The last few weeks I've been posting my list of the top ten prospects at a position on Thursday. This week I missed that by 42 minutes. I never was good with deadlines. At least it's ready now. The Sox don't have a representative on the list. They actually don't have a single third baseman worth talking about in the system after you get past Youk and Mueller. But I'll talk about them anyways this weekend.
You might want to maximize your browser. I put in some snazzy looking charts that are much easier on the eye than the jumbled mess I had going on before, but the charts are a little long. And I didn't include guys like Dallas McPherson, Mark Tehan, and Garrett Atkins because they've lost their rookie elligibility and aren't really prospects now.
Andy Marte is only 21 and he's already putting pressure on a possible future Hall of Famer at third in Atlanta. When given the opportunity to play in place of the injured Chipper Jones this year he has struggled with a .159/.235/.250 line in 44 AB's, but all he really needs is a little more time to develop. Marte has enough power to be a fixture in the middle of Atlanta line up for a long time. He plays good defense and has a good eye. His batting average may never top .300 and he'll strike out 100 or more times a year, but with his high SLG and OBP those two weaknesses won't slow him down. He's back up with the Braves right now getting another shot to hit major league pitching. If he does a good job with it, he could be the Braves opening day third baseman in 2006.
Edwin Encarnacion has always had the tools, but this is the year he's been able to put everything together. 2004 was a solid year for Encarnacion as he started to develop power with 35 doubles and 13 home runs. This year he's on pace to match the doubles today and he's already matched the home run mark. He also worked on plate discipline and that has been a huge improvement this year. He managed to get 18 at bats in the majors this year, but in the small sample he only put up a .222/.333/.278 line. He's the Reds third baseman of the future and while he could probably use a little bit more time to settle in with the power and patience he's developed, I don't think the Reds would mind if they saw him in Cincinnati next year. He's not running much this year, but he does have speed. He stole 17 bases last year while only getting caught 3 times and he is 6 for 8 in stolen base attempts this year.
Andy Laroche leads the Florida State League in home runs...and he was promoted out of that league into AA almost a month ago. The guy can seriously mash the ball and he hasn't missed a step since being promoted to AA in mid-June, still putting up a .338/.417/.622 line in 74 at bats so far. He was considered a power prospect last year and that was after he hit 23 home runs in 463 AB's over two levels of A level ball. His power is really starting to blossom this year with 26 homers already in 293 AB's over two levels. His plate discipline isn't spectacular, but it hasn't slowed him down so far.
Ian Stewart is being compared to guys like Todd Helton and Vladimir Guerrero. The Colorado organization loves this guy and plans to move him as fast as he's able to handle. They're moving aside other third base prospects like Matt Macri and Jeff Baker to make room for Steward at third. Baseball America doesn't have a single negative thing to say about him. He has tremendous work ethic and sets high goals. He's not a fast runner, but he's aggressive on the base paths and wants to have a 30/30 season. He's a decent defender at third, but he wants to win a Gold Glove in the major leagues. He works hard to refine his game and he has the skills to make it big. His numbers are a little bit down this year compared to a .319/.398/.594 season in Low-A last year, but no one really seems to be worried. He's going to get his fair share of strike outs, but he also knows how to draw a walk and he can hammer any mistake a pitcher throws at him.
Eric Duncan is being rushed by a Yankee organization that is bordering on desperate to get some prospects into the high levels of the minors and he is struggling because of that. Despite that, he isn't being overmatched in AA. He's striking out quite a bit, but he also knows how to take a walk. He has big time power potential and once his ability catches up to the level he's playing at that power should come around in full force. He's not incredibly fast, but he's smart on the base paths being caught only 1 time in 8 steal attempts this year. Duncan just needs a little time to adjust and when he does his numbers will start to come around.
Willy Aybar moved to second in AA to make room for Andy Laroche to skyrocket through the minors, but he's back at third in AAA. He puts up very solid, but very unspectacular numbers and while he doesn't do anything really well, he doesn't really have a glaring weakness. He takes a decent number of walks while not striking out more than he should. He has a little bit of pop that's manifesting in a fairly high doubles total and he's not fast, but he's still fit and athletic enough to do pretty well on the bases although he does get caught stealing a lot so he might want to think about not being so aggressive. He's not a large part of LA's future, but he could stick with the team as a very solid utility man. He's young and has plenty of time to develop.
Jose Bautista went on a wild ride last year that saw him get 88 AB's in the major leagues for four different organizations. He was taken from by Pirates by the Orioles in the Rule V draft and had 11 AB's in Baltimore. He was DFA'ed by Baltimore and Tampa Bay, a team he had 12 AB's for, claimed him off waivers. The Devil Rays sold him to the Royals where he had 25 AB's. Eventually he was traded back to the Pirates in the three team Kris Benson trade and he finished his season by logging 40 AB's for Pittsburgh. He gets on base and has some pop to his bat. All the fooling around in the big leagues last year set back his development, but he could rise to be a solid guy in the majors. He also has good range in centerfield.
Matt Moses is a bit of an injury risk because of a back injury he suffered in his early teens. It led to a back fracture that caused him to miss a lot of playing time last year. He's played the whole season so far this year and the injury hasn't seemed to have slowed him down, but it's something to keep an eye on. He's still a long way away from the majors and hasn't excelled in any one area, but his numbers are pretty solid. He's not as fast as the 13 steals might suggest, but he is capable of hitting more home runs.
Jeff Baker started the year with Colorado, but struggled with a .211/.302/.395 line in 38 AB's before being sent down. He's not playing at the moment which leads me to believe that he's injured...again. He's had three surgeries on his wrist and has been dealing with wrist injuries since becoming a pro. With Garrett Atkins in the majors, Ian Stewart coming up from behind, and his constant injuries it's possible that the Rockies don't consider Baker to be part of their future. If he is, it won't be at third base. But right now he has some very good power potential if he can just drag himself out onto the field to play once in a while.
Scott Moore was called a disappointment by Baseball America before the start of the season, but he is starting to put up some decent numbers this year. He had a lot of potential that never really manifested and this year he's still striking out a lot, but there are some positives to him. His power is starting to show itself after a .384 SLG in 2004 and a .363 SLG in 2003. He also has three times the number of steals this year than he has in the last three years combined. There are still plenty of reasons to be skeptical, but he is showing signs of coming around.
Keep an eye on...Mark Trumbo - He's only 19 and still in rookie ball so he's a long way from making it, but he's hitting the ball well with a .295/.337/.500 line in his pro debut and there's a lot of power in his bat....Josh Fields - He hasn't been overly impressive since turning pro, but his college career and his potential have this guy rated as one of the top prospects in the White Sox organization...Kevin Kouzmanoff - He has better stats than anyone on this list with a .346/.398/.616 line, but he's 23 and still playing in high-A...Mario Lisson - The 21 year old Royals farmhand is only batting .250 and he is still in low-A, but he takes a lot of walks (53 in 260 AB's) and has some good speed (23 steals in 27 attempts).
I came across Brendan Harris while looking into this list. Baseball America has him listed as a third baseman, but he's been playing at second this season. At the age of 24 he has a .282/.331/.446 line in AAA and has some major league experience with Washington. Had I noticed him before he would've made the list of the top ten second basemen. He's at least a name to watch in the near future.