It’s February!!! Pitchers and Catchers will report within the next two weeks. I’m tired of the snow and cold and ready for some spring training. We at Major League Fantasy Sports are rolling out our pre-season fantasy rankings throughout the month of February. I have the privilege of breaking down prospects that may impact your fantasy leagues in 2015 or should at least be on your radar as a keeper for a significant role in 2016. These rankings are not designed to give you a list of top overall prospects at each position, but rank their impending fantasy impact. This is an important distinction to make, because you won’t see many of the toolsy teenagers on these list, and some prospects might be ranked slightly higher than you might think due to their proximity to the majors and opportunity to contribute.
This week we will break down prospects at one of the corner infield positions, First Base. I am going to take advantage of some recent decisions that teams have made to switch positions for a couple prospects. These team decisions immediately jump them up to the top of the First Base Power Rankings. Beyond the top two, there aren’t a lot of house hold names on this list, but several intriguing prospects to keep tabs on in keeper leagues and look to acquire in dynasty leagues. Next week, we will look at Third Base which has a few of the top overall prospects in the game to headline the list, but a number of question marks after the cream of the crop. Without any further introduction…
1. DJ Peterson (SEA) — Some may say I’m cheating here, but Seattle has already announced that DJ will spend some time at 1B this season. After one full year of pro ball, Peterson hit 30+ HRs and ended the season in AA. His bat speed is pro ready, but he will likely play most of the season in AAA in order to refine his approach, develop his hit tool and get reps at 1B. When Logan Morrison breaks down physically later in the season (and he will), Seattle may look to call up Peterson to fill the void. Kyle Seager is signed long term to man the hot corner so 1B is DJ’s quickest path to “The Show.”
ETA — Late 2015
2. Josh Bell (PIT) — I know that Bell already appeared in “Minor League Maestros” OF rankings, but Pittsburgh sent him to Arizona last fall to play 1B in the AFL. There is no room for him in the Pittsburgh OF and the 22 year old with plus power and plus hit tool is ready to contribute. If you live in the Indianapolis metro area, you will likely be able to watch him develop his 1B skills. How he progresses in the field will ultimately determine how quickly he gets called up.
ETA — Early 2016
3. Matt Olson (Oak) — Quick Trivia…what player hit the most HRs in the minor leagues last year after Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo? Matt Olson hit 37 HRs last year AND lead the minors with 117 walks. Down side…he seems to strike out every time that he doesn’t walk or homer. Don’t expect him to hit for a high average but his plus-plus power should translate to the majors. He likely plays most of this season in AA, but there isn’t really anyone blocking his path to playing time in Oakland once they feel his bat is ready. Ike Davis will keep the spot warm so that Oakland can be patient and give him the whole season to work on his contact in the minors. They likely start him in AAA in 2016. If he can develop a better contact percentage, he has a better chance to be an all star. If he keeps up with the high strike out rate, he becomes a liability and falls off the dynasty watch list.
ETA — Mid 2016
4. Greg Bird (NYY) — Even as a Yankees fan, I didn’t pay much attention to Bird until I saw him in Trenton last year. He has developed adequate power for 1B and he gets on base over 40% of the time. This past fall, he was named MVP of the AFL and opened people’s eyes. This is a welcome development for the Yankees. There is no other long term answer at 1B for New York, but with Tex and Garrett Jones (and maybe A-Rod?), the position should be covered for 2015. Bird has some injury history himself, but recently has been healthy and with his advanced approach at the plate, he should make an impact in the Bronx by 2016 and the full-time 1B by 2017.
ETA — MID 2016
5. Casey Gillaspie (TB) — The switch hitter would be much higher in dynasty rankings with a plus power and hit tool and a high OBP. Casey was selected in the 1st round of the 2014 draft out of Wichita State, but progressed quickly through the lower levels of the Tampa farm system with his polished approach, excellent pitch recognition and power from both sides of the plate. He will likely spend most of 2015 in AA with James Loney holding down 1B until he is ready. There is an outside chance Tampa brings him up late in 2015, but more likely he will start in AAA in 2016 with an early summer call up. He should then be a fixture there for the many years.
ETA — Mid 2016
6. Christian Walker (BAL) — Walker is the first prospect on this list that has already made his major league debut. Another quick riser through the system, he reached after just two full seasons in pro ball. He is a run producer that can hit for average. If he could cut back on a few strikeouts, he could be a solid contributor as an everyday 1B. He should start the season on the 25 Man roster, but likely with be a reserve for most of the spring. Chris Davis is a question mark to stay healthy (and hit over the mendoza line) and the other 1B, Steve Pearce, will likely DH and can also play in the OF. It might be best for Walker and the Orioles to let him start in AAA to get regular At-bats until the inevitable injury can give him consistent playing time in Baltimore. He is ready to contribute now and once has the everyday gig, should give your fantasy team cheap, solid numbers so you can go after the big guns at other positions.
ETA — Early 2015
7. AJ Reed (HOU) — Houston may not have been able to sign their 1st overall pick in last year’s amateur draft, but they did hit a home run (pun intended) in the second round by drafting star pitching and hitting prospect, AJ Reed, out of the University of Kentucky. He arguably has the highest raw power of all the prospects on the 1B on this list. What is exciting about Reed is he could develop his above average hit tool to a plus tool. This will allow the team be able to absorb the high strikeouts. He will likely be a liability in the field and destined to be a DH, but plus hit and plus-plus power will force the Astros to find a way to get him in the lineup on a daily basis. He might start in High A in 2015 and likely finish in AA by then end of the year. If he continues to develop as he did in 2014, he could be bashing in the Houston lineup in 2016. He might have been Top 5 if he was a little closer to contributing
ETA — Late 2016
8. Daniel Vogelbach (CHC) — Vogelbach is another prospect that could be in the Top 5 on talent and potential. However, being a DH type player on a National League organization will likely result in a trade to an AL team or extended time in the minors with Rizzo ahead of him. He should spend most of the season in AAA and is another excellent prospect that can hit for power, average and good plate discipline. It is possible he makes an appearance late in the season (September call up?) to showcase him for an off-season trade. As much as the Cubs seem to like him, he is a more valuable trade asset then he is a fit for Wrigley.
ETA — Mid to Late 2016 (trade moves this timeline up)
9. Matt Skole (WSH) — Matt was one of the hottest 1B prospects in the game in 2012 before he had to have Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2013. He had a subpar 2014, but many believe he wasn’t fully healthy yet. Another plus power bat that looks to show that power stroke is back in 2015. He is another one that would be ranked slightly higher if not for the health concerns and the place to play. Washington is moving Ryan Zimmerman to 1B and Rendon to 3B so there isn’t anywhere for Skole to play in the near future. It would do him well to spend most of the year in AA and maybe an appearance in AAA this year to show he is healthy and get his swing back. If he proves he’s healthy, he could be a major trade asset like Vogelbach or they may decide to move Zimmerman again.
ETA — Mid 2016
10. Bobby Bradley (CLE) — Bradley is the lone “youngster” on the list as he was drafted this past June out of high school. All he did in his first exposure to pro ball was to win the Triple Crown in his Rookie level league. He isn’t likely to see the majors until 2017, but Santana is holding down 1B right now and could easily move to DH once Bradley is ready to roll. He should be fun to watch develop to see if he is that true run producer and force the Indians hand to call him up late in 2016. Dynasty owners should have this guy in their sights. He should have a significant rise up this list going into next off-season.
ETA — Late 2016
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday February 15th from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this years first episode of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers during the show at 646-915-8596.