First base is usually reserved for the immobile. They aren’t fast, athletic, or able to move around. They are converted outfielders, third basemen, and catchers who age over time. It’s almost like a second spot to put a DH. Players like Pujols, Texeira, and others all have moved from faster positions to there early in their careers. Others have moved later in their careers, like Carlos Lee.
First Base isn’t usually a hot prospect area. You get guys like Rizzo, Freeman, and others who come up, but not nearly as many are in the low minors as there are SS and CF. And slowly they all migrate towards 1B as they age, or bulk up, and slow down.
In the future, there are choices such as Miguel Sano, Ryan Lavarnaway, and plenty more that will make the move as young 1B players and anchor the position. But for now, we’re stuck with Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Paul Konerko holding major league spots from the youngins. But, there is some hope.
Rank. Name (TEAM) (T100 Rnk) [ETA*] – Comment
*ETA is when I believe they will be able to get a full time job on their team in the majors, not their first PA. FT Jobs include platooning and playing half weeks.
1. Jonathan Singleton (HOU)  – Singleton is a prime example of what a first basemen should be. He has some pop in his bat, has a good average, is young for his leagues, and is athletic enough that the Astros have tried him in LF. He’s got future potential as well to grow in all those areas. He’s the clear cut #1 first basemen in the minors
2. Dan Vogelbach (CHC)  – Vogelbach is an interesting case. Some give him support (like John Sickels grading him as a B) and others trash on him (Law continually). I personally like him and think he can square up a baseball and drive it. He’s a ways away, but I don’t think his body type is preventative of him becoming a great hitter down the road.
3. Matt Adams (STL)  – Adams is definitely one of the forgotten about prospects. He hits the ball hard and has conquered Triple-A already. He just doesn’t have an opportunity on the major league club as of yet. The Cards are so deep that I can’t see them finding a good hole for him, and he may need to be traded to gain all of his value
4. Hunter Morris (MIL)  – He broke through in Double-A, winning the MVP award and crushing the ball. He hit .303 with 28 HR. I don’t see him as this good of a hitter in the major leagues, but I could definitely see 25 HR with a .280 average, or somewhere around there. If you can reimagine Garrett Jones (PIT) in 2012 (27 HR, .274 BA, 20% K, 6.4% BB), that’s what I see Morris’ peak as.
5. CJ Cron (LAA)  – Cron is a true threat at the plate. In High-A in 2012, he hit .293 with 27 HR (113 wRC+). I like him as a future slugger at the postion, but I don’t see a hole for him, which explains why I have him listed in 2015. There just isn’t a great spot to fit him into the roster for the next two years.
6. Darin Ruf (PHI)  – Ruf is someone who just absolutely skyrocketed in the last two months when he went on a power tear. He hit 20 HR in August/September in the minors, leading most to fly him up on their lists. However, I don’t think that my previous perception of him has changed. I still see him as a player who will hit .275 with 25 HR in his peak, and lesser production otherwise.
7. Jesus Aguilar (CLE)  – Aguilar has a special bat, one that could be found in Cleveland sooner than later. He’s got some pop and has put up some good numbers in 2012 and 2011 (wRC+ of 158 in Low-A, 104 and 127 in High-A, and 152 in AA). He’s hitting the ball hard and walks well. He could surprise and be a .270 hitter with 12-15 bombs and good OPB numbers
8. Matt Olson (OAK)  - Sleeper. Olson has a good bat and is an advanced hitter from the 2012 draft. He’s got a strong bat and I think he can end up hitting for good averages and solid pop. Nothing elite from a first basemen, but I don’t think he’ll end up disappointing many. Hopefully his talent shows through here, I’m a fan.
9. Keon Barnum (CHW)  – Barnum had likely the most raw power out of any prospect in the 2012 draft, according to some. He’s limited defensively, but his bat profiles to be above average with a lot of pop. Still a long ways to go, however, so I’m not counting on him to be high on the list until he’s more proven.
10. Ronald Guzman (TEX)  – One of the typical Texas prospects. Raw, young, and athletic. He’s got a chance to be very good, and a chance to never see Triple-A. He’s got a good swing and I like him, but I don’t know how much of his “star potential” will shine through. I’m betting on him becoming a decent regular, but he’s got a long ways to go and a lot to prove.
11. Nick Delmonico (BAL)  – Delmonico’s bat is solid and he could end up elsewhere on the diamond, but to date he’s only played 2B and 1B for the majority. He could end up hitting 15-20 HR in the majors with 5-10 swipes. That’s be above average for a 3B, but likely just a bit below average at 1B, with a lower average than most. Consider him as a 3B to be fantasy relevant.
12. Alex Dickerson (PIT)  – Dickerson came out of college as an advanced hitter, and he’s proved to be up to that billing. In the pitching-friendly FSL, he hit .295 with 13 HR and 12 SB. I don’t think the SB will stick, but I think he should be a solid hitter in the majors, likely a second division starter. I could live with .280 with 12-15 HR yearly.
