We kicked off our prospect rankings last week with a look at the catcher position. As he will be throughout this series, Andy Germani joins me to rank the top first base prospects for 2016. Our rankings will be consolidated to give you our final site rankings, but you can see where Andy and I ranked them in the table as well. These are fantasy rankings, and I remind you that Andy and I are not scouts, just simply heavy followers of baseball prospects. We hope you enjoy the rankings!
|T7||Sam Travis||Red Sox||22||2017||9||7|
|12||Rowdy Tellez||Blue Jays||20||2017||16||8|
|T21||Corey Zangari||White Sox||18||2020||17||25|
The following players received one vote: D.J Peterson, Mariners (Paul 23), Richie Shaffer, Rays (Andy 23), Rangel Ravelo, Athletics (Andy 24), and Cheslor Cuthbert, Royals (Andy 25).
Who is your favorite first base prospect to break out in 2016?
Andy: Josh Naylor has the size to be the prototypical power first baseman in the majors for many years at 6’1” 225. He is only 18 but in his first taste of professional baseball he hit .327 in 98 at bats. While I do think his average will suffer a little bit this season, I think he is in for a big boost in his power.
Paul: While he doesn’t have big first base power, I like Sam Travis to build upon his excellent 2015 where he followed up a .307/.381/.452 line across two leagues with a .344/.394/.505 line in the AFL. While the HR power hasn’t shown, over those 582 AB this year he did hit 42 doubles, 7 triples and 10 home runs. Throw in 22 stolen bases and you’ve got yourself a very interesting prospect.
What prospect could make a surprising contribution to fantasy teams in 2016?
Andy: I don’t know if him making a contribution will necessarily be a surprise, but I think Josh Bell will help some fantasy owners this season. The Pirates haven’t really addressed the first base position this offseason, unless you consider the John Jaso/Mike Morse platoon addressing it. They will need to spark the offense at some point this season and I expect Bell to get the call and put up some solid numbers.
Paul: Andy stole my choice here with Josh Bell, and I don’t see any other surprises happening. A.J. Reed may get the call early, while Byung-ho Park should provide plenty of offense with the Twins. If I had to pick someone different, I’d take a shot with Matt Olson of the Athletics. Olson had a huge drop in production in 2015, but did it in a much tougher hitting environment. His 17 HR ranked 4th in the Texas League, while his 37 double ranked 3rd. He was also 2nd in walks and 3rd in OBP. I’m not all-in on the Olson train, especially with fellow LHH Yonder Alonso slowing down his arrival. But, with a big start in AAA, Olson could force the issue with the Athletics.
What lesser-known prospect should fantasy owners put on their radars now?
Andy: I really struggled with where to rank him, but I think Ryan O’Hearn needs to be on the radar after his breakout season last year. The main reason I struggled with where to rank him is that I don’t know if I really buy it. He never hit for power in college, but in his first year of professional baseball in the rookie leagues he hit 13 homers in 249 at bats and followed that up with 27 homers across A and high-A last season in 475 at bats. The best part about his success in the minors is he is actually hitting for a higher average than he did in college along with the power surge. If he gets off to a nice start this season I am buying in all the way.
Paul: He’s not “lesser-known” to Jays fans, but Rowdy Tellez should be a household name this time next year. He has big time power, will hit in a great ballpark, and the Jays should have a spot open for him by the time he’s ready. He hit 7 HR in 131 AB after being promoted to High A, and then hit another 4 in the AFL in 82 AB. He probably should have been my breakout pick for 2016, but if it’s not too late to make a move for him in your leagues now, you probably should.
What prospect would it not surprise you if he fell significantly in the next year?
Andy: I don’t know if he is the most likely too, but of the guys I have high I worry the most about is Matt Olson. If you told me he had another year like last year I wouldn’t be shocked, 2014 could very well end up being a big outlier; not that I really ever expect him to hit 37 homers again, but 30 per year was starting to seem realistic. The walk rate is great for a power hitting first baseman, and while the strikeout rate isn’t good, you can deal with it if he is going to hit 37 homers like he did in 2014. Another concern in 2015 for me was that his strikeouts stayed at about the same number in fewer plate appearances while also seeing the power drop-off. I don’t mind Olson’s strikeouts if he can return to being a 30 plus home run player, but if he is striking out around 25% of the time in the minors with only 20-25 homers I am going to really back off the Matt Olson love.
Paul: I ranked Cody Bellinger pretty high, but am concerned about his K rate, especially as he moves up in the minors. His power was on display as he knocked 30 HR as a 20-year-old in High A, but the CAL is notoriously a hitters league. With a 27.6% K rate, he’ll need to not only show that his power is real, but that he can control the strike zone better in 2016. It’s a tough task, and with the offensive standard so high for a first baseman, there’s significant risk across the board. not just Bellinger.
Come back next Wednesday when we will publish our Top 25 Second Base Prospects.
Still need more rankings? Head on over to Fantasy Rundown, where Goose has compiled Prospect Rankings from all the top sites on the web along with rankings for the 2016 season and the best baseball links available.