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Third base prospects for 2014

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Prospect Reports: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | 3Bs | SSs | OFs | Ps

Do you get the sense third base is a little short on Fantasy talent?

I mean, it's OK, but even compared to second base, it leaves something to be desired, unless the thought of starting Pablo Sandoval is still appealing to you.

Well then, the timing couldn't be any better for a full-scale restock. I'm talking like the catcher position had in 2009 and 2010, when Matt Wieters, Buster Posey and Carlos Santana all came up.

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You know Kris Bryant, the can't-miss second overall pick who's on the fast track to the majors after winning the Arizona Fall League MVP? He's only fourth on this list. And would you believe prospect among prospects Miguel Sano is only second?

Brace yourself.

Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Though long-term potential is a factor, it's arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2014. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy now.

1. Xander Bogaerts, 21, Red Sox
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .297 BA (444 at-bats), 15 HR, .865 OPS, 63 BB, 95 K
Major-league stats: .250 BA (44 at-bats), 1 HR, 1 SB, 5 BB, 13 K

Tricky, tricky. Yes, Xander Bogaerts played shortstop coming up through the minors and will play shortstop again with Stephen Drew departing via free agency. But because he played mostly third base during his late-season trial in 2013, filling in for a perpetually underwhelming Will Middlebrooks, that's where he's eligible to begin 2014. Frankly, his bat would profile anywhere. He's the sort of prospect who the scouts have known would hit from the beginning. Though he hasn't exactly re-written the record books in the minors, he's done exactly what he was supposed to do at every stop. And it continued at the final one, his polish and poise earning him an everyday job in the middle of the Red Sox's playoff run. Again, his numbers could have been better, but all the scouting reports say it's only a matter of time before he becomes another Troy Tulowitzki type, hitting for a high average with better power than anyone has a right to expect at shortstop. Bogaerts will have that annoying period at the beginning of the season when you have to stick him at third base, but in the end, the dual eligibility should only improve his value. Entering 2014 as the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year, he likely won't survive the middle rounds on Draft Day.

2. Miguel Sano, 20, Twins
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .280 BA (439 at-bats), 35 HR, 103 RBI, .992 OPS, 65 BB, 142 K

Didn't take long to get to him, did it? Yes, Miguel Sano has drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera since his earliest days in the minors, so now that he's within spitting distance of the majors, Fantasy owners (quite appropriately) can't stop salivating. But even though he hasn't done anything to disappoint during the climb, his production in the upper levels suggests he's probably closer to being Giancarlo Stanton than Cabrera, meaning a pure masher instead of a well-rounded hitter. That's not inherently a bad thing, but a higher strikeout rate gives him more opportunity to stumble and the Twins more reason to delay his arrival. He's only 20, after all. He hit .330 at Class A Fort Myers before a midseason promotion to Double-A New Britain, so maybe time is all he needs to get back on the Cabrera trajectory. Most likely, Sano will arrive at some point in 2014. His performance, with both the bat and glove, will determine just how quickly. Whether he's more Cabrera or Stanton on the talent spectrum, he's a player you want in Fantasy. You might even consider taking a late-round flier on him in mixed leagues if you don't mind stashing a player for months on end.

3. Maikel Franco, 21, Phillies
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .320 BA, 31 HR, 103 RBI, .926 OPS, 30 BB, 70 K

Kris Bryant may seem like the more logical choice here after being named Arizona Fall League MVP in the same year he was drafted second overall, but Maikel Franco rates as the same class of prospect after a breakthrough 2013. And unlike Bryant, he's all but certain to get regular at-bats in the majors at some point in 2014. He has already mastered Double-A, having hit .339 there after a midseason promotion, and clearly has all the strength he needs at age 21. Thirty-homer seasons don't come along regularly in the minors, particularly for players with Franco's bat control. The Phillies already called up Cody Asche to play third base for them last year, seeing as he was ahead of Franco on the organizational ladder and profiles as a major-league regular in his own right. But rest assured, if Franco takes to Triple-A as quickly as he did Double-A, the Phillies will find a way to get him in their lineup, whether by relocating Asche or outright benching him. Ultimately, Franco has the greater say in the franchise's future, after all. Because he isn't as widely known as, say, Miguel Sano, you probably won't have to use a draft pick on him in mixed leagues, but you'll want him in NL-only leagues just in case he forces the Phillies' hand with a hot spring.

