Somebody emailed and asked, everybody receives. See how easy that is? The complete list of the top 30 draft-eligible college third basemen, previously broken up into three separate chunks, now all in one handy, easily searchable post. Can you feel the excitement? Next up, hopefully later today, the complete college position player big board and, with luck, the start of the high school position lists. The college righthanded pitching list is a whopper of a post, so I’m trying to be sure I’m 100% happy with it before letting it see the right of day. Right now, I’m only about 95%. Soon, though, soon…
30. Bowling Green SR 3B Derek Spencer
Spencer won’t wow you with his tools or outstanding collegiate production, but his skills are good enough when taken in altogether to get himself on a professional roster. He’s the classic well-rounded, hard working, good enough senior sign who doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but does everything so wonderfully competently that he profiles as an organizational player with backup upside. Three of his tools have average upside or better (power, speed, glove), so it’s no stretch to see him sneak him onto a big league bench someday.
29. Florida JR 3B Bryson Smith
Smith has a big league body, intriguing pop, useful positional versatility, but has been held back by injuries in 2010. Injury induced subpar seasons for mid- to late-round underclassman prospects are normally a recipe for a senior season return engagement, but Smith may be a victim of his own college team’s success. Playing time in 2011 looks to be very hard to come by on a young, stacked Florida starting nine, so Smith may try his luck professionally if a team is willing to bet that a return to health will bring him closer to the player he was at junior college than he was as a Gator.
28. UC Irvine JR Brian Hernandez
Hernandez has a similar scouting profile as Derek Spencer, but gets the edge because of better plate discipline and more balanced swing mechanics. Like Spencer, 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.
27. Chipola FR 3B Michael Revell
Revell has really impressive tools across the board, but his production in 2010 didn’t reflect his true talent level. His plus bat speed, strong arm, good athleticism, and 20 homer lefthanded power upside will keep him on many follow lists despite his struggles. The down year will probably keep him at Chipola for a sophomore season; disappointing, sure, but perhaps a good thing for his long-term draft stock. Revell has the tools to succeed, but is raw enough that the extra relatively low pressure junior college at bats could help turn his substantial promise into production. It’s rare to see a player capable of starting in the big leagues so low on a prospect list like this, but it’s an acknowledgement of the wide gap between what Revell could be versus what he currently is. He makes the list as more of a token 2011 name to watch than a realistic 2010 draft target.
26. Holy Cross SR 3B Matt Perry
Is it sad that one of the first things I thought about when looking at my notes on Perry was “gee, I bet Bill Simmons would get a kick out of having a fellow Holy Cross guy show up on some anonymous internet nobody’s top 30 college third base prospect list…”? Perry is one of my favorite 2010 senior signs because of his advanced strike zone knowledge, good defensive tools, and renowned drive to succeed. It’s a rare college senior who plays in the big leagues, so sometimes it’s alright to dig deep to find a small something extra about a player that you think sets him apart. Perry’s steady four year progression, strong performance under pressure as a legacy at Holy Cross, and success with wood in the summer makes me think he’s a guy worth gambling on.
25. Eastern Kentucky JR 3B Jayson Langfels
Langfels came into the season with a reputation as a total hacker at the plate, but curbed his swinging and missing ways just enough to finally unlock his good raw power in game situations. I’ve gotten mixed reports on his defense this year, but his hands in the past have gotten him into some trouble at third. It ranges anywhere from somewhat possible to very likely that he’ll wind up as more of a power hitting four-corners utility type than a starting third base candidate; either way, there’s value enough in the bat.
24. Toledo JR 3B Jared Hoying
Hoying’s an interesting scouting, coaching, and prospect development test case. His swing is ugly, but his bat speed is exceptional. Knowing that, do you a) let Hoying be Hoying and go with what works, b) attempt to make slight alterations while preserving the integrity of the swing, or c) work to maintain Hoying’s great bat speed while simultaneously trying to reinvent his swing mechanics? More to the point, how exactly do you go about coaching the kid up? What coaches in the organization do you assign to help him? How much time and energy should be spent working with a mid-round draft prospect? Hoying’s swing isn’t the only intriguing, but raw part of his game. He’s an obviously raw defender, but the tools, most notably a plus arm and athleticism equally suited up the middle, are there for him to succeed anywhere in the infield in a pinch. His high strikeout rate is absolutely a concern, but the aforementioned bat speed, plus arm, and above-average base running give him the look of a potential above-average utility infielder in the mold of former Ranger, Indian, Cub, Brave, Brewer, Rockie, Cub again, Pirate, Dodger, Indian again, Pirate again, and Phillie Jose Hernandez.
