3B: San Diego 3B Kris Bryant and North Carolina 3B Colin Moran (2)
Third base is the one position so far that an argument could be made has more star power at the top in the college ranks than it does at the high school level. This isn’t meant to disparage the above-average group of prospects that make up the cream of the prep crop, but is instead designed to shed some much needed positive light on what looks to be an all-around lackluster year for college position players. The outlook is bleak for teams looking for a quick fix bat at catcher, first, second, or short, but third base could provide up to a half-dozen regular big league third basemen from the college game alone. The two names that jump out as likely first round talents are Bryant and Moran. I no longer doubt Bryant’s future as a big league power hitter, but his defense at third remains a work in progress. He’s more athletic than often given credit, so, if nothing else, he should have a home in RF if his drafting team deems his glove at the hot corner unplayable. In many ways I feel like Moran has been put on the draft landscape just for me. That’s mostly because I’m an unrepentant egotist, but also because I a) love guys who consistently play above their tools, b) am a complete sucker for a pretty lefthanded swing, and c) have the importance of plate discipline, having a plan prior to every at bat, and generally taking a measured yet violent approach to hitting ingrained deep into my pitch black soul. Moran offers up a resounding check mark for each of those qualifications. I think he’s a better version of last draft’s Matt Reynolds with the upside of San Diego 3B Chase Headley.
Virginia Tech 3B Chad Pinder, Arkansas 3B Dominic Ficociello, Texas 3B Erich Weiss, Stephen F. Austin State 3B Hunter Dozier, College of the Canyons 3B Trey Williams, 3B Cavan Biggio, 3B Travis Demeritte, 3B Wesley Jones, 3B Jan Hernandez (9)
The next tier down includes guys like Pinder, Ficociello, Weiss, Dozier, and Williams. It’s a fairly tight bunch, so my advice is to pick your favorite and run with it. I wouldn’t rule out any of those names making a run at the first round, but I also wouldn’t count on it either. Analysis! Pinder’s tools and I think he could grow into a plus defensive player, but he’s got plenty to prove at the plate, especially with respect to his approach. I’ve always personally viewed Weiss as a poor man’s Moran, but a few friends in the game I’ve spoken to actually prefer the junior from Texas. Dozier reminds me of a less heralded version of Pinder. I currently prefer Dozier – more physical, better approach, similar athleticism, maybe a touch less defense but not far off — over the Virginia Tech third baseman, but the two are fairly close in my mind. Ficociello has a really intriguing hit tool, but offers less overall upside than the rest of the bunch for me.
Finally, we come to Williams. Williams, for the 99.9% of the readership unfamiliar of anything written here before this precise point in time, was a huge favorite last year. Like, highest rated third baseman in the entire 2012 MLB Draft huge. I preferred him over Richie Shaffer, Joey Gallo, and Addison Russell, among hundreds of others. Nothing has changed since last June and now, so here’s a reprint of my notes on him then:
1. 3B Trey Williams (Valencia HS, California): big hit tool; potential plus to plus-plus raw power; advanced idea of how to hit, e.g. big opposite field power threat; strong arm often categorized as plus; potential star defensively at third base; great reactions and instincts; outstanding athlete; plus bat speed; plus hit tool; slightly above-average speed; very strong; has that special sound; pitch recognition to be monitored; super quick bat, solid approach: very patient, lightning in wrists; swing needs some work, but what is there is a fine building block; strong arm, steady defender; below-average speed, but quick feet and reactions at third; should be an average defender at worst with much more upside than that; big-time raw power, personally I’m a believer; 6-2, 210 pounds; R/R
Notes distilled for the present day: above-average power, hit tool, arm, and defensive tools. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of damage he can do in junior college this year.
On the high school side, I think you’re looking at a similar group of steady potential regulars at third. I don’t see any of the names below as having superstar upside — think I’d only hang that on Bryant out of this entire third base class, maybe Moran — but there are still some damn fine players worth getting to know. I’ll wimp out and not declare any of the prep guys locks to go in the first, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. After all, shocking though it may be, I’m not clairvoyant. Wasting my life savings on Power Ball tickets pretty much hammered that point home.
