MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.No position in the big leagues places a greater premium on power
MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2017 Top 100 Prospects list on Saturday, Jan. 28, with a one-hour show on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
No position in the big leagues places a greater premium on power than first base, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that MLBPipeline's list of the Top 10 first-base prospects is loaded with sluggers. Four of them have plus pop, led by Cody Bellinger's 65 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the rest all have average or better power. Meanwhile, the top four first basemen all ranked among the top six a year ago, while Bellinger and Casey Gillaspie leaped into the top half of the list.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
• Scouting reports, grades, stats and video on Prospect Watch
1. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers
The son of former big leaguer Clay Bellinger, Cody has quickly developed into the top power-hitting prospect in the Minors. The 2013 fourth-rounder hit 30 home runs in the California League as part of a breakout 2015 campaign and added 26 more last season while reaching Triple-A at age 21. Defensively, scouts view Bellinger as a future Gold Glover at first base who also can offer value with his ability to play all three outfield positions.
2. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pirates
The recipient of a second-round-record $5 million bonus in 2011, Bell finally showed signs of growing into his considerable raw power last season as he hit a career-best 14 home runs in Triple-A and then connected on a pinch-hit grand slam for his first big league homer -- one of three he hit with the Pirates. While his defense leaves something to be desired, both at first base and in the outfield, the 24-year-old's bat has him primed to hit in the middle of Pittsburgh's lineup for years to come.
3. Dominic Smith, Mets
Smith, the No. 3 prospect on this list a year ago, moved up to Double-A in 2016 and enjoyed his best full-season campaign, setting career highs in home runs (14), RBIs (91) and OPS (.824). A potential plus hitter with 15-plus homer potential, the 21-year-old Smith is also a gifted defender at first base who earns high praise for his footwork and glove.
4. Bobby Bradley, Indians
Bradley won the Rookie-level Arizona League Triple Crown Award in 2014 and then paced the Midwest League with 27 homers in his full-season debut the following year. He added to his power resume last season at Class A Advanced Lynchburg, where, at age 20, he established career bests in home runs (29) and RBIs (102) en route to the Carolina League MVP award. Though prodigious, Bradley's power comes with plenty of strikeouts and raises questions about his ability to hit for average moving forward.
5. Casey Gillaspie, Rays
The 2014 first-rounder overcame an injury-plagued first full season to hit 18 home runs last year, including seven in 47 games after a promotion to Triple-A. The switch-hitter is a better hitter and shows more in-game power from the left side of the plate, and he should continue to get on base at a high clip thanks to a consistent approach and strong feel for the strike zone.
6. Rowdy Tellez, Blue Jays
Tellez's transition to Double-A last season could not have gone any better, as he hit a career-high 23 home runs while finishing second and third in the Eastern League in on-base (.387) and slugging percentage (.530), respectively. Set to play all of 2017 at 22, Tellez's bat could have him in the big leagues by year's end, especially with Edwin Encarnacion no longer in the mix.
7. Ronald Guzman, Rangers
Signed by the Rangers for $3.45 million on the same day they gave Nomar Mazara $4.95 million, Guzman hasn't developed as quickly as Mazara, but he made huge strides in 2016 while reaching Triple-A at age 21. The 6-foot-5 left-handed hitter stands out more for his hitting ability than power, although he did show more of the latter last year by hitting a career-best 16 homers in the upper Minors.
8. Matt Thaiss, Angels
The Angels drafted Thaiss with the No. 16 overall pick in 2016 based on his offensive potential, and he offered a glimpse of it last summer while reaching full-season ball in his pro debut. As a left-handed hitter with a mature approach, Thaiss stands to hit for more average than power, although the Halos fully expect him to grow into the latter. Meanwhile, he could make quick work of the Minors after shifting from catching duties at Virginia to first base in pro ball.
9. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
The Sacramento State product put on a power showcase in his first Double-A campaign, finishing second in the Minors with 38 home runs -- trailing only Reading teammate Dylan Cozens -- and third in RBIs (116). Some scouts question whether that will translate at higher levels, but Hoskins should continue to hit for average while reaching base at a solid clip.
10. Sam Travis, Red Sox
Travis, 23, likely would have made his big league debut in 2016 had he not suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee during a Triple-A game in May. He shows the makings of becoming an above-average hitter and with at least average power, possibly more if he can adopt a more aggressive approach.
The best college power hitter in the 2015 Draft, Chris Shaw led the Short-Season Northwest League with 12 home runs and a .551 slugging percentage after the Giants took him in the first round. Although he tacked on another 21 homers (as well as 38 doubles) in his first full season, Shaw went deep just five times in 60 contests after a midseason promotion to Double-A.
The Royals made Ryan O'Hearn an eighth-round pick from Sam Houston State in 2014, believing that he could unlock more power with a more aggressive approach. They were right, as he won Rookie-level Pioneer League MVP honors in his pro debut, led the Class A South Atlantic League with 19 homers in his first full season and slammed 22 homers between Class A Advanced and Double-A in 2016.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.