Of all the college positions, the most high-end talent may come from third base in this draft year (although don’t count out the current draft-eligible catchers either). On Stanford alone, one could argue that two very talented hitters exist in Stephen Piscotty and Kenny Diekroeger. On a talented Arkansas roster, Matt Reynolds seems to be putting together a complete season after struggling in his first two years. Over in the ACC, Richie Shaffer has some interesting hit and power tools. Finally, over in the West Coast Conference, Patrick Wisdom is lesser-known, but might just rival most any college third baseman with the bat.
As it stands now, Piscotty is the strongest candidate of this group to be selected before anyone else. Between his strong hit tool and strong arm, he might just have the talent to keep that fact from changing before June. While he was already on many teams’ 2012 Draft boards, Piscotty really put himself on the map with a great showing in Cape Cod play this summer (.349, 3 HRs, 13 bb/14 Ks, 29 games). So far this spring at Stanford, he’s even shown a good bit of power, more than some expected out of him. It’s likely he will need to do it more consistently throughout his junior year to really convince teams of his long-term power potential. On the other side of the ball, he certainly has the arm strength for the hot corner and also did a lot to improve his overall play at the position this past summer. Better grades for his power and defensive tools will really push his draft stock up.
Matt Reynolds does not have the most consistent track record throughout college, but he’s a quality defender that does have strong potential at the plate. He has slowly begun to show more of that potential this year. Admittedly, he’ll need to keep doing it to prove that he’s worth an early-round pick of the draft. Reynolds is probably one of the more raw guys of this group, but he could be one of the better all-around players at the position. There are definitely questions around Reynolds, but the biggest might be his overall power potential. It remains to be seen if he can be productive enough for a corner position, so the possibility does exist that he might be a tweener as a professional.
If teams are looking for the best blend of power and hit tools at the hot corner, Richie Shaffer might be their best bet. The only problem is that he might not end up at the position as a professional. There are a number of questions about his defense at third, though it is possible he could be an average defender in time. He’s spent the majority of his college career at first base, where his defense has been rated well, so it’s not like Shaffer is guaranteed to be terrible at third. He has one of the best mixes of plate discipline and power in this group, so even if he fails defensively, an organization can still get plenty of value out of his bat.
Patrick Wisdom has some impressive offensive upside, and might be one of the best power prospects at third base. He’s hit well with wood bats as well during summer league action, so he shouldn’t have to do much to convince teams that his power is legitimate. There’s plenty of loft and lots of bat speed in his swing, so he’s naturally inclined to hit for power. Unfortunately for him, he may fall into that same category of having impressive power while also possibly needing to shift over to first base eventually. Wisdom might be one of the best all-around athletes in this group, and it’s shown in flashes throughout his college career. The red flag with him revolves around his approach at the plate. It’s likely that he’ll need to sharpen things up a bit as a pro to really put his power into play in games.
Among community college bats, Fernando Perez is an athletic option who is ahead of others on the age curve (exiting high school early). Purdue’s Cameron Perkins is an all-around solid college third baseman. He has shown a nice mix of pop and stolen base potential in college, while also hitting consistently in the Big 10. Georgia Southern gets most of its attention from righty Chris Beck and the recently injury Victor Roache, but Eric Phillips should not be ignored. The senior infielder has a mature approach at the plate, has a solid hit tool, and can even be a value on the base paths. He’s played plenty of shortstop in college as well, and considering his limited power potential, he may be kind of a tweener.