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John Sickels' Column: The Top First Basemen

John Sickels

John Sickels writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

The Top First Basemen

Let's continue our look at top prospects, moving on to first base from catching and pitching in previous weeks.

Joey Votto

Background: Rated as the number ten prospect on our RotoWire Top 100 list, Votto was drafted in the 2nd round in 2002 out of high school in Toronto. A left-handed hitter and thrower, Votto has had outstanding 2006 and 2007 seasons, dominating the Double-A and Triple-A levels, then hitting .321/.360/.548 in a 24-game trial with the Reds. He has nothing left to prove in the minors. He was born September 3rd, 1983.

Tools and Skills: Votto has very good power and should hit for at least a moderate batting average, with a high walk rate boosting his OBP. His defense can be erratic but he's worked hard at it. Although lacking speed, he's stolen 42 bases the last two seasons thanks to good instincts. He can be streaky at times but overall he has few flaws.

Performance: Votto is a career .289/.385/.476 hitter in the minors, but has been particularly impressive the last two seasons, hitting 44 homers along with 67 doubles and a .307 combined average.

Projection: Votto is challenging Scott Hatteberg for the first base job this spring, but it seems hard to believe that he won't get the majority of the playing time. He's a leading Rookie of the Year contender and should be a major force in the Cincinnati lineup for years to come.

Daric Barton

Background: Listed as the number 32 prospect on our RotoWire Top 100 list, Barton was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2003, out of high school in Huntington Beach, California. Traded to Oakland in the 2004 Mark Mulder deal, Barton has suffered from injuries at times but has been a very strong hitter when healthy, especially last year during his brief major league trial. A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he was born August 16th, 1985.

Tools and Skills: Barton is one of the purest hitters in the minors, combining a sweet swing with outstanding strike zone judgment. Although physically strong, he hasn't produced consistent home run power. Scouts don't like his lack of athleticism and shaky defense, but the hitting tool stands out as a big plus and Oakland expects his power production to increase.

Performance: Barton is a career .301/.414/.459 hitter in the minors, including .293/.389/.438 last year in Triple-A at age 21.

Projection: Barton hit .347 in 18 games for Oakland last year, and while he is unlikely to replicate that in a full season, he should at least hit .280 with a high on-base percentage. He'll need to boost the homer production to develop into a genuine superstar, but it's possible.

Lars Anderson

Background: Rated as the number 51 prospect on the RotoWire Top 100 list, Anderson was drafted by the Red Sox in the 18th round in 2006, out of high school in Carmichael, California. He was considered a first round talent, but worries about his bonus demands dropped him down the list, though the Red Sox were obviously able to sign him. Anderson had a terrific pro debut in '07, thriving in full-season Class A despite skipping the rookie levels. A left-handed hitter and thrower, he was born September 25, 1987.

Tools and Skills: Scouts love the power inherent in Anderson's 6-4, 215 pound frame. Unlike many young sluggers, he shows polish as well, working counts effectively and showing power to the opposite field. He hasn't fully tapped into his strength yet, but the Red Sox think this will happen soon. Anderson is a decent defensive player who is not a liability with the glove.

Performance: Anderson hit .292/.393/.446 combined between the South Atlantic and California Leagues last year, with just 11 homers but with 37 doubles and 82 walks.

Projection: The Red Sox aren't in the position of having to rush Anderson, but he should still make his Double-A debut sometime in 2008. He could be ready by late '09, depending on how quickly the homers come.

Chris Marrero

Background: Listed at number 71 on our RotoWire Top 100 list, Marrero was drafted in the first round in 2006 out of high school in Opa Locka, Florida. He did very well in A-ball last year, dominating the South Atlantic League with his power and holding his own after a mid-season promotion to the Carolina League, where he was one of the youngest regulars. An outfielder last year, he was moved to first base this past fall given his defensive limits.

Tools and Skills: Marrero has very good-to-excellent power and is not a strict pull hitter. His strike zone judgment can be erratic, but when he's locked in he is difficult to fool. His main flaw is a lack of speed, limiting his defense in the outfield though he should be OK at first base once he gets more experience. The position switch will increase the pressure on him to hit but this is not expected to be a problem given his offensive skills.

Performance: Marrero is a career .280/.343/.475 hitter, including a .293/.337/.535 mark last year before his promotion and a .259/.338/.431 mark after it. He combined for 23 homers and 25 doubles, but didn't look out of place against older competition.

Projection: Marrero will spend at least part of 2008 in Double-A, and how he does there will determine how rapidly he reaches the majors. Optimists think this could happen this year, though mid-to-late 2009 seems a better bet.

Chris Carter

Background: Ranked at 87th on our RotoWire Top 100 list, Carter was drafted by the White Sox in the 15th round in 2005, out of high school in Las Vegas. He was traded to Arizona in the December Carlos Quentin trade, then went to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal. Carter is part of Oakland's backup plan at first base (along with prospect Sean Doolittle) in the long run should Daric Barton struggle, though he'll need at least another two years in the minors. Carter was born December 18, 1986, and is a right-handed hitter and thrower.

Tools and Skills: Big and physical, Carter has terrific raw power and has improved his plate discipline greatly since his pro debut back in '05. Although he has a reputation as primarily a slugger, scouts say he can be a complete hitter and should do well in the batting average department down the line. His defense at first base is mediocre, at best, and will need a lot of work to become decent with the glove. This is a similarity he shares with Barton.

Performance: Carter is a career .284/.373/.514 hitter in the minors, including .291/.383/.522 last year with 25 homers and 67 walks in 467 at-bats for Kannapolis in the Sally League. He has reduced his strikeout rate as he's moved up, a positive marker.

Projection: Still some distance from the majors, Carter projects as a 25-homer, possibly 30-homer hitter, with a high on-base percentage and at least a solid batting average. He needs time to develop and won't be in the majors before 2010.

Article first appeared 3/5/08