4. Kris Bryant, 22, Cubs
Where played in 2013: Rookie, low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .336 BA (128 at-bats), 9 HR, 1.078 OPS, 11 BB, 35 K

In the months following the 2013 draft, Kris Bryant did exactly what you'd expect the second overall pick to do to the lower levels of the minors. But it wasn't until the Arizona Fall League that he really began to stand out, batting .364 with six homers and a 1.184 OPS in 77 at-bats to take home MVP honors. Bryant's performance against some of the game's more advanced prospects shows he may be closer to major-league ready than his inexperience would have you believe. Of course, he is 22, and after winning the Golden Spikes Award, which recognizes the best collegiate player, most scouts expected him to advance quickly. But now, he looks like he has a chance of taking over as the Cubs' starting third baseman by midseason. Because the Cubs aren't looking to contend anytime soon, they'll likely use any excuse they can to hold him back, much like the Astros did with George Springer last year, but sooner than later, Bryant will be showing off his light-tower power at Wrigley Field. He does swing and miss a good bit, which could limit his batting average early in his career, but his ultimate ceiling is closer to Sano's than not. Bryant is one of those prospects whose value could skyrocket with a big spring training, so keep a close eye on him.

5. Matt Davidson, 23, Diamondbacks
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .280 BA (443 at-bats), 17 HR, .831 OPS, 46 BB, 134 K
Major-league stats: .237 BA (76 at-bats), 3 HR, .768 OPS, 10 BB, 24 K

For Matt Davidson, the production has never quite lived up to the narrative. Scouts have made him out to be this prime power prospect who will anchor the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup for years to come, but his numbers wouldn't make anybody do a double take, especially considering he's played in some of the minors' most hitter-friendly leagues. Maybe that's why the Diamondbacks aren't in a hurry to clear a spot for him even after a decent debut last year. Of course, Davidson has been on the younger side at every step up the ladder, and one of the biggest mistakes a prospect hound can make is to read too much into the numbers. It's not like Davidson's are even that bad; they're just nothing that would suggest he's destined for greatness. Given the versatility of Martin Prado, who is projected to start at third base in Arizona, Davidson is probably next in line no matter who the Diamondbacks lose to injury. His proximity to the majors makes him almost sure to be drafted in NL-only leagues, but he'll have to prove himself at the highest level for mixed-leaguers to give him a look.

6. Garin Cecchini, 22, Red Sox
Where played in 2013: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .322 BA, 7 HR, 33 2B, 23 SB, .443 OBP, .915 OPS, 94 BB, 86 K

Garin Cecchini is one of the more fascinating prospects in the game today. Nobody can say for sure what type of player he'll become, but every interpretation is a favorable one. Comparisons (sticking to third basemen, of course) range from Matt Carpenter (because of his impressive bat-on-ball ability) to Chone Figgins (because of his startling 51 steals in 2012) to Kevin Youkilis (because of his yet-to-develop power and minor-league leading .443 on-base percentage). Tough to pinpoint, right? Most likely, Cecchini will lose something in speed while gaining something in power and (hopefully) staying as composed as ever at the plate. Considering he hit only two home runs in 240 at-bats at Double-A Portland last year, Cecchini is in line to return there, but with his 23rd birthday coming up in April, he's not far from being major-league ready. In fact, Will Middlebrooks may have the greatest say in his timetable, assuming Xander Bogaerts moves over to shortstop. If Middlebrooks finds some consistency, Cecchini will have all the time he needs to develop, but if Middlebrooks struggles as much as he did in 2013, Cecchini may leapfrog him in the Red Sox's short-term plans. He may not be the perfect prospect, but he's an intriguing draft-and-stash in AL-only leagues.