23. Oklahoma SO 3B Garrett Buechele
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.
22. San Francisco JR 3B Stephen Yarrow
Yarrow’s basic story is very similar to Garrett Buechele’s in that both prospects have legit plus power potential and a strong overall hit tool. Going against Yarrow is his tendency to pull darn near everything, below-average tools outside of the batter’s box, and a long-term future as a four-corners type of player, not an everyday third baseman.
21. Furman JR 3B Brian Harrison
Harrison is a good, good player. Case in point, Harrison has a good arm, is a good defender, and has a good hit tool, with good power potential. He’s a really good athlete, perhaps too good to be “wasted” at third if there’s really a team out there willing to try him in centerfield as rumored. I wish he would have gotten more at bats on the Cape this past summer, but, as too often the case with Harrison, injuries limited his playing time. Get him healthy, get him a regular defensive home, and get a good, good player with starter upside past round ten. Good bargain. The relatively low ranking is more about the players ahead of him than the above-average (or, in other words, “good”) overall talent package that Harrison brings to the table.
20. Alabama SR 3B Jake Smith
Players coming off of more accomplished collegiate seasons precede Smith on this list, so take this aggressive ranking as a show of good faith that the Alabama senior’s tools will trump his up-and-down college career when it comes to his success or failure in the pros. Hey, speaking of aggressive, one of Smith’s biggest current issues is a tendency to get too aggressive at the plate, jumping out at pitches before they reach his happy zone. He’s gotten away with it to some extent in college, but hacking at anything 16 inches (give or take) off, up, or away from the plate is no way to advance up the minor league ladder in the enlightened age of baseball we’re lucky to be living in. Smith’s tremendous raw power and excellent defensive tools play in any era of baseball, but he’s been slow to recover from a serious ankle injury. I get the feeling based on all of the above that we’re talking about another four-corners backup type here. Fun fact: Replace “serious ankle injury” with “labrum injury” and you’ve got a very similar situation to what the number eight overall prospect on this list is dealing with. Any guesses about the identify of our mystery prospect?
19. Clemson SO 3B John Hinson
John Hinson was a tough player to rank because of his status as a redshirt and thus draft-eligible sophomore and his positional versatility across the infield. He was an easy guy to rank this high because of the really nice things that anybody who has seen him play this year had to say about him. Hinson was a highly touted prospect out of high school who was considered advanced enough after his freshman year to be asked to play for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. Back surgery cost him all of his 2009 season, but the fully recovered version of Hinson put up a 2010 statistical line that reads a lot like Pittsburgh’s Joe Leonard’s work this season. A plus hit tool combined with above-average speed and power will get you far professionally, but people smarter than myself that I talked with told me some teams question his ability to play any one particular spot in the infield with the consistency needed of a regular. Based on the limited looks of Hinson that I’ve seen, 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.
18. Tarleton State JR 3B Chris Casazza
Like Jayson Langfels and Jake Smith before, and Jason Martinson and Mike Olt after, Chris Casazza’s biggest deficiency is a long swing with holes in it that winds up waving and missing at the ball far too often. Like Martinson a few spots ahead of him, Casazza’s good batting eye and sneaky power upside should keep his secondary statistics afloat even when the K’s are trying to drag his prospect stock below the surface. In many ways he’s quite simply the better version of Alabama’s Jake Smith, especially at the plate – more power, more patience, less strikeouts, and better all-around bat. Definite sleeper to watch.
17. Tennessee JR 3B Matt Duffy
Duffy was a deep sleeper top five rounds candidate of mine heading into the season, so you know his underwhelming, but still solid, junior season won’t downgrade his stock too much for me. The Vermont transfer 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.
16. Azusa Pacific SR 3B Ryan Delgado
Delgado earned his way on the list because of his ridiculous power numbers over the years, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that Azusa Pacific has one of the most fun college names to say out loud. Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Besides the cool college name and plus power potential, Delgado has a true plus arm and a well above-average overall hit tool. His defense at third isn’t currently at the level where you could project him as above-average professionally, but the tools are there for him at least wind up a decent defensive player at least through his twenties. If it doesn’t work at third, however, there’s a backup plan that I know for a fact is actually Plan A for some teams. Delgado’s future for some teams might be donning the tools of ignorance behind the plate every day. It’s a stretch and it’s based largely on the 3B/C future that could be in store, but I can’t shake the Jake Fox comp for Delgado that I heard way back when.
