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“That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: First Basemen 2017

It is finally that time of the year. The Super Bowl has finally come and gone, and we are about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. It’s been an unusual off-season for myself and many others. As Cubs fans, it’s the first time in 108 years the entire fanbase has been able to smile during the offseason.  And I must say, the Cubs finished 2016 as World Series champions in historic fashion. The 2016 Chicago Cubs capped the great youth movement in professional sports, and I have a feeling other organizations will start placing a higher premium on youth.

I’m very lucky when it comes to my preseason articles. I get to focus on minor league players, giving me an advantage when anticipating a call-ups and advising on certain prospects that can make an immediate impact. The past few seasons I’ve concentrated on catchers, pitchers, and outfielders. This season, I’ll be moving to the infield and covering first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, and third basemen. I’m looking forward to the new topics, and hopefully both of our shortlists are filled with players that can help our fantasy teams for seasons to come. Remember, this list is targeted to players who still possess rookie eligibility (i.e. no more than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched and less than 45 days on the active MLB roster). Enough with the small talk and without further ado, I bring “That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: First Basemen 2017.

 

Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates

Minors: .295/.382/.468/14 HR/60 RBI

MLB: .273/.368/.406/3 HR/19 RBI

ETA: 2017

josh-bellTwo more at-bats and Josh Bell would’ve been left off this list. Luckily, he’s still a rookie and will be among those to compete for the 2017 ROY. We saw a small sample size, but Bell didn’t disappoint during his time with Pittsburgh. He had more walks (21) than strikeouts (19). He brings great athleticism, and an approach that’s lead to high averages in the minor leagues. The Pirates need production from the first base position, which Bell will provide.  I saw him play at Triple-A Indianapolis last season, and he brings a smooth approach at the plate. He has great discipline and I love the fact he’s a switch-hitter. He’s transitioned well from the outfield, but he’s still a work in progress. If the Pirates ever need to give an outfielder a day off, they could easily move Bell to a corner spot. Bell is destined to be drafted in numerous leagues. If he has a big Spring Training and claims the starting job, Bell should be drafted in nearly 90% of leagues.  Be patient, but there’s no reason Bell isn’t ready to product for the Pirates. Has anyone else noticed the new trend in professional sports? No longer are we stuck with guys that play one position. We are seeing athletes that have the ability to move around the field, and giving managers a Swiss Army Knife of options. This is what I love about baseball, it’s a game of strategy.

Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers

Minors: .271/.365/.507/26 HR/71 RBI

ETA: 2018 (2017 September Call-Up)

In his first few minor league seasons, Bellinger hit for more average than power. At 6’4″ 210lbs, he has room to grow. Only 21, Bellinger took a huge leap in 2016, hitting 22 more home runs than his previous seasons combined. There’s a lot to be happy about, and Bellinger has the size to grow into an absolute slugger at the first base position. A former high school pitcher, he possesses great athleticism, and is another player that could play in the outfield if called upon. Again, he’s still young and needs to add more muscle to his frame, but when he does the potential is there for 30+ HR a season. Adrian Gonzalez’ contract is up after next season. If the Dodgers decide that re-signing a 36 year-old is out of the question, then Bellinger could be their answer. Can you imagine an organization losing a player such as Gonzalez, but having an incoming stalwart that can hit 30 homeruns in his inaugural season? The possibility is real, and Bellinger is already on the radar of players in dynasty leagues. When he does come up, be patient. He’s going to bring power, but he may struggle with Major League pitching and rack up strikeouts while sporting a lower batting average. This happens with numerous young power-hitters, but Bellinger brings the ability and athleticism to make the necessary adjustments.