13. Nathan Freiman (HOU)  – A Rule-5 Draftee for Houston from the Padres, Freiman has an inside track to a MLB job, which gives him a bit of an advantage over other prospects. He’s 6’8 and has some power, so we’re waiting to see what he can do with it. Lucky for him, Houston also has the DH rule now so he will be able to get more at bats aside Wallace and Carter.
14. Jose Osuna (PIT)  – I don’t like Osuna as much as I like Dickerson, but he still can be a solid second-division regular with some talent. I don’t think that he’s elite by any means, but Osuna could be a role player, one with some pop (16 HR in 2012) and a .265 average. That’s workable.
15. Ricky Oropesa (SFG)  – Ricky is a good hitter, one with decent pop (16 HR) and so-so averages (.263 in 2012). He doesn’t look like a future star or anything, but he could turn out to be a solid prospect who can hit off the bench.
16. William Beckwith (ATL)  – Beckwith is an interesting case of power and speed. In 2012, Beckwith hit 15 HR and swiped 17 bases, odd for a 1B/DH player. He doesn’t profile great in his BB/K ratios, but his bat could be good enough to earn him a shot as a backup player in Atlanta. However, he will not overtake Freeman anytime soon.
17. Christian Walker (BAL)  – Walker doesn’t have elite power of sorts, but he’s a polished hitter and one that could climb the ladder quickly. He could jump fast and be in the majors by 2014, because of his college background (South Carolina back-to-back championships) and his polished style. He is limited to 1B, however.
18. Kennys Vargas (MIN)  – Sleeper. 118, 149, 132, 180. Those are Vargas’ wRC+ from 2009 to 2012. That’s pretty awesome. He’s old for his level, and is 22, but he’s got a chance to surprise. He should be in High-A in 2013, and might get the fast track to Minnesota by mid-2014 if he keeps mashing. One to watch.
19. Neftali Soto (CIN)  – Soto is your big power hitter who could slug 25+ home runs a year and never break .245 in the majors. He gets the nod here on the list because of the power potential, but I’m not counting on him being anything more than a replacement level player. Plus, Votto will be blocking him for the forseeable future.
20. Jonathan Griffin (ARI)  – He profiles as a CAL-League mirage, one of many. He hit .295 with 26 home runs in 2012 in High-A. He’s older (24 in April) and likely needs to perform in AA in 2013 to keep good prospect status, but he could end up a good backup or a low end regular if everything works out. That’s not a guarantee however.
HM. Chris Marrero (WAS)  – Marrero debuted in 2011, but he tore his hamstring and hasn’t returned to the show since. He likely has 15 HR power with a solid average if he can recover, but 2012 didn’t show him able to hit the ball well in Triple-A. He’s a wait and see guy, without a major league hole to fill either.
HM. Joe Terdoslavich (ATL)  – Funny name. Anyways, the Braves tried the High-A to AAA jump and failed as he struggled mightily in Triple-A. He bounced back in Double-A after mid-season, but I’m not buying him as a true major league slugger.
HM. Chris McGuiness (CLE)  – Bounced around during his career, McGuiness has a chance to fill the Cleveland 1B hole long term if he can show up and play. That’s a question mark for sure, but he hit 23 HR in 2012 with a respectable .268 BA. It is possible that he could be a .265 hitter with 20 HR yearly, which should hold a spot in Cleveland. He could also be a quad-A player, which wouldn’t surprise me.
HM. Tommy Medica (SD)  – After sustaining an injury to push him off of behind the plate, Medica hasn’t really settled back in. He crushed CAL league pitching muchlike Griffin, but I don’t believe that Medica will turn into much, because he does lack a surefire position that Griffin does. He might be able to hit, but he’s older (25 in April) and needs to move FAST in order to not be forgotten and passed over.
Overall, this position doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Remember though that when I talk about projecting a player, I’m talking typically a very good scenario for the player. Not the perfect, but a good one that keeps them on track into the majors. Most of these guys will be derailed or not get an opportunity to show what they’ve got.
This position is difficult to project because there are hundreds of MLB players who will need to move to 1B in their career because they don’t cut it. A lot of catchers and LF players will make the move to extend their careers. So I wouldn’t count on filling my 1B hole from prospects. But if you do want to approach it that way, there are a few options that seem intriguing throughout the list. Nothing spectacular, but also nothing that screams that you have to go out and buy Albert Pujols.
Not many of these guys will be worthwhile in shallower leagues to hold on to, aside from the top few. But if you have a ton of empty space on the back end of your roster, I’d pick up a Nate Freiman or Jesus Aguilar and see what they can do if they are given time. Heck, some of the HMs may turn out to be decent WW adds if something goes down.
I’m not putting a ton of stock into this position, and you shouldn’t either. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good player or two just laying down as a sleeper waiting for the opportunity.
The sleepers of the list are Olson (OAK) and Vargas (SEA). Both have the potential to surprise. Olson could be similar to Vogelbach in a way, and find himself top-5 in a year. And Vargas could surprise from under the radar, becoming a hot pickup if he tears up the league for a week or a month sometime in the future.