15. Coastal Carolina JR 3B Scott Woodward
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 tremendous success rate (46 steals in 52 tries). 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. North Carolina State JR 3B Russell Wilson
Betting on Wilson is betting on upside, a worthy risk to take when you are considering which mid-round college hitter to gamble on. See, the sad little truth about lists like this are that the players, while undeniably impressive and accomplished and talented, are more than likely never going to play in the big leagues. Heck, many of them won’t see AA. Once you get past the top two or three names on any of these college lists, it’s all a big guessing game. Educated guessing, to be sure, but guessing all the same. To make a long intro slightly less long, if you’re are going to bet on a mid-round college player, go for the rare guy with untapped potential. That’s Wilson. Here’s why…
I tend to overuse this word when writing about draft prospects, but it applies to Wilson so well here that I can’t help myself. Wilson is an interesting prospect. More than one team affiliated employee I spoke to used that word to describe Wilson in some way – “interesting upside,” “interesting bat,” and “interesting future.” Watch him for just a couple of innings and you’ll see evidence of all five tools right away. His bat is, well, interesting, and his power, while mostly to the gaps at this point, could top out with homer totals in the teens professionally. As a former quarterback unafraid to take off with the ball when needed, it comes as no surprise that his speed rates as an easy 60, with startlingly quick acceleration. Defensively he may have the speed, instincts, and athleticism to play up the middle (2B or CF), but his presence on this particular list is a bet on his plus arm playing best at third base over the long run. Wilson’s numbers this year were solid across the board, but his performance must be judged with his lack of college ball experiences prior to 2010 in mind. He needs more reps on the diamond, but if a team is patient with him they could be rewarded with a player who closely mirrors the Melvin Mora developmental path, something that will no doubt interest a big league club or two come draft day.
13. Texas State JR 3B Jason Martinson
The more I do this, the more I begin to gain an appreciation for the way certain college programs recruit and develop talent. The job Ty Harrington has done in San Marcos is nothing short of spectacular. I relate it to a college football team with very specific offensive and defensive schemes recruiting not based on consensus overall talent levels, but rather best fits for the program. You’d think these less talented players would succeed mainly due to the system in college, but then, lo and behold, draft day comes and teams start taking these supposed system talents left and right. Turns out that players overlooked in high school can turn out to be pretty valuable prospects after three years of quality college coaching. I suppose that’s really just my long way of saying that even though it’s common the best high school players sign out of high school, and even though it’s common the best unsigned high school players go to the big name schools in Texas, it’s still possible to have some really talented players wind up at non-traditional baseball schools. Schools like that often have coaching staffs more familiar with coaching guys up than allowing them to coast by on natural abilities they may or may not have.
Martinson is a plus athlete with very good defensive tools who, similar to Tennessee’s Matt Duffy, may be good enough with the leather to stick up the middle (either shortstop or second base) in some organizations. For me, however, his hands, range, and arm all play best at third, a position where he could eventually be a decidedly above-average defender. Offensively the rap on Martinson coming into the year was that he swung and miss too often to ever hit for an acceptable average professionally. That may or may not be true going forward — his 2010 performance has been very similar to his 2009 — but his quick wrists and above-average plate discipline should help keep his on-base percentage up even when he is striking out more often than you’d like. Teams will worry less about the low contact rate if Martinson can begin to tap into some of the long awaited above-average raw power that hasn’t really showed up through three seasons of college ball. If he can begin to apply some of his brute physical strength into homerun power professionally, he’s got a chance to be a starter. If not, his best chance of earning the big bucks will be in the good defender/patient pinch hitter role.
12. Wichita State FR 3B Johnny Coy
Coy has taken a long, strange trip to get to this point, but the eventual payoff could very well make it all worth it. Coy’s story began as a two-sport high school star, regarded by many as a better basketball prospect than baseball. After getting drafted by the Phillies in the 7th round, protracted and sometimes testy (allegedly) negotiations between player and team led to the two sides opting to go their separate ways. Coy’s older brother was reportedly heavily involved with negotiations, strongly pushing his bro to either a) get every last penny from the Phillies as possible (making him a greedy villain to many) or b) go to school and get a quality education (a far more admirable position, some might say). Coy wound up enrolling at Arizona State, but never made it to baseball season. He left the Sun Devils to move closer to home after his father suffered a stroke in late 2008. That led him to Wichita State. As a Shocker, Coy has been able to focus on honing his considerable baseball skills. All of his raw tools grade out as average or better – 55 speed, 60 arm, 65-70 raw power, average hit tool, and, perhaps most controversially, above-average upside with the glove at third. I remember not believing for a second that he’d ever stick at third after seeing video of him in high school, but all of the noise regarding his defensive progress coming out of Wichita has been positive. I’m a big believer in the big (6-8, 210 pound) righthanded freshman. As mentioned, Coy was a 7th round pick by the Phillies back in 2008. The questions concerning his signability will probably keep him from hitting that mark here in 2010, but his true talent level makes him a top ten round candidate worth pursuing if he even begins to hint that he’ll consider signing.
