Posted by: bhyman | June 3, 2008

Position breakdown: Third basemen

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This post is the third in a series where we’ll breakdown the top available talent by position and describe consensus first-rounders and sleepers alike. Today, we’ll discuss third basemen.  Third base is called the hot corner for a reason; hitters smash balls down the left field line and third basemen must have quick reflexes.  Although third basemen need to be agile, they don’t necessarily need to be fast or display great range.  Third basemen must be able to hit nearly as well as first basemen but display a stronger arm.  Sometimes, it’s hard to know whether a prospect can be a third baseman as a professional.  As a prospect matures and gets stronger, sometimes he will lose the lateral quickness he possessed in high school or college and will have to move to first base.  Here are the top five third basemen on our board:

Top 50 overall

  1. Pedro Alvarez, Jr., Vanderbilt
  2. Brett Wallace, Jr., Arizona State
  3. Conor Gillaspie, Jr., Wichita State
  4. James Darnell, Jr., South Carolina

51-100 overall

  1. Brett Lawrie, HS Sr., Brookswood Secondary (British Columbia, Canada)

Pedro Alvarez, Jr., Vanderbilt

Entering the 2008 season, prognosticators expected the Rays to draft a Vanderbilt product with the first overall pick for a second consecutive season.  David Price, a lefthanded pitcher, was the Rays’ first choice in 2007.  But things changed when Alvarez broke the hamate bone in his hand during the Commodores first weekend series in late February.  He didn’t return until April 1.  He still had a strong year, hitting .317/.424/.593 with 9 home runs.  Like other players who have suffered similar injuries, his power regressed.  He dropped nearly 100 points from his slugging percentage from 2007.  When healthy, he has above average power and an advanced approach at the plate.  He’s athletic enough to play third base as a pro and his arm is plenty strong for the hot corner.  There is some concern that he will lose some of that athleticism as he grows older and will have to move to first base.  Alvarez is represented by Scott Boras and is rumored to be seeking a record $7 million signing bonus.  Expect him to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the second overall pick.

Brett Wallace, Jr., Arizona State

Wallace is the third best college hitter in the draft by our statistical measurements, leading a second tier of position players behind Gordon Beckham and Justin Smoak.  He sprays line drives to all fields and has superior plate discipline.  His 21 home runs are proof of his big-time power.  His 2008 stats are awe-inspiring: .414/.531/.762.  Defensively, he’s nimble and will get a shot to continue playing third base once he signs.  However, he’s listed at 245 pounds and he has thick quads.  He will still be a valuable player if he becomes a first baseman.  The Oakland Athletics would love to draft Wallace with the 12th overall pick.

Conor Gillaspie, Jr., Wichita State

Gillaspie is a grinder who had a breakout junior season.  The Omaha native won the Cape Cod League MVP award last summer and followed it up with a .425/.510/.706 season.  Gillaspie will have at least gap power as a pro and he controls the bat well.  He has good makeup and is a suprisingly effective baserunner.  Though he doesn’t have spectacular tools, Gillaspie is a solid player with a good college track record.  He could be drafted as early as the end of the first round or the supplemental round.

James Darnell, Jr., South Carolina

The Gamecocks lineup of Darnell, first baseman Justin Smoak and shortstop Reese Havens rivals only the Miami starting nine for potency.  Darnell might be the last of the three drafted.  He is a streaky hitter, but is a menace when hot.  He has above average power, but can get pull happy and is susceptible to off-speed pitches.  His other tools project as average to above-average.  He may not have the hands to stay at third base, but he has the arm strength to handle a move to right field if necessary.  Darnell could be drafted in the second or third round.

Brett Lawrie, HS Sr., Brookswood Secondary (British Columbia, Canada)

Lawrie is one of the best hitters in high school baseball.  He has an advanced approach and might have the best power of any prep product other than Eric Hosmer.  He’s not a slug, either.  Lawrie’s speed grades out as above-average and he shows athleticism.  The only question mark with Lawrie is his future position.  He has a strong arm and could move to catcher, but third base is a more likely destination.  A team could spring for Lawrie as early as the end of the first round, but a supplemental selection is more likely.

Tomorrow the series continues with a look at outfielders.

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