Dynasty First Basemen: Top MLB Prospects for Fantasy Baseball

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Welcome back, RotoBallers. I've already looked at the top 10 prospects for each MLB team, and now I'll be breaking down impact prospects by position. Today I'm bringing you my top 10 first basemen - dynasty prospect rankings for 2017 dynasty baseball leagues.

First base is often home to some of the least athletic guys in baseball. These are guys who don’t have the range for left field, the instincts for catcher or the arm for third base. But man oh man can these guys hit. The expectation with first basemen is that they are going to mash.

If you ever wanted to find a class of pure first basemen who have been developing for the position, then this is the year for you. There are two elite first base prospects here and several others who will certainly make their presence felt at the big-league level. Though there are still many potent first basemen at the major-league level to own right now, several of these prospects will absolutely warrant ownership in dynasty leagues, even some shallow ones.

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Top 10 First Base Prospects for 2017 Dynasty Baseball Leagues

1. Cody Bellinger (LAD, AAA)
Stats: (from AA) 465 PA, .263/.359/.484, 23 HR, 6 SB, 12.7% BB rate, 20.2% K rate
ETA: Late 2017
Bellinger does not necessarily boast a ton of value for owners in redraft leagues, but he is a mouth-watering prospect for dynasty leagues. Dating back to their 2011 list, MLB Pipeline has never ranked a first base prospect higher than Bellinger who currently sits at No. 12 on their list. Now maybe that’s because this is not a deep prospect class, or maybe it’s because he’s just that good.

Bellinger has true 70-grade power and looks like a future 30+ home run guy with the plate discipline capable of hitting at least .270, if not .300 somewhere down the line. Once Adrian Gonzalez steps aside, Bellinger will take his rightful place as the next franchise first baseman for the Dodgers where he will become one of the best first basemen in the game.

2. Josh Bell (PIT, MLB)
Stats: 152 PA, .273/.368/.406, 14 HR, 3 SB, 11.8% BB rate, 15.3% K rate
ETA: Opening Day 2017
Bell is not quite the hitter that Bellinger is, but he is no slouch himself. He has demonstrated outstanding plate discipline to accompany a line-drive approach that is starting to result in more home runs. Bell is as consistent as they come and appears to have finally found his power stroke. Scouts for years have seen a guy who could hit for a high average with the chance to hit 20 home runs, and Bell is starting to make that future look more realistic.

It’s always risky to bet on a guy hitting over .300 in the majors this early on in their career, but Bell has the best chance of anyone on this list to do it (though the Mets have a guy on this list who should have something to say about that).

3. Dan Vogelbach (SEA, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 581 PA, .287/.410/.495, 23 HR, 0 SB, 16.7% BB rate, 17.9% K rate
ETA: Opening Day 2016
You will not find Vogelbach’s name on many top prospect lists and I’m here to tell you why that is and why you shouldn’t care. Vogelbach is a large, lumbering first baseman who is extremely unathletic and may honestly be unable to really play first base all that well. But who cares about defense when he plays in the American League and can now play DH?!

Vogelbach has always demonstrated one of the most well-rounded approaches among any first base prospect in the minors as evidenced by the fact he has never struck out more than 20 percent in any full season of work at any point in his career while always posting at least a .260 average with a career-low of seven home runs coming in only 81 games of work in 2015 and the runner up being still a solid total of 16 back in 2014. Vogelbach can flat out hit, a fact scouts have never denied, and now he has a chance to prove that at the big-league level batting behind stout forces like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. He should absolutely be owned in most dynasty leagues, as well as a lot of redraft leagues.

4. Dominic Smith (NYM, AA)
Stats: 542 PA, .302/.367/.457, 14 HR, 2 SB, 9.2% BB rate, 13.7% K rate
ETA: Late 2017/Early 2018
Another guy built more for consistent contact than power, Smith has for years been a guy you can count on to get on base, but not launch one over the wall. Yet after setting a career-high in home runs a season ago with just seven in 132 games of work, Smith really seemed to bring the thunder into the 2016 season, launching a new career-high 14 in two fewer games. Smith does not sacrifice contact for power, a rewarding fact for fantasy owners who worry he will struggle to maintain a consistent average as he tries to hit for more power. He may never hit more than 20 home runs in a single season, but Smith should still warrant ownership given his ability to hit for a high average.

