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Top 10 First Basemen - Dynasty Prospect Rankings

If you’re hunting for an impact bat for your fantasy baseball team, first base is often a good place to find a strong offensive contributor. In 2019, the last full season, 25 out of 37 first basemen with a minimum of 350 plate appearances had a 100 wRC+ or better. Of those, 13 players topped 120 wRC+. In the pandemic-shortened 2020, 23 out of 33 first-base-eligible players with 150 plate appearances or more topped the 100 wRC+ mark. Thirteen of those surpassed the 120 wRC+ mark.

It might then seem like an easy task to dip down into the minor leagues and fish out 10-20 promising names to target for the future but the thing about first base is that most players don’t start out at that position. Sure, we have exceptions such as Jose Abreu, Pete Alonso, and Freddie Freeman but then also have Joey Votto (catcher), Jeimer Candelario (third base), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (third base) who started out at other positions before moving.

Today, we look at the Top 10 first base fantasy baseball prospects in the game. The top third of the list is very strong — featuring two of the seven best prospects in all of baseball — but after that, the talent on the list quickly falls off. Last time out, we reviewed the Top 10 catchers which you can find here. *Ryan Mountcastle is ranked among the outfielders. Bobby Dalbec is ranked as a third baseman.

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Tier 1

1. Andrew Vaughn, White Sox (TOP 250 Rank: 6)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average, Power, OBP
Roadblock: Jose Abreu  (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Had I been running the Orioles’ draft in 2019, Vaughn would have been my choice for the first-overall pick in the draft due to his strong offensive profile; he still went quite high at third overall. The White Sox prospect has a chance to develop into a Freddie Freeman type of first baseman capable of providing a high batting average, 20-30 home runs and above-average patience for those of you in on-base leagues.

The unconventional 2020 season (ie. lack of a minor league season) makes it somewhat challenging to determine exactly when Vaughn will arrive in the majors. The White Sox did nothing in the offseason to block him at the MLB level despite already having Jose Abreu, the reigning AL MVP. The designated hitter slot is effectively wide open. The Sox may choose to play is safe with Vaughn and have him get some additional minor league seasoning under his belt either in double-A or triple-A but with a wide-open race for the playoffs in the American League Central, the club will no doubt be quick to pull the trigger if they feel Vaughn is ready.

2. Spencer Torkelson, Tigers (TOP 250 Rank: 7)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power, OBP
Roadblock: Jeimer Candelario/Miguel Cabrera  (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: Torkelson is often listed as the superior prospect to Andrew Vaughn but, for me, it’s the other way around. Vaughn is the better all-around hitter. Torkelson has more raw power and could be a threat to go deep 40 times a season but he also struggled with contact issues in college and will likely produce high strikeout rates and lower batting averages. I would also suggest, while both players should walk a fair bit, Vaughn’ free passes will come more from his excellent eye while Torkelson’s will come more from being pitched around.

Jeimer Candelario’s long-anticipated offensive contributions finally showed up in 2020 (136 wRC+) but it came after he moved from third base to first. With the declining Miguel Cabrera stuck at the designated hitter role, there isn’t much room for Torkelson if Candelario continues to hit moving forward. With that in mind, the Tigers will give the first base prospect an opportunity to prove he can handle third base in 2021. It’s a worthwhile gamble but one that likely ends with Torkelson back at first base before too long given he hasn’t played the position since high school. An early retirement from Cabrera (or at least a friendly parting of ways) would go a long way to helping sort out things.

3. Triston Casas, Red Sox (TOP 250 Rank: 92)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power, OBP
Roadblock: Bobby Dalbec/J.D. Martinez  (Threat Level: MEDIUM)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: Casas is basically a poor man’s Andrew Vaughn despite being a much larger man. He doesn’t display the same natural feel for hitting but you can see that he’s making himself into a solid hitter who isn’t just going to sell out for power. The raw strength is excellent but his approach suggests 20-25 home runs are more likely than 30 or more. The big question in Boston is: How good will Bobby Dalbec be? He obviously had an outstanding debut in 2020 but the swing-and-miss tendencies suggest he won’t find as much success in the long run which will make it much easier for Casas to find a home in the near future.


