By Drake Mann
Continuing my “Prospects blooming” series, I look at 10 first base prospects that are on the cusp of a 26-man roster spot or have a future at first base and how us as fans should enjoy watching these players moving forward.
Seth Beer (Diamondbacks): This 23-year-old was drafted 28th overall by the Astros in 2018. He is currently the 12th best prospect in the Diamondbacks system. In 2019, he got as high as Double-A and hit a combined .289/.388/.516 with 26 home runs and a .904 OPS. In college he had one of the purest bats with a high average, and high on-base with plenty of power. He has a short, quick swing and hits to all fields. One area of concern is his lackluster defense, but with a bat of his calibre you can sacrifice defense. The incredible thing about Beer is his plate discipline and his ability to make contact with the ball. In his career, he’s struck out 162 times in 710 at-bats. He reminds me of Brian McCann with the bat and even has a stance very reminiscent of McCann.
The D-backs have Christian Walker as the starting first baseman and I believe Seth Beer is ticketed for Double-A. He struggled mightily with the Jackson Generals, in 24 games (101 at-bats) he hit .205/.297/.318 with one home run and a .615 OPS. Keep your eye out for Beer as he’s probably the most major league ready on this list.
Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles): Another 23-year-old but Mountcastle was drafted 36th overall in 2015. He is currently the fourth best prospect in the Orioles system and was at Triple-A Norfolk and slashed .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and a .871 OPS. When you look up power in the dictionary, you see a picture of Mountcastle. He has a violent upper-cut swing that produces power with tons of fly balls, which is perfect for the type of player he is. Much like Seth Beer, Mountcastle needs to work on defense more than anything. Also, like many power hitters, Mountcastle struggles with plate discipline and that will ultimately show his success at the major league level going forward.
With the Orioles bound to have another failed season, and another season of Chris Davis. This could be an opportunity for Mountcastle to break camp with the Orioles. Plus, he has the chance to be a Trey Mancini type of player, a high average-high power player for the Orioles for years to come. If you’re an Orioles fan you take notice of this top first base prospect.
Bobby Dalbec (Red Sox): The 24-year-old was drafted in the fourth round in 2016, and currently the third best prospect in the Red Sox system. Across two levels in 2019, Dalbec slashed .239/.356/.460 with 27 home runs and a .816 OPS. Another prospect with tons of raw power that will strike out a lot in the future.Dalbec plays first and third base, with surprising defensive abilities at the hot corner.. I put him on this list because Rafael Devers isn’t going anywhere and first base should be wide open in the near future. Dalbec reminds me a lot of Hunter Renfroe, a player with tons of power potential, but high strikeout rates. Looking at Renfroe as a comparison it breaks down to their stances as they’re very similar, from their load, to their bat path and swing, it’s amazing how similar their stances are.
With the Red Sox projected first baseman being Mitch Moreland, Dalbec could easily take over with a good spring and his power in Fenway Park is going to be legit. He needs to get his plate discipline in check and the Red Sox could have a young stud on his way to the show.
Tyler Nevin (Rockies): The 22-year-old was drafted 38th overall in 2015, and he’s the 12th best prospect in the Rockies system. At Double-A Hartford, Nevin hit .251/.345/.399 with 13 home runs and a .744 OPS. Nevin is more of a high on-base hitter than a power hitter, unlike many others on this list. But Nevin does have some sneaky power in his bat. He has had some injuries in his career but these last two years have been great for his development. Nevin has a short, quick, and compact swing that helps him with consistent line drive contact. Plus, he sprays the ball around the yard and his bat will develop well in Coors. Defensively, he should stick at first as he’s strong there, but he can also play third base and the outfield.
The Rockies don’t necessarily need Nevin at the moment with how good their lineup already is. They might keep him in Double-A, just to see if he regresses at all. On the other hand, the Rockies could test him in Triple-A and see how he fares against more advanced pitching. Either way, Nevin’s ability to get on base is going to be attractive to the Rockies and he should be making his debut soon.
Jared Walsh (Angels): This 26-year-old was drafted in the 39th round in 2015, currently he is the 23rd prospect in their system. He made his debut in 2019 after obliterating Triple-A Salt Lake. In 98 games in Salt Lake, Walsh hit .325/.423/.686 with 36 home runs and a 1.109 OPS. In the MLB he fared much differently, he hit .203/.276/.329 with one home run and a .605 OPS. Something interesting about Walsh is he’s classified as a two-way player but is more of a hitter going forward. Walsh has incredible power and much like Mountcastle has an extreme upper-cut swing designed for fly balls. The immediate plate comparison for me is Brandon Moss. However, Walsh is a very good defender and has the potential to be starting first base for the Angels in 2020. His plate discipline must continue to get better.s. Plus, his bat should play very well in Anaheim with his ability to pull the ball for contact and power.
