I recently began a series of articles on position specific prospects. Today, I continue that series with a look at prospect first basemen.
I will likely omit someone you really like. It happens.
First base is a position in transition. As a matter of fact, corner infielders are in demand. Especially those with power.
Power hitting is becoming much more scarce. There are lots of reasons. Pitching has gotten tremendous attention. Many good young athletes turn to pitching in high school and college. In addition, young guys don't play that much sandlot or neighborhood “pick up” baseball. They play soccer, basketball and spend time with their video games. We just don't have the same type of baseball intensity that was prevalent a couple decades ago. The toll is being felt in the number of well-qualified athletes choosing baseball as a potential way to make a living.
Having said that, professional baseball is immensely popular as a spectator sport. And people want to work in baseball. They want to be part of an organization that has something to do with baseball. But not many people have the skill to play baseball as a career.
With fewer and fewer people meeting the demands of a corner infielder, the net result is fewer and fewer options for teams to select in the First Year Player Draft. I recently did a series on the draft, where I looked at all the first-round “busts.” In that series, I pointed out how very few first basemen were drafted.
The players I list today aren't in the category of Albert Pujols ($31), Joey Votto ($27), Paul Goldschmidt ($24), Prince Fielder ($24), Edwin Encarnacion ($23), Adrian Gonzalez ($21), Allen Craig ($21), Billy Butler ($20), Mark Trumbo ($19) or Anthony Rizzo ($19). Each of those was a $19 or above mixed league player in the 2013 RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Guide. Interestingly, this year that $19 figure applied to 10 players. In 2010, it included 11 players. The big question – are any first basemen below the $19 figure on the rise? Maybe Freddie Freeman.
But I doubt it with Freeman. Always have. Maybe Eric Hosmer. Hasn't shown it yet this year, and I bought in. He's disappointed me. Other than those two, I don't see anyone else for next year. Or the year after. And probably the year after that. The position is in freefall in terms of fantasy dollar investment. And who knows? will Albert Pujols be worth $19 if he can't run or walk by next year's drafts and auctions?
I believe next year we will still see the same names on the list at $19 or above, but we won't be seeing many new names being added for quite some time.
The end result? Buy first basemen and third basemen in keeper leagues. They will have increasing value as time goes on. Especially Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Votto and Trumbo (provided he can qualify at first base in your league. He may not.) Butler will hold his value, but who knows how long Prince can keep it up? The Tigers think it will be a while. I do, too. But I have concerns. Will Encarnacion hit home runs consistently? You tell me. Gonzalez will be fading in the future. Especially regarding power. Yonder Alonso has a chance to join the group if he can add some much needed power.
Here are some players I am targeting as potential impact hitters at first base.
Matt Adams - Cardinals
If you haven't seen him hit, you have a treat in store. In my MLB.com article I said he can block out the sun. He's huge. He has natural lift on his swing and he hits home runs. There are two problems, however: Can he stay healthy, or will he forever fight oblique strains due to his size? (And that's my concern with Prince as well, by the way.) Concern #2 - Will he get playing time? Yes. When Allen Craig moves back to the outfield along with Oscar Taveras and Matt Holiday. Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran will be gone. The Cardinals' lineup will be lethal. Buy your Cardinals now – including Adams. He's probably the best of the young crop.
In time, and by time, I mean five years, he will hit for a very nice average. Initially, he'll make contact but he'll hover around .250ish. With some big bombs.
Jonathan Singleton - Astros
He should have an impact bat for the Astros. That's a relative statement. Remember, I said for the Astros. He and outfielder George Springer should be their best power hitters. But he will have lots of adjusting to do to major league pitching. The bonus for Singleton is the fact he will play half his games at Minute Maid Park. He would squeeze even more juice from his bat if he were right-handed. (I hope you liked that line.) Singleton will be an impact player - perhaps, and I do mean perhaps, an eventual $20 first baseman.
And that friends, is the conclusion of my potential impact first basemen.
Every club has at least one first baseman waiting in the wings. Some are more advanced than others. Some are more suspects than prospects. I would guess my next tier of first basemen includes:
Joey Terdoslavich - Atlanta Braves
Stuck behind Freeman in Atlanta. I liked this guy when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League. He has some big time power. I would like to see him playing for some club sooner than later. He's in Triple-A now and hitting well. He's the closest to the impact list, but he needs a chance. I would trade for him right now if I were a team in need of a first baseman (like the Rockies.)
Dan Vogelbach - Chicago Cubs
I like this guy. He can hit for power. He's currently playing at Class-A but he will continue to develop. He is a long-term watch. The Cubs won't have a need with Rizzo, but Vogelbach intrigues me. Teams always find a place to put good hitters. He has had an outstanding track record.
Chris Marrero - Washington Nationals
He has been plagued by injuries, but has always shown an ability to hit. If he can stay healthy; he might be able to help the Nationals. He's currently at Triple-A where he's having an outstanding season. I look for him to surface as a major league player somewhere.
And then the next tier:
Jon Griffin - Arizona Diamondbacks
Stuck behind Goldschmidt, but he has power and an ability to play. Has to learn how to hit quality pitching.
Christian Walker - Baltimore Orioles
An average player, at best. Has some power. Currently in Low-A. He could falter as the pitching gets tougher.
Travis Shaw - Boston Red Sox
Currently at Double-A and hitting for average. Power has not shown up this year, but he has some pop.
Keon Barnum - Chicago White Sox
Former first-round draft pick in 2012 out of high school. Very, very long term. Years away.
Andy Wilkins - Chicago White Sox
May be in over his head at Double-A. He faltered there last season and is back again. The White Sox are rushing him due to an unmet need at first base with Paul Konerko aging. He's big and strong, but I'm not buying - yet. He falls in my category of “potential late bloomer.”
