The updated first baseman rankings are broken into three parts: the top 10 prospects in order, the next 10 prospects in alphabetical order and a list of those who could provide some value in 2015. As always, these rankings are done from a scouting perspective but with fantasy baseball in mind, generally focusing on standard 5x5 league categories, though other statistics (e.g., OBP) are considered.
And in case you missed it, please check out the initial Prospect Positional column for first basemen this season. It features more in-depth scouting notes as well as a recap of each player’s 2014 campaign.
The Top 10:
1. D.J. Peterson, Seattle Mariners (Double-A Jackson, Southern League)
2015 Stats: 64 G, 271 PA, .207/.288/.326, 4 HR, 19 XBH, 31 RBI, 9.2% BB%, 23.3% K%
Peterson destroyed the California League last year before earning a mid-season promotion to the Southern League, where he batted .261/.335/.473 with 13 home runs in 58 games for Double-A Jackson. Overall, the 23-year-old showed exactly why the Mariners made him a first-round pick in 2013, posting a .912 OPS with 31 home runs, 31 doubles and 111 RBI between both levels. Naturally, Peterson was expected to continue his surge toward the big leagues this season given his assignment back to Jackson, but so far he’s been one of the more disappointing prospects in baseball, with just four home runs in 271 plate appearances (1.4 HR/PA) and the fifth-worst batting average (.207) in the Southern League. It is worth noting, however, that his strikeout (23.3%) and walk rates (9.2%) are close to his career averages, while his current .261 BABIP suggests his triple-slash line is bound to improve. And considering what’s become of 2012 first-rounder Mike Zunino (.617 OPS, 32.8% K% in 882 plate appearances), it’s probably best that Peterson endure his struggles now, in the minors.
Fantasy Upside: .270/.340/.485, 25 HR
2. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Double-A Altoona, Eastern League)
2015 Stats: 64 G, 294 PA, .319/.390/.442, 3 HR, 19 XBH, 43 RBI, 10.9% BB%, 10.0% K%
Bell has taken the Eastern League by storm this season, ranking third in batting average (.319), fifth in on-base percentage (.390) and RBI (43) and eighth in OPS (.833). He hasn’t shown much over-the-fence power this year, with three long balls in 294 plate appearances, and he’s never hit more than 13 in a single season. However, the 22-year-old continues to pound the gaps, evidenced by his 10 doubles and career-high six triples, and his approach (32 BB/29 K) arguably is among the best in the minor leagues. Unfortunately, Bell, who was developed as an outfielder until last year’s Arizona Fall League, is pretty rough at first base defensively, and not just because he has 11 errors in 58 games there this season. Rather, he just doesn’t have the actions and hands of a first baseman. And now you understand why he hasn’t received a promotion to Triple-A.
Fantasy Upside: .280/.350/.400, 15-18 HR, 25+ 2B
3. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland, Texas League)
2015 Stats: 69 G, 308 PA, .217/.383/.391, 8 HR, 15 XBH, 34 RBI, 21.1% BB%, 24.4% K%
Olson finished third in the minor leagues last season with 37 home runs, trailing only Joey Gallo and Kris Bryant, but some scouts questioned whether the 21-year-old slugger’s power would translate outside the California League in 2015. Well, so far it hasn’t. Olson has hit just eight home runs in 308 plate appearances in his first taste of the Double-A level, and his 2.6% HR/PA is a drastic drop-off from the 5.8% clip he posted in 2014. On a positive note, Olson’s .217 batting average isn’t overly concerning given his age, relative lack of experience and power-oriented offensive profile, and he’s been able to keep his strikeout rate (24.4%) in line with his career average while improving his walk rate (21.1%) - and he’s done so against advanced pitching. Olson is a big part of the A’s future, but don’t expect to see him in the major leagues before the 2016 season.
