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Top 20 MLB Prospects: First Base

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MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 Fantasy First Basemen Prospects for 2019 Redraft Leagues

Player Team Opening Day Age Highest Level
Player Team Opening Day Age Highest Level
Peter Alonso NYM 24 Triple-A
Nate Lowe TBR 23 Triple-A
Frank Schwindel KC 26 Triple-A
Will Craig PIT 24 Double-A
Rowdy Tellez TOR 24 MLB
Brent Rooker MIN 24 Double-A
Evan White SEA 22 Triple-A
Matt Thaiss LAA 23 Triple-A
Josh Naylor SDP 21 Double-A
Roberto Ramos COL 24 Double-A

If I had a category for the slowest riser it would go to Frank Schwindel. He’s a 26-year-old that has continue to hit in a big way for the last two seasons. Last season in Triple-A, he went .286-24-93 as an encore to his .329-23-97 season at Double-A/Triple-A. He also is (inexplicably) catcher eligible in Fantrax leagues despite not playing a game at that position since Double-A in 2015 where he logged one of his 50 games played at catcher. I touch on him in addition to Will Craig, Rowdy Tellez, Nate Lowe and, of course, Peter Alonso in my top 50 rookies to help you win your redraft league article.

Notable omissions to this list are J.D. Davis, A.J. Reed, Dan Vogelbach, and Peter O’Brien. They all performed very well in Triple-A and/or the MLB last season and would have cracked this list—but they are no longer prospect eligible. Without further ado, onto the dynasty rankings. However, one last note about first base: take a look at the elite first basemen over the last five seasons – Miggy (in his prime), Votto, Goldschmidt, Rizzo, and Freeman. They all have one thing in common. It’s not power and associated counting stats like you’d have from Joey Gallo or Matt Olson, who I don’t believe will ever be early round draft choices. The key ingredient, in addition to power and average, is plate discipline.

Top 20 Long-Term First Base Prospects

1. Peter Alonso, New York Mets (23, Triple-A) – The Rhys Hoskins model: big-time power, great plate discipline, and snuck up on the prospect radar. Can still be had for a discount in redraft leagues due to concerns about his path to at-bats.

2. Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (23, Triple-A) – The Rays like to slow roll their prospects and the addition of a right-handed Yandy Diaz does not help things in 2019 despite the departure of lefty Jake Bauers. However, the soon-to-be odd man out, Ji-Man Choi, only hit .136 against lefties. Lowe boasted a .330-27-102 line across three levels last season with a cool .985 OPS and advanced plate discipline.

3. Malcom Nunez, St. Louis Cardinals (17, Rookie) – Absolutely monstrous season, but it was in the Dominican Rookie league.

4. Grant Lavigne, Colorado Rockies (19, Rookie) – As an 18-year-old, one of only two players to walk more than he struck out in the Pioneer League. He did so while batting .350 in a hitter-friendly environment. However, the upside of Coors field is salivating.

5. Evan White, Seattle Mariners (22, Triple-A) – A former first round pick began living up to his potential and climbing quickly through the minor leagues. He will strike out at a modest rate but has an above average walk rate with the ability to hit for both average and power.

6. Pavin Smith, Arizona Diamondbacks (23, High-A) – Former first-rounder has traded some batting average for power last season with a 57-65 BB-K ratio.

7. Tyler Nevin, Colorado Rockies (21, High-A) – Another first round pick that has kept his strikeouts under 20% and hit for power with a line drive rate over 20% at every level. Between Nevin and Lavigne, within the next few seasons the Rockies will likely bring in an overpaid veteran to take playing time away from both of them.

8. Zack Shannon, Arizona Diamondbacks (22, Rookie) – An older player in rookie ball had a monster season, hitting .354 with 14 homers over 189 at bats. He showed above average plate discipline, begging questions as to why he was drafted in Round 15.

9. Ryan Noda, Toronto Blue Jays (22, Single-A) – The most walks in the Appalachian League since 2006 and led the minors with 109 walks in 2018. He has shown plus power, elite discipline, and excellent line drive rates. Toss in 14 stolen bases.

10. Will Craig, Pittsburgh Pirates (24, Double-A) – A first round selection but blocked by Josh Bell at first base, Craig may fight for a spot at third base with Moran and Hayes over the next year or two. He hit 20 homers and compiled 102 RBIs last season. Craig nearly won the ACC Triple Crown in his junior year, but only hit .248 in Double-A. However, he has historically had a good average throughout the minors. In his first season he walked more than he struck out, but demonstrated little of the power potential he was drafted for. In 2018, he found his power stroke and tied Peter Alonso for the home run lead in the Arizona Fall League with six, while slashing .304/.378/.570.

