Top 10 First Basemen Prospects (Preseason 2018 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

First base prospects are often ignored, for better or worse.  There is currently a group of intriguing prospects at the position, many of which have the potential to emerge as Top 10 options shortly after they arrive in the Majors.  Who are they?  Let’s take a look:

(Note – We have not included the Rays’ Brandon McKay on these rankings, as he will be listed among the Left-Handed Pitchers.  If he were to be included he’d be ranked #5, though splitting his focus adds extra risk that can’t be ignored.)

 

1) Yordan Alvarez – Houston Astros
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+
Astros’ #4 Prospect

Alvarez played at Single-A (139 PA) and High-A (252 PA) and showed a good approach as he posted an 8.6% SwStr% and 10.7% walk rate.  He didn’t show much power, with 12 HR (as well as 17 doubles and 3 triples), but listed at 6’5” and 225 lbs. he looks the part of a power hitter.  We’ve also seen players with terrific strike zone presence mature and develop power as they progress (think Josh Bell) and it’s possible that Alvarez takes a similar path.  He won’t turn 21-years old until June, and it’s possible the power comes quickly.

 

2) Pavin Smith – Arizona Diamondbacks
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+
Diamondbacks #1 Prospect

Smith was selected seventh overall in the 2017 draft, and playing at Low-A he quickly displayed why he was considered one of the better bats in the draft class.  Over 223 PA he hit .318, walking (27) more than he struck out (24) and displaying an ability to make consistent contact (6.7% SwStr%).  The problem was the lack of power he displayed, though he did show a propensity for extra base hits:

  • Doubles – 15
  • Triples – 2
  • Home Runs – 0

The belief is that there is more power for him to tap into, but that’s something we’ve seen from similar players in recent years (look at Josh Bell, for instance, who turned a strong approach and matured into power).  Don’t write him off and assume the power won’t develop, as it’s easier to imagine more home runs than a player suddenly developing the approach/discipline Smith already owns.

 

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3) Peter Alonso – New York Mets
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
Mets’ #2 Prospect

A 2016 second round pick, Alonso spent most of his time at High-A (346 PA) before getting his feet wet at Double-A (47 PA).  He showed a good approach at the plate, with an 8.9% SwStr%, and there is significantly more upside in the power department.  Of course he showed promise already, with 18 HR in 353 AB, but when you look at a few things it’s easy to envision that growing:

  • Size – 6’6”, 245 lbs.
  • Extra Base Hits – On top of the HR he added 27 doubles and 1 triple

The presence of Dominic Smith is going to slow Alonso’s ascent to the Majors, but the potential is there for him to develop into a 30+ HR thumper who can make consistent contact.  A first base only prospect is often going to be overlooked, but don’t make that mistake.

 

4) Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B+
Rockies’ #2 Prospect

McMahon made his MLB debut in ’17, after splitting the year at Double-A (205 PA) and Triple-A (314 PA).  The biggest question is where he’s going to fit into the Rockies’ lineup, and having seen time at first base, second base and third base the worst case scenario has him being utilized as a utility player (though there could be a path to playing time at first base, depending on where Ian Desmond is utilized).

He showed an ability to hit the ball hard consistently (26.1% line drive rate) and make enough contact (17.7% strikeout rate courtesy of an 11.6% SwStr%) to hit for a solid average.  He’s not a .355 hitter, but .270ish is very much for real.  When coupled with the potential to hit 30+ HR in any given season (39 doubles, 4 triples and 20 HR in the minors last year) and steal 8-12 bases (he’s had 11 in each of the past two seasons) the upside is apparent.

 

5) Bobby Bradley – Cleveland Indians
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
Indians’ #3 Prospect

Hitting .251 isn’t going to blow you away, though we all know it’s Bradley’s power that is going to be the key to his success (23+ HR in each of the past three seasons).  He improved his strikeout rate, despite the promotion, going from 29.7% to 22.9%, and continued to show an ability to draw walks (10.3%).  Not only did he improve his strikeouts, but he dramatically cut his SwStr% (which further enhances his outlook):

  • 2016 – 15.9%
  • 2017 – 12.1%

Granted a .260 hitter with 25+ HR is fairly prevalent around the game these days, but that shouldn’t take away from his ability.  The upside is there to make an impact.

