The Talking Chop 2020 MLB Draft preview has expanded over the years to now where we are taking a position by position look at the talent available this year. We started two weeks ago now with catcher and have moved through the infield completely with the addition of third base today. Later this week, outfield will follow to complete the look at the bats available in this draft, and next week (draft week) we will get into the pitchers.
The best way to look at this third base class overall is that it is below average. This list here makes things look even less optimistic, but when you factor in guys listed at shortstop are likely to end up at third base, there is a little boost to the overall value here.
The biggest issue with this group is there isn’t an elite third baseman in the class. There is a non-zero chance that we don’t even see a third baseman go in the first round of the draft as I only have a true first round grade on one of these guys. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of talent with some upside, both on the college and prep sides, just that all of the talent has some question marks with it.
Third base seems like a position the Braves could use a pick on, but it doesn’t feel like one they have to use one of their limited picks on bases on both the current organization as well as this crop of prospects.
The Top 10
- Jordan Walker, Georgia HS
Jordan Walker is the consensus top third baseman in the country this year. Walker represents a huge specimen with massive power potential, but plenty of swing and miss as well as concerns about how his 6’5, 220 frame will fill out and potentially force him to move defensively. There is no question he is a plus plus power potential guy with at least plus in game power, but the normal big man with long levers in his swing concerns mixed with his ability to hit breaking balls leads to questions about how much he will be able to hit. Walker is actually a good present athlete for his size, but the question is what happens if he loses a step when he fills in that frame. A move to first isn’t a lock because of the athleticism and a very strong, potentially plus arm giving him a shot to handle right field if he can keep enough athleticism. As if those questions weren’t enough, Walker is the son of Harvard and MIT grads and is committed to Duke- so he won’t come cheap and if he doesn’t go early enough he just may not be signable. There is big upside here if he can get the hit tool to be passable and stay athletic enough to remain at third, since he is a potential middle of the order bat.
2. Gage Workman, Arizona State
The most overlooked Top 50 prospect in recent memory has had some very strong years for the Sun Devils, but playing with Hunter Bishop last year and Spencer Torkelson and Alika Williams this year has helped to keep him more under the radar than a player like Gage Workman should be. Workman is a 6’4, 195 pound shortstop playing third base because Alika Williams is the ASU shortstop, though most think Workman is destined to remain at third as a pro since he’s a larger framed shortstop and may lose a step as he fills in his body. Workman is a solid present athlete with average run times and an average glove with an above average arm, so his glove also fits best at third where he could be an above average defender instead of short where he would be more average at best. Workman is a player with plus power potential, but he will need to mature his approach in order to really have it play as that. That shouldn’t be a huge issue with Workman still just 20 years old until well after the scheduled minor league season was to end. Workman’s success at ASU and the Cape Cod League, his youth for being a college prospect, and his potential defensive versatility make him a very appealing prospect who should probably come off the board somewhere between picks 30-45.
3. Casey Schmitt, San Diego State
For teams who really value versatility, Casey Schmitt presents an interesting tool set. Not only is he a promising right handed power bat, but he is also a good enough pitcher to have a chance to contribute there as well. Make no mistake: Schmitt’s future is as a hitter, as he is a reliever without a plus pitch, but having a guy with a pair of average pitches (fastball and splitter) and a track record of college and Cape Cod League success would add another option on the roster. Schmitt will be drafted for his plus raw power and it is power which has a track record of playing with wooden bats in the Cape, but also because he is an average to slightly above defender at third with his glove playing up a bit because of that big arm. His low to mid 90s stuff on the mound is a good fallback if the bat can’t work, but it is hard to see a team preferring his arm over his bat.
4. Cayden Wallace, Arkansas HS
Cayden Wallace is one of the more interesting overall prep third basemen this year. Not only does the Arkansas native have plus raw power from the right side, but he brings a plus arm, above average present athleticism, and a chance to be an above average defender at the hot corner. On top of that he has shown some success hitting with wooden bats at showcase events. Wallace is presently power over hit and is going to need to refine his hit tool to get to that power regularly in game, but if he can do that he has the skill set to be a well rounded third base prospect. One issue with him is he is committed to in-state Arkansas and a team will need to buy him out of that commitment, but he has the tools to make a team pay up.
