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Top 10 First Base Dynasty Prospects - Fantasy Baseball Rankings

Triston Casas - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

For as long as I can remember, the first base position has been looked to for power, power, and more power. While it's not quite as potent as it was in the 2000s, this position remains one of the most impactful for offense in general.

That's also the case in the minor leagues as many of the names below possess big-time power with the ability to develop into middle-of-the-order power bats at the Major League level.

However, on the surface, this list might underwhelm you a bit. In general, only four of these names are locked-in Top 100 prospects on most lists. But don't let this crush your spirit or deter you from targeting some of these names in the back half of the top 10 below. There are still plenty of intriguing names at this position and plenty more that will eventually move over to first base from another position. It always happens. Now, let's dive into my current Top 10 first base prospect rankings for fantasy baseball entering the 2023 season.

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First Base Prospect Rankings for Fantasy Baseball

10. Xavier Isaac, Tampa Bay Rays

Drafted 29th overall by the Rays this past summer, Xavier Isaac is an imposing force at 6'4 and 240 pounds while just turning 19 back in December. There's no doubt that he's going to be a first base/DH profile long-term and he has the upside at the plate to make an impact offensively if everything clicks.

As you can probably expect from his gargantuan size, Isaac's most prolific tool is his massive raw power which easily grades as plus and could be considered 70-grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. Isaac can barrel up pitches with ease and drive the ball with authority to all fields while not sacrificing his contact abilities. While he's still several years away, this is the type of power hitter that could fly up prospect rankings over the next few years, and we could be talking about Isaac in a few years like we're talking about Christian Encarnacion-Strand this year.

 

9. Niko Kavadas, Boston Red Sox

In general, Niko Kavadas is a difficult prospect to value and much of it comes down to whether you play in a league that uses AVG or OBP as his value shifts a fair amount between the two formats. In 2022, the former Notre Dame standout hit .280 overall with a .443 OBP but hit only .222 in 100 Double-A plate appearances to end the season.

The two areas of Kavadas' profile that stand out in a major way are his power and on-base abilities. Kavadas is easily a plus power bat, maybe double-plus, and has had no issues consistently tapping into that in games. On top of that, Kavadas has walked a ton everywhere he's been, combining for a ridiculous 17.9% walk rate between college and the minor leagues. But despite hitting .280 last season, many evaluators question the hit tool long-term. He's also flirting with the threshold of being too passive to the point where it could limit him. But there's no denying the power and on-base abilities here.

 

8. Ivan Melendez, Arizona Diamondbacks

Another big power bat from the 2022 draft class, Ivan Melendez is basically a more advanced version of Isaac. You'd be hard-pressed to find a collegiate hitter that had a better season in 2022 than Melendez did for the University of Texas. In 67 games, Melendez smashed 32 home runs with a .387/.508/.863 slash line and more walks (52) than strikeouts (51). Yeah, it's college, but that's a Barry Bonds level slash line right there.

As with Isaac, massive raw power leads the way in Melendez's offensive profile and he's potentially an above-average hitter as well. He's consistently shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields while showing patience at the plate without much swing and miss. Melendez's upside is a middle-of-the-order thumper for Arizona and I have a strong feeling that he's going to be top 5 at this position (for prospects) by the end of the season.

 

7. Jordan Diaz, Oakland Athletics

If we were ranking strictly on upside, Jordan Diaz probably wouldn't make this top 10. However, part of my rankings process factors in proximity and performance in the upper minors. Diaz certainly checks off both of those boxes. After hitting .288 with 13 home runs in 90 games back in 2021, Diaz jumped to a .326/.366/.515 slash line in 120 games last season between Double-A and Triple-A with 34 doubles and 19 home runs.

While he won't provide any speed, Diaz is a plus hitter that hit .290 in the minors and there's average to above-average raw power in the profile as well. After playing first base the most in the minors last season, Diaz received most of his Major League time at second base and could wind up at either position long-term for Oakland. Diaz makes for a great value target as there's minimal buzz surrounding his name given the solid yet un-sexy profile.

 

6. Mark Vientos, New York Mets

Mark Vientos has always been a difficult player for me to rank. However, there's no denying the impact he's had at the plate over the last two minor league seasons. In 2021, Vientos hit 25 home runs in just 83 games with a .281/.352/.581 slash line and followed that up by hitting 24 more in 101 games this past season with nearly an identical AVG and OBP. With all of that said, he's also struck out 28.7% of the time in Triple-A over the last two seasons.

There's no denying the power upside with Vientos being a potential 25-30 homer bat over a full season. But on the other side, many evaluators don't project the hit tool well, and the swing-and-miss tendencies definitely play into that. There's also not a high level of certainty surrounding where Vientos will end up on the diamond or if he'll get a chance to play regularly for the Mets any time soon. If he does, Vientos could settle in as a .250-.260 hitter that can flirt with 30-homers annually.

 

5. Blaze Jordan, Boston Red Sox

There's been plenty of hype surrounding Blaze Jordan for several years now after he burst onto mainstream prospect/baseball media as "The 15-year-old that hits 500-foot home runs". Whether you want to believe he was hitting balls that far at 15 or not, Jordan definitely has impactful raw power and a swing that is geared for hitting balls in the air consistently, especially to his pull side.

In 2022, Jordan began tapping into that raw power in games, racking up 30 doubles and 12 home runs in 521 plate appearances. Yes, that home run total won't jump off the page at you, but we all know the raw power is there and Jordan showed he was a better pure hitter than people gave him credit for. What I'm focusing on is the .289 AVG and .363 OBP while posting a 9.2% walk rate and 18% strikeout rate. Overall, Jordan is now a career .296 hitter in the minors across 148 games.

