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Atlanta Braves 2021 MLB Draft Preview Position Rankings: Third Base

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We move right into the middle of the rankings with a look at the top 3B in the 2021 MLB Draft today.

Syndication: The Clarion-Ledger
Zack Gelof
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

With three positions already done, today we move to our fourth position group in the 2021 MLB Draft, third base.

This isn’t an easy class at third to give an overall evaluation on. If you look at only the names here, this is an extremely weak crop of third basemen. However, if you factor in that there are some guys listed at shortstop and even in the outfield who have a good chance of ending up here, this group suddenly looks a lot better.

While the Braves are definitely a team who can use some additional talent at third base in the system, I’m not sure there is a first round caliber 3B to be found - at least not listed among these third basemen. With that said there are still plenty of intriguing Day 2 and 3 options out there that have tools to attract teams.

  1. Wes Kath, Arizona HS

Wes Kath is a bat first oversized prep shortstop likely to move to third, though some teams see a potential to stay at short. He brings what should be at least an average hit tool with the potential for plus power, and after opening eyes last summer he has proven himself against top competition. He isn’t a great athlete, which is partially why some don’t think he can handle short, but he has an arm that is more than strong enough for the left side of the infield. Kath is the lone guy on this list getting any first round buzz, though I personally think he’s more of a second round talent- especially when you factor in that he’s older for the class at age 19.

2. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Oklahoma State

Christian Encarnacion-Strand just rakes. He did it in JUCO ball, got to Stillwater and just continued to rake there. He comes with big power and does have a feel for the barrel of the bat, but he comes with a lot of swing and miss. That swing and miss is a little more than just what’s normal for a slugger as he has an unorthodox swing that some teams will want to make adjustments to, but the potential for an average hit tool is in there. His bigger issue is that he doesn’t provide much defensive value as he is fringy with limited range at third, and the only place he could move would be first base should he not be able to stick at third.

3. Zack Gelof, Virginia

This may be the lowest you see Virginia star Zack Gelof ranked among the third base group considering how much attention he has received since high school and how productive he has been at UVA. He’s a very well rounded player without any huge flaws, though there are some questions with him. The reason he’s ranked lower here is because there just isn’t a plus tool to offset the questions that exist. He’s got potential to have an average hit tool and has had success with wood bats, but strikes out more than you’d like as well as some questions against breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Then there are some that question his ability to stick at third with just an average arm and fringe to average glove. The power is likely a tick above average and his run tool plays up above its average grade because of his instincts, so there isn’t that major weakness but it’s more of a third round grade.

4. Tommy White, Florida HS

There is one reason why Tommy White will be drafted, that being his massive raw power. The big slugger has a chance to hit enough to make the power play, but he will need to reign in his very aggressive approach that leads to a lot of swing and miss. Despite the strikeouts he does show some natural feel for hitting, so he isn’t an all or nothing power guy with refinement. He’s a below average runner and has limited range, so his ability to stick at short is in question despite having soft hands. Should he have to move first base would be the position, but he’s got enough bat to handle that move.

5. Justyn Henry-Malloy, Georgia Tech

I was a little high on Justyn-Henry Malloy out of high school, when he passed up going pro to attend Vanderbilt. He didn’t play a big role there and ended up transferring to Georgia Tech for this season where he finally got his shot and made the most of it. Henry-Malloy proved that he’s a very good hitter, probably enough to get an above average grade. He’s also a guy who could grow into more power and potentially grade above average there, with an average run tool. The biggest question with him is defensive mistakes putting his home in question- though he does have some versatility. Henry-Malloy could be a very good bat first utility type, unless he is able to settle into a defensive position.

6. Luke Leto, Michigan HS

Going into last summer Luke Leto was a real candidate to go in the Top 10 of this draft, but he couldn’t have had a more disappointing summer as the layoff made scouts question both the hit took and athleticism that were previously assets for him. He hit well in the past in big showcases, and the struggles really only came last summer whether it was due to the layoff or him trying to sell out for power to impress scouts, so there is hope he can get back to where he was previously. The hit tool wasn’t the only concern as he went from shortstop/third base prospect to more of a third/first/left field profile with slower run times- however there are some teams that like him as a pitcher. Leto is the kind of prospect a team drafts hoping to find upside by getting him back to what he did previously, assuming they can make the money work.

7. Ryan Higgins, Fresno State

Ryan Higgins is a slugger with real power and a chance to be an average hitter, though like most sluggers comes with a lot of swing and miss. The bigger problem with him is that there is a very good chance he has to move off third defensively, and likely over to first which just puts that much more pressure on the bat. I believe in the bat, but it’s not an easy profile for a prospect.

8. Damiano Palmegiani, Nevada JUCO

Another big bat with defensive home questions. Palmegiani raked this spring, but has hit tool questions since he didn’t face much high end velocity. The power will play and he gets on base a good amount, but how impactful the bat can be is a question. Palmegiani is almost assured of moving off third base, with left field seeming the most likely option since the speed is fringy and the arm is merely average. He could be a steal here, but the questions about the hit tool make him harder to evaluate in this weird draft year.

9. Tyler Hardman, Oklahoma

Tyler Hardman has been around forever it feels like after being a key contributor at Oklahoma since 2018, though that means he is already 22.5 years old. There has never been much question about him having the hit tool to be drafted, but this spring we saw a power spike that has raised his stock overall, and matched his 2019 Cape Cod League power showing. His defensive home is question as he has played plenty of first base and projects best there as a pro, but he may be a playable below average at third. Hardman probably doesn’t have enough bat to be a regular, but he could be a utility type with some hitting and power ability plus some versatility.

10. Gavin Conticello, Florida HS

After a good showing last summer Gavin Conticello was seen as one of the better lefty power bats in this draft on the prep side. Things didn’t go as planned this spring, but he’s still a big lefty with plus power and could end up being an average runner after he slows down at maturity. There is a good chance he has to move off third defensively, but he has enough athleticism and arm to handle left and not be stuck at first base.

The Next 10

11. Aaron Downs, Mississippi HS

12. Jake Rucker, Tennessee

13. Riley Tirotta, Dayton

14. Tim Elko, Ole Miss

15. Ben Ramirez, USC

16. Jamal O’Guinn, USC

17. Brady Slavens, Arkansas

18. Lucas Dunn, Louisville

19. Dustin Demeter, Hawaii

20. Juan Colato, Grand Canyon