7. Marcus Semien, 23, White Sox
Where played in 2013: Double-A, Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .284 BA, 19 HR, 24 SB, .401 OBP, .880 OPS, 98 BB, 90 K
Major-league stats: .261 BA (69 at-bats), 2 HR, 2 SB, .673 OPS, 1 BB, 22 Ks

Marcus Semien's 2013 numbers probably exaggerate his prospect appeal, but he emerged as a legitimate part of the White Sox's future with the breakthrough performance. And they offered a glimpse of that future down the stretch, shifting him between third base, second base and shortstop while giving him everyday at-bats. Unfortunately, his most trustworthy attribute, his on-base ability, abandoned him in the majors. After having a walk for every strikeout between Double- and Triple-A, his ratio was quite literally 1-to-22 in the majors, which simply won't do. Hopefully, it was just a product of inexperience or small sample size, because Semien's moderate power and speed (think Brian Dozier level) probably won't be enough to carry him. Even with the rocky transition, Semien did show some encouraging signs during his late-season trial. Were they enough to earn him a regular job at one of those positions -- or perhaps a part-time role at all three? In a rebuilding year, possibly. If that's the case, he's well worth drafting in AL-only leagues. Otherwise, you can wait until he does something notable.

8. Wilmer Flores, 22, Mets
Where played in 2013: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .321 BA (424 at-bats), 15 HR, 36 2B, .887 OPS, 25 BB, 63 K
Major-league stats: .211 BA (95 at-bats), 1 HR, 5 2B, .542 OPS, 5 BB, 23 K

After fumbling through a transition to second base at Triple-A Las Vegas, Wilmer Flores ended up playing third down the stretch for the Mets, filling in for the injured David Wright. He held his own defensively, which has been the biggest impediment to his development so far, but like so many 22-year-olds getting their first taste of the majors, he was overmatched at the plate. With a high-contact bat and steadily improving power stroke, Flores is just as intriguing as when he signed as a 16-year-old shortstop in 2007, but unfortunately, he's not any less mysterious. Third base is off the table with Wright signed long-term, and for all the strides Flores has made at the plate, his bat wouldn't hold up at first base. With the emergence of Daniel Murphy, he doesn't have a clear path to second base either, not that he showed much potential there defensively. So where does that leave him? In the minors for now. At 22, he could use the extra time to refine his stroke. An injury at any of those positions would clear the way for Flores, but even in NL-only leagues, you can't count on him making a significant contribution in 2014.

9. D.J. Peterson, 22, Mariners
Where played in 2013: short-season Class A, low Class A
Minor-league stats: .303 BA (208 at-bats), 13 HR, .918 OPS, 20 BB, 42 K

Though his power isn't quite on the level of Kris Bryant's, some publications labeled D.J. Peterson the best all-around hitter among college players in the 2013 draft. Questions about his defense allowed the Mariners to nab him with the 12th pick, and they quickly learned his bat will more than make up for his glove. Peterson punished the ball at two stops, slugging well over .500, and showed enough range at third base that, for now, the Mariners intend to keep him there. Of course, he may develop so quickly as a hitter that he doesn't have a chance to progress as a defender, but the Mariners can afford to take their time with him with Kyle Seager entrenched in the majors. Already 22, Peterson is a good bet to reach the majors at some point in 2015. His bat would profile anywhere, so even if he ends up having to slide across the diamond, you'll be glad you bought into him in long-term keeper leagues.

10. Colin Moran, 21, Marlins
Where played in 2013: low Class A
Minor-league stats: .299 BA (154 at-bats), 4 HR, .796 OPS, 15 BB, 25 K

Though Colin Moran was projected to go about where he did in the 2013 draft (sixth overall), it had more to do with polish than upside, making him an odd fit for the rebuilding Marlins. He'll play in the big leagues -- and probably sooner than later -- but what impact he'll make is a matter of debate. Scouts rave about his approach, making a high batting average a pretty safe bet, but it'll come at the expense of power. Of course, seeing as he's only 21, he could end up learning to make better use of his 6-foot-4 frame, and even if doesn't, a Martin Prado-like line would make him still plenty valuable in Fantasy. As prospects go, Moran is undoubtedly safe, so in leagues that value safe, such as dynasty formats, he'll be a prized commodity. But in single-season formats, his upside isn't high enough for you to stash him in the not-so-far-fetched hope that owner Jeffrey Loria defies his front office and other rational-minded baseball folk by rushing him to the big leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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