RotoBaller Dan Sausville prepares you for the 2014 fantasy baseball season, covering some of the premier MLB first base (1B) prospects for 2014, including their projected stats and potential fantasy impacts.
2014 Impact Prospects: First Basemen (1B)
Jose Abreu - White Sox
Abreu is a 27 year old, who stands in at 6'2 and weighs 255 pounds. This power hitting first baseman has decided to take his talents to the Windy City to play in one of the games friendliest ballparks for right handed power hitters, as he defected from Cuba to sign with the Chicago White Sox. Abreu has hit for an incredibly high average in the Cuban league in his career, often batting above .350, and even topping .390 two years ago. He also has hit a ton of home runs, numbers that would project out between 45 and 70 home runs in a major league season. He has shown the world what he can do during his stint on the Cuban team in the WBC last go round, hammering some massive home runs like the one below, which really put him on the map for the future.
[iframe width="100%" height="280" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/hSnFVNXzfbs"]
His only knocks right now are that he will have Paul Konerko looming over his shoulder for playing time, and not knowing how he will adjust to big league pitching. Because of the presence of Adam Dunn at DH, it is hard to imagine Konerko not getting any playing time, so planning for 140 games from Abreu would be realistic, but he has the potential to hit 40 home runs in those 140 games.
As far as adjustments go, it is hard to really nail down how a guy will adjust, but you can look at the successes or failures of other imports in the last few years to know it really comes down to having a solid approach. Cespedes, the great Cuban patrolling the outfield for the Oakland Athletics, has found it hard to maintain his similar mid .300 average since coming to the majors - but that's because he's prone to swinging at breaking balls down and away. Abreu has talked a lot this offseason about trying to put together quality at bats, and trusting the system from game to game, so he may have a better chance at keeping his average north of .300 as opposed to what Cespedes has been able to do. Some scouts have questioned his bat speed, but I have seen him pull his hands in on some 2 plane breaking sinkers off the plate at his back knee, keep them fair and hit em out of the park. So whatever problems may arise from his lack of elite bat speed, can be made up for with proper hand path and pitch recognition. I believe in Abreu's approach, and I believe in his swing. Provided he is someone that will play everyday, I'm going to be targeting him in my 2014 fantasy baseball drafts.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .291, 33 HR, 87 RBI, 68 R, 1 SB
Jesus Aguilar - Indians
Jesus Aguilar is not going to be on the big league roster out of spring training, at least it does not appear likely at this time. That being said, the front office seems to really be behind this 6'3 250 pound specimen of a man. Phrases like 'raw power', 'professionalism', and 'quality at bats' have been coming from the organization when speaking about Aguilar this winter. Aguilar hit .275 last year in his first full season at AA, and hit 16 home runs while driving in 105. During the Venezuela winter league in 2013, he hit .327, had a 1.000 OPS and clubbed 18 HR while driving in 50 in just 58 games. He attributed the jump in production this winter to his time spent being a teammate of Bobby Abreu. Abreu helped him get into a good routine, and the result has brought on some chatter that Aguilar is ready for the big leagues. I think he starts the year at Triple-A but will be up by mid-May. The guy has power to all fields...
