Top 15 First Base Prospects (2019 Preseason): Often Overlooked, But Should They Be?

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When it comes to prospects those who profile solely at first base are often overlooked. That doesn’t mean that they should be overlooked, however, as there certainly is value to be found. Who belongs on our radar? Let’s take a look at our Top 15 first base prospects as we head into 2019:

RankPlayerCurrent TeamCurrent Grade
1.Peter AlonsoNew York MetsB+
2. Yordan AlvarezHouston AstrosB+
3.Nathaniel LoweTampa Bay RaysB
4.Grant LavigneColorado RockiesB
5.Evan WhiteSeattle MarinersB
6.Brent RookerMinnesota TwinsB
7,Pavin SmithArizona DiamondbacksB-
8.Seth BeerHouston AstrosB-
9.Matt ThaissLos Angeles AngelsB-
10.Luken BakerSt. Louis CardinalsB-
11.Bobby BradleyCleveland IndiansB-
12.Edwin RiosLos Angeles DodgersB-
13.Triston CasasBoston Red SoxB-
14.Nick PrattoKansas City RoyalsC+
15.Josh OckimeyBoston Red SoxC

1) Peter Alonso – Grade – B+
It’s easy to argue that Alonso deserved an opportunity in the Majors last season, after hitting .285 with 36 HR over 478 AB between Double and Triple-A.  However the Mets opted to keep him in the minors, in part due to not needing to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason.  Make no mistake, though, he’s going to get his opportunity in 2019 and it could come as soon as Opening Day.

Overall Alonso posted a 9.5% SwStr%, an impressive mark for a power hitter, and even though the strikeouts regressed at Triple-A (25.9%) it’s not enough to waive significant red flags.  He has the potential to be a middle of the order force, bringing power and a strong average with him.

2) Yordan Alvarez – Grade – B+
It was another solid season for Alvarez, who split time between Double and Triple-A hitting .293 with 20 HR and 74 RBI over 335 AB.  An 8.9% SwStr% shows his strong approach, as he showed he can draw a walk at both levels he played:

  • Double-A – 10.0%
  • Triple-A – 12.2%

Couple that with an ability to consistently hit the ball hard (27.0% line drive rate) and use the entire field (34.4% Oppo%) and there’s a lot to like in his approach.  His power also took a step forward, showing that he’s maturing and developing.  At 21-years old he could be transforming into a .280+ hitter with 25+ HR ability.

3) Nathaniel Lowe – Grade – B
There had been questions about his power, but he made some adjustments (both with his conditioning and approach) and put it on full display.  Playing across three levels (including 100 AB at Triple-A) he hit .330 with 27 HR (while adding 32 doubles and 1 triple).  He also maintained a strong approach, with an 8.0% SwStr% (and at Triple-A he basically maintained it, with an 8.9% mark).  It is possible that he’s more of a DH due to some defensive limitations, but the bat will play regardless.  If he can maintain these types of marks over an extended period at Triple-A, the grade would move up into the B+ level.

4) Grant Lavigne – Grade – B
Selected 42nd overall in 2018, Lavigne showed a tremendous approach for his age (he turned 19 in August), with a 7.8% SwStr% to help him to a 15.5% strikeout rate and 17.4% walk rate in his first taste of professional baseball.  If he can maintain those types of marks, to go along with the power potential that put him on radars on draft day, this selection could prove to be a huge win for the Rockies.  Obviously seeing him chip in 12 SB is also a plus, though it’s hard to envision him maintaining that type of production.  Regardless, a good approach with potentially elite power makes him a highly intrigue prospect to watch.

5) Evan White – Grade – B
The team’s 2017 first round selection spent the bulk of last season at High-A, with a cameo at Triple-A (18 AB), showing signs of potential.  While at High-A he hit .303 while keeping the swings and misses at a minimum (9.8% SwStr%).  However at his age (he played the year at 22-years old) and at the level he was playing, is that enough to excite anyone?  Then you have the questions about his power, hitting 11 HR while adding 27 doubles and 7 triples.  He needed a .363 BABIP to get his strong average, and with the potential for the strikeouts to rise these other numbers increase the concerns:

  • Groundball Rate – 48.6%
  • Pull% – 48.5%

The potential is there for him to grow in the power department, and that would go a long way in his development.  Right now there are questions, but a strong showing will raise his grade at least a half grade (think of him as having a “B+” type prospect).

6) Brent Rooker – Grade – B
Rooker played the year at Double-A showing the skill set we expected, with plenty of power (32 doubles, 4 triples and 22 HR) with questions about his approach (26.4% strikeout rate).  A 13.6% SwStr% backs up that concern and he may never be more than a .250ish hitter (and there’s a chance that he posts an even worse mark).  That’s going to put him in the Joey Gallo category, though maybe not with quite that type of home run potential.  Keep that in mind as you try to value him.