Walsh will get to learn under the best first baseman of all time Albert Pujols, and with him mashing at every level of the minors that doesn’t hurt his chances of breaking camp with the Angels. Angels fans, take notice of this power hitting left-handed prospect.
Lewin Diaz (Marlins): This 23-year-old was signed by the Twins in 2013, but he was traded in the Sergio Romo swap last trade deadline. He is currently the 7th best prospect in the Marlins system. His highest level of play was Double-A and between two teams he hit .253/.310/.527 with 22 home runs and a .837 OPS. Diaz is another power hitting prospect, thanks to a big leg kick and combination of his strength and quick bat. I think he hits similar to Adam Dunn, a guy with loads of power and even their back swing are very similar. He’s a decent runner on the basepaths, but won’t be stealing any bases.
His bat is what’s going to get him to the MLB and with the Marlins relatively thin in bench and first base depth, his power could be appealing to the Marlins in 2020. Jesus Aguilar is their starting first baseman, and with how good Diaz swings from the left side, you should keep your eyes on his development.
Lucas Erceg (Brewers): This 24-year-old was drafted in the 2nd round in 2016. Erceg is currently the 26th best prospect in the Brewers system. In Triple-A San Antonio he produced a slashline of .218/.305/.398 with 15 home runs and a .703 OPS. Erceg has raw power and has struggled to adjust to higher level pitching, but could be a nice homegrown piece for the Brewers. Much like other players on this list, he’s seen as more of a third baseman and is a very good defender at both first and third base. But with the Brewers having Luis Urias, Brice Turang and Orlando Arcia it’s hard to imagine him finding a spot with the Brewers long term.
Justin Smoak is the Brewers first baseman, but this is a crucial year of development for Erceg, after a down 2019. The Brewers are going to monitor their lefty prospect and if he does not make the team out of Spring Training, a strong spring could put him right back on the radar of the Brewers and the rest of baseball.
Evan White (Mariners): This 23-year-old was drafted 17th overall in 2017. White, is the fourth best prospect in the Mariners system. He was at Double-A Arkansas where he hit .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs and a .838 OPS. This fast rising prospect has an advanced feel at the plate. He hits well to all fields and his quick hands and swing path lends itself to consistent hard contact. He is a line drive hitter with plus power. MLB Prospect Pipeline ranks White as the best defensive first base prospect in baseball, so there’s potential of at least a 4-tool player. An easy comparison for White is a righty version of Matt Olson, with slightly better contact.
In the end, the Mariners might keep him in the minors to make sure his development continues to improve, but also service time reasons.Daniel Vogelbach is currently in line for the first base/designated hitter role but Evan White has all the tools to regularly contribute to the Marinerslong term.
Sherten Apostel (Rangers): This 20-year-old was signed by Pittsburgh in 2015, but included in a 2018 trade. He is the 10th best prospect in the Ranger’s system and was actually in Single-A advanced to end 2019, there he hit .237/.352/.378 with four home runs and a .730 OPS. He possesses raw power, plate discipline and gets on-base at a high clip. He’s had some fielding issues, so a future at first base looks plausible. Much like White, Apostel has the potential to be a high average, high on-base and high slugging player. He taps into his power so easily with his small leg kick and aggressive swing. To me, a good comparison would be Ryan Howard, though I doubt he hits 30-40 home runs each year, but may do it on occasion.
The Rangers already have Ronald Guzman patrolling first base for the near future. Apostel needs a couple more years of development until he’s ready for the show. But seeing how his spring develops will be something interesting for fans to see.
Jeremy Vasquez (Mets): This 23-year-old was drafted in the 27th round in 2017. He is currently unranked in the Mets top 30 (according to MLB.com). Vasquez made it to Double-A Binghamton and in 2019 combined to hit, .273/.357/.369 with five home runs and a .725 OPS. He has some sneaky pop but his main tool is contact and getting on-base. His swing is designed to hit the ball with force. In his career, he’s struck out 233 times in 1,167 at-bats. He sprays the ball around the yard with a consistent line drive approach. The comparison I have for Vasquez is Matt Adams, both are relatively quiet in the box, have longer swings, and hit the ball hard consistently. Of course, Vasquez has 10-15 home run power and not 20-30 home run power like Adams. Much like Nevin, the high on-base percentage is what makes him so appealing.
Pete Alonso isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but Vasquez could go back and start at the Triple-A level for consistent at-bats. This may unlock his power potential that he has hiding in his tools. Vasquez is a good prospect to watch, if he shows one more year of quality numbers, he might even be considered an underrated prospect.
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