[iframe width="100%" height="280" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/YaAJ4zqjQEs"]
...and he knows how to command the strike zone, which is a dangerous combination. He is currently blocked by Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, and Nick Swisher for playing time on the big club - but Gomes could flop, requiring Santana to do more catching, which would open a spot for Aguilar at DH. Or Swisher could flop, which would open up a spot at first for Aguilar. Injuries also could come into play here, but regardless, this talent will be making an impact in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .270, 22 HR, 58 RBI, 47 R, 2 SB
Jonathan Singleton - Astros
Entering the 2013 season, Jonathan Singleton, the prize piece of the Hunter Pence trade between the Phillies and the Astros, appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. He was every publication's number 1 prospect at the first base position going into 2013, and he really fell flat last year, failing to live up to his potential. He first came to camp a bit out of shape, and then failed a drug test for marijuana that left him to serve a 50 game suspension. Upon returning from suspension, he was even more out of shape, and loafed to the worst numbers of his minor league career over 3 stops at A, AA, and AAA. His strikeout rate continued to spike, as did his inability to hit against lefties. Singleton attributes the bad numbers to just never getting into a rhythm, because he had to play for 3 different teams - and because of the suspension, you could certainly understand why he would have struggled. In studying him, I noticed a slight drop in his hands in his stance from his 2012 spring training at bats, compared to his 2013. Many scouts attributed his strike out spike due to weight issues and a slow bat, but I think the slow bat came from the stance change. It is not that his swing is slower, but having those classic low hands encourages a large arc in the swing. And in watching some of his 2013 at bats, he is still recognizing pitches, letting them get deep, and on a whole, doing what he had always done to attain such lofty expectations. It just to me looks like he is late to the ball due to the bat path change from 2012 to 2013:
[iframe width="100%" height="280" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TlNar4OctMQ"]
When he is right, Singleton is a 6'2 235 left handed hitting power guy who uses the whole field, lets the ball get deep into his stance, and generally remains very quiet at the plate. The director of player development of the Astros, former world series champion Quentin McKracken, is very high on Singleton and has gone on record saying that he commands respect in the box and the ball explodes off his bat. As for 2014, currently the Astros have a 4 man competition going into spring training for their first base job, with Chris Carter having already locked up the DH role. GM Jeff Luhnow expects Singleton to be in the mix with Marc Krauss, Jesus Guzman, and Japhet Amador for the job. It's not exactly a daunting task for Singleton to win this job, is it? If he hits like he did this winter, when he was in better shape and led the Puerto Rican Winter League in HR (second in walks), then he can win this job. But it is more likely that he will start the season in Triple-A where he will look to avenge his lost 2013. Once conquering that level, Singleton will move up to the big club and see if he can make good on his opportunities. He is going to struggle against lefties upon arrival (he did hit 5 HR against lefties this winter, but those winter league teams have weak middle relief corps and he probably did damage on non-professional level guys), and he is going to strike out. With his opposite field power, in the small Astros' ballpark, 20 HR is not out of the question for Singleton in 2014. The Astros have designated Brett Wallace for assignment, so Singleton is one step closer to getting the job out of spring training. He is still going to have to perform, but he is one step closer nonetheless.
2014 Fantasy Projection: .268, 16 HR, 45 RBI, 3 SB, 35 R
Tommy Medica - Padres
I don't think Tommy Medica is gonna make the big league club, but his name is worth mentioning. He has hit consistently at every level, his home run rate has risen every year, he hit 3 homers last September with the big club, and there are whispers his arm might be back enough to have him serve as a backup catcher at some point in the near future. For those that do not know Medica's history, he was a very promising catching prospect who went through a devastating shoulder injury in college his junior year, in which his labrum on his throwing shoulder tore off the bone. He was going to be a top 2 round pick, but dropped to the Padres in the 16th round, and he has hit ever since. If his arm is close to being back, he could make the club as a utility man and wait for the real Yonder Alonso to show up. And if that's the bad version, he could step right into a starting spot at first base. The issue he'll have in making the roster is Kyle Blanks and his ability to play the outfield, giving the team more flexibility from its bench. This will likely send Medica back down to Triple-A. Check out this video of his first major league home run off Cliff Lee below.
[iframe width="100%" height="280" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Zq1FB5TYbfE"]
2014 Fantasy Projection: .285, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 11 R, 0 SB
2015 Prospect to Watch
Kyle Parker - Rockies
The former quarterback of Clemson, and former minor league teammate of Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson, Kyle Parker is the next power hitter in line to take advantage of the thin air in Colorado. He is probably a year away from relevance in redraft fantasy formats, but with his light tower power, and ability to play first base as well as outfield, Parker should not find any trouble finding a spot as a Rockies regular in 2015. He has posted over 20 homers in each of the last 3 minor league seasons, and scouts rave about his forearm and hand strength. They project him to be a big time power guy when he finally makes his arrival. If he tears up the minors early on, and Justin Morneau struggles and/or gets hurt, Parker may get the call in 2014. But that is unlikely at this time.