7) Pavin Smith – Grade – B-
The seventh overall selection in the 2017 draft, Smith spent the year at High-A and struggled to the tune of a .255/.343/.392 slash.  For a first base prospect that SLG is simply unacceptable, though that doesn’t mean that all hope should be lost.  He showed an impressive ability to make consistent contact (6.7% SwStr%) and a strong approach (11.3% walk rate), meaning the sole question will be whether or not he is able to tap into his power potential.  He didn’t show it last season with 11 HR, but he won’t turn 23 until February and we’ve seen plenty of prospects add power as they’ve moved up the ranks (and some not until they’ve reached the Majors).  His stock is down, but a strong start to 2019 will suddenly push him back up into the B/B+.

8) Seth Beer – Grade – B-
Houston’s 2018 first round selection (28th overall), the 21-year old played across three levels and hit 12 HR over 260 AB while showing a strong approach (8.8% SwStr% helped him to a 16.5% strikeout rate and 8.4% walk rate).  There’s questions about his defensive ability and he completely lacks speed, but he has the upside of an OBP monster with plenty of power.

9) Matt Thaiss – Grade – B-
Playing between Double and Triple-A he hit .280 with 16 HR and 76 RBI.  The potential is there for the power to take another step forward, having added 34 doubles and 8 triples, and a 9.2% SwStr% and 17.9% strikeout rate shows the strong approach.  Being able to draw a few more walks (7.6%) would go a long ways, especially since he may be a first baseman who doesn’t profile as a 30+ HR hitter (more of a 25ish guy).

10) Luken Baker – Grade – B-
Selected 75th overall in 2018, Baker made a strong first impression hitting .319 with 4 HR over 163 AB.  With 139 AB at Single-A he showed a strong approach at the plate, with a 19.9% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate courtesy of an impressive 8.9% SwStr%.  Having added 9 doubles (11 doubles total) there’s room for the power to grow (especially at 6’4” and 265 lbs.).  With the approach and power potential, Baker could develop into a strong option and move quickly (he’s 21-years old).

11) Bobby Bradley – Grade – B-
Bradley struggled with strikeouts (27.0%), with the number jumping to 33.6% over 128 PA at Triple-A.  That said his .214 average at Double-A was fueled more by a .226 BABIP, and while a more fly ball-centric approach (44.8%) will help to suppress his BABIP this took it to an extreme.  Couple that with a 10.7% walk rate while at Double-A and there’s hope, though we’d like to see his 14.0% SwStr% (15.1% overall) improve.

That said Bradley’s calling card is his power, as he hit 27 HR (to go along with 26 doubles and 5 triples), and he has the potential to pop a 30 HR season at the highest level.  With an improved BABIP he could pair that with at least a .250 average, and any improvement in his approach could ticket him for .260 or better.  With the position getting weaker and weaker, that makes him a strong candidate to monitor.

12) Edwin Rios – Grade – B-
Rios is a prospect that often doesn’t get much attention, but he just keeps showing that he can hit.  In 309 AB at Triple-A he hit .304 with 10 HR last season, and with 25 doubles it’s clear that with a little development the power could come quickly.  There was a bit too much swing and miss, with a 16.8% SwStr%, a severe regression from his 13.0% mark in ’17.  Obviously if he can’t keep the strikeouts in check his appeal is going to diminish quickly (especially if the power doesn’t come).  There’s enough upside to have him on radars, but adjustments are needed.

13) Triston Casas – Grade – B-
Selected 26th overall in the 2018 draft, Casas played one game before injuring his thumb and requiring season ending surgery.  In that regard we have very little to go on, though there’s no questioning the power potential of the 6’4” 19-year old.  We’ll have to see if he is able to put that on display, while avoiding significant swing and miss to his game.  That’s going to be key, especially since there’s a good chance his size forces him across the diamond to 1B (or maybe even as a DH).  Can he hit enough to hold down one of those two spots?  The upside is there to do so, but time will tell.

14) Nick Pratto – Grade – C+
The team’s 2017 first round selection, Pratto played the year at Single-A hitting .280 with 14 HR and 22 SB.  Don’t be misled by the stolen base total, as it’s hard to imagine him coming close to that mark again (though if he could steal 10 bases annually it would be a nice bonus).  His carrying skill is his power, and having added 33 doubles and 2 triples over 485 AB it’s obviously there.  Can he refine his approach (13.4% SwStr%) in order to consistently tap into it?  Time will tell, but he should be able to.  If he does, a .280/25/10 first baseman could be in there (and that can’t be ignored).

15) Josh Ockimey – Grade – C
Ockimey played at Double-A (376 PA) and Triple-A (105 PA), hitting .245 with 20 HR.  He did prove capable of drawing walks (14.6%), though a 14.4% SwStr% obviously looms large (it led to a 31.0% strikeout rate).  So he’s a power hitter who has questions about his ability to play first base?  That’s certainly not ideal, as he could have to settle to be a DH who hits .240 or worse.  That’s going to be a tougher sell.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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

2 COMMENTS

    • He’s intriguing, but at best he’s going to be in the 13-15 range. He needs to show more power than he did last season, though the approach is at least intriguing

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