Bobby Bradley – Cleveland Indians

Minors: .235/.344/.466/29 HR/102 RBI

ETA: 2018

Many experts have Bradley ranked at a similar spot, but I bumped him up a few spots due to the massive amount of power he displayed in 2016. There’s nothing more valuable than a left-handed masher, and Bradley fit the description perfectly. Strikeouts (170) were a major disappointment, but there’s a lot to get excited about with this prototypical power hitter. Only 20, Bradley will have a few more seasons to blossom in the minor leagues. He needs to cut back on his strikeouts, but I’m not sure this will ever be the case. He has a long way to go, but there’s no reason he can’t work on making contact and turn into a perennial 25+ HR hitter. As with many young sluggers, contact is the name of the game. Clearly he can hit fastballs and mistakes, but MLB-ready pitchers will feast on him if he continues to swing and miss at bad pitches.

Dan Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners

Minors: .292/.417/.505/23 HR/96 RBI

ETA: 2017

vogelbachMy list has Vogelbach listed higher than every other ranking. However, Vogelbach is as ready as it gets, and he will finally have a chance to play regularly in Seattle. He’s not going to win any Gold Gloves at first, but he can be a designated hitter. He’s never failed at any level in the minor leagues, and he could give the Mariners much needed production. Let’s not forget he was the piece the Cubs traded to land Mike Montgomery. The Mariners always enter seasons with big expectations, but always seem to fall off as the season progresses. Vogelbach needs to play, and needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues as a late-round pick. His 2017 story will be a great one: a player blocked by Anthony Rizzo, shipped to the league he was destined for, and turning into one of the best late-round/free agent fantasy pickups of 2017. Draft Dan Vogelbach!

Dominic Smith – New York Mets

Minors: .302/.367/.457/14 HR/91 RBI

ETA: 2017

Smith had a tremendous 2016 season. He hit for .300 or better again, with a solid B:KK ratio of [50:74]. His power numbers aren’t mind-boggling, but he has a smooth swing from the left-hand side. This has lead to extra base hits and a solid OBP of .367. He reminds me a lot of James Loney. Neither will necessary kill you with power numbers, but can shoot for the gaps and make great contact. Smith looks to make his debut in 2017, and can allow the Mets consistent contact production that Lucas Duda would not. Even if he’s not ready for everyday duties, he could easily split time with Duda at certain points in the season.

Josh Naylor – San Diego Padres

Minors: .264/.302/.407/12 HR/75 RBI

ETA: 2020

Selected 12th overall by Miami in the 2015 draft, Naylor was highly regarded from the left-hand side of the plate. The Padres landed him for Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea, and Tayron Guerrero. I’m sure everyone remembers Rea injuring himself during his first start for the Marlins and being sent back to San Diego when it became apparent he required Tommy John surgery. Regardless, the Padres came away with a steal, and this will be a trade the Marlins will one day regret making. Naylor is not going to do much damage with his legs, so he’s destined for first base. Regardless, his swing is about as defined as any 19 year-old’s in the minor leagues, and he projects to be a perennial 30+ HR hitter. He’s already on the radar for dynasty owners, but he still a few seasons away from getting his call to San Diego. However, when he does be ready for the power-lefty to provide much needed numbers to all fantasy teams.

Casey Gillaspie – Tampa Bay Rays

Minors: .284/.388/.479/18 HR/64 RBI

ETA: 2017

Gillaspie is going to get his chance in 2017. With the Rays moving Logan Forsythe to LA, the Rays can easily move Brad Miller to second, and pencil in Gillaspie at first. DH is another possibility. Regardless, the Rays are going to give younger players a chance, and they could use the power Gillaspie brings to the table. He has a consistent swing from both sides of the plate, but he supplies more power from the left side. Strikeouts may be an issue, but you have to love the smooth swing and power, for a player that stands 6’4″ 240lbs. More than likely he’ll be gobbled up off the waiver wire, but when he does get a call his progress needs to be monitored. Every owner is looking for the waiver wire gem, and Gillaspie will be part of the list that could pay huge dividends. Be mindful of early struggles with strikeouts, but when he’s locked in, watch out!