11. Nick Pratto, Kansas City Royals (20, Low-A) – Led all A-level leagues in stolen bases among first basemen with 22. He hit .280 with 14 homers but needs to cut down on the strikeouts to become a Top 15 option at the MLB level.

12. Chad Spanberger, Toronto Blue Jays (23, High-A) – 21 homers, 17 steals and a .312 average across 385 at bats. The plate discipline leaves something to be desired.

13. Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox (20, Rookie) – Yet to register a professional hit and could be destined to DH. However, he has the tools to be a 30-homer contributor while contributing in batting average.

14. Brent Rooker, Minnesota Twins (24, Double-A) – Has shown inconsistent contact ability, but the power will play.

15. Frank Schwindel, Kansas City Royals (26, Triple-A) – As noted above, it is just a matter of if he is given his chance. The Royals left him unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft and Ryan O’Hearn may have emerged as their primary first baseman.

16. Matt Thaiss, Los Angeles Angels (23, Triple-A) – The Angels seem reluctant to rush him up, and with his current profile he’s yet to show enough pop to be a difference-maker at the position.

17. Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (24, MLB) - His stock took a big dip in 2017, but he bounced back in 2018 and made his way to the Majors to slug over .600 in limited duty. The Jays seem eager to push out all of their veteran players at this point, making this year a very important opportunity for Tellez with two other prospects ahead of him on my list, breathing down his neck.

18. Kevin Cron, Arizona Diamondbacks (25, Triple-A) – The departure of Paul Goldschmidt should allow Cron to see some playing time. He should be able to display power as he has four consecutive 20-homer seasons in the minors. He also has four consecutive seasons striking out over 22% of the time.

19. Curtis Terry, Texas Rangers (22, Low-A) – Something clicked for Terry in his third season in Low-A. His walk rate and line drive rate spiked. As a result, he hit 15 homers and slashed .337/.434/.606 across 67 games. Prior to this, his track record was lackluster so keep an eye on if he continues his success in 2019.

20. Roberto Ramos, Colorado Rockies (24-Double-A) – The final spot on my list was a three-way race between Ramos, Ibandel Isabel, and Bobby Bradley. All three have extreme power but have terrible plate discipline. Ibandel strikes out over 35% of the time and Bradley is not much better with an awful batting average to boot. Ramos has battled injuries and has the upside to improve, especially in that home park.

Safest Stud – Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Despite Alonso being more hyped and Lowe having slightly less power upside, his plate discipline is equal if not better, and he should hit for a better batting average by using all fields. He fits the mold of a Rizzo or Freeman and has the upside to be a second round pick for years to come. He also has the highest floor on this list despite just one year of rocketing through the minors.

Boom or Bust – Malcom Nunez, St. Louis Cardinals

First of all, Nunez played more at third base than first, but his likely destination is first base. Take the following numbers with a grain of salt because he did this as a 17-year-old in the Dominican League in 44 games: 44 runs, 59 RBI, 13 homers, almost as many walks as strikeouts. He slashed .415/.497/.774 with a 33% line drive rate. Buy now before it’s too late and the investment is worth the risk.

Highest Ceiling – Peter Alonso, New York Mets

Peter Alonso had a breakout season in 2018. His plate discipline was spectacular and he clearly leapfrogged Dominic Smith on the depth chart. The ceiling, the floor, and the path to the Majors reminds me too much of Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins was drafted two years earlier than Alonso and Peter could reach the Majors two years later than Rhys at the same position. Compare their stat lines from their breakout last full seasons in the minors and note that Hoskins did his at Double-A while Alonso did his at Double-A/Triple-A. Hoskins was 38-116-.281, 95 runs and 71 walks and Alonso was 36-119-.285, 92 runs and 76 walks and a higher slugging percentage. There is batting average risk, but the rest of his profile makes him a safe pick for what he will cost you in both redraft and dynasty leagues.

Fastest Riser – Zack Shannon, Arizona Diamondbacks

Shannon is old to be playing in rookie ball and he was drafted in Round 15 with no particular explanation. He’s continued his dominance in professional baseball after crushing his competition at Delta State during 34 games in his final year. You may not believe me if I told you that in those 34 games he had 68 RBI, 54 runs and 22 home runs. Those are unfathomable numbers at any level. Those are Malcom Nunez numbers! At his age and if his power continues to play in his leap from college to the pros, you will likely see Zack move quickly through the minors.