First base holds an unusual position when it comes to prospects for fantasy. Because it is at the bottom of the defensive spectrum, teams make a concerted effort not to move top prospects from other positions that they may not be able to handle until it is absolutely necessary. So when we are discussing the top 20 fantasy first base prospects, this is a list that does not include a lot of the prospects that could end up here when they reach the majors.
Take a look at our top 30 first basemen for the upcoming season, and you start to see how this occurs. I've separated out players who came up as first basemen into groups by their throwing hand, as left-handed throwers are limited to first base and outfield only at the start. All others are grouped by their primary position in the minors or at the start of their career.
Left-handed throwing 1B: 12
Right-handed throwing 1B: 5
This is the long way around reminding you that while there are definitely first base prospects who are worth owning in all formats, don't necessarily worry about filling your future first base spot with a prospect already playing the position. There will be prospects currently at other positions who will end up there in the future to fulfill your needs.
Tier 1 -- The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
There are no first base prospects in this tier.
Tier 2 -- The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
1. A.J. Reed - Astros
Reed is the top first base prospect right now, and it was only a debate about whether he belongs in tier 1 or not. He's going to hit for average and power, and while he will likely start the year in AAA, first base is fairly wide open in Houston and he may be their best option there right now. A profile of Reed will be up later today.
2. Josh Bell - Pirates
It's felt like a long slog to get Bell close to the majors, but he's finally AAA and should be in line for a look in Pittsburgh in 2016. There will be an in-depth preview of Bell later today.
Editor's Note: We did not rank Byung-Ho Park as a prospect, given his previous professional experience in Korea. He would be a tier 2 prospect, and behind Reed and Bell.
Tier 3 -- The Next Group of Starters
These prospects likely would slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list and would be starters in mid-depth formats such as 12- and 14-team leagues.
3. Bobby Bradley - Indians
Bradley ran away with the Midwest League home run crown in 2015, hitting 27 in just 108 games at the age of 19. The raw power from Bradley is going to be his calling card, and he's expected to hit for a solid average to go with it as well.
4. Dominic Smith - Mets
The Mets' top pick from 2013, Smith hit .305 with 6 home runs and 33 doubles in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League last year. We'll have a profile on Smith running later today.
5. Cody Bellinger - Dodgers
30 home runs at any level in the minor leagues jumps off the page, and while there's a definite grain of salt to be had with the Cal League, the reports point to a hitter who made adjustments as the season went on. The move to AA Tulsa will be key in determining what the true ceiling is for Bellinger, who could turn into a 20 HR hitter in the majors.
6. Jake Bauers - Rays
Bauers was a bit forgotten in the three team trade that brought him from San Diego to Tampa Bay, but they moved him aggressively to High-A and then AA during his age-19 season and he more than held his own there. He's expected to provide a solid batting average with some power down the line, but isn't likely to hit more than 20 in a season.
7. Rowdy Tellez - Blue Jays
While he wasn't viewed as a 30th rounder based on talent in his draft year, the Blue Jays getting him to sign for an overslot bonus may end up looking like a bargain. He's an excellent hitter already, and is expected to develop more power still. The numbers could really explode this year as he heads to New Hampshire and out of the pitching-friendly Florida State League.
Vogelbach would be the perfect candidate for a DH in the National League, and while that potentiality is out there, it's not coming soon enough for Dan. He can still hit and hit well though, with more average than power at the moment but still with the potential for both.
The potential for Naylor to be a 25+ home run hitter in the majors is there, but as a high school draftee in 2015, he's probably at least 3-4 years away in the best of scenarios. There is a lot of development between now and then, and the upside just isn't there to hold him for that long.
Tier 4 -- Single-League and Deep-Format Plays
These prospects likely would slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list and would have the most value in mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
It's been a quick fall for Peterson, who was viewed as a potential quick arriving prospect who could hit for power and average in the majors a little over a season ago. He struggled at AA and AAA last season, and is really only worth taking a flier on in AL-only formats based on his current potential. It could still come back, but I wouldn't give up much in exchange for him right now.
15. Christian Walker - Orioles
16. Tyler White - Astros
White could get a shot at the first base job this spring after hitting .362 with 7 home runs in 57 AAA games last year. It seems more likely though that he could return to Fresno and split the 1B/DH at bats with A.J. Reed. He's shown an excellent eye at the plate in the minors, but may end up more of a deep league single category play (batting average).
These four are all currently single-league only plays, but I could see Hoskins and Zangari jumping into the top 10 with strong performances in 2016. Hoskins in particular hit very well between Low and High-A, for both average and power. While we won't likely see him in 2016, he's a name to remember for 2017 with Ryan Howard headed to free agency and him expected to start at AA.