MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.First basemen don't usually draw a lot of acclaim
MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
First basemen don't usually draw a lot of acclaim as prospects, in large part because they tend to be less well-rounded players than those at other positions. When MLB Pipeline releases its new Top 100 next week, Minor League home run leader Peter Alonso will be the only first baseman who's not a two-way performer on the list.
However, there has been a resurgence in first-base prospects in the last couple of years. The 2017 Draft featured five first basemen in the top 35 picks, and four of them -- Brendan McKay (Rays), Nick Pratto (Royals), Evan White (Mariners) and Brent Rooker (Twins) -- rank among the 10 best in the Minors at this moment.
Last June, Triston Casas (Red Sox) and Grant Lavigne (Rockies) went before the second round and quickly claimed spots on our first base Top 10. Another Rockies farmhand, Tyler Nevin, boosted his stock by leading the Arizona Fall League in all three slash categories (.426/.535/.593).
Top 10 Prospects by Position
While first base may not be loaded with five-tool prospects, the position possesses more depth than it typically does.
The Top 10 (ETA)
- Peter Alonso, Mets (2019)
- Evan White, Mariners (2020)
- Nathaniel Lowe, Rays (2019)
- Brendan McKay, Rays (2020)
- Brent Rooker, Twins (2019)
- Nick Pratto, Royals (2021)
- Triston Casas, Red Sox (2022)
- Grant Lavigne, Rockies (2022)
- Tyler Nevin, Rockies (2020)
- Matt Thaiss, Angels (2019)
Complete list »
Best Hitter: White, Lowe, McKay, Pratto, Lavigne, Nevin, Thaiss (55)
Lowe always had good plate discipline, but he broke out in 2018 by driving more balls in the air and tightening his strike zone further. He batted .330 and ranked fifth in the Minors with a .985 OPS. Nevin opened eyes in the AFL with his pure hitting ability and mastery of the strike zone, while organization mate Lavigne did the same in his pro debut by batting .350 and topping the Rookie-level Pioneer League with a .477 on-base percentage.
Best Power: Alonso, Rooker, Casas (60)
Alonso led the Minors with 36 homers during the regular season and the Arizona Fall League with six more, not including a shot off a 103-mph Nate Pearson fastball during the Fall Stars Game. His bat speed and strength produce tremendous exit velocities and translate his impressive raw power into game production.
Fastest Runner: White (60)
White has a highly unusual profile for a first baseman, as he bats right-handed and throws lefty, his hitting ability stands out more than his power and he's as athletic as it gets at the position. He's a plus runner, though his quickness is more apparent in the field than on the bases.
Best Arm: McKay, Pratto, Casas (60)
Both McKay and Casas had low-90s fastballs when they pitched as amateurs, and McKay continues to deal that kind of heat as he tries to make it as a two-way player. Pratto also was a two-way star as an amateur, throwing in the upper 80s and helping the U.S. national 18-and-under team win a pair of gold medals at international events.
Best Defender: White (70)
White's defense gets the same rave reviews that Cody Bellinger's did when the Dodgers slugger was rising through the Minors. It's easy to envision him winning Gold Gloves in the big leagues, but he also has the quickness and solid arm strength to fit anywhere in the outfield if needed.
Highest Ceiling: Pratto
Pratto has the best chance to be a plus hitter for both average and power, and he also has Gold Glove potential at first base. After a slow start in his first full pro season, he batted .322/.394/.518 in the second half in the low Class A South Atlantic League and helped Lexington win the championship.
Highest Floor: White
White is a safe bet to hit thanks to his advanced approach and ability to barrel the ball, and he's beginning to unlock the power potential in his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. He's also an outstanding defender and has the versatility to play all three outfield spots.
Rookie of the Year Candidate: Alonso
The Mets have crowded their infield by trading for Robinson Cano and J.D. Davis and signing Jed Lowrie, and they have plenty of candidates to play first base. None of them can match Alonso's power, however, and he has little to prove in the Minors except for upgrading his defense.
Highest Riser: Lowe
Lowe hit just seven homers in his first full pro season and ranked 13th on MLB Pipeline's Rays Top 30 Prospects list a year ago. After making adjustments to his swing, he slammed 27 homers during his coming-out party in 2018 and should push for a big league role with Tampa Bay, which lacks a surefire starter at first base or DH.
Humblest Beginning: Lowe
When the Rays signed Lowe for $100,000 as a 13th-rounder out of Mississippi State in 2016, it was seen as a favor to his younger brother Josh, whom they selected 13th overall in the first round of the same Draft. Two years later, Nathaniel had surpassed him as a prospect.
Most To Prove: McKay
Trying to make it as both a hitter and a pitcher is a difficult task. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, McKay lived up to his reputation as being more advanced on the mound by logging a 2.41 ERA with a 103/14 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings on the mound in his first full pro season. He batted just .214/.368/.359, however, and he'll have to up his production if he wants to continue pulling double duty.
Keep An Eye On: Luken Baker, Cardinals
Another two-way star, Baker could have gone in the top two rounds of the 2015 Draft as a pitcher out of high school if he hadn't been set on attending Texas Christian. He gave up pitching after his freshman season but has tremendous strength and leverage in his 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame, giving him huge power upside that led the Cardinals to draft him in the second round last June.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.