Top 10 First Base Prospects

 

Rating first basemen is often tough in the minors.  Many of the players who field that position in the Majors, played different positions in the minors.  Also the most important quality for a first basemen, power, is often the last tool to develop.   Power does not seem to be an issue though for the best first base prospect in the minors, Prince Fielder.

 

1. Prince Fielder Milwaukee Brewers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

20

AA

497

.272

29

1

23

65

93

.366

.473

 

Known for his famous father, Cecil 'Big Daddy' Fielder, Prince was drafted 7th overall by the Brewers in 2002.   He went right to work smashing 13 homeruns in 258 at-bats that season.  He followed that up with 27 homeruns while batting .313 for Low-A Beloit at age 19.

 

Because of his early success, the Brewers placed him in AA in 2004 where he began play at just 19 years old.  He started fast but ran into a slump by mid season.  Fielder made adjustments, which is a sign of a good hitter, and finished strong.  

 

Unlike his father, in addition to his power, Fielder is a good hitter.  He makes solid contact and has a very good strikeout to walk ratio.  He showed off his batting eye by taking 65 walks against older and more advanced pitchers in AA while still maintaining his power.

 

As a hitter, Fielder projects to be a monster.  His minor league performances suggest he should hit for a good average and lots of power.  His bat is his calling card.

 

As a fielder, Prince is said to be only average.  With some work he could become solid defensively but is unlikely to ever win a gold glove.  

 

Fielder, who is already a big man, must keep is weight under control.  His father couldn't do it but if he learns from his father's failures, he will continue his rise toward being a Major League star.

2. Casey Kotchman Anaheim Angels

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

Majors

116

.224

6

0

0

7

11

.289

.276

AAA

199

.372

22

0

5

14

25

.423

.558

AA

114

.368

11

0

3

10

7

.438

.544

 

The only thing keeping Casey from being number one on this list is his injury problems.  He played in a career high 115 games this season but still missed time due to injury.  In his three prior seasons, his best was 81 games played. If he can't stay on the field, he can't be a star.

 

The injuries may have limited his playing time but you wouldn't have known it by his performance.  Kotchman tore up the minors last season hitting a combined .371 between AA and AAA with 8 homers and 33 doubles in just 313 at-bats.

 

Kotchman has a smooth swing that should yield a high batting average.  His power is what might be worry some though.  His 33 doubles indicate future power might be on the horizon, but his 8 homeruns last year might be more telling.  

 

In the field, Kotchman is considered as smooth as they come.  He has good range and foot work to go with soft hands.  He will be an asset on the field and is likely to earn a few gold gloves before he is done.

 

If Kotchman can stay healthy and if his doubles power turns into homeruns, he could be one of the best players in the majors.  If not, he'll likely still be a very good player.

 

3. Ryan Howard Philadelphia Phillies

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

25

AAA

111

.270

10

0

9

14

37

.362

.604

AA

374

.297

18

1

37

46

129

.386

.647

 

Ryan burst onto the scene with a combined 46 homeruns between AA and AAA.  A good prospect before this season, his recent power explosion have some thinking he may have turned the corner toward being an elite prospect.

 

While his power was amazing, there were still a few flaws.  First, he had a lot of strikeouts.  Being 25 he should have overmatched AA pitchers, as he did with the homeruns, but he also should not have been fooled as much as he was.  Secondly, he only had 18 doubles which means when he wasn't hitting homers, he wasn't doing much.

 

Outside of power, Howard offers little.  He is not a great defender and may ultimately be best suited as a DH in the American League.  With his path to the Majors if blocked by Thome at first, Howard could be traded or temporarily moved to a different position.

 

Regardless where he plays, homeruns are the way Ryan is going to succeed in the Majors.  He is third on the list because if he shows anything close to what he did this year he will be a dominate force in any lineup. 

 

4. Adrian Gonzalez Texas Rangers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

Majors

42

.238

3

0

1

2

6

.273

.381

AAA

457

.304

28

3

12

39

73

.364

.457

 

It seems as if Gonzalez has been a top prospect forever.  The top pick in the 2000 draft, he as steadily moved through the minor leagues with success at every level.  Traded from the Marlins to the Rangers in 2003, he is now on nearly ready but is blocked by Mark Teixeira.

 

Gonzalez's bat will never force its way into the Texas lineup alone.  He has good doubles powers but not much more.  He doesn't have much speed either but is an excellent defender.  This is aspect of his game that will get into the Texas lineup.  

