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2017 First Basemen: Top MLB Prospects for Fantasy Baseball

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

There are not too many uber-talented first base prospects in the minors today. The depth is not as strong this season as it has been in the past. At this point, the first base position in the majors is starting to become filled more and more at the big league level by third basemen and outfielders who lacked the range to field their respective positions. You don’t see a lot of pure first basemen rise up through the minors any more.

But with that said, there are still some talented first base prospects out there, several of whom look poised to have productive 2017 seasons for their big-league ball clubs. Though only a single first base rookie finished the 2016 season with a WAR above 1.0, there are a couple higher-impact bats who could debut in 2017 and receive more playing time for teams that currently lack quality first base options.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Top 10 First Base Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball

1. Josh Bell (PIT, MLB)
Stats: 152 PA, .273/.368/.406, 3 HR, 0 SB, 13.8% BB rate, 12.5% K rate
ETA: Opening Day
The only thing stopping Bell at this point from debuting on Opening Day is the progress in his recovery from knee surgery. Other than that, he seems very likely to have a fantasy impact right out of the gate. He hit extremely well for Pittsburgh when he debuted, much better than the duo of David Freese and John Jaso. All this coming off his most productive stat line in the minors as he put together a .295/.382/.468 slash line with 14 homers, 3 stolen bases, an 11.8 percent walk rate and 15.3 percent strikeout rate. He began to find his power stroke in 2016 and should only continue to excel in that aspect. Expect him to hit right around .300 with 15-25 home runs in 2017 and emerge as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

2. 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
I’m going to throw this out there before I go any further: scouts rate Vogelbach as a great first baseman. They see him as an extremely unathletic, lumbering first base prospect who will never be a great defender. But they have all begun to come around on his bat. After continuing his monstrous tour of the minors, Vogelbach has started to be viewed as a starting DH or (at worst) first base option for big league teams. Scouts love his advanced approach to the plate and believe him to be a high on-base guy, even if the batting average does not come with him to the big leagues. He certainly has tons of power and should be a 20-homer threat in the big leagues. He will be the Mariners’ starting first baseman entering the 2017 campaign and should have quite a bit of fantasy value in mixed leagues.

3. Cody Bellinger (LAD, AAA)
Stats: (from AA) 465 PA, .263/.359/.484, 23 HR, 8 SB, 12.7% BB rate, 20.2% K rate
ETA: Early June
Bellinger exploded onto the scene in 2016 with a 30-homer season at High-A and only built up more hype after he crushed both Double- and Triple-A. He is blocked at first base by Adrian Gonzalez right now, but the Dodgers may elect to make a change or at least call Bellinger up to man one of the outfield positions. Bellinger is already a better defender and a better power hitter than Gonzalez and is probably Los Angeles’ best option at the position. Even if he does not push Gonzalez out of first base during this season, he should be expected to be called up and play some role for the team (even if just as a utility bat). He has the highest upside of any first base prospect out there and could be a dynamic fantasy option if given playing time.

4. 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: Early May
Guzman is the beneficiary of a lack of quality options at first base. Texas lost Mitch Moreland to the Boston Red Sox in free agency and Prince Fielder to retirement. Now, their top options at first are Mike Napoli (likely to spend more time at DH than any other position), Ryan Rua (can’t hit right-handed pitching) and Joey Gallo (still can’t make consistent contact). Guzman, meanwhile, has begun to emerge in the minors as a potential star first baseman thanks to a very refined approach at the plate and some budding power in his bat. If Guzman can crush Triple-A like he did Double-A in 2016, he should be able to warrant a promotion to the big leagues in May and take over as the full-time or strong-side-platoon first baseman.

5. Casey Gillaspie (1B, AAA)
Stats: 203 PA, .307/.389/.520, 7 HR, 0 SB, 10.8% BB rate, 18.7% K rate
ETA: Early May
Gillaspie may not have a single season with more than 20 home runs under his belt, but that’s mostly because he has yet to play in more than 135 games in a full season. Last season, the switch-hitting first baseman combined for 18 dingers and was on pace for 20+ if he played in 150 games. The Rays are in a sort of a rebuilding stage and would be more likely to give Gillaspie some playing time in the majors rather than continue to start Logan Morrison if Gillaspie earns the promotion.

6. Rowdy Tellez (TOR, AA)
Stats: 514 PA, .297/.387/.530, 23 HR, 4 SB, 12.3% BB rate, 17.9% K rate
ETA: Early June
The Blue Jays lost All-Star first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to free agency and as of today are slated to deploy a platoon of Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak in 2017. Now sure, those guys may hit for some pop, but neither are outstanding options for a potential playoff contender. Tellez, on the other hand, is coming off his best season in the minors at Double-A where he demonstrated excellent plate discipline and finally got his power swing going. And with John Gibbons already saying that Tellez is the closest prospect to the majors, he has to be considered a potentially enticing fantasy option in 2017 mixed leagues. If Smoak, Pearce or both struggle at any point throughout the season, Tellez could come up and become a steady source of production at first base for Toronto.

7. Dominic Smith (NYM, AA)
Stats: 542 PA, .302/.367/.457, 14 HR, 2 SB, 9.2% BB rate, 13.7% K rate
ETA: Early July
Smith has a challenging path to the majors. He is blocked by first baseman Lucas Duda at the big leagues who, health-permitting, should be ready to go and start full-time for New York. Smith is probably a better all-around hitter with his advanced discipline and raw power, but the Mets are going to be locked in a tight playoff chase with Washington and will likely not want to rely on a rookie at first base unless Duda really struggles and Smith completely demolishes Triple-A pitching. Smith will likely get a promotion in 2017, but he will have to fight to get regular starting playing time.

8. Rhys Hoskins (PHI, AA)
Stats: 589 PA, .281/.377/.566, 38 HR, 8 SB, 12.1% BB rate, 21.2% K rate
ETA: Early August
There is no denying that Hoskins had an incredible 2016 campaign. Even if you take into account the fact he did most of his mashing at hitter-friendly Reading, Hoskins still looked the part of a future starting first baseman. The only problem is that he is basically competing with a carbon-copy of himself at the big-league level for playing time. Tommy Joseph, like Hoskins, is a young power bat with a tendency to hit lefties better than righties. Hoskins could theoretically push Jospeh out or one of the two could be traded away, but as it stands right now, Hoskins has an uphill battle for playing time.

9. Trey Mancini (BAL, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 536 PA, .280/.349/.427, 13 HR, 2 SB, 9.0% BB rate, 22.9% K rate
ETA: Early August
Mancini was all set to receive starting playing time in 2017 until the Orioles resigned Mark Trumbo. Now it’s back to Triple-A with the 24-year-old first baseman. He has shown throughout his MiLB career that he has plenty of pop and could hit for a respectable average, but he is limited to first base or DH with his athleticism, or lack thereof. He could be a trade candidate if the Orioles try to upgrade a position as he is one of their better prospects, but that is likely his only legit path to consistent playing time in 2017.

10. Matt Olson (OAK, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 540 PA, .235/.335/.422, 17 HR, 1 SB, 13.1% BB rate, 24.4% K rate
ETA: Early August
If Olson could lower his strikeout rate and hit for a better average, he’d likely be starting in the majors at first base this season. Yonder Alonso is not necessarily a must-start first baseman for Oakland, but no one is really forcing him out. Olson has always hit for a ton of power and he takes plenty of walks, but he also consistently strikes out 20 percent of the time or more and usually posts a batting average below .250. All Olson needs to do is fix the issues in his game right now and he could be a legitimate source of power for fantasy owners, but that’s easier said than done.




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