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Prospect Positional: 1B

by Mike Rosenbaum
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

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 ranking of the top first-base prospects from the 2015 draft. 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.
 

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The Top 10:

 

1. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis, International League)

2015 Stats: 105 G, 466 PA, .299/.370/.420, 6 HR, 30 XBH, 62 RBI, 10.5% BB%, 12.5% K%
 
Bell was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis at the beginning of August after batting .307/.376/.427 with 28 extra-base hits and 60 RBI over 96 games at Double-A Altoona. The 23-year-old outfielder-turned-first baseman hasn’t shown much over-the-fence power this year, hitting only six home runs long balls in 466 plate appearances, and he’s never hit more than 13 in a single season. Bell still collects his share of doubles and triples, though, and his approach (49 BB/58 K) is among the best in the minor leagues. On the other side of the ball, Bell, who moved to first base last fall, is still pretty rough defensively, at least in terms of his actions and hands. However, he has shown good range at the position, and reports about his improvements this season have been generally positive.

 

Fantasy Upside: .280/.350/.400, 15-18 HR, 25+ 2B

 

2. Greg Bird, New York Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League)

2015 Stats: 81 G, 352 PA, .276/.358/.474, 12 HR, 26 XBH, 52 RBI, 9.9% BB%, 16.2% K%

 

Bird has been locked in since moving up to the International League, batting .302/.357/.516 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 32 games for the RailRiders. The 22-year-old spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury earlier this season and took some time to settle in, but Bird has now been red hot for the better part of two months, with a .949 OPS, eight home runs, nine doubles and 29 RBI since June 26. A large part of Bird’s success between the Double- and Triple-A levels this year can be tied to his 16.2% strikeout rate, down from 22.0% in 2014. The Yankees will need to add Bird to the 40-man roster after the season as it is, so there’s a good chance he’ll be wearing pinstripes come September.

 

Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, .350+ OBP, 20 HR

 

3. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (Double-A Midland, Texas League)

2015 Stats: 109 G, 481 PA, .243/.380/.415, 13 HR, 40 XBH, 59 RBI, 17.9% BB%, 23.7% K%

 

Olson posted a 1.036 OPS with six home runs in April but fell into a deep slump during May and June, batting just .204/.353/.301 with two home runs in 55 games. The 21-year-old made a few adjustments and has looked more like himself at the plate since July, however, with an .893 OPS, five home runs and 22 RBI over his last 34 contests. After clubbing 37 long balls last season at High-A Stockton and tallying 23 in his full-season debut the previous year, Olson’s sharp drop-off in home runs this season has been a disappointment. However, the good news is he’s continued to take walks (17.9% BB%) and reach base at a high clip (.380) despite facing older and more advanced pitching at the Double-A level.

 

Fantasy Upside: .240/.350/.480, 25+ HR

 

4. D.J. Peterson, Seattle Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma, Pacific Coast League)

2015 Stats: 97 G, 407 PA, .223/.287/.344, 7 HR, 29 XBH, 44 RBI, 7.6% BB%, 22.9% K%

 

Peterson was expected to continue his surge toward the big leagues this season, but so far he’s been one of the biggest disappointments in the minor leagues, with just seven home runs in 407 plate appearances to go along with a dismal .631 OPS. Hoping to jumpstart Peterson’s bat before the end of the season, the Mariners promoted the 23-year-old to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last week in spite of his deep struggles at Double-A Jackson. It is worth noting, however, that even though Peterson’s production is down across the board, his strikeout (22.9%) and walk rates (7.6%) have hovered close to his career averages. Plus, considering what’s become of 2012 first-rounder Mike Zunino (.606 OPS, 32.0% K% in 1,018 plate appearances), it’s probably best that Peterson endure his struggles now, in the minors.

 

Fantasy Upside: .270/.340/.485, 25 HR

 

5. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs (Double-A Tennessee, Southern League)

2015 Stats: 61 G, 251 PA, .284/.410/.431, 5 HR, 19 XBH, 34 RBI, 17.9% BB%, 21.5% 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. Since then, however, the 22-year-old has struggled to stay on the field; he missed a few weeks back in late May with a hamstring injury, and he’s been on the disabled list for more than a month with a strained oblique. With Anthony Rizzo blocking his path to the major leagues for the foreseeable, it continues to be unclear where Vogelbach might fit into the Cubs’ long-term plans.

 

Fantasy Upside: .270+ AVG, 18-20 HR

 

6. Dominic Smith, New York Mets (High-A St. Lucia, Florida State League)

2015 Stats: 101 G, 395 PA, .309/.351/.423, 5 HR, 35 XBH, 69 RBI, 6.6% BB%, 17.2% K%

 

Smith got off to a dreadful start this season in the Florida State League before righting the ship in mid-May. Since then, however, the 20-year-old has been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues, with a .342/.381/.477 batting line, 34 extra-base hits (29 doubles) and 66 RBI in his last 82 games. There are a variety of opinions regarding Smith’s future potential, but the left-handed hitting first baseman is making a statement this year in the FSL, ranking first in doubles (31), second in RBI (69) and third in OPS (.774).

 

Fantasy Upside: .280+ AVG, 10-15 HR

 

7. A.J. Reed, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi, Texas League)

2015 Stats: 109 G, 508 PA, .334/.435/.614, 95 R, 29 HR, 55 XBH, 103 RBI, 15.0% BB%, 20.1% K%

 

Reed was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi last month after a monstrous first half at High-A Lancaster during which he led the California League in batting average (.346), OBP (.449), slugging (.638), home runs (23), runs scored (75), RBI (81) walks (59) and total bases (203). The 22-year-old first baseman has continued to put up big numbers in the Texas League, posting a .929 OPS with six home runs and 22 RBI in his first 27 games. In general, Reed been a force since signing with the Astros last summer, as he now sports a robust .317/.414/.580 batting line to go along with 41 home runs, 41 doubles, 157 RBI and a 156/106 K/BB ratio through 177 professional games.

