Rangers' Gallo grabs top spot, Boston's Devers leaps to No. 2
By Mike Rosenbaum
MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano and Maikel Franco claimed four of the top five spots on last year's list of the top third-base prospects, and together they combined to hit 64 big league home runs in 2015. Gallo retained rookie eligibility and headlines this year's crop of top prospects at the hot corner, which, as a whole, stand out more for overall hitting ability than power. And as it's so often the case with young third basemen, only time will tell how many of these guys will be able to remain at the position long term.
1. Joey Gallo, Rangers
The Rangers rushed Gallo from Double-A to the Major Leagues last summer to fill in at the hot corner for the injured Adrian Beltre. The Las Vegas native hit six homers over 36 games in the big leagues but also struck out 46.3 percent of the time, and his struggles worsened after moving down to Triple-A. That being said, no hitter in the Minor Leagues possesses as much power as Gallo (80 on the 20-80 scouting scale), who has averaged 51 home runs per 162 games in his first four years as a pro.
2. Rafael Devers, Red Sox
Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million in 2013, Devers showcased his huge offensive ceiling during his full-season debut in the Class A South Atlantic League, ranking second in doubles (38) and total bases (208) at age 18. He's an advanced hitter for his age, with outstanding bat speed and a mature approach that suggests big-time power down the road. Devers' defense was better in 2015, though there's still a decent chance he'll eventually outgrow the position.
3. Ryan McMahon, Rockies
McMahon has done nothing but hit since he signed with the Rockies for $1,327,600 as a second-round pick in 2013. He batted .300/.372/.520 with 18 home runs and a California League-leading 43 doubles last season at Class A Advanced Modesto. McMahon has swing-and-miss to his game and strikes out often as a result, but he also sticks to a consistent approach and shows a good feel for hitting and has power to all fields. He led the league with 39 errors last season but is a good athlete with the tools to become an average defender at third base.
4. Brandon Drury, Diamondbacks
Acquired from Atlanta in the January 2013 Justin Upton trade, Drury reached the big leagues for the first time last year as a September callup. A right-handed hitter, he has a refined approach and makes hard contact from line to line, and he should develop more over-the-fence power as he continues to mature. Drury split time between second and third base in 2015 and could serve as an offensive-minded regular at either position.
5. Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pirates
Taken 32nd overall in the 2015 Draft, Hayes has strong baseball bloodlines as the son of former big league third baseman and World Series champion Charlie Hayes. He's an advanced hitter with an approach that belies his age, and scouts believe the power will come as he learns to turn on the ball. Hayes is a below-average runner and might continue to slow down as he develops physically, but the hands, instincts, footwork and arm strength should allow him to remain at the hot corner long term.
6. Austin Riley, Braves
The Braves might have found the steal of the 2015 Draft in Riley, who hit 12 home runs over 60 games in his pro debut after singing with Atlanta as the 41st overall pick. With an explosive swing, good pitch recognition and easy raw power from the right side, he shows the makings of becoming impact run-producing hitter once developed. Though he's athletic for his size and moves well at third base, Riley's promising bat would profile well at a number of positions.
7. Jeimer Candelario, Cubs
Signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Candelario more than held his own last season in his first taste of the Double-A level and then opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League, where he ranked among the league leaders in several offensive categories. The 22-year-old switch-hitter makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate, leading scouts to project him to hit for average and power. Candelario has all the necessary tools to stick at third base, including soft hands and above-average arm strength.
8. Richie Shaffer, Rays
After scuffling early in his career, Shaffer, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, erupted to hit 30 home runs last season, tallying 26 between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, then tacking on another four homers in 88 plate appearances in the big leagues. The Clemson product strikes out quite a bit and may never hit for much average, but he's a patient hitter with good on-base skills to go along with the plus raw power. Blocked by Evan Longoria at the hot corner, Shaffer could see time at first base as well as both outfield corner spots for the Rays in 2016.
9. Jomar Reyes, Orioles
Reyes, whom the O's signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican Republic in January 2014, spent the 2015 season, at age 18, in the Class A South Atlantic League, where he showcased an advanced bat despite missing nearly six weeks with a right thumb injury. In the fall, he had surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his left hand. A big, physically strong right-handed hitter, Reyes has a compact swing and drives the ball with authority across the whole field, though his power has yet to translate in games.
10. Renato Nunez, Athletics
Nunez moved up to Double-A Midland in 2015 and made a surprisingly smooth adjustment to the Texas League. He hit .278 with 18 home runs and reduced his strikeout rate considerably compared to the previous year, though he still proved to be an overall streaky hitter. A lack of first-step quickness and range will make it difficult for Nunez to stick at third, and he could see increased time at first base next season after logging 16 starts there in 2015.
Acquired by the Astros before the 2014 Trade Deadline in the deal that sent Jarred Cosart to the Marlins, Colin Moran -- the No. 6 overall Draft pick in 2013 -- is a pure hitter with good on-base skills, but he has never hit more than nine home runs in a single season and has just 20 in 255 Minor League games.
The Yankees selected Eric Jagielo with their first of three first-round Draft picks in 2013, only to send him in the four-player package to acquire Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in December. In 2015, the left-handed hitter enjoyed success at Double-A Trenton, batting .284 with nine homers in 58 games before a knee injury prematurely ended his season.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.