Third base has seen growth over the past few seasons, as we've seen top prospects like Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, and Nolan Arenado all take key spots in the lineup very quickly. Even with that, there are still more prospects on their way to the majors, including a few who could have an impact in 2016.
It is the most popular position to move shortstop prospects who have a strong arm and are quick, but not fast. In addition, you're generally looking at players who are more likely to provide value on the offensive side of the game rather than defensive. As a result, the bar for what a useful fantasy 3B prospect looks like will be a bit higher than some of the previous positions. The current crop of players at the major league level make it one of the strongest positions overall, and players like Joey Gallo and Ryan McMahon should not be far behind.
Tier 1 -- The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
1. Joey Gallo - Rangers
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the 80-grade power potential for Gallo. Even if he hits below .230, he could still find his way to 30 home runs on a regular basis. We'll have a profile of Gallo up later today.
2. Rafael Devers - Red Sox
While there are questions about whether Devers will stay at third base or move to first, his bat doesn't really have any questions right now. He should hit for power and average, and we'll have a profile of Devers up later today.
Tier 2 -- The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
3. Ryan McMahon - Rockies
McMahon has been touted as a potential power-hitting third basemen since being drafted in 2013, and we saw some of that in his 2015 campaign. He's posted at least 43 doubles and 18 home runs in each of his two full seasons, and has a career .297/.372/.524 slash line. He's expected to head to AA this year, and while he is blocked at third base by Nolan Arenado, McMahon could move to either a corner outfield spot or first base and still be an above-average fantasy contributor.
Tier 3 -- The Next Group of Starters
These prospects likely would slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list and would be starters in mid-depth formats such as 12- and 14-team leagues.
4. Austin Riley - Braves
Riley is our top ranked third base prospect from last year's draft class, and this ranking may end up low after he makes his full season debut in 2016. With the potential to develop both above-average power and an above-average hit tool, Riley can develop into a top 10 option at third base.
5. Jomar Reyes - Orioles
Reyes actually shows a similar profile to Riley offensively: potentially excellent power, and also a good batting average to go with it. For me, what drops him below Riley is the open question about whether he will move to first base before he reaches the majors. He will profile for fantasy at either spot, but obviously his value would be lower across the diamond.
6. Gilbert Lara - Brewers
One of the top international signees from the 2014 class, Lara is currently a shortstop that is expected to move to third as he grows. The power potential is huge here, as he could turn into a consistent 25-30 home run hitter, if not more. It's not clear whether the Brewers will send Lara to a full-season league to start this year, so we may not see Lara in the majors for another 4-5 years still.
7. Ke'Bryan Hayes - Pirates
Hayes spawned the most discussion amongst our writers of anyone on this list. There are two trains of thought primarily. The first is that he can turn into a .290+ hitter who develops 15-20 home run power, with potentially even more if it all breaks right. There's also the same potential that he may turn into a better hitter for average without as much power, which has a lot of value but would likely drop him down this list. It's still extremely early for Hayes, so we'll have to wait and see how his first full professional season goes.
Tier 4 -- Single-League and Deep-Format Plays
These prospects likely would slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list and would have the most value in mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
A pair of Athletics' third basemen, Chapman is more likely to stay there in the long term defensively. Both can potentially provide 20-25 home runs in the future, while
Chapman Nunez is more likely to provide a solid batting average to go with it based on the production he has already shown at AA.
11. Michael Chavis - Red Sox
The potential for above-average power production keeps Chavis above some of these other prospects, and hopefully we start to see his hit tool improve enough to allow it to play in-game.
12. Anderson Franco - Nationals
The potential is for Franco to be an above-average hitter down the line, but that remains a long way from now at the moment. He should make his full-season debut this year, and could jump up these rankings with a strong performance in Hagerstown.
To be honest, this group of five prospects could really be mixed up in almost any order without too much argument. You're looking at a pair of high school draftees from this year (Nevin and Denton) who can develop into solid performers but are a long way from the majors. There's Davis, who needs to show more at AA to prove his power isn't a Cal League mirage. You also have Candelario, who should be solid in four categories but not particularly spectacular in any (and that Bryant guy hanging around blocking him too).
18. Colin Moran - Astros
Moran gets knocked some because he doesn't fit the prototype for third base, as he doesn't hit for a lot of power. What he does though, is hit for a high average on a consistent basis. We'll have a profile of Moran up later today.
19. Richie Shaffer - Rays
20. Eric Jagielo - Reds
Shaffer and Jagielo both have the potential to provide solid value in deep formats based on their power, but questions about their long-term home on the field keep both of their values down.