Tier 2

4. Michael Toglia, Rockies (TOP 250 Rank: 140)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power, OBP
Roadblock: C.J. Cron (NRI), Ryan McMahon, Josh Fuentes (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: Yup, this is where things drop off from a talent perspective. I’m not knocking Toglia — he’s a solid baseball prospect — but he can’t compete with the first two guys. He was a very good college hitter and was a first-round pick, but he likely lacks the overall hitting skill to be a star. Toglia is a patient hitter but often to his own detriment as he lets good pitches pass him by while working deep counts. Playing at Coors Field has a way of masking deficiencies, though, and the power output should be above-average.

5. Aaron Sabato, Twins (TOP 250 Rank: 163)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Miguel Sano/Nelson Cruz  (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2022

Need to Know: By the time Sabato is ready for the Majors both Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz could be elsewhere. But the young first baseman also comes with a lot of questions marks given that he has yet to play a pro game. And while he was a first-round pick in the 2020 draft, he was not a consensus first-round talent. Sabato has plus raw power and generates lots of hard contact, but there are questions about his overall hit tool that need to be answered as he gets back into traditional pro competition this year.

6. Lewin Diaz, Marlins (TOP 250 Rank: 199)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Jesus Aguilar (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Jesus Aguilar had a bounce-back season in 2020 after a poor showing in 2019 but he’s also 30 years old and will soon start making more money than the Marlins may be comfortable paying. That should provide Diaz a clear path to playing time by the end of 2021. The young first baseman has slowly added more loft to his swing and now projects to produce above-average pop at the MLB level. He’s an aggressive hitter who doesn’t strike out much but he also makes contact with too many pitcher’s pitches which undermines his offensive approach.

7. Seth Beer, Diamondbacks (TOP 250 Rank: 226)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Christian Walker, Pavin Smith (Threat Level: MEDIUM)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: The Diamondbacks were likely first in line among the National League clubs hoping the universal DH would continue in 2021. Both Pavin Smith and Beer are blocked by first baseman Christian Walker who remains a solid-but-unspectacular (and low-cost) MLB first baseman. Beer has the highest ceiling of the three players but he’s also the least well-rounded player of the bunch. He’s a strict-DH type with even poor first base defensive skills. On the plus side, he has 30-homer upside. Beer hit for a high average in college and at times in the minors but his pro success has come due to high BABIPs which won’t continue for long at the MLB level for this slow-footed slugger.


Tier 3

8. Colton Welker, Rockies (TOP 250 Rank: 233)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Average
Roadblock: C.J. Cron (NRI), Josh Fuentes, Michael Toglia  (Threat Level: LOW)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Originally a third baseman, Welker has failed to develop at the hot corner which means his future is most likely at first base. That’s not the greatest news given that power is not a huge part of the prospect’s current game. He’s never hit more than 13 home runs in a season or producing an isolated power rate above .162 ISO. Welker has hit for a high average in the minors but he also became far more pull-conscious in 2019 before the layoff. It will be interesting to see how his approach looks in the spring after spending the 2020 season at the alternate training site.

9. Pavin Smith, Diamondbacks (TOP 250 Rank: 250)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): OBP, Average
Roadblock: Christian Walker, Seth Beer  (Threat Level: Medium)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Smith is not your typical first baseman. He’s a hit-over-power player although he reportedly worked on generating more over-the-fence pop at the alternate training site in 2020. Smith has also worked hard to become passable while playing in the corner outfield. He could eventually hit .270-.290 with 15-20 home runs and a strong on-base presence.

10. Bobby Bradley, Cleveland (TOP 250 Rank: NA)
Key Fantasy Skill(s): Power
Roadblock: Josh Bauers, Josh Naylor, Franmil Reyes (Threat Level: Medium)
ETA: 2021

Need to Know: Bradley has already had some success at Triple-A and slugged 33 home runs at the level in 2019 but he hasn’t earn much of a shot at the majors because of the massive strikeout tendencies that he has yet to tame. The good news is that, while there is significant depth ahead of him, there aren’t really any established players (Josh Naylor could end up in the outfield) so a good hot streak this spring could earn him a role at 1B or DH.


Just Missed

One name to watch:

The Pirate’s Mason Martin has quietly turned himself into an intriguing future source of power. The former 17th-round pick (2017) hasn’t played above A-ball but he quietly hit 35 home runs in 2019.  Martin will likely never hit for much of a batting average but he’s shown a willingness to take a walk so he could eventually help in on-base leagues.  He’s somewhat similar to Bobby Bradley but the young Pittsburgh first baseman made less contact in the lower levels than the Cleveland prospect did.

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