MINORS: Top 1B prospects 2020

(Photo: Evan White, 1B, SEA)

This week continues our annual review of the top prospects by position. Between now and mid-March, we’ll examine one position a week by looking at both those rookies ready to contribute in the big leagues now, as well as the top 15 long-term prospects at each position. To give you a complete look at a position, our topic schedule mirrors the position covered in our Market Pulse series, which was also published today.

Here’s our Previously Covered Positions:

Catcher | Shortstop | Second Base | Third Base

This week, we look at the first base prospects in baseball. First base isn’t known to be a strong fantasy prospect position. This year is no exception, since a big portion of this list will find it difficult to crack the Top 15 at the position by maturity. However, the top 4 prospects on our list are HQ100 prospects, making this year a fairly top-heavy year for 1B prospects. This year’s class is led by White Sox prospect Andrew Vaughn.

Vaughn is our highest rated 1B prospect in over a decade, ranking 11th on the HQ100. In the last 10 years, only two other 1B prospects made it into the top 25 of the HQ100, Yonder Alonso (22 in 2012) and Cody Bellinger (24 in 2017). What exactly sets Vaughn apart from other 1B prospects of the recent past? Vaughn, the 3rd pick overall in the 2019 draft out of Cal-Berkley, has one of the highest floors we’ve seen from any recently drafted hitter. The RHH projects to hit for both average and power. His hit tool is ahead of his power tool presently. Vaughn has advanced plate skills, finding and controlling the barrel to the gaps and pull side. He has the makings of a future .300 hitter, who flirts with the batting title, and 30+ HR.

Fantasy owners should look at the 1B prospect crop a little closer this year and in coming years. With rosters expanding to 26 players and the threat of the DH in the NL getting loader and loader, there are several guys on this list who could find their way into regular playing time because they truly lack a defensive home in the majors. DBacks prospect Seth Beer is a future NL DH. Right now, the organization has Beer playing 1B after some adventures in LF as an Astros prospect. However, 1B is mostly a placeholder position for him since his defensive skills are lackluster at best. Other 1B prospects who fit into the potential future NL DH niche include DBacks prospect Kevin Cron and Rockies prospect Michael Toglia.

The dollar ranges listed below represent projected values for 2020. (See a more detailed scouting report on each player by following the link to his team's organization report.)

Evan White (SEA)
In November, Evan White signed a 6-year contract extension, buying out his arbitration years before even making his MLB debut. This contract makes White the odds-on favorite to break Mariners camp as their everyday 1B since the team won’t need to try and manipulate service time to save money and maintain financial control over White. With playing time mostly guaranteed, the RHH could bring average and solid plate discipline. Presently, over-the-fence power lags behind his other hitting skills and will need to find the gaps to maintain a solid OPS.

Ryan Mountcastle (BAL)
Kevin Cron (ARI)
Jared Walsh (LAA)
The Orioles are in the middle of a complete rebuild. However, they have assets, such as Chris Davis, clogging up playing time for guys. At some point this year, Davis will likely give way to Ryan Mountcastle. When he does, Mountcastle will bring an assortment of offensive skills to the table. He has a quick bat and a knack for hard contact. At issue, has been his over-the-fence power skills, which he improved last season, slugging 25 HR in Triple-A. Despite the power uptake, there’s still question marks about Mountcastle having the thunder to slug enough to be a viable, long-term 1B fantasy option. Also, he has struggled with aggressiveness throughout his development.

Kevin Cron is a slugging machine. Cron hit 44 HR, split between Triple-A and the majors last season. He’s a slugger who doesn’t strike out much. Unfortunately, Cron has struggled with aggressiveness and consistent hard contact throughout his career. Those weaknesses were on display during his 2019 MLB cameo. It will be tough for Cron to find playing time in 2020. Christian Walker and Jake Lamb appear to have the 1B job nailed down.

Jared Walsh is a late bloomer. After leveling out his extreme uppercut swing prior to the 2018 season, he flourished turning flyouts into home runs. The success continued in 2019, where Walsh slugged 36 HR in Triple-A and earning an MLB promotion. While he struggled in his ’19 cup of coffee, Walsh has the skill to hit for a respectable average and slug HR. Plus, he’s capable of pitching out of relief.


Long-term Top 15 1B prospects

1. Andrew Vaughn (CHW)
2. Ryan Mountcastle (BAL)
3. Evan White (SEA)
Triston Casas (BOS)
5. Lewin Diaz (MIA)
6. Seth Beer (ARI)
7. Grant Lavigne (COL)
8. Kevin Cron (ARI)
9. Jared Walsh (LAA)
Brent Rooker (MIN)
11. Michael Toglia (COL)
12. Logan Wyatt (SF)
13. Will Craig (PIT)
14. Tyler Nevin (COL)
15. Bobby Bradley (CLE)

Dropping weight and slimming up prior to the 2019 season was just what the prospect gods ordered for Lewin Diaz. Diaz, looking agile and recovered from a 2018 hand injury, finally tapped into his raw plus power, slugging 27 HR split between High-A and Double-A. Diaz turned his average hit-before-power tool into a power-driven hit tool. Unlike other sluggers, Diaz has plus contact skills and will work all fields with his approach. He does a solid job staying within himself, not trying to do too much. He does expand the zone and should improve his plate skills as he matures into his new frame and swing. A mid-2019 trade from Minnesota to Miami has given Diaz a clearer path to playing time.

With rumors of the National League moving towards using the designated hitter, a prospect like Seth Beer has seen his prospect stock climb without taking the field this winter. Beer, who is woeful defensively, doesn’t have a position other than professional hitter. With the DH possibly coming to the NL as soon as next season, Beer has a path toward playing time in the organization, even if it isn’t set in stone yet. Beer, like Diaz above, has a power-driven hit tool and an all-fields approach. Unlike Diaz, Beer is a selective hitter who could eventually excel in OBP formats.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.