Fantasy Upside: .240/.350/.480, 25+ HR
4. Greg Bird, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton, Eastern League)
2015 Stats: 39 G, 167 PA, .234/.329/.407, 4 HR, 17 XBH, 21 RBI, 10.2 BB%, 14.4% K%
Bird was sidelined with a strained shoulder for nearly a month, from May 8 to June 4, and therefore hasn’t quite settled in at the plate, batting .250/.283/.375 with one home run in 15 games since returning to Double-A Trenton. The 22-year-old first baseman fared better before the injury, with .226/.351/.419 batting line, three home runs and nine doubles in 25 games, which suggests that his shoulder might still be an issue. Big things were expected of Bird this season after he took home MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League and followed it up with a strong showing in big league camp with the Yankees. The good news is that the season is still young, and Bird has a history of turning it on in the second half.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, .350+ OBP, 20 HR
5. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs (Double-A Tennessee, Southern League)
2015 Stats: 54 G, 225 PA, .285/.400/.425, 4 HR, 17 XBH, 31 RBI, 16.4% BB%, 21.8% K%
Vogelbach got off to a great start this season at Tennessee, batting .320/.436/.497 with 17 extra-base hits (four home runs), 24 RBI and a 38/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 43 games. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old suffered a hamstring injury in late May while running the bases - admittedly kind of funny - and didn’t return until mid-June. Since then, Vogelbach has posted a .404 OPS with zero extra-base hits in 11 games - though he did pick up his stolen bases of the season in that span. With Anthony Rizzo blocking his path to the major leagues and Kyle Schwarber getting the nod in DH scenarios, it’s still unclear how Vogelbach fits into the Cubs’ long-term plans.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 18-20 HR
6. A.J. Reed, Houston Astros (High-A Lancaster, California League)
2015 Stats: 68 G, 319 PA, .335/.442/.616, 18 HR, 35 XBH, 65 RBI, 15.7% BB%, 20.7% K%
Reed mashed last summer after signing with the Astros, posting an .898 OPS with 12 home runs, 20 doubles and 54 RBI in his first 68 professional games. Jump forward one year and Reed already has a 1.058 OPS to go along with 18 home runs and 65 RBI in 65 games at High-A Lancaster, each of which is tops in the California League.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 20+ HR
7. Dominic Smith, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucie, Florida State League)
2015 Stats: 56 G, 233 PA, .301/.343/.425, 2 HR, 23 XBH, 39 RBI, 5.6% BB%, 18.9% K%
Smith got off to a dreadful start this season, batting just .157/.213/.171 with 19 strikeouts through his first 19 games in the Florida State League. Since then, however, the 20-year-old has been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues, with a .369/.405/.544 batting line, 22 extra-base hits (20 doubles) and 36 RBI in that span. There are a variety of opinions regarding Smith’s future potential, especially after he batted just .271/.344/.338 with one home run in 126 games last season at Low-A Savannah, but the left-handed hitting first baseman is making a statement this year by pacing the FSL in both doubles (21) and RBI (39), and he’s one of a handful of hitters in the league with a batting average north of .300.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 10-15 HR
8. Christian Walker, Baltimore Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk, International League)
2015 Stats: 67 G, 281 PA, .260/.324/.354, 2 HR, 20 XBH, 22 RBI, 8.5% BB%, 22.8% K%
Walker is yet another first-base prospect having a disappointing season, as he’s mustered a meager .678 OPS and two home runs through 67 games at Norfolk. The 24-year-old’s 18 doubles thus far puts him on pace for a new single-season high, but the fact that he’s driven in only 22 runs this season means it’s only a silver lining. Walker received a cup of coffee with the Orioles last September in the wake of the Chris Davis suspension, but collected just three hits (one home run) and struck out nine times in 18 at-bats over six games. He’ll likely return to the major leagues at some point this season given his presence on the 40-man roster, though I’m sure the Orioles would first like to see more consistent production.
Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 15+ HR
9. Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians (Low-A Lake County, Midwest League)
2015 Stats: 44 G, 187 PA, .273/.369/.540, 11 HR, 18 XBH, 37 RBI, 12.8% BB%, 35.8% K%
A third-round draft pick in 2014, Bradley made a strong impression in his professional debut last summer by capturing the Rookie Arizona League’s triple crown with a robust .361/.426/.652 batting line, 25 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and 50 RBI in 39 games. The 19-year-old missed roughly three weeks early in the season with an oblique strain, but he’s looked comfortable since returning to action, batting .290/.368/.565 with 10 home runs, 16 extra-base hits and 34 RBI in 35 games. Bradley also owns the second-highest OPS in the Midwest League (.909 OPS), and he’s also tied for second in the home-run department (11) despite having played in just 44 games. Unfortunately, that also is what makes his 35.8% strikeout rate a significant concern. Bradley is several years away from the major leagues and faces an uphill battle as a first-base-only prospect, but the left-handed hitter’s bat could be special.
Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 18-20 HR
10. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga, California League)
2015 Stats: 68 G, 288 PA, .273/.341/.516, 12 HR, 35 XBH, 51 RBI, 7 SB, 9.4% BB%, 30.2% K%
Bellinger is playing beyond his years this season in the California League despite making the jump directly from Rookie level. The 19-year-old had an incredible month of May, with a .314/.371/.619 batting line, seven home runs, nine doubles and 27 RBI in 28 games, but he’s cooled down considerably in June due to a 42.2% strikeout rate over his last 20 contests. The Dodgers always have had a good feel for when to be aggressive with young hitters, and Bellinger has the makings of the organization’s next success story.
Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 15-18 HR
The Next 10 (Alphabetical Order):
Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A Charlotte, Florida State League)
2015 Stats: 59 G, 249 PA, .267/.357/.433, 6 HR, 22 XBH, 38 RBI, 11.7% BB%, 13.3% K%
Bauers, 19, is hitting for both average and power in the Florida State League, and he’s maintained the impressive plate discipline he showcased during his 2014 full-season debut.
Casey Gillaspie, Tampa Bay Rays (Low-A Bowling Green, Midwest League)
2015 Stats: 63 G, 264 PA, .283/.364/.539, 16 HR, 27 XBH, 44 RBI, 10.6% BB%, 16.3% K%
Selected by the Rays with the No. 20 overall pick in 2014, Casey Gillaspie - the younger brother of White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie - currently leads the Midwest League in home runs (16) and total bases (124), and he ranks third in both slugging (.539) and OPS (.903). The 2014 first-round pick is destined for a promotion.
Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers (High-A High Desert, California League)
2015 Stats: 63 G, 277 PA, .258/.292/.373, 5 HR, 17 XBH, 43 RBI, 5.3% BB%, 22.7% K%
Guzman was moved up to High-A High Desert last month after spending parts of three straight seasons in the South Atlantic League. However, the 20-year-old is yet to find his stroke in the California League, with a .227/.260/.337 batting line, 4.6% walk rate and 25.4% strikeout rate in 173 plate appearances (39 games).
Ryon Healy, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland, Texas League)
2015 Stats: 69 G, 297 PA, .274/.324/.383, 5 HR, 20 XBH, 26 RBI, 7.1% BB%, 15.2% K%
A third-round draft pick in 2013 from the University of Oregon, Healy made a splash in his 2014 full-season debut by batting .285/.318/.428 with 16 home runs and 28 doubles at High-A Stockton. The 23-year-old has held his own this season in the Texas League, with a respectable .275 batting average and .708 OPS, but he hasn’t shown the same consistent power that put him on the map in 2014.
Patrick Kivelhan, Seattle Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma, Pacific Coast League)
2015 Stats: 66 G, 276 PA, .244/.297/.452, 13 HR, 26 XBH, 40 RBI, 9 SB, 6.9% BB%, 22.1% K%
Kivlehan had a breakout 2014 campaign between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, batting .295/.363/.507 with 61 extra-base hits (20 home runs), 103 RBI and 11 bases over 138 games. The 25-year-old’s performance this season has been inconsistent, especially playing in the Pacific Coast League, but he’s seemingly turned the corner in June, with an .833 OPS, five home runs and 16 RBI in 20 games. Kivlehan’s future role with the Mariners remains up in the air, but his ability to contribute at a variety of positions should have him in the major leagues at some point this season.
Amaurys Minier, Minnesota Twins (GCL Twins, Rookie Gulf Coast League)
2015 Stats: 1 G, 0-for-2, K
Signed by the Twins for seven figures during the 2012-13 international signing period, Minier was one of the more impressive hitters in the Gulf Coast League last summer, as he paced the league in home runs (eight), tied for second in extra-base hits (21) and ranked third in slugging (.520). The 19-year-old is back in the GCL this season and expected to play first base on a full-time basis for the first time in his young career.
Daniel Palka, Arizona Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia, California League)
2015 Stats: 66 G, 297 PA, .275/.333/.483, 11 HR, 33 XBH, 45 RBI, 16 SB, 7.4% BB%, 26.6% K%
Palka, 23, has been filling out the box score this season in the California League, with an .816 OPS with 11 home runs, 21 doubles, 45 RBI and 16 stolen bases through 66 games. But with a 26.6% strikeout rate, 7.4% walk rate and .346 BABIP, it’s difficult to envision the 2013 third-round pick maintaining his current level of production over the rest of the season.
Rangel Ravelo, Oakland Athletics (Rehab assignment – Rookie Arizona League)
2015 Stats: 1 G, 1-for-1, R, 2 RBI, 3 BB
Acquired as part of the package for Jeff Samardzija, Ravelo quietly enjoyed a strong 2014 season at Double-A Birmingham, batting .309/.386/.473 with 52 extra-base hits (11 home runs) in 133 games. The 23-year-old was a candidate for a bench spot on the A’s Opening Day roster, but a partially torn wrist tendon and subsequent surgery sidelined him until mid-May. Ravelo started a rehab assignment in the Rookie Arizona League on Monday.
Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing, Midwest League)
2015 Stats: 68 G, 299 PA, .296/.351/.444, 7 HR, 26 XBH, 49 RBI, 8.0% BB%, 18.7% K%
Tellez is excelling this year at Low-A Lansing, as the 20-year-old left-handed hitter leads the Midwest League with 49 RBI, while his 120 total bases is good for third. He’s several years away from reaching the major leagues, but Tellez has the offensive profile to support a career at first base.
Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox (High-A Salem, Carolina League)
2015 Stats: 66 G, 278 PA, .313/.378/.467, 5 HR, 24 XBH, 40 RBI, 10 SB, 9.3% BB%, 15.5% K%
The Red Sox made Sam Travis its second-round pick last year, targeting the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year for his natural hitting ability and usable power.
Coming off a strong showing last summer in his professional debut, Travis currently ranks third in the Carolina League in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.378) and total bases (115), and it’s also worth noting that he’s been aggressive on the base paths, with 10 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
2015 Fantasy Value (Alphabetical Order):
Cheslor Cuthbert, Kansas City Royals
Travis Shaw, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Parker, Colorado Rockies
Jesus Aguilar, Cleveland Indians
Xavier Scruggs, St. Louis Cardinals
Previous installments from Prospect Positional series:
Starting Pitchers (6/3/2015)
Third Basemen (5/13/2015)
Second Basemen (5/7/2015)
Rotoworld Season Pass Prospect Rankings (Updated weekly)
*All stats reflect games through June 22.