just don’t enjoy as much as others. Proscia is a little bit like coffee for me. His defense at third is very good, he’ll show you a nice potential power/speed combo most days, and his athleticism is well above-average for the position. He’s a good prospect by any measure. Yet somehow after taking everything I’ve heard about him and having seen him play a few times myself, I remain unmoved by his upside. Solid player, no doubt; he wouldn’t be on this list otherwise. I just see him as much more likely to wind up a potential four-corners utility player than a starting third baseman.
12. Arizona State JR 3B Riccio Torrez
*** 2010: .386/.482/.627 – 20 BB/37 K – 228 AB – 21/25 SB
*** 2011: .309/.371/.466 – 15 BB/23 K – 204 AB
Torrez seems to finally have found a defensive home at third base. A team could draft him as a true third base prospect now and hope his bat grows into the role, or, and I think this is the more likely outcome, a team could draft him with the idea that he could develop into a versatile utility player. His only standout tool is his raw power, but even that is mitigated somewhat by a swing that currently lacks the proper loft needed to consistently drive balls up and out.
13. Coastal Carolina SR 3B Scott Woodward
*** 2010: .343/.512/.486 – 49 BB/48 K – 210 AB – 58/66 SB
*** 2011: .368/.500/.538 – 32 BB/54 K – 182 AB – 30/34 SB
It’s very easy to envision Scott Woodward playing in the big leagues someday. He’s got an outstanding approach to hitting, a discerning batting eye, and a really good idea of his fundamental strengths and weaknesses at the plate. Woodward ably uses his plus-plus speed to leg out infield hits, turn balls driven to the gaps into triples, and steal bases at a great success rate. Home runs will likely never be a big part of his game, but his is a game based more on speed and plate discipline anyway. He could have the type of career many once projected for former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Another comp that I like a lot is Phillies minor leaguer Tyson Gillies, a comparison made more interesting due to the fact both players are hearing impaired, but one not at all dependent on that fact as the basis of the comp. When I first thought of it a few weeks ago the connection didn’t even occur to me, but the two players share enough distinct offensive similarities to make it work.
14. Kent State JR 3B Travis Shaw
*** 2010: .330/.453/.622 – 49 BB/41 K – 230 AB
*** 2011: .311/.408/.570 – 39 BB/36 K – 228 AB
Lacking lateral quickness and agility, Shaw’s future at third base is a major question as he enters pro ball. If he can stay at third base — good pre-pitch positioning and quicker than you’d expect reactions give him his best shot — then his big power, great approach, and strong track record with wood would make him a fast riser on draft boards. Most of the industry leaders are already moving him off of third, however, so perhaps I’m being unrealistic in thinking he could someday grow into an average-ish fielder there. Probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if he is a first baseman at the next level, his value takes a big hit.
15. Texas A&M JR 3B Adam Smith
*** 2010: .263/.357/.495 – 20 BB/53 K – 194 AB
*** 2011: .225/.294/.387 – 12 BB/50 K – 142 AB
At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.
16. Mercer JR 3B Jacob Tanis
*** 2010: .354/.417/.668 – 21 BB/51 K – 268 AB
*** 2011: .321/.422/.565 – 35 BB/30 K – 237 AB
Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.
17. Oklahoma JR 3B Garrett Buechele
*** 2010: .376/.460/.653 – 21 BB/41 K – 242 AB
*** 2011: .293/.354/.423 – 13 BB/31 K – 239 AB
Here’s what I wrote about Buechele last year at this time: “And so begins a stretch of players with starting caliber upside, but high bust potential. Buechele has one of the stronger pure hit tools of this college third base class, and his quickly emerging power make him one to watch. His defense is plenty good enough to stick at third, so the only thing that realistically stands in the way of Buechele succeeding professionally (you know, besides all of the other things that can get in the way for any player drafted) will be high strikeout totals. He’s not as talented as Zack Cox, so don’t take this as a direct comparison, but it seems that Buechele would be best served returning to school to work on honing his pitch recognition skills like the top player on this list managed to do in his sophomore season.”
I’d say most of that holds up today. His defense at third remains fine, but new questions about his power — was the emergence last year real or more of a juiced bat phenomenon? — keep his draft stock from being any higher. Others seem to like him a lot more than I do, for what it’s worth.
