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Prospect Positional: 1B

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

The 2016 first baseman rankings are broken into two parts: the top 10 prospects in order and the next 10 prospects in alphabetical order. 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 long-term, dynasty-league value.

 

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The Top 10:

 

1. A.J. Reed, Houston Astros

2016 Level: Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)

 

Reed has done nothing but mash since the Astros made him the No. 42 overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Last year, in his first full professional season, the University of Kentucky product led the minor leagues in home runs (34) and RBI (127). He also batted .340/.432/.612 in 135 games between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, highlighting his potential to contribute in categories other than home runs and RBIs. Though he was assigned to Triple-A Fresno to begin the season in deference to Tyler White, who is currently holding his own with the Astros in the Major Leagues, Reed is the club’s first baseman of the future and will be called upon at some point in 2016

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI, AVG

 

2. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Level: Indianapolis Indians (AAA)

 

Bell continued to rake his way up the ladder in 2015, when he batted .317 in 131 games between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. But the switch-hitter once again was unable to tap into his raw power and tallied just seven long balls in 131 games, giving him 30 career home runs in 373 career games. Developed as an outfielder during his first three pro seasons, Bell was moved to first base during the 2014 Arizona Fall League and then played there full-time in 2015, committing 16 errors in 116 games. While Bell’s upside at first base will now be tied to his power output for the duration of his career, he still stands to be productive relative to the position given his plus hit talent and strong on-base skills.

 

Impact categories: RBI, AVG, OBP

 

3. Dom Smith, New York Mets

2016 Level: Binghamton Mets (AA)

 

Smith led the Florida State League last season with 33 doubles and 79 RBI at High-A St. Lucie to win the circuit’s MVP award. On top of that, he ranked fourth in the league in batting average (.305) and slugging (.417) and third in OPS (.771). The 20-year-old has the ability to consistently barrel the ball and generate loud contact to all fields, so much so that some scouts believe he will contend for a batting title in his prime. He showed more power in 2015 by hitting a career-high six home runs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and his 59 doubles since the start of 2014 suggest that the left-handed hitter will develop more over-the-fence pop.

 

Impact categories: RBI, AVG

 

4. Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians

2016 Level: Lynchburg Hillcats (High-A)

 

A third-round draft pick in 2014, Bradley made a strong impression in his professional debut by capturing the Rookie Arizona League’s triple crown. His follow-up performance last season at Low-A Lake County was even more impressive, as he paced the Midwest League with 27 home runs (11 home runs more than any other hitter in the league) and 92 RBI despite missing 20 games with an oblique injury early in the season. However, Bradley’s league-leading 148 strikeouts (and 32 percent strikeout rate) reflect his current shortcomings as a hitter, and there is some concern about his capacity to make consistent contact at higher levels. 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 if he can maintain balance between his slugging and hitting ability.

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI

 

5. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs

2016 Level: Iowa Cubs (AAA)

 

Vogelbach got off to a great start last season at Double-A Tennessee, batting .320/.436/.497 with 17 extra-base hits, 24 RBI and a 38/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 43 games. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old struggled to stay on the field the rest of the way, missing several weeks in May with a hamstring injury, and then spending nearly seven weeks on the disabled list with a strained oblique. With Anthony Rizzo and a slew of other talent young hitters blocking Vogelbach’s path to Chicago for the foreseeable future, there’s a chance his first taste of the Major Leagues could come with another team. 

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI

 

6. Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles

2016 Level: Bowie Baysox (AA)

 

Mancini opened 2015 at High-A Frederick, where he hit .314/.341/.527 in his second tour of the Carolina League. He moved up to Double-A Bowie in early June and proceeded to slash .359/.395/.586 in 354 plate appearances to win the Eastern League MVP award. To go along with his .341/.375/.563 overall line, Mancini had 21 home runs, 88 runs and 89 RBI across the two levels. Though he’s back in Double-A to begin 2016, the Orioles gave him an extended look this spring in big league camp and could utilize him at either first base or designated hitter later in the season, should the need arise.

 

Impact categories: RBI, AVG

 

7. Matt Olson, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics

2016 Level: Nashville Sounds (AAA)

 

After ranking third in the Minor leagues in 2014 with 37 home runs, Olson hit just 17 last season in the Texas League playing in Double-A Midland’s pitcher-friendly home park. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound left-handed hitter’s patient approach resulted in 105 walks, the second-highest total in the Texas League, and marked his second straight season with at least 100 free passes. Though Olson will strike out his fair share like any young slugger who sees a lot of pitches, his strikeout rate has remained consistent as he’s moved up the ladder, and he’s shown the ability to handle same-side pitching. The A’s gave Olson a look in right field at the end of last season, and his prospect stock stands to improve if he can stick at either corner outfield spot. Regardless of his future defensive home, Olson has the potential for 30 home runs in a season, though it may come with a low batting average.

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI, OBP

 

8. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

2016 Level: Tulsa Drillers (AA) – Disabled list

 

The Dodgers showed faith in Bellinger by assigning him directly to Class A Rancho Cucamonga to begin the 2015 season after he had finished the previous year in Rookie ball. The 2013 fourth-rounder responded to the challenge by clubbing 30 home runs in 128 games and leading the California League with 103 RBI and 97 runs scored. Bellinger’s power is for real and should continue to translate as he moves up the ladder, though his 28 percent strikeout rate last season highlights the holes in both his approach and swing. Primarily a first baseman at the moment, Bellinger’s athleticism and above-average arm strength earned him 21 starts in center field last year, and he’s expected to play the outfield on a more regular basis in 2016. Unfortunately, he has yet to take the field this season for Double-A Tulsa due to a hip injury.

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI

 

9. Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox

2016 Level: Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA)

 

A second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Indiana (and former teammate of Kyle Schwarber), 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 22-year-old continued to rake in the Eastern League, batting .300/.370/.413 in 42 games, and swiped five more bags to 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.

 

Impact categories: RBI, SB, AVG

 

10. Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Level: New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA)

 

Tellez came into his own in 2015, hitting .289/.347/.454 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 77 RBI as a 20-year-old in 103 games between Low-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin. He performed especially well during his time in the Florida State League, hitting .275 with seven home runs in 35 games before a broken hamate ended his season in August. Although Tellez, like many others on this list, will be limited to either first base or designated hitter for the duration his career, he gets to his light-tower power enough to believe he can be successful in either role. 

 

Impact categories: HR, RBI

 

The Next Five (Alphabetical Order):

 

Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays (Double-A Montgomery Biscuits)

Casey Gillaspie, Tampa Bay Rays (Double-A Montgomery Biscuits)

Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading Fightin Phils)

Josh Naylor, Miami Marlins (Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers)

Josh Ockimey, Boston Red Sox (Low-A Greenville Drive)

Ryan O’Hearn, Kansas City Royals (High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks)

Rangel Ravelo, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville Sounds)

Nellie Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians (Double-A Akron Rubberducks)

Chris Shaw, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose Giants)

K.J. Woods, Miami Marlins (High-A Jupiter Hammerheads)