 

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6) Evan White – Seattle Mariners
ETA – 2019
Grade – B
Mariners’ #2 Prospect

White was the team’s 2017 first round selection (17th overall) and showed a strong approach in his brief time at Low-A in ’17.  Over 55 PA he struck out (6) the same amount that he walked (6) and wasn’t overmatched (8.6% SwStr%).  He was 21-years old so you can argue that he was old for the level, but he also has the potential to move quickly through the system.

While there are concerns regarding his power, we’ve seen it before that a strong approach at the plate can lead to future gains in the home run department.  Maybe he’s never a 30+ HR threat, but is it a stretch to think that he can generate 25 HR routinely?  As long as he keeps the approach that’s going to make him extremely interesting (though the numbers would profile better as a corner outfielder, a spot he could transition to) especially with multiple outlets citing him as a potential Gold Glove candidate.

 

7) Nick Pratto – Kansas City Royals
Grade – B
ETA – 2021
Royals’ #2 Prospect

The 14th overall selection in the 2017 draft, the talk is that he can hit and has a strong approach at the plate.  He didn’t show it in his first taste of professional baseball, hitting .247 with a 25.2% strikeout rate over 230 PA in Rookie Ball.  Obviously there’s going to be an adjustment period and we’ve seen comps to Joey Votto and Eric Hosmer thrown around, but we’ll need to actually see it on the field.

Pratto did at least show that he’s starting to develop some power, logging 22 extra base hits in 198 AB, and he also showed an ability to draw a walk (10.4%).  The upside is there and he could make a big leap with a strong showing this year (think “B+” grade).  That said, considering the struggles we’ll remain cautious for now.

 

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8) Edwin Rios – Los Angeles Dodgers
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
Dodgers #6 Prospect

Never heavily hyped, all Rios seems to do is hit.  Splitting time between Double and Triple-A in ’17 he hit .309 with 24 HR and 91 RBI, while also showing the upside of even more power (he added 34 doubles).  The question is going to be if he can maintain his average considering his aggressive approach:

  • SwStr% – 13.0%
  • Walk Rate – 6.7%

He did improve his walk rate upon his promotion to Triple-A (9.5%), but that was over 190 PA so it’s easy to argue “small sample size”.  He needs to prove that he can continue to hit against the highest level of pitching, as there is risk of being exposed.

 

9) Jake Bauers – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
Rays’ #5 Prospect

Bauers spent the year as a 21-year old at Triple-A, hitting .263 with 13 HR and 20 SB.  He continued to show a strong approach, with a 9.0% SwStr% helping lead to a 19.5% strikeout rate and 13.6% walk rate (a strong followup from his 15.3% strikeout rate and 12.6% walk rate at Double-A in ’16).  He may never develop into a 30 HR slugger, but there is a bit more power (he added 31 doubles and 1 triple) to be found as he continues to develop.  He’s not going to be able to maintain 20 SB, as speed is not his biggest asset, and he profiles more as a 20/10 type player (with a little bit more in the power department possible).  The biggest question may be if he can continue to produce against southpaws, as he actually put up better numbers against them in ’17:

  • LHP – .279/.396/357
  • RHP – .257/.356/.434

While there was less power, it indicates that he’s not a future platoon player (and that would be a significant positive).

 

10) Chris Shaw – San Francisco Giants
ETA – 2018
Grade – B
Giants’ #1 Prospect

Shaw’s calling card is his power, which he put on display in ’17 while splitting time between Double-A (154 PA) and Triple-A (360 PA):

  • Double-A – 10 doubles, 6 HR
  • Triple-A – 25 doubles, 1 triple, 18 HR

While he hit .292 overall, a 14.0% SwStr% (25.7% strikeout rate) raises a red flag.  Considering his lack of speed, a .356 BABIP, which is what he needed to post a solid average, and the potential to post a strikeout rate of 30% or more there is little chance of him posting a usable average.  The power is there, but that’s about the only skill he brings to the table.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

** ORDER OUR 2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT GUIDE TODAY **
Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

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