11. Fresno City College FR 3B David Rohm
Rohm hits and hits and hits. He can also steal a bag when left unattended (great instincts on the bases), smack a ball the other way (very mature hitting style), and crank it out of the ballpark when the mood strikes (above-average present power). Mostly though, he hits. His defense ranks in the bottom third of players here in the top 30, but he still has a better than 50/50 shot to stick at the position through his first six years of big league control. Ah, the defense update is appreciated, you’re thinking, but, wait, can the guy hit? Excellent question; yes, David Rohm can hit.
10. Oregon State JR 3B Stefen Romero
Romero is arguably the best present defender on the top ten list. He makes all the plays on balls hit at him, and has proven more than capable of ranging to both his left and right when needed. What really makes his draft stock pop in comparison to some other names on the list is his performance with wood last summer on the Cape. The raw numbers don’t jump right out at you, but all of the reports from the summer were positive. Romero kept the momentum going this spring by displaying a steady dose of good defense, above-average power, and decent athleticism. A few area scouts that have seen him play way more than I have seem to like him a lot more than I do, so take his placement on the list as a rare example of me trusting people smarter than myself. Rare not because I’m trusting them, but because there are people out there actually smarter than I am. Hard to believe, I know. Romero’s upside is a good four-corners bench bat for me, something true of the majority of the players on this list no matter how rosy a picture I try to paint of their ultimate super duper best case scenario big league ceilings.
9. Connecticut JR 3B Mike Olt
I’ve toyed with the idea of standardizing these quick scouting capsules, but always wind up just doing the rambling paragraph or two synopses you see up and down the page. Seems like all of those standardized reports have some sort of strengths/weaknesses attached somewhere, so let’s try it out with a personal favorite, Mike Olt:
Strengths: three above-average or better tools (65 raw power, 55 speed, and 65 arm), plus athleticism, and a big league ready frame
Weaknesses: present tool most need in work is his bat, due in large part to a largely unrefined approach and inconsistent swing mechanics
So, will Olt make enough consistent hard contact to put his other tools to use professionally? I think any one of the guys on one of the deepest top ten college position lists I can remember in the long, storied history of this site has the upside of an every day player if the circumstances allow it. That comes out as a cop-out, but it’s true; this is a really, really deep year for college third basemen.
8. San Diego JR 3B Victor Sanchez
My support of Victor Sanchez goes back to his prep days, so it’s hard for me to be completely objective when trying to evaluate his current draft stock. The memory of the potential plus defender with equally exciting power potential and a mature beyond his years approach to every single at bat may be just that, a memory. Sanchez’s slow recovery from labrum surgery has knocked his prospect stock way down, but I’m enthused by the perhaps misguided hope that his depressed draft standing will give him the chip on his shoulder (not literally) needed to prove all the teams that passed on him wrong. Talent doesn’t disappear, but it can get lost in the fog of injuries. Teams willing to take the chance that Sanchez will someday recovery 100% from his shoulder injury are betting that the fog will soon lift.
7. Kansas JR 3B Tony Thompson
If he sticks at third, you’ve got a real player on your hands. If he’s a first baseman long-term, the bat will need to go up a level or two before you could realistically consider him a potential regular at the spot. For now, I think he’s got nimble enough feet to stick at third through his mid-twenties. Thompson’s successful return to health after an early season injury has allowed him time to showcase the plus arm and plus power that should get him drafted in the first five rounds no matter what teams think about his defense.
6. Louisville SO 3B Phil Wunderlich
Makeup is one of the easiest scouting terms to throw around as a positive or a negative for any given prospect because anonymous internet sources (like mine!) are never asked to truly qualify what the word means. Here’s what I mean when I say Wunderlich’s makeup is off the charts: In an completely fictional, but totally possible survey of college coaches and players, Wunderlich would win the “most likely to manage” poll going away. He’s that kind of player. Intangibles aside, Wunderlich is an underrated athlete with legit plus power and amazing patience at the plate. He may not be a natural defender at third, but he’s also not the type of player you’d bet against working his tail off until he is at least a decent big league defensive player.
5. Oklahoma City JR 3B Matt Presley
A trio of haikus, one offensive, one defensive, and one summing it all up, to describe draft sleeper Matt Presley…
Strikeouts are scary
But bat gives pitchers nightmares
Power is special
Not Schmidt with leather
Still, strong arm and high effort
Might fit best in right
Star in Sooner state
Not quite on Durant’s level
Better nickname, though
In summary: Easy to fall in love with his bat, but hard to realistically see him ever being average or better at third. Also, I suck at haikus.
