The minor league season is in the home stretch as all teams wrap up their seasons by the first week of September and with it, our top tens are coming to an end. This is the second to last and looks at arguably the weakest position in the entire system. There is not a single player who is a certain Major Leaguer, in fact there are none from AAA and only two from Advanced A or above. That makes this list of third basemen extremely young. With that, there is still a lot of risk associated with all these players, but still a lot of potential as well for those in the upper half.
10. Nehemias Celesten – 2016 International Free Agent – DSL Indians
Other Positions: 1B (2 Games Played)
by Jay Alan
Being that he is only 17 years old, it is hard to tell what will become of Nehemias Celesten. The Indians see something in the Dominican Summer League third baseman considering they signed him to a $185,000 contract. At 6’1” and 195 lbs, Celesten has good size for his age but does not hit for much power. In 148 at-bats in 43 games this season he is hitting .236, with 18 RBI, 3 HR, 9 2B, and 1 3B. His .372 SLG and .363 OBP need work, but he is only a kid.
A Fld% of .866 also need some improvement as 13 errors in 97 chances just is not going to cut it, but that is why he is in a developmental league. With more work in the DSL this year, maybe he will be in the US next year starting his career in the minors.
9. Elvis Perez – 2014 International Free Agent – Lake County Captains
Other Positions: SS (116 GP), 2B (5), 1B (1)
by Joseph Coblitz
To start, Perez has always been a short stop, but he wasn’t good enough to break into our top ten last month (he actually came in 13th) and with both Luke Wakamatsu and Alexis Pantoja on the Captains, Perez has been playing more at other positions. While Perez can be a fine defender (he has great range), he makes as many mistakes as anyone at the position, particularly with his arm. It’s very possible, however, that a move to third could cure the issue of excessive arm strength at short. Since he committed an error every two games in the AZL last year and hasn’t committed one yet at third base at a much higher level, there could be something to this.
However, offensively he brings absolutely nothing to the table and his lack of bat could push him, not only into the utility player role, but maybe a AA utility player at best.
8. Jonathan Laureano – 2016 Draft, Round 25 – SS Mahoning Valley
Other Positions: LF (5 GP), 1B (1 GP)
by Jay Alan
21 year old Puerto Rican, Jonathan Laureano, is currently manning the hot corner for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Laureano was selected in the 25th round in the 2016 draft by the Cleveland Indians out of Connors State Junior College. At 6’1” and 200 lbs at 21 years old, Jonathan can still do some growing, which should help with his lack of power on offense.
Offense has been a real struggle for Laureano to this point in his career. He is hitting .230 this season, but is slugging just .299 with a .244 OBP. Of his 20 hits this season, only five were for extra bases, to go along with no home runs. Luckily for Jonathan his defense is quite a bit better than his power numbers. In 110 defensive chances this season, Laureano has just three errors for a .893 Fld%. He shows promise in the field, but his offense is what could hinder his chances at a major league career.
7. Dillon Persinger – 2017 Draft, Round 18 – SS Mahoning Valley
Other Positions: 2B (6 GP)
by Caitlin Boron
Persinger has only played in ten games with short season Mahoning Valley, after being drafted (for the third time – by the Dodgers in 2015, and Cleveland 2016 and 2017) in the 18th round (552nd overall) of the 2017 MLB draft. Also, it must be pointed out being that this is an article for 3B prospects, Persinger has only played but a single game at the position, with his primary being 2B.
Of the few games played, he’s hit a .290 BA with a single RBI on nine hits (three doubles), nine walks and has been hit by a pitch three times. As it seems to be a trend with many prospects within the Indians farm system, he has the high ability to get on base any way possible, sporting a .425 OBP, the highest among Scrappers, though falling below the minimum ABs (he only has 31 ABs and 41 PAs).
Though he has just one stolen base on the year, his only attempt, he’s known for being the type to get on base and get into scoring with an impressive set of skills on the base path.
6. Erlin Cerda – 2012 International Free Agent – A Lake County
Other Positions: 2B (120 GP), 1B (9 GP)
by Justin Lada
The 23 year old Cerda has bounced mostly between second and third base in his young career but hasn’t had much success staying healthy or with the bat. As a 19 year old in the DSL he posted a .417 OBP and makes a decent amound of contact but the Indians system seems to have a lot of young Latin players who can avoid striking out but make too much contact are and too aggressive to ever walk. Between injuries and making too much weak contact, Cerda has not been able to recreate his last year in the DSL stateside and at 23 is running out of time to stay healthy and hit.
5. Yonathan Mendoza – 2011 International Free Agent – AA Akron
Other Positions: SS (131 GP), 2B (73 GP), 1B (18 GP)
by Justin Lada
23 year old Mendoza has never had a full season of at bats due to either injury or someone else being ahead of him o the depth chart. He still hasn’t found a true consistent home on the diamond. The 23-year old plays a good defensive third base and has always been sharp with his versatile glove. 2017 is the first year he’s had much sustained success at the plate hitting .307/.382. He doesn’t strike out much, puts the ball in play and can move all around the infield. While he’s not as sharp at other positions but he does have some of the same skill sets that have made Erik Gonzalez successful. He may not have the same upside and he is already 23, but Mendoza should stick around a while and might have a shot as a utility player down the line for someone.