 

Fantasy Upside: .260+ AVG, 20+ HR

 

8. Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (Double-A Montgomery, Southern League)

2015 Stats: 101 G, 429 PA, .276/.355/.432, 10 HR, 37 XBH, 65 RBI, 10.5% BB%, 12.8% K%

 

Bauers, for whatever reason, was flying under the radar heading into 2015, but that is no longer the case after the 19-year-old’s overwhelming success this season between the High- and Double-A levels. Specifically, Bauers has continued to hit for both average and power at both stops, all the while maintaining the impressive plate discipline he showcased during his 2014 full-season debut.

 

Fantasy Upside: .270 AVG, .350 OBP, 12-15 HR

 

9. Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians (Low-A Lake County, Midwest League)

2015 Stats: 85 G, 370 PA, .255/.341/.491, 20 HR, 33 XBH, 68 RBI, 11.1% BB%, 32.2% K%

 

Bradley missed roughly three weeks early in the season with an oblique strain, but it hasn’t prevented him from ranking among leaders in most offensive categories in the Midwest League. The 19-year-old is currently pacing the league in home runs (20) and RBI (tied-68) despite having played in only 85 games, although he’s also struck out 121 times (32.2%) in that span. 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. Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland, Eastern League)

2015 Stats: 108 G, 459 PA, .308/.375/.446, 7 HR, 37 XBH, 62 RBI, 15 SB, 9.6 BB%, 14.2% K%

 

A second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Indiana, Travis was promoted to Double-A in late June after hitting .312/.376/.468 with five home runs, 25 extra-base hits, 40 RBI and 10 steals in 67 games for High-A Salem. The 21-year-old has put up equally impressive numbers in the Eastern League, batting .300/.370/.413 in 42 games, while his five stolen bases in that span give him 15 on the season. Travis projects to hit both for average and power, while his background as a third baseman and underrated athleticism have helped make him a sound defender at first base.

 

Fantasy Upside: .275 AVG, 25+ 2B, 12-15 HR

 

The Next 10 (Alphabetical Order):

 

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga, California League)

2015 Stats: 108 G, 463 PA, .251/.321/.506, 23 HR, 56 XBH, 76 RBI, 9.1% BB%, 28.9% K%

 

Balbino Fuenmayor, Kansas City Royals (Triple-A Omaha, Pacific Coast League)

2015 Stats: 89 G, 378 PA, .358/.384/.589, 17 HR, 47 XBH, 66 RBI, 3.2% BB%, 15.6% K%

 

Casey Gillaspie, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A Charlotte, Florida State League)

2015 Stats: 69 G, 282 PA, .272/.355/.524, 17 HR, 28 XBH, 48 RBI, 10.6% BB%, 16.3% K%

 

Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (High-A Clearwater, Florida State League)

2015 Stats: 112 G, 472 PA, .316/.394/.507, 14 HR, 47 XBH, 70 RBI, 10.0% BB%, 16.7% K%

 

Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles (Double-A Bowie, Eastern League)

2015 Stats: 109 G, 460 PA, .339/.370/.552, 16 HR, 55 XBH, 71 RBI, 4.8% BB%, 15.4% K%

 

Amaurys Minier, Minnesota Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton, Appalachian League)

2015 Stats: 40 G, 163 PA, .204/.264/.299, 2 HR, 10 XBH, 10 RBI, 7.4% BB%, 3.3% K%

 

Daniel Palka, Arizona Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia, California League)

2015 Stats: 102 G, 456 PA, .275/.342/.498, 19 HR, 51 XBH, 69 RBI, 21 SB, 8.8% BB%, 28.7% K%

 

Rangel Ravelo, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville, Pacific Coast League)

2015 Stats: 34 G, 145 PA, .317/.403/.472, 2 HR, 13 XBH, 27 RBI, 11.0% BB%, 16.6% K%

 

Nellie Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron, Eastern League)

2015 Stats: 108 G, 460 PA, .275/.357/.495, 17 HR, 51 XBH, 84 RBI, 11.1% BB%, 16.5% K%

 

Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin, Florida State League)

2015 Stats: 103 G, 447 PA, .289/.347/.454, 14 HR, 38 XBH, 77 RBI, 8.5% BB%, 18.8% K%

 

Top 5 1B Prospects from 2015 Draft:

 

1. Josh Naylor, Miami Marlins (GCL Marlins, Gulf Coast League)

2. Chris Shaw, San Francisco Giants (Short Season Aberdeen, New York-Penn League)

3. Austin Byler, Arizona Diamondbacks (Rookie-level Missoula, Pioneer League)

4. Kyle Martin, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood, South Atlantic League)

5. Kolton Kendrick, Minnesota Twins (GCL Twins, Gulf Coast League)

 

Previous installments from Prospect Positional series:

 

Outfielders (Aug. 5, 2015)

Starting Pitchers (July 29, 2015)

Catchers (July 22, 2015)

Shortstops (July 15, 2015)

Third Basemen (July 8, 2015)

Second Basemen (July 1, 2015)

 

Rotoworld Season Pass Prospect Rankings (Updated weekly)

 

*All stats reflect games through August 10.