18. Texas-Pan American JR 3B Vincent Mejia
*** 2010: .385/.484/.582 – 41 BB/24 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .337/.455/.479 – 38 BB/36 K – 190 AB
Mejia doesn’t get a lot of nationally recognized prospect love, but I think the guy can play at the next level. He doesn’t have a clear plus tool and may not have the range to play third base, but his approach is sound and his present power is intriguing. I’ve heard from one source that he is a sure fire senior sign candidate in 2012 (i.e. don’t hold your breath waiting for him to get drafted this year). I wonder if a pro team might look to him as a potential catcher, assuming they believe his arm will play behind the plate.
19. Oklahoma State JR 3B Mark Ginther
*** 2010: .311/.364/.547 – 18 BB/38 K – 225 AB
*** 2011: .306/.351/.541 – 16 BB/31 K – 229 AB
I came into the year thinking Ginther was a better player than he has shown, and I still feel that way after another good but not great college season. His athleticism is up there with any college third baseman in the class and his arm strength is an asset defensively, but his hit tool hasn’t shown much progress in his three years with the Cowboys. Ginther certainly looks the part of a potential big league third baseman with three well above-average tools (defense, arm, power) and special athleticism, but it’ll take much more contact and a less loopy swing if he wants to make it as a regular.
20. Tennessee SR 3B Matt Duffy
*** 2010: .304/.385/.444 – 20 BB/36 K – 207 AB
*** 2011: .302/.423/.481 – 29 BB/25 K – 189 AB
Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the 2010 season, so you know I’ve been irrationally high on his talent for a long time now. The Vermont transfer and current Tennesee standout has all of the defensive tools to play a decent shortstop professionally, but profiles better as a potential plus defender at the hot corner. For Duffy, a Jack Hannahan (with more raw power) or Andy LaRoche (with less raw power) type of career is possible.
21. UC Irvine SR 3B Brian Hernandez
*** 2010: .356/.421/.513 – 21 BB/26 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .358/.416/.419 – 19 BB/26 K – 229 AB
Last year I wrote: “he’s your typical ‘whole is greater than the sum of his parts’ kind of prospect, with the upside of a big league bench bat if everything breaks right.” I stand by that today (some pop, some speed, some plate discipline), with one additional comment I’ll present straight from my notes: “PLUS fielder.” All caps means you know I’m serious. Hernandez can really pick it at third.
22. Stetson JR 3B Ben Carhart
*** 2011: .349/.395/.500 – 17 BB/17 K – 232 AB
I liked Carhart more on the mound heading into the year, but now think his plus arm, gap power, and improved approach at the plate could play at third.
23. Penn State JR 3B Jordan Steranka
*** 2010: .309/.352/.483 – 10 BB/45 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .327/.395/.548 – 25 BB/34 K – 217 AB
Steranka gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: a strong arm and some power upside. He also has the advantage of being a steady glove at third, though there are some rumblings that he could be tried behind the plate as a pro.
24. Louisiana Tech JR 3B Matt Threlkeld
*** 2010: .322/.382/.540 – 22 BB/44 K – 239 AB
*** 2011: .287/.383/.478 – 31 BB/46 K – 230 AB
Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.
25. College of Charleston JR 3B Matt Leeds
*** 2010: .335/.442/.715 – 30 BB/46 K – 241 AB
*** 2011: .353/.454/.681 – 39 BB/60 K – 232 AB
Leeds has big power and a strong track record of showing it, but his average on his best day defense and just good enough arm temper some of the enthusiasm that he’ll play third base regularly as a pro. If his knees check out, he could have a future as a bat-first four corners backup.
26. Southern Mississippi JR 3B Ashley Graeter
*** 2011: .325/.393/.453 – 14 BB/22 K – 117 AB
27. Winthrop JR 3B Chas Crane
*** 2010: .356/.452/.673 – 39 BB/53 K – 208 AB
*** 2011: .280/.415/.338 – 45 BB/46 K – 207 AB
28. Texas A&M JR 3B Matt Juengel
*** 2010: .359/.424/.629 – 13 BB/30 K – 167 AB
*** 2011: .295/.376/.446 – 19 BB/34 K – 224 AB
29. Baylor SO 3B Cal Towey
*** 2010: .305/.434/.505 – 21 BB/31 K – 105 AB
*** 2011: .250/.424/.422 – 29 BB/43 K – 116 AB
30. Oklahoma City SR 3B Kirk Walker