 

If Gonzalez can develop 20 homer power and maintain his defense he will be a solid player.  He may not make it with Texas but will play with some team. 

 

5. James Loney Los Angeles Dodgers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

20

AA

395

.238

19

2

4

42

75

.314

.327

 

To say the least, Loney has skills.  He has the potential to hit for average and power while playing very good defense.  Until last season, it looked as if he was on the fast track to LA.  He performed well in 2003 in high A at age 19.  Last season, though, he struggled as one of the youngest players in AA.

 

While last season's performance didn't look good, there is no reason to worry yet.  Being only 20, he will have the opportunity to redeem himself this season.  His skills are still there and he is still very likely to reach is potential.

 

6. Michael Aubrey Cleveland Indians

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

AA

134

.261

7

0

5

15

18

.340

.425

high A

218

.339

14

1

10

27

26

.438

.550

 

To say it simple, Aubrey is a hitter.  He was drafted 11th overall in 2003 and went right to work with the bat.  He has very good plate discipline and makes very good contact.  He has hit for a high average in the minors and should continue that as he reaches the Majors.

 

Aubrey doesn't project to hit many homers but should still be very productive with lots of doubles and high average.  He also is a very good defender right now and could win a few gold gloves before he is done.

7. Brian Dopirak Chicago Cubs

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

21

low A

541

.307

38

0

39

48

123

.363

.593

 

Brain broke out in a big way in 2004, mashing 39 homers while hitting over .300.  He was selected in the second round by the Cub in 2002 out if high school and is still a little raw.

 

Power is his lone asset right now and he needs to work on a few aspects of his game to advance.  He is not a very good defender and he showed way too many strikeouts, especially for low A.

 

If he can learn to be a little patient his power will carry him, if not he will likely be chewed up and spit out by more advanced pitchers.   

 

8. Jason Stokes Florida Marlins

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

23

AAA

394

.272

26

0

23

42

121

.345

.513

 

Stokes has been a top prospect since being drafted by the Marlins in 2000.  After a break out 2002 season, Stokes has struggled and his time might be starting to pass.  The Marlins paved the way in 2003 by trading Adrian Gonzalez to the Rangers and Derek Lee to the Cubs but he was unable to capitalize.

 

Jason's Power was the big reason the Marlins kept him over Gonzalez.  He has the potential to hit 40 plus homers annually in the Majors.  While he still shows flashes of what he can do, wrist injuries have sapped him of some of that power. 

 

2005 will be a pivotal season for Stokes.  He needs to cut down on his strike outs and needs to show that his wrist is fully healthy and that his power is still there.  If he can do both he will force his way into the Marlins lineup this season.

 

9. Jason Botts Texas Rangers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

24

AA

481

.293

25

3

24

77

126

.399

.507

 

Moving back to first after trying to man right field, Botts looked more comfortable at the plate.  He began tapping into his incredible strength by hitting a career high 24 homeruns.  

 

Botts is very athletic for his size and runs very well. He is not a great defender but his athleticism could help him to get better. He also has a very good eye leading to good on base percentages and increases the chances of him producing good batting numbers in the Majors.

 

Botts appeared to turn the corner in his career in 2004.  His biggest problem now is the log jam at first in Texas. If he continues to refine his power and maintains his batting eye he will force his way into the lineup or be traded to another team.

 

10. Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

21

high A

84

.298

7

0

5

11

21

.385

.560

low A

391

.302

26

2

14

79

110

.419

.486

 

Votto was drafted by the Reds in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft.  He struggled in 2003 in his first stint in low A and had to be demoted.  Things changed in 2004 as Votto dominated low A and did very well after being promoted to high A.

 

Joey is a very patient hitter with the potential for loads of power.  His defense, like most power hitting first base prospects, is not his strong suit.  Votto's batting eye and power make him an attractive hitter and should help him as he advances into the upper minors. 

 

 

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order):

Tagg Bozied, San Diego Padres

Craig Brazell, New York Mets

Larry Broadway, Washington Nationals

Brad Eldred, Pittsburgh Pirates

Dan Johnson, Oakland A's

Lance Niekro, San Francisco Giants

Todd Self, Houston Astros

Ryan Shealy, Colorado Rockies

Walter Young, Baltimore Orioles

 

 

Top prospects by position