While first base in the deepest position in baseball, but who leads the next wave of potential stars? Who has the potential to be one of the elite at the position for the next 10 years? Let’s take a look at the Top 9 first baseman under 27-years old:
1. Prince Fielder – Milwaukee Brewers – 26-years old
He is the no-brainer top choice for this list, isn’t he? He already has a pair of 45+ home run campaigns under his belt as well as a 141 RBI year. He is already one of the elite at the position and, while his weight will give people concern on if he can continue to produce, it’s hard to argue with what he’s already accomplished. He has gotten off to a solid start in his contract year (3 HR, 15 RBI) and should continue to be one of the best at his position for the foreseeable future.
2. Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals – 24-years old
There will likely be some debate about Butler and his ultimate ceiling, but it is hard to argue with what he brings to the table. He may not be the prototypical power hitting first baseman (though the 15 HR last season is not accurate), but he should produce more than enough. As he continues to get older, the doubles machine (96 doubles between 2009 and 2010, tops in the majors) should see some of them start to fly over the fence. If he can produce 25 HR annually, to go along with a consistent .300+ average, he is going to be a great option in all formats. Just because the power may not be there now, don’t overlook the potential.
3. Ike Davis – New York Mets – 24-years old
The young first baseman didn’t necessarily show a lot of power in the minor leagues, but that may not tell the entire story. He made Citi Field look small at times in 2010 (19 HR in 523 AB) and certainly showed the potential to be a consistent 25-30 HR hitter. Thrust into the middle of the Mets lineup, he continues to shine. He certainly has appeared to be trying to avoid any sophomore slump, driving in at least run in nine of the Mets’ first 10 games of 2011. He may never develop into an elite option, but a solid one nonetheless.
4. Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants – 22-years old
The 2009 fifth round draft pick made quick work of the minor leagues, hitting .352 with 23 HR and 112 RBI across three levels in 2010. He continued to thrive in Spring Training, hitting .282 with 3 HR, 13 RBI and 10 R in 71 AB. While he hasn’t produced in the early going, you have to show patience. Consider his age and the quick work he made in the minors and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him struggle as he just doesn’t have the experience against upper-level pitching. However, it would appear to be only a matter of time before the production begins.
5. Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals – 21-years old
One of the elite prospects in the game, the 2008 first round draft pick is still just getting his feet wet in the professional game. However, before long he could force the Royals to figure out how to get him and Billy Butler in the lineup on a regular basis (obviously one will likely DH and one at 1B) and force Kila Ka’aihue to be looking elsewhere for playing time. He’s gotten off to a decent start at Triple-A (.314, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 35 AB), but give the youngster time to settle into the level. He spent just 195 AB above Single-A prior to 2010 (.313, 13 HR, 35 RBI) and will be a good option before long. He may not arrive until late 2011 or 2012, but he’ll be a force.
6. Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians – 26-years old
Once the centerpiece of the deal that sent CC Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee, LaPorta has not yet lived up to the top prospect billing. However, in 2011 he’s starting to show signs. The average isn’t there yet (though his BABIP has certainly been unlucky), he already has a double, a triple and two home runs. Still young, he may never develop into an elite option, but he certainly has the potential to become a solid player moving forward.
7. Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves – 21-years old
At 21-years old we really don’t know exactly what Freeman is capable of quite yet. The 2007 second round draft pick has not yet shown power potential (50 HR in 1,580 minor league AB), but who is to say that he’s not going to gain strength as he continues to grow? He did hit 18 HR in 461 Triple-A at bats in ’10 (International League) and had 102 doubles in the minor leagues, so you never know. He has struggled in his first taste of Major League action, but you have to show patience. The guy can hit (.301 minor league average, .319 at Triple-A) and should prove to be a viable option before you know it.
8. Justin Smoak – Seattle Mariners – 24-years old
Another young first baseman who was the centerpiece of a trade for an elite starting pitcher (the deal sending Cliff Lee to Texas in ’10), you know Smoak is going to be given plenty of opportunities to produce. The 2008 first round draft pick doesn’t have a big track record to look at (625 minor league AB, 392 major league AB prior to ‘11), so it is hard to draw any definitive conclusions. He was a tremendous power hitter in college, though, and you would think that, sooner or later, he’s going to put it together.
9. Jerry Sands – Los Angeles Dodgers
The question with Sands could be if the Dodgers try to hide him at 1B or in the outfield (which helps keep him down on this list temporarily), because he’s certainly not known for his defense. However, it is hard to argue with the results of his bat. In 2010 he hit .301 with 35 HR and 93 RBI between Single and Double-A and he hasn’t slowed down in the Pacific Coast League in 2011. In his first 37 AB he’s hitting .432 with 5 HR and 17 RBI. With James Loney not providing much punch and a hole in the Dodgers outfield, it is just a matter of time before he gets called up. We’ll have to wait and see where he plays, but the potential for fantasy owners has to be alluring.
Just Missed: James Loney (Los Angeles Dodgers), Daric Barton (Oakland Athletics), Mitch Moreland (Texas Rangers), Anthony Rizzo (San Diego Padres), Mark Trumbo (Los Angeles Angels), Brett Wallace (Houston Astros)
Best of the 27-year olds: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers), Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds), Gaby Sanchez (Florida Marlins)
Honorable Mention: Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) – He meets the age requirement (23-years old), but we all know he should be considered a catcher, not a first baseman
What are your thoughts of this list? Who is too high? Who is too low?
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