Last week I posted the top 10 catching prospects and this week the series continues with the top 10 first base prospects. There are quite a few sluggers playing in the minors and, of course, first base is a great place to put a slugger. As always, feel free to chime in with your comments.
If I knew of a better way to format it, I'd do it, so any suggestions let me know. But here's how the stats are set up. age/team - AVG/OBP/SLG/R/RBI/2B/3B/HR/K/BB/SB/CS
- Conor Jackson - 23/ARI - .373/.463/.567/56/58/30/2/6/21/48/2/1 - Forced out of the outfield because of poor instincts and a lack of speed, Jackson has found a home at first. He is a doubles machine whose power is still maturing so eventually a lot of those wall ball doubles could turn into over the wall shots. He makes great contact, doesn't strike out much, and hits for a great average. A lot of his value is tied up in AVG and that could be a problem once his AVG starts to dip. His .390 BABIP suggests that his AVG will eventually go down in a big way, but so far he hasn't shown any signs of slowing. Even when his AVG comes back to earth he walks enough and hits enough extra base hits to still be considered a really good hitter.
- Daric Barton - 19/OAK - .319/.439/.467/57/51/15/1/8/46/59/0/1 in 276 AB's/75 G's in high-A - Barton has already made a name to himself for the simple reason that he was involved in a trade. He was part of the deal that sent Mark Mulder to the Cardinals and now everyone is waiting for him to make it to the bigs to see if we can start calling Billy Beane a genius again. The former catcher seems to be on the fast track at the very young age of 19. His biggest strength is his patience at the plate, but he also has some power behind him. He could develop into a great hitter in the near future. He ranks so high mainly because of his age and his potential. While many of the first basemen on this list are already close to entering their peak years, Barton is still a teenager with plenty of time to develop and mature into an even better hitter.
- Ryan Howard - 25/PHI - .369/.470/.680/37/51/18/0/15/62/39/0/0 in 207 AB's/60 G's in AAA - Howard had an uninpressive couple of weeks covering for Thome in Philidelphea hitting .214/.267/.393 in 28 AB's, but he is absolutely destroying pitching in AAA. Howard has done everything he needs to at AAA, but he has no place to play in the majors. It's very possible that the Phillies will try to move him before the trading deadline as he's asked them to do. He's already ready to help out a team in the major leagues. It's just a question of which team he's going to be able to help. He's capable of some monster power numbers if only someone gave him a chance.
- Casey Kotchman - 22/LAA - .279/.350/.365/35/40/12/0/3/30/27/0/2 - Kotchman isn't your typical first baseman. He's known for his excellent defense and ability to hit a sharp line drive in every at bat, but doesn't have the kind of power you'd associate with the position. Baseball America projects him to be a 20-25 HR a year type of guy, but so far he hasn't shown much in the way of power. He also doesn't have a full season under his belt as he's had some type of injury holding him back nearly every year. His production this year is down from his normal. The lack of power and his injuries don't mean he's not a capable hitter. On the contrary, this is a guy who knows how to swing the bat. He doesn't strike out very often and always hits the ball sharp. After three years in the minors his career minor league line is .333/.416/.510 in 834 AB's. He gets on base and while he doesn't hit towering shots, his hard hit line drives give him a very respectable SLG. He already has some major league experience and some believe that he's good enough right now to be more valuable to the Angels than Darren Erstad.
- Prince Fielder - 21/MIL - .253/.366/.507/33/47/13/0/15/57/37/0/0 in 229 AB's/64 G's in AAA - Some believe that Fielder will never be able to handle playing the field and will have to be a lifetime DH because...well, to put it kindly, he's a giant tub of lard. Well, ok, that wasn't so kindly. But the man takes after his father, Cecil, in the overweight department. Luckily for Prince he also takes after his father in the "hitting the ball real far" department. At the age of 21 he's already found himself in the big leagues. He's struggled a little bit this year mainly because he's been rushed by the Brewers, but even his struggling numbers are pretty good. In a limited role with the Brewers over the last couple of weeks he's 7-25 with a homer and 3 doubles. He hasn't earned his first big league walk, but he's only struck out 6 times. If Fielder can manage to get a little bit more fit and stay in shape he could have a long and home run filled career ahead of him. There are two rumors floating around the internet about the Brewers' first base situation. One says that the Brewers are going to trade Lyle Overbay and that Fielder will be starting at first for Milwaukee on opening day in 2006. The other is that the Brewers think Fielder's weight is too much of an issue and that they'll deal him to an AL team in need of a DH.
- Justin Huber - 22/KC - .332/.420/.517/50/50/17/2/9/57/38/7/2 in 259 AB's/67 G's in AA - It seemed as if Huber was going to start the season at AAA, but Kansas City decided to take it a little slower with him and sent him back to AA. His mediocre defense behind the plate pushed him over to first base where he is now blocked by Mike Sweeney. Huber is the team's first basemen of the future, however. He has all the tools to be a power hitting, middle of the line up guy and manages to draw a lot of walks. At the moment he's in Kansas City taking up the roster spot of the injured Sweeney, but Matt Stairs is getting most of the playing time at first while Huber is watching the game from the dugout.
- Ryan Shealy - 25/COL - .326/.373/.577/42/43/19/1/12/43/15/4/0 in 227 AB's/60 G's in AAA - Knee problems and a lack of range limit Shealy to first base, so with Todd Helton in Colorado, Shealy is just as blocked as Ryan Howard is in Philidalphea. His current numbers are likely inflated a little bit from playing in Colorado Springs, a good hitter's park, but he's capable of getting good wood on the ball in any park. He doesn't have the power that Ryan Howard has, but he is better at making contact and won't strike out nearly as much.
- Wes Bankston - 21/TB - .322/.392/.563/12/13/5/2/4/21/10/0/1 in 87 AB's/25 G's in AA - Minor League Baseball has him listed as a center fielder, but he was moved to first base because of a wealth of outfield prospects in the Devil Rays' system. A wrist injury slowed him in previous years and a knee problem slowed him down at the beginning of this year so injuries may be a concern for this guy, but if he can stay healthy, he can be very productive. He draws a lot of walks and is able to put up some pretty decent power numbers. Not to mention he plays for a team called the Biscuits, which is one of my favorite team nicknames in baseball. He started the season in high A where he put up a .387/.513/.629 line in 62 AB's. When the Devil Rays were sure that he was healthy they bumped him up a level.
- Brad Eldred - 25/PIT - .238/.291/.408/14/19/8/1/4/40/7/3/0 in 130 AB's/35 G's in AAA - Elred doesn't walk and he strikes out a lot, but Pittsburgh is more than willing to look past that because of his power. He can hit the ball a very long way and that's something a power starved Pirate lineup could use. He began the year at AA, but with a .333/.387/.869 line in 84 AB's he earned a promotion to AAA after a month. He's struggling to adjust to AAA pitching, which is a little worrisome because he's already 25 years old, but if he comes around then he could be inserted into the middle of the Pirate lineup by the middle of next year.
- James Loney - 21/LAD - .273/.360/.397/40/31/14/0/7/58/38/0/1 in 282 AB's/77 G's in AA - Loney has the tools to be a high average guy, but he probably won't hit for power at the major league level. His high average hasn't materialized yet either, but the potential is there. The 7 HR's he has right now match his professional high. A couple of injuries have hampered his development, but he's healthy this year and he's putting together an unspectacular season. His offensive ability it mostly just potential at the moment, but his defensive ability is already there.