4. Pittsburgh JR 3B Joe Leonard
Leonard has gotten a ton of positive press over the past few weeks, all of it well earned. He came into the season as one of the best college hitting prospects and one of the few collegiate position players projected to be productive enough both at the plate and in the field to start every day in the big leagues. The one question that scouts had about his game was his power upside. Leonard has answered the bell by hitting for over 30 extra base hits and slugging well over .600. He’s a good athlete with a plus arm and great big league size for a third baseman. Defensively he’s presently skilled enough to be considered big league average at the position, and continued development ought to get him up above-average during his best defensive seasons.
Neither his offense nor his defense will ever quite approach the level of peak years Scott Rolen (a really underrated player by many, I think), but if you squint really hard you can begin to see Leonard as perhaps developing into that type of player – exciting defenders, strong physiques, and often mischaracterized as power hitters first and foremost. In fact, after looking at the numbers some, I’d compare Leonard’s upside as a hitter to something around what Rolen did his rookie season (.283/.377/.469) with the Phillies. That kind of upside is substantial, clearly, so it may very well be that Leonard’s placement on this list is a mistake that I’ll have to rectify before June 7th hits.
3. Georgia Tech JR 3B Derek Dietrich
I’m part of the small but vocal minority that seems to think Dietrich could play a decent shortstop professionally if given the chance, but, seeing as its highly unlikely he’ll ever get that opportunity, we’ll judge him here on the basis of his potential well above-average glove and plus arm at third. There’s very little mystery as to what kind of player a team will get if they take Dietrich early on; he’ll hit with both above-average contact and home run numbers (consistent 20 homer upside, I think), play solid to plus defense (as mentioned), and consistently work hard to improve his overall game. I’m no fan of writers/analysts/scouts/Larry Browns who fall back on the tired cliché “he plays the game the right way,” but, hypocrite that I am, Derek Dietrich simply plays the game the way it was meant to be played. He won’t be a sexy pick, but he’s as good a bet as any player on this list to contribute in some capacity in the big leagues.
2. Arkansas SO 3B Zack Cox
Easily confused fellow that I am, I don’t quite understand the negativity surrounding Cox’s power potential that has come to the surface this season. It seems to me that he can’t really win with some people. Last year people oohed and aahed as he flashed prodigious raw power, but disappointed in the plate discipline department. This year he’s taken a much more patient, contact-oriented approach, but is getting heat for not hitting for the same power as he did his freshman year. I realize slugging .600+ and socking 20 extra base hits in college (like Cox has done so far in 2010) isn’t quite the feat it appears to be at first blush, but it’s still a decent indicator that the guy hasn’t been reduced to a singles only hitter this year. Now imagine the possibility that good professional coaching can help Cox unlock the secret of maintaining his gains in plate discipline and a high contact rate while simultaneously helping him rediscover the big power stroke of his first collegiate season. Sounds pretty good, right?
As arguably the draft’s top position player prospect, much has already been written about Cox’s toolset. The cliff notes version is this: potential plus bat, above-average present power but plus projection, 45/50 runner, plus arm, good defender. His worst tool is probably his speed, and, as you can see, even that project to be around average. I think Cox’s ceiling is below that of your typical top half of the first round college bat, but he’s still a relatively safe pick to be an above-average regular third baseman for a first division club.
1. Tulane JR 3B Rob Segedin
I had Segedin as the 47th best draft-eligible player in the nation heading into the year, so it’s nice to see him succeed in 2010 for totally selfish reasons alone. Sure, it’s also nice to see a hard working young man work his way back from a season lost to injury to put himself in a position for a well earned big paycheck and chance at chasing his dream of professional baseball, but, really, it’s all about me, me, me! Anyway, Segedin has a gorgeous righthanded stroke that’s so pretty to look at it’s almost a surprise when he makes contact and the ball doesn’t fly to an unattended gap somewhere. Defensively, he’ll stick at third at least in the short-term (steady hands, limited range), but could become a rightfielder with average range and a cannon arm if needed. It’ll be the bat that makes him the big bucks, and it’s got all the makings of a special one. At the plate, Segedin is a professional player trapped in the college game. Rare plate discipline, gap power that’s finally beginning to round into over-the-fence pop, and impressive bat control make him a hitter with a big future going forward. When your floor is a lefty mashing four-corners utility guy, then you’d better believe the ceiling is much, much higher.