25 & Under Rankings (2018): Top 5 First Baseman: A Bright Future Awaits The Position

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Who are the next wave of superstars in Major League Baseball? That’s what we are about to dive into, as we go position-by-position, looking for the best players who are 25-years old or younger (as of April 1, 2018). Obviously, things will be slightly skewed to those who have already reached the Majors and produced, but minor leaguers and their upside will not be ignored.

First base a significant infusion of young talent last year, with Rhys Hoskins (though he’s going to shift to the outfield) and Cody Bellinger both emerging in the Majors.  Sprinkle in a few other high upside options and it’s easy to see a bright future at the position.  Who are the options you want to target?  Let’s take a look:

 

1) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies
Age – 25

We’ve already dug into Hoskins, in detail, which you can read by clicking here.  The obvious key for Hoskins is his ability to pair strong plate discipline with significant power.  Take a look at these SwStr% from ’17:

  • Triple-A – 6.4%
  • Majors – 7.1%

As we noted his .259 average in the Majors came courtesy of poor luck (.241 BABIP) and not his approach (he also posted an impressive 24.0% O-Swing%).  Couple that with clear 30+ HR power, even if he can’t maintain last season’s pace of a home run every 9.4 AB, and we are looking at a potentially elite bat who could routinely hit .290 (with .300+ possible) with 35+ HR and 100+ RBI.  While others may get more attention, this is the player we’d prefer to own.

 

2) Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers
Age – 22

Bellinger is going to get the bulk of the attention, and he does deserve it after hitting .267 with 39 HR and 97 RBI over 548 PA in the Majors last season.  He brings the most power of any player on this list, but he falls behind Hoskins due to the potential to struggle with his average.  He’s not going to be Joey Gallo, but a 13.2% SwStr% leading to a 26.6% strikeout rate does raise a bit of a red flag.

Opposing pitchers were still throwing him fastballs 63.99% of the time, though given these Whiff% we’d expect that mark to fall:

  • Hard – 12.34%
  • Breaking – 18.11%
  • Offspeed – 18.73%

He’ll need to prove that he can keep the strikeouts in check, especially as pitchers adjust, and show that he can be a consistent .270/40 HR threat.  If he can do that he could leap to the top spot here, but for now he falls just short.

 

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3) Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates
Age – 25

Bell’s calling card was supposed to be a strong approach, with the questions centering around his power.  So consider it a bit of a surprise that in his rookie season he hit .255 with 26 HR over 549 AB.  That said the numbers are promising, as he was able to show strong plate discipline in his underlying metrics and pair it with some growing power:

  • SwStr% – 8.8%
  • O-Swing% – 26.7%

He posted a 10.6% walk rate and should be able to improve upon a .278 BABIP.  In other words he appears primed to take the next step, developing into a .280 hitter with the potential to go 30/100 as he continues to mature and develop.

 

4) Greg Bird – New York Yankees
Age – 25

Health…  Health…  Health…  Bird has been incapable of staying on the field, though he’s entering 2018 healthy and with high expectations.  He’s shown good patience, with an 11.2% walk rate in the Majors last season, as well as a strong approach (20.4% O-Swing%) despite struggling to a .190 average.  There’s also hope that he can cut down on the strikeouts, which could be skewed due to the consistent missed time.  That’s key, because there’s no questioning the power/RBI potential (especially with little pressure in a loaded Yankee lineup).

If he can stay on the field we are looking at a .260 hitter with 25+ HR, with the potential to be even more than that.

 

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5) Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies
Age – 23

He’s expected to open the season as Colorado’s starting first baseman, and if he plays regularly he has a similar upside to the Yankees’ Greg Bird.  He’s not going to be the .374 hitter he showed at Triple-A last season (.416 BABIP), but he showed improvement in his SwStr% upon his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A:

  • Double-A – 14.9%
  • Triple-A – 11.6%

That’s significant, and it should allow him to keep his strikeout rate in the 22-26% range.  That’s more than enough, considering his power, and lines him up as a similar .260/25 HR threat (and playing in Coors Field, he could exceed those levels).  He gets the edge for this spot for the potential to be a well-rounded player (it wouldn’t be surprising to see him pop off a .280/30+ HR season at some point) as opposed to others who are one-trick ponies (i.e. Joey Gallo).

 

Those who just missed:

  • Yordan Alvarez – Houston Astros (Age 20) – Our Top 1B prospect, he has the potential to take the Josh Bell path
  • Joey Gallo – Texas Rangers (Age 24) – He may hit 40 HR, but he pairs it with abysmal plate discipline and could hit .220 or worse
  • Matt Olson – Oakland A’s (Age 24) – He’s somewhat of a Joey Gallo-lite
  • Dominic Smith – New York Mets (Age 22) – There were once high hopes, but he may lose his job to Adrian Gonzalez for Opening Day. Keep an eye on him, but the stock is trending in the wrong direction.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers03/14/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Shortstops03/21/1802/27/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

21-40:
Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
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Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

2 comments

  1. Jb says:

    I would have Trey Mancini ahead of Bird Bell and McMahon. He can hit .290 with 25-30 HR power and should continue to improve

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