5. Jamal O’Guinn, USC
Jamal O’Guinn has a chance to be a perfect fit for the pro game today. The USC third baseman has big raw power and posts high OBP marks because of his ability to take a walk. The only reason he isn’t ranked higher is because he is a bit of a longshot to stick at third defensively, with a move to first seeming the most likely spot for him. On top of that O’Guinn hasn’t always shown his power in game because his hit tool is fringy, but he made an improvement in the Cape last summer that followed over into this spring before the season got put to an end. There are plenty of reasons to like O’Guinn and his bat, but you also have to convince yourself that the hit tool has really improved or that he can handle third or even left field, as you really have to mash as a first base prospect. This is a guy I would be targeting with the third round pick if I was picking for the Braves, especially with it seeming like the universal DH is coming because he could be a regular high OPS player regardless of what happens defensively.
6. Tyler Keenan, Ole Miss
After a big showing in the College World Series Home Run Derby last year, Tyler Keenan went back to Oxford and got really hot to start the year. He presents one of the best college lefty power bats in the draft with double plus raw power. However there are some questions to be answered just like the rest of the guys on this list. The biggest question for Keenan is if he can hit enough to make the power work in games. His college history says it can, but his swing is an uppercut swing that pro pitchers can potentially take advantage of. Then you have the issue of him being an already fringy defender and poor runner as a 6’4, 250 pound slugger. Some see a move to first base or DH as an inevitability despite an above average to plus arm. He has the power to be a legit prospect as a first base only prospect, but you would have to buy into his high contact rate and feel for hitting to make enough contact to let his power play.
7. Coby Mayo, Florida HS
A Stoneman Douglas product, Coby Mayo is one of the more divisive prospects at the position. No one questions that this 6’5”, 215 pound right handed bat has easy plus power and an arm that is also easily plus- both having a chance to get to double plus. The questions come because some don’t think he will be able to make enough contact to have the power play at the next level and there is a real question on if this already fringy athlete slows down as he fills in his frame, forcing a move to either left field because of the arm, or first base if he doesn’t have the athleticism for the outfield. MLB Pipeline comped him to Austin Riley coming out of high school, which is a pretty reasonable comp as they had similar strengths and weaknesses. Mayo is a Florida commit and may not be easily signable if he doesn’t go early.
8. AJ Vukovich, Wisconsin HS
The next Wisconsin prep hitter to follow recent success stories Gavin Lux and Jarred Kelenic is AJ Vukovich. Vukovich is a 6’5, 210 pound right handed slugger with massive power. There aren’t questions about the power or an arm that some will grade as plus, however there are concerns about his hit tool and long levers as well as some who don’t see him at third base long-term. Vukovich has enough power for a team to take a chance, but the odds are on him ending up at Louisville next year to prove himself in the ACC. He is definitely among the most hurt by not having a spring this year as progress with the hit tool could have moved him up.
9. Jacob Berry, Arizona HS
Jacob Berry has one of the better prep bats in the third base class. He’s got plus power and some feel for hitting. It is worth noting that he is a switch hitter who is more advanced from the left side and is going to need some time to refine his swing from the right side or ditch it completely. His defensive home is a big question as he is a prep shortstop who won’t be able to stick there due to the fringy athleticism. Third base seems like the most likely home based off his solid arm and natural left side of the infield instincts, but that isn’t set in stone. He is set to attend in-state Arizona for college, but if a team loves the bat it may take him.
10. Kellum Clark, Mississippi HS
Mississippi has their share of prep bats this year, and Kellum Clark is the latest. Clark’s value comes in the bat as a guy with a chance to hit for both average and power. He is a player with plus raw power and a potentially average hit tool. His defensive home is a question to some extent, but with a plus arm and enough athleticism to handle third or the corner outfield from his 6’4”, 220 frame, Clark is projected as a third baseman at the moment. Clark is both old for the class at age 19, and committed to Mississippi State as things that could work against him signing.
Others to Watch
Raymond Gil, Miami
Parks Harber, Georgia HS
*Oscar Serratos, Georgia JUCO
^Riley King, Georgia
Jonathan Vaughns, California HS
* Serratos may sound familiar to Atlanta baseball fans as he was formerly a key player for Georgia Tech
^ King was drafted late by the Braves last year but chose to return to UGA for his junior season