If Jordan is able to maintain the improvements he's made as a pure hitter while continuing to tap into his power more and more in games, there's a good chance he's a universal Top 50 overall prospect by the end of the 2023 season.

*Tyler Soderstrom would rank here but I already discussed him in my Top 10 Catcher Prospects article.*

 

4. Matt Mervis, Chicago Cubs

The journey for the Matt Mervis hype train over the last 12 months has been a wild ride. Let's look back and revisit the journey, shall we?

Pre-2022: Mervis isn't a name with any buzz at all after a lackluster professional debut in Lo-A as a 23-year-old collegiate bat.

Post-2022 MiLB Season: The hype train has slammed the pedal to the floor after a .309/.379/.636 slash line in 137 games with 40 doubles and 36 home runs.

October/November: Hype reaches maximum speed after hitting five more home runs in the AFL and being named AFL Fall Stars Game MVP in which many First Pitch Arizona attendees were in attendance for. This sparked many tweets and a massive ADP jump in early 2023 drafts. I'm sure my tweets and below video played into that as well.

Early January: The Cubs sign Eric Hosmer for some reason. Mervis' hype remains mostly intact, maybe slightly dropping due to playing time concerns. Mid-January: The Cubs decide to also sign Trey Mancini which further clouds Mervis' 2023 playing time and causes his hype to drop a bit more.

Spring Training/Mid-March: Mervis is off to a rocky start this spring with a .118 AVG, one extra-base hit, and a 36.4% strikeout rate in 22 plate appearances. He's also struggled a bunch in WBC action. I'm sure people still like Mervis, but the ol' Twitterverse has been awfully quiet on Mervis lately.

Long story short, I'm still in on Mervis, but we probably went a bit too crazy on him a few months back. Mervis has the power to exceed 30 home runs annually and the contact skills and approach are good enough to hit above .250 with a solid OBP as well. Don't let the Cubs' moves and Mervis' slow start to spring deter you. Maybe he's not going to be a fantasy stud, but there's an impactful Major League hitter in this profile. He'll get his chance soon enough.

 

3. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Cincinnati Reds

One of my favorite dynasty buys at this position entering 2023 without question is Christian Encarnacion-Strand. Why? Because he has nearly as much pure upside as the two men ranked ahead of him on this list with a much more reasonable price tag. Encarnacion-Strand was acquired by Cincinnati from Minnesota as part of the return package for Tyler Mahle at the trade deadline in a move that really boosted his longterm value and projections.

Even before the trade, Encarnacion-Strand was mashing minor league pitching, but now having Great American Ballpark as his future home park is a nice added boost. Overall, Encarnacion-Strand racked up 31 doubles and 31 home runs in 122 games while slashing .304/.368/.587. That momentum carried over to 2023 spring training in a big way as Encarnacion-Strand went 15/26 with seven extra-base hits and four home runs before being optioned to Triple-A.

Encarnacion-Strand's power is truly elite, grading as Double-plus. And when you factor in his future home park, we could be looking at a future 35-homer bat. However, there are some swing-and-miss tendencies that need to be ironed out and Encarnacion-Strand has shown to be a tad aggressive and not work a ton of walks (7.4% in 2022). But even with a fringe-average hit tool in a hitter-friendly, BABIP-boosting ballpark, Encarnacion-Strand hitting .250-.260 isn't out of the question given his quality of contact. Now only if his last name wasn't such a pain in the you know what to type out in articles.

 

2. Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox

There's no arguing against Triston Casas and Kyle Manzardo being the top two first base prospects for fantasy baseball right now and the margin between the two is paper thin. As a die-hard Red Sox fan that lives 15 minutes from their Double-A affiliate in Portland, Maine, I've been able to see Casas a ton over the last couple of years, including some out in the Arizona Fall League as well. This includes plenty of batting practice sessions where he put his massive raw power on full display.

When you look at Casas' minor league numbers, while impressive, you won't find any gaudy home run totals. And honestly, who cares? Casas said in an interview about a year or so ago that he wasn't really focused on cranking a ton of home runs and was more focused on the quality of his at-bats, making consistent contact, using the entire field, etc. That was music to my ears. Casas knows he has big-time power, but he was focusing on the unheralded aspects of hitting development, knowing he could flip the switch and begin blasting home runs whenever he felt like it.

Overall, Casas possesses double-plus raw power with solid contact skills and an advanced approach at the plate that should allow him to hit for a decent average with an elite OBP to go along with it. I've long said that Fenway Park isn't a great place for left-handed power unless you're a hitter with massive power like David Ortiz or Mo Vaughn. Well, Casas definitely has that level of power. This is a potential top 5 fantasy first baseman in the making.

 

1. Kyle Manzardo, Tampa Bay Rays

If you're still kicking yourself for missing out on Vinnie Pasquantino, here's your chance at redemption. After a standout three seasons at Washington State, Manzardo was selected in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft by the Rays and hasn't stopped hitting in the minors. Through his first 106 professional games, Manzardo has slashed an exceptional .330/.427/.616 with 31 doubles, 24 home runs, and nearly as many walks (63) as strikeouts (71).

I'm still a tad higher on Pasquantino than I am on Manzardo, but the two could be fairly close in value longterm., Manzardo is a plus or better hitter with an elite approach at the plate and enough power to blast more than 25 home runs annually. No matter if you're in a league that uses AVG or OBP, Manzardo projects to be a four-category impact bat that could settle in as a locked-in top-10 first baseman for fantasy long-term. We'll likely see him at some point this summer with Tampa Bay.

 

If you enjoyed these rankings and want to see more rankings, analysis, and more, check out Eric's Toolshed Fantasy Patreon.



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