Jesus Aguilar - Cleveland Indians
The Indians didn't protect him this winter and he wasn't claimed in the Rule 5 draft. He's a big, slow moving guy with some pop in his bat. Currently playing in Double-A, with very mediocre results.
Harold Riggins - Colorado Rockies
Here's a big guy with a future. He'll be playing in high altitude Coors and he can launch a few rockets. Currently at High-A Modesto. He could be the first baseman of the future if the team is unhappy with Jordan Pacheco going forward. Beware though. Lots of strikeouts.
Dean Green - Detroit Tigers
First base is a huge need for Detroit. The backup is Miguel Cabrera and then? There really isn't anyone in the organization. Green comes closest. He's only in High-A, but he's hitting well.
Brian Fletcher - Kansas City Royals
The job is Eric Hosmer's for years to come. Unless they sour on him. Fletcher is not an option for us in fantasy, but he may be the best Royals option. Currently playing at Double-A and not hitting.
Los Angeles Dodgers
If the team can't trade Andre Ethier, why not try Yasiel Puig at first base? They have no other options at this time that I have seen or heard about. Just a thought.
Joe Mahoney - Miami Marlins
At one point, I felt Mahoney was going to be the Orioles' next first baseman. It didn't work out. He has another chance, but he's in that long list of guys that are really only Quad-A players. He has made it to the Marlins, but he is currently biding his time on the disabled list with a bad hamstring.
Hunter Morris - Milwaukee Brewers
Given a chance to win the first base job this spring when Corey Hart had knee surgery, Morris failed badly. He just didn't hit. I saw him in the Fall League. He didn't hit. You know what? I don't think he can hit quality pitching. At Triple-A this season he isn't hitting.
Kennys Vargas - Minnesota Twins
This is an intriguing guy. He's a 6-foot-5 string bean with some pop in his bat. I was tempted to move him up on my chart, but he has to show me he can hit in more than one season. Currently at High-A and not doing that well. We'll see. Don't write him off totally.
Aderlin Rodriguez - New York Mets
He wilts as the pitching gets better. I'm not sure he will adjust enough to ever get a whiff of major league pitching. He's currently struggling at High-A in his fifth season of pro ball. Should be further along.
Greg Bird - New York Yankees
This guy has some raw power, but it hasn't developed. He's tall and thin with room to grow. The Yankees are high on him. Currently feeling his way at Class-A
Nate Freiman - Oakland Athletics
I saw Freiman in the Arizona Fall League. He hit some monster home runs. He's one of the biggest guys playing the position at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds. When he hits a ball, it goes, but he isn't Matt Adams. He has bounced around this spring and finally landed with the A's as a utility player. Not a great fantasy option for anything other than an occasional home run. He'll be back at Triple-A at some point.
Matt Olson - Oakland Athletics
May get some future playing time in Oakland. Currently not hitting well in Low-A.
Darin Ruf - Philadelphia Phillies
Is really no longer exclusively a first baseman. He is playing both outfield and first base Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He would fit well at first eventually, but he struggles against good pitching. He needs lots of work - just like Dom Brown did when the Phillies rushed him.
Alex Dickerson - Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates like him. He's already at Double-A and I think he may be in over his head. He's only 22. He's on the fast track. Has some power, but he's just getting used to better pitching.
The Padres are set with Yonder Alonso. He should be improving every year and may, indeed, creep into the $19 to $20 range if his power increases.
Ricky Oropesa - San Francisco Giants
Only an average hitter, he will have to jump over both Brandon Belt and Brett Pill. It won't happen anytime soon. Pill is killing the ball at Triple-A Fresno and breathing down Belt's neck. Oropesa is scuffling in Double-A.
Alex Liddi - Seattle Mariners
Liddi has to be considered the closest to being a first base prospect for the Mariners. He's a good athlete, but is very challenged defensively. It really looks like Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales have to do the job. Liddi is at Triple-A, playing both first and third and hitting well.
Cameron Seitzer - Tampa Bay Rays
He's a guy that can hit. He's currently on the fast track, already playing at Double-A in his third season. I look for him to get a chance to show the Rays what he can do in a position of organizational need.
Ronald Guzman - Texas Rangers
Guzman was a free agent signed last season from the Dominican. He hasn't begun play yet this season.
K.C. Hobson - Toronto Blue Jays
If he can be considered a prospect, he's hitting .136 at High-A this season.
Roy Halladay is not throwing as many cutters this season. He's relying more on curves and location. The results have been mixed, to say the least.
I urged people to pick up Jean Segura. I hope you did. He may have a cool period as all players do, but the guy can hit.
I haven't seen what Joe Mauer has done in a long time. He was on fire and nobody could get him out. Then, just as quickly, he went into the freezer.
Starling Marte is the real deal. Pirates scouts are really happy with the progress he's made.
I still believe in the Padres and Mariners. I think the Padres have to get some pitching back. The Mariners? Michael Saunders being hurt didn't help. And Jesus Montero? Yikes.
I watched Matt Cain pitch this week. He was really, really struggling. What happens if he and Tim Lincecum can't throw strikes? Yikes again.
I wish I could get my hands on some shares of Patrick Corbin.
I'm still thinking Dylan Bundy will have surgery.
Brandon Belt is heating up. Hunter Pence isn't.
Colorado just might win games 9-8 now that they have Nolan Arenado. Those who have followed me know what I think of him. The man can just flat out rake.
Peter Bourjos has a bad hamstring. So does Giancarlo Stanton. Two guys that are important to their clubs.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff and on MLB.com in the Voices section.