Biggio and Demeritte are the two rock solid prospects that best fit this steady potential regular archetype: good defensive tools (great in Demeritte’s case), line drive machine, advanced approach to hitting, and professional mindsets. Jones has a higher ceiling if you buy into his power upside. I’m not there yet (wasn’t impressed in my one firsthand view, haven’t heard from enough credible sources who like him, and think his approach is way, way too aggressive to put whatever power he may or may not have to use), but I’m but one tiny ripple in the vast ocean of internet draft experts. Hernandez may split the difference between steady and risky: he’s advanced as a power hitter for a high school player and I’ve heard some Javier Baez comps very quietly whispered in his direction.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with third base prospects. Part of that is likely due to the fact that my favorite team hasn’t had a good third base prospect since Scott Rolen almost twenty years ago. I’ve seen so many quality third basemen enter the league over the past two decades and I want so badly to finally call one my own. The depths of my third base lust reached dangerously low levels in 2005 when I developed one of my first “deep down I know he’s no good, but he’s on my team so I’ll love him unconditionally” affections for Welinson Baez. I talked myself out of “Mike Costanzo Superstar” and began hoping for a next generation Russell Branyan or, failing that, Greg Dobbs 2.0. Had unreasonably high hopes for Travis Chapman turning into something of value, to say nothing of my love for Travis Mattair. There was even a week or so after the draft that I tried to convince myself that Anthony Hewitt could stick in the infield. The Phillies system is deeper at third than I remember them being in years, so I don’t think I’m crazy for believing that one of Maikel Franco, Mitch Walding, Cody Asche, Tyler Greene, Cameron Perkins, or Zach Green will eventually break through and give me the homegrown third baseman I’ve been waiting for. Or perhaps they’ll draft one of the fine gentleman featured on this page next June…
Of course, the obsession goes beyond my Phillies fandom. Part of my third base weirdness is because of a harrowing experience in little league that occurred while I made a rare appearance at third. That was the day I caught a screaming line drive hit right back at me only to have the ball get stuck in the webbing of my busted old glove. The third base coach was a smart guy and he saw the difficulty I had getting the ball out. The man on third broke for home. I raced after him, quickly realizing his two step lead couldn’t be overcome. I ripped my glove off my hand and threw it in the general direction of the catcher. Too late. We went on to lose by a run. I went on to write about third base prospects on the internet for free. Life, man. Anyway, here are a bunch of other intriguing amateur third basemen, some of whom I’ve chosen to write something on and some of whom are note-less names on a screen…
Best of the Rest: 3B Ryan McMahon, 3B Joseph Martarano, 3B Dylan Manwaring
McMahon, Martarano, and the oddly underrated Manwaring all have last names that begin with the letter M. Beyond that, they are all pretty darn different. McMahon, from California, has been on the map for years as a standout performer at baseball factory Mater Dei. Martarano, from Idaho, is exactly the kind of fun prospect you’d expect from Idaho: mysterious, athletic, powerful, and raw. Manwaring, from New York, has a blend of tools and skills that match up with any prep third baseman in this class.
More Guys I Like, Lightning Round Edition
- 3B John Sternagel – hitting machine, but questions on defense and power upside
- 3B Blake Tiberi – nifty glove, like the bat, underrated athlete despite shorter stature
- 3B Tucker Neuhaus – especially strong arm, yet doesn’t always know where the ball is heading after it leaves his hand
- 3B Lachlan Fontaine – so much more than this year’s token Canadian import, rock solid prospect with better than you’d think baseball skills and plenty of untapped upside
- Duke 3B Jordan Betts
- Miami 3B Brad Fieger
- Miami 3B Tyler Palmer
- Auburn 3B Damek Tomscha
- Florida 3B Zack Powers
- Texas Tech 3B Jake Barrios
- Long Beach State 3B Michael Hill
- East Carolina 3B Zach Houchins
- Southern Illinois 3B Donny Duschinsky
- Texas-Pan American 3B Alberto Morales
- Everett JC 3B Dylan LaVelle
Just read your comment on my son Lachlan Fontaine. You may want to check out some of his youtube entries. He just went to the Perfect Game Showcase and all the comments came out super positive. He was described as the best at hitting had a 90 MPH infield and went up to pitch an inning hitting 88, hasn’t pitched in any capacity since he was 12. He is a member of the Canadian Junior National team and has had interest from 22 MLB teams now. We entertained 3 teams to the house in the last week with 1 more scheduled and 2 more figuring out a date.
Hey Mr. Fontaine,
Really appreciate you sharing the additional information and videos. Your son is a heck of a prospect and I’ve heard lots of good things about him from old contacts in the game. Specifically, there has been lots of high praise for his power upside, athleticism, and strong arm. His combination of present ability, upside, and, by all accounts, excellent makeup ought to propel him up draft boards. Best of luck throughout the process.
Rob, Love reading your articles….glad you left Jantzen Witte under the radar…he lives there and usually excels there. Can’t wait for the 2013 season! Go Frogs! JW
He was my last cut, I swear…and I’m not just saying that to suck up. You know I’ve long been a fan of Jantzen’s game (“still has many who question his upside with the bat, but all he’s done is hit and hit and hit; has always maintained a patient approach and, for me, a solid line drive swing; one of the draft’s best defensive players at any position with the tools to be one of the best defenders in professional baseball once he signs contract; underrated name, both literally and figuratively”) and have no doubt he’ll be on future lists as I sit down and give this whole 2013 draft thing a little more thought. To be honest, I think I got a little spooked with how the last two drafts went down.
I did not make it clear–I think it is great that Jantzen flies under the radar! Last year after the loss to UCLA in the Supers, I noted Coach Savage hunted Jantzen down on the field and talked just to him. I emailed the coach later and he said he always admired the way he played and carried himself on the field and would go a long way…that is the type of information that Jantzen thrives on. I think if you asked Coach Schlossnagle if
he could trade his 3B for any other one in the nation, high school or college, he would just smile or even laugh out loud. Schloss loves a secret
as much as anybody–have a Merry Christmas! John Witte
Ha, fair enough. I’m just not as sure Jantzen flies quite as under the prospect radar as you think! Not that getting noticed by the right people is a bad thing or anything…but if keeping a low profile helps Jantzen keep doing what he’s doing, then I won’t tell him if you won’t.
Very cool stories about two great of the best coaches in the business (both of whom really know talent, too) – thanks for sharing. Don’t be a stranger if you ever want to keep us updated on your son’s progress and, of course, Merry Christmas back to you.