Rowdy Tellez – Toronto Blue Jays

Minors: .297/.387/.530/23 HR/81 RBI

ETA: 2017

tellezTellez couldn’t find himself in a better position than he is now heading in 2017. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion left for Cleveland, leaving a void to fill at first. Justin Smoak will undoubtedly be given every opportunity to win the job out of Spring Training, but not without a fight from Tellez. He has a quick, compact, and explosive swing that has supplied power at every stop in the minors. He’s stuck at first due to his unathletic frame, but that’s not a problem as the Blue Jays still have an opening at first. He’s going to hit and he gets to play his home games at Rogers Centre. Of my list of ten players, I believe Tellez could make the biggest, and most immediate impact. While Josh Bell takes the top spot, Tellez can easily have more home runs as a rookie due to the 81 games he may get to play in Toronto. If I’m taking a late-round flier, Tellez may be the player I select over many others. However, the only downside is his 1B/UTIL eligibility. It’s a shame he couldn’t manage OF eligibility.

Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers

Minors: .274/.333/.449/16 HR/67 RBI

ETA: 2017

Another player that is limited to first, Guzman possesses an advanced bat that allows him to generate more backspin on balls than your average hitter. He has great chance to move up quickly, and get his call in 2017. Texas is another organization that needs production at first, and Guzman is a pure hitter. He’s not going to overpower pitchers, but he can easily hit towards the bottom of the order. The Rangers are losing the solid production that Ian Desmond supplied last season. Mitch Moreland signed with Boston in early December leaving a void to fill at first base. I do not believe Guzman wins the job out of Spring Training, but if the Rangers get little production early on and Guzman start off hot, he will get the call early on in the season.

Matt Thaiss – Los Angeles Angels

Minors: .292/.361/.462/6 HR/43 RBI

ETA: 2017

thaissI’m stretching here. The Angels suffered through a dismal 2016 season in which lack of production and injuries plagued them all season long. Their season was so bad that rumors started to fly that they would move Mike Trout to rebuild their organization. Rumors is exactly what they were, and there was no reason to move the 25 year-old on pace to be in the Hall of Fame one day. They have questions everywhere except centerfield. Thaiss possesses a bat that is ready for professional baseball. He caught at the University of Virginia and was drafted number 16 overall. Now, with the Angels needing offense, Thaiss spent his time in the minor leagues playing some first base. I’m never shocked if a player wins a job out of Spring Training, but I can see Thaiss breaking Spring Training in the minors, polishing his first base skills, and getting a call very early in 2017. The Angels signed Dustin Ackley Saturday night, and he could give Thaiss enough time to get ready for a call-up around a month in a half into the 2017 season. Expect Thaiss to draw walks while managing a low strikeout total. He’s going to produce offensively, and could hit for 20+ home runs a year.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

 

I'm a former collegiate and semi-pro baseball player. Chicago sports are the love of my life [Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls] as well as European football. I promise Cubs fans that if Theo can't bring a World Series, I will knock down all doors until I work my way up to GM and bring home a World Series to the Northside of Chicago!

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Darrell Winstead

    February 11, 2017 at 10:31 am

    What’s your thoughts and prediction for Greg Bird of the NYY?

    • Kyle Amore

      February 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      It’s extremely hard to put a prediction on Bird. Assuming he comes back healthy, shoulders can be very tricky, it’ll take some time after missing an entire season. It was his throwing shoulder, which isn’t too big of a deal as a first baseman. However, as a left-handed batter, this could cause issues if he isn’t 100% as he leads with his right arm while swinging. If I had to give a prediction, if may take him an entire year to come back. He’s still going to need to rebuild strength, and get used to swinging at 95+ MPH pitches with movement. It’s a shame since he was ready to come up. Let’s hope he recovers fast, and he regain his form prior to labrum surgery. I’d temper expectations in 2017 after having this type of surgery.

  2. Pingback: “That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: Second Basemen 2017

  3. Pingback: “That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: Third Basemen 2017

  4. Pingback: “That’s Amore!” Minor League Maestros: Shortstops 2017

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