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.
The Top 10:
1. A.J. Reed, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies)
2016 Stats: 58 G, .261/.343/.495, 29 R, 19 2B, 3B, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 28 BB, 58 K
Last year, in his first full professional season, Reed 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. The Astros moved Reed up to Triple-A Fresno for 2016, and he enjoyed a solid first month of the season before landing on the disabled list with a hamstring injury in early May. The 23-year-old has swung a hot bat since coming off the shelf, hitting .292/.353/.531 with 13 doubles and four homers in his last 30 games, and it might not be long until Houston offers him a crack at the Major Leagues.
Impact categories: AVG, HR, RBI
2. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis Indians)
2016 Stats: 71 G, .321/.408/.537, 41 R, 17 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 36 BB, 50 K
Bell is making a strong case for big league callup with his strong showing at Triple-A Indianapolis. In addition to hitting for his usual high average and getting on base nearly 40% of the time, Bell is showcasing more power this season and especially of late, with a .674 slugging percentage and six home runs in his past 23 contests. Overall, the 23-year-old switch-hitter has homered 11 times in 71 games, leaving him two shy of his career-high which he achieved over 119 games in 2013. Plus, even if Bell fails to apply his power in the big leagues, he still stands to be productive relative to most first basemen given his plus hitting ability and strong on-base skills.
Impact categories: AVG, RBI, OBP
3. Dominic Smith, New York Mets (Double-A Binghamton Mets)
2016 Stats: 67 G, .259/.318/.367, 26 R, 13 2B, 3B, 4 HR, 43 RBI, 21 BB, 45 K
Smith captured the Florida State League MVP award in 2015 after he paced the circuit with 33 doubles and 79 RBI, finished fourth in the league in batting average (.305) and slugging (.417) and third in OPS (.771). The 21-year-old hasn’t fared as well this season in his introduction to Double-A, but he’s still showing the ability to consistently barrel the ball and generate loud contact to all fields. The only concerning trend with Smith’s performance so far this season (at least from a developmental standpoint) is the regression in his on-base rate, which had always been one of his strengths. Yet, as someone who has started slowly in the past, Smith is essentially one hot streak away from getting back on track.
Impact categories: AVG, RBI
4. Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians (High-A Lynchburg Hillcats)
2016 Stats: 64 G, .242/.355/.496, 39 R, 15 2B, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 2 SB, 38 BB, 90 K
A third-round draft pick in 2014, Bradley paced his respective leagues in each of his first two seasons: he led the Rookie Arizona League with eight bombs en route to winning the circuit’s triple crown in the year he was drafted, and then connected on 27 homers in his 2015 full-season debut between the Low- and High-A levels. Unsurprisingly, the 20-year-old Bradley is at the top of the leaderboard once again this year, with 15 home runs in 64 games in his return to the Carolina League. Nevertheless, strikeouts continue to be a problem for the left-handed hitter – he currently ranks second in the league in both strikeouts (90) and strikeout rate (32.3%) – and it limits his ability to make consistent contact. Bradley is several years away from the Major Leagues and faces an uphill battle as a first-base-only prospect, but his bat could be special if he can maintain balance between his slugging and hitting abilities.
Impact categories: HR, RBI
5. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs (Triple-A Iowa Cubs)
2016 Stats: 67 G, .298/.419/.522, 41 R, 13 2B, 3B, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 45 BB, 56 K
Vogelbach is in the midst of his best full-season campaign, and it’s happening for him at the Triple-A level. The 23-year-old slugger is hitting for average and getting on base at a high clip, and he’s already well surpassed his 2015 home-run total (7 HR in 81 G) this season in considerably fewer games. The biggest difference for Vogelbach this year is that he’s remained healthy, which has in turn allowed him to put up consistent numbers. But with Anthony Rizzo and a slew of other talented 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 (Triple-A Norfolk Tides)
2016 Stats: 73 G, .282/.360/.502, 43 R, 15 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 32 RBI, 30 BB, 75 K
Mancini, somewhat surprisingly, opened 2016 back with Double-A Bowie, for whom he garnered Eastern League MVP honors the previous year. The 24-year-old made quick work of the level by posting a 1.112 OPS with seven homers in his first 17 games to earn an early promotion to Triple-A. Though he hasn’t posted the same gaudy numbers at the Minors’ highest level, Mancini still is having a strong showing by hitting both for average and power. As long as he stays healthy, there’s a real chance the Orioles will utilize him at either first base or designated hitter later in the season.
Impact categories: RBI, AVG
7. Matt Olson, 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville Sounds)
2016 Stats: 70 G, .213/.325/.383, 32 R, 18 2B, 3B, 7 HR, 30 RBI, 41 BB, 79 K
Olson finished third in the Minor leagues with 37 home runs in 2014, but hit just 17 last season in the Texas League playing in Double-A Midland’s pitcher-friendly home park. His power has continued to regress this year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he’s posted a .165 ISO with seven long balls in 70 games for Nashville. With that type of plus raw power, however, it’s hard to think that he won’t improve on those numbers during the second half. On the other side of the ball, Olson, 22, has spent most of his time in right field this season but is still getting enough reps at first base to qualify at the position.
Impact categories: HR, RBI, OBP
8. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Double-A Tulsa Drillers)
2016 Stats: 51 G, .271/.361/.464, 26 R, 11 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, 24 BB, 47 K
Bellinger opened eyes with his impressive full-season debut in 2015, when, at age 19, he blasted 30 home runs and paced the California League with 103 RBI and 97 runs scored. Bellinger’s power is for real and has continued to translate this season in Double-A, where he owns a respectable .193 ISO through 51 games. More significant, the 20-year-old lefty has cut down on the whiffs against advanced pitching in the Texas League while continuing to reach base at a high rate. Meanwhile, that he’s appeared in 15 games as an outfielder this year – in addition to 37 games at first base – speaks to his athleticism and suggests he could receive at-bats at multiple positions once he reaches the big leagues.
Impact categories: R, HR, RBI
9. Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox)
2016 Stats: 47 G, .272/.332/.434, 26 R, 10 2B, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 15 BB, 40 K
There’s a decent chance Travis might be in the big leagues right now if not for a season-ending knee injury (torn ACL) that he suffered in late May while playing in a game for Pawtucket. A second-round draft pick in 2014 out of Indiana (and former teammate of Kyle Schwarber), Travis, 22, projects to hit both for average and power, while his background as a third baseman and underappreciated athleticism make him a sound defender at first base.
Impact categories: AVG, RBI
10. Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
2016 Stats: 64 G, .257/.368/.450, 33 R, 14 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 38 BB, 50 K
Tellez struggled during his first month in Double-A as he hit just .143 with three homers over 27 games. The 21-year-old left-handed hitter has been excellent since then, with a .336/.421/.573 slash line, 18 extra-base hits (6 HR) and a 16/25 walk-to-strikeout ratio across his past 37 contests. Unfortunately, Tellez, like so many others on this list, will be limited to either first base or designated hitter duties for the duration his career. The good news is that he has the potential to make either profile work so long as he continues to get to his light-tower power as he’s done this season in Double-A.
Impact categories: HR, RBI
The Next 10 (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 (Double-A Northwest Arkansas Travelers)
D.J. Peterson, Seattle Mariners (Double-A Jackson Generals)
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)