4. Wilbis Santiago – 2015 International Free Agent – AZL Indians
Other Positions: 2B (76 GP), 1B (17 GP), LF (1 GP), SS (1 GP)
by Joseph Coblitz
Other than the fact that he’s ancient (21) for the rookie leagues thanks signing late (19) and spending two full seasons in the DSL, Santiago is a decent ballplayer. He’s proficient at three positions and has played everywhere in the infield and has a decent bat to go with his versatility. He was a rare, but successful base stealer in the Dominican, but has struggled so far in Goodyear in that aspect. He doesn’t walk much, but doesn’t strike out much either as a high contact hitter. It seems his future is as a utility man, but if he can jump straight to Lake County next year, he may at least have a future.
3. Henry Pujols – 2015 International Free Agent – AZL Indians
by Joseph Coblitz
The 18 year old Pujols hasn’t been around long enough to really be considered a prospect, but he’s taken the AZL by storm this year, hitting 6 home runs, already two away from the AZL Indians team record of eight, set by Bobby Bradley in 2014 and matched by Oscar Gonzalez last year. However, there’s more to life than hitting home runs in Arizona. Like Gonzalez, Pujols has major strike out issues and doesn’t walk much and doesn’t make as much contact as Bradley or Gonzalez did when they set their marks.
At the same time, he’s a full time third baseman, unlike many on this list (including the players above and below him) and has flashed some decent leather during my time watching him (2016 Extended Spring and Instructional League, 2017 Extended Spring and AZL). While he’s obviously still a bat first third baseman, he can hold his own at this level defensively. In the end, he’s probably just another Cerda, but for now, the possibility he could be more has him ranked high in an extremely disappointing list.
2. Gavin Collins – 2016 Draft, Round 13 – A+ Lynchburg
Other Positions: C (7 GP), 1B (1 GP)
by Justin Lada
Collins should have been a high school draft pick if not for a leg injury at the beginning of his senior year. It worked out pretty well as he got some good experience at Mississippi State University. The Indians drafted him as a catcher but he’s almost been exclusively been a third basemen and it’s worked out well. Collins posted an .829 OPS at Low-A Lake County before earning the bump to Lynchburg. Despite running a higher than normal (so far) BABIP, his numbers are bit inflated in the Carolina League as his strikeout rate has climbed and the walk rate dipped, which is to be expected adjusting to a new, more advanced level, but he’s still producing (131 wRC+).
Collins is a talented enough hitter where he should continue to make improvements with the bat. It remains to be seen if he will progress enough as a hitter to be a regular at third base offensively but at the least he has a chance to be a serviceable third basemen at the Major League hitter even if average. Defensively he has more than enough arm and is a good enough athlete to hold his own over there. His bat will carry him and so far he’s making good on a lot of scouts predictions that the bat would translate to pro ball with a solid hit tool and some pop.
1. Nolan Jones – 2016 Draft, Round 2 – SS Mahoning Valley
Other Positions: SS (5 GP)
by Caitlin Boron
Nolan Jones was drafted by the Indians 55th overall in the second round of the MLB amateur draft out of Holy Ghost Prep High School in 2016. There, he played the short stop position, though after being drafted was moved to 3B after just few appearances at short.
He started his professional career in AZL, showing a slow start that did not match his expected potential. It seemed he held back on the power and struck out 37% of the time (49 K’s through 134 plate appearances). Aside from the K’s and the subtle heat, Jones did show a spark of promise with the knack for getting on base with a .388 OBP.
In 2017, he was promoted to short season single A with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Jones seemed to of found his footing a bit better this season after getting his first year out of the way. Though he is still at a level where his potential and talent at the plate and on the field try to find their balance, it’s comforting to see him settle in. His approach at the plate has always been regarded as average to above average, and he’s falling in line with the latter.
He continues to get on base at a pretty good rate, with the second highest OBP among the Scrappers (.386), and has hit two more home runs and three more doubles from 2016. His numbers are similar, trending in a positive direction showing that something is definitely clicking for the 6’4/185 left-handed bat. The biggest difference between the two seasons is his decreased number of strikeouts, an impressive 17% drop (32 strikeouts through 153 PAs).
Over his last ten games, ones is batting a .368 with a .447 OBP, 14 hits, seven walks, and nine RBI. In just the first few games of August, he’s found himself on a 4-game streak with nine hits and six RBI.
I believe the test to see if he truly has found his stride to forward progress will be in his third season. He’s been able to prove that he can reduce the number of strikeouts, but can he increase the amount of power that’s expected of a third baseman? Or at least show signs that this is in fact the path he’s on. If so, I think he will hold a high spot within the Indians top prospects through his minor league career. This could also help determine an idea of the rate at which he might mature through the minors.