5. Casey Gillaspie (TB, AAA)
Stats: 203 PA, .307/.389/.520, 7 HR, 0 SB, 10.6% BB rate, 18.7% K rate
ETA: Late 2017
Gillaspie is basically just the inverse of Smith. He is a prospect whose career calling card has always been his raw and in-game power that he has flashed for many seasons now. What improved for Gillaspie in 2016 was his batting average where he started to take more walks, strike out less and find a way to make more consistent contact without losing his power stroke (in fact, he set a career-high in home runs with 18 in 132 games). Gillaspie may hit .260 in the bigs if he proves he can carry over this newly-found plate discipline, but he is more likely to post lofty home run numbers than a great batting average.

6. Rowdy Tellez (TOR, AA)
Stats: 514 PA, .297/.387/.530, 23 HR, 4 SB, 12.3% BB rate, 17.9% K rate
ETA: Mid-2017/Late 2017
Tellez quietly had one of the best seasons out of everyone on this list in 2016. He crushed Double-A pitching, launching a career-high 23 home runs in only 124 games played (on pace for 30 home runs in 162 games) with his usual success in the batting average and on-base categories. Tellez is one of the more balanced hitters on this list and though he does not have tremendous power like Gillaspie or the consistent batting average of Smith, he is a fine middle-ground between the two and should be soon pushing Justin Smoak out of the strong-side platoon in Toronto.

7. Ronald Guzman (TEX, AAA)
Stats: (from AA) 415 PA, .288/.348/.477, 15 HR, 2 SB, 8.0% BB rate, 19.8% K rate
ETA: Mid-2017/Late 2017
I have always been a big fan of Guzman’s all-around game and I think he is always woefully underrated as a future first baseman. He not only makes consistent contact, but also has demonstrated that he can line the ball all over the field. He, like Bell and Smith on this list, recently run into a bit of a power surge as he launched a career-high 16 home runs ins 127 games of work and should make himself into a future 20-homer for the Rangers at first base. Throw in a .280+ average and you’ve got the makings of a solid big-league regular first baseman.

8. Bobby Bradley (CLE, A+)
Stats: 572 PA, .235/.344/.466, 29 HR, 13.1% BB rate, 29.7% K rate
ETA: Late 2018
If you haven’t noticed, I like guys who can make consistent contact and frown on guys who can’t a little bit more than most. I will not deny that Bradley has some extraordinary raw power and that he could easily hit 30+ home runs in any given season, but you survive in the majors by making enough contact to actually stay in the lineup on a regular basis. Bradley is young, the only 20-year-old on this list, and has plenty of time to correct his issue. And fortunately for him and for dynasty owners, his walk rates are promising which means he could at least bat enough to make himself a .250 hitter, which could be just enough for a guy with his power.

9. Rhys Hoskins (PHI, AA)
Stats: 589 PA, .281/.377/.566, 38 HR, 8 SB, 12.1% BB rate, 21.2% K rate
ETA: Late 2017/Early 2018
On paper, no first baseman had a better season than Hoskins did in 2016. He posted solid plate discipline numbers and he launched a ton of home runs. Now it should be noted that he did this in very hitter-friendly Double-A Reading, but scouts saw promise in Hoskins that they believe should translate to an eventual role in the majors. The best comparison for Hoskins may actually be the guy currently blocking him from reaching the position in Philadelphia, Tommy Joseph, as both are big power-hitting right-handers who may be fine sources of pop, but struggle a bit more on the batting average side of things. I think Hoskins will be a slightly better contact hitter and slightly worse power hitter than Joseph, still making him an enticing prospect to own in dynasty leagues.

10. Matt Thaiss (LAA, A)
Stats: 226 PA, .276/.351/.427, 4 HR, 1 SB, 9.7% BB rate, 12.4% K rate
ETA: Early 2019
Yesterday, I talked about the top catching prospects in the game and you may have noticed me talking about Zack Collins and how his bat would not play as well at first as it does at catcher. Need an example of that, look at Thaiss. Thaiss was a catcher at UVA and would have been one of the top fantasy catching prospects in the game had he been able to stick at that position. Now he is at first base, and his bat does not look quite as tantalizing as it did behind the plate. Even still, his combination of solid plate discipline and budding power should eventually turn him into a regular first baseman for the Angels and a guy worth owning as a solid first baseman in the near future for dynasty owners.

 

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