Welcome to where the sluggers reside. Continuing our positional rankings, we head to the position that is usually occupied by power hitters: first base. In this article, we’ll highlight our dynasty team’s consensus top 10 first base prospects, pulled from our Top 100 Prospects consensus list, accompanied by my player notes.
First base is a position that typically provides middle-of-the-lineup power and run production. The prospects at the top of the list project to have an intriguing blend of power and plate approach. After the first few, the power is still mostly there, but the plate skills decline, which creates more questions of future big league success.
First base is also a position that most prospects don’t come up unless they are athletically limited early on, which means there will likely be more prospects that move to first base as they wear out their welcome at different positions (i.e. display a lack of tools needed to play that position thus suggesting a position change).
We could be seeing that with prospects like Tyler Soderstrom (who we ranked with the Top 10 Catchers), and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, but they aren’t ranked below as that move still feels relatively undecided. That duo, along with fairly new outfielder Dustin Harris would be in this top 10, around the top 5, if they were considered first basemen, which for some could happen by the next update. Until then, this list will look a little shallow which is evident by only seven first basemen coming from our consensus Top 180. The remaining three on this list are from my personal ranks. If you like power prospects, this article is for you. Let’s get to the list:
Top 10 First Base Prospects for Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1. Kyle Manzardo, 1B, TB, #19
Age: 22/2022 Stats (A+/AA): 324 AB/.327/.426/.617/22 HR/1 SB/71 R/81 RBI
Kyle Manzardo is a potential premium bat and has done nothing but rake at every place he’s laced them up at. He has dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, hit well in college at Washington State, and I bet if you looked at his high school numbers you’d be impressed. Manzardo has the hitting profile we’re looking for given his ability to make consistent contact (87% zone-contact rate in 2022), hit for power (43% hard-hit rate), and show plus plate discipline by not chasing often (21% chase rate). Manzardo doesn’t have any speed in his profile, but his bat should be good enough to play above the Tampa Bay Rays platoon line. He has a good chance to be the next big thing at first base.
2. Triston Casas, 1B, BOS, #30
Age: 22/2022 Stats (AAA/MLB): 264 AB/.273/.382/.481/11 HR/0 SB/45 R/38 RBI
MLB Stats: 76 AB/.197/.358/.408/5 HR/1 SB/11 R/12 RBI
Triston Casas is a former first-round pick and is the definition of what a Power + Patience profile looks like. Casas has never posted an ISO below .200 or a walk percentage below 10% at any level of the minor leagues. And that held true in his first taste of the major leagues in his 95 PA sample (.211 ISO and 20% BB%), although the surface stats of a .197 batting average might fool some not looking deeper. If we do look a bit deeper, we’ll see above-average max exit velocity, barrel rate, and hard-hit rate, so it’s clear the power is in that bat. To improve upon what he showed in his MLB sample, Casas will look to cut down on his high ground ball rate (56.6%, mid-30s in Triple-A) and increase his low line drive rate (7.5%). There doesn’t figure to be much speed in the profile, but there is no question that the power and approach are real. Casas is right there with Manzardo in terms of long-term value, and by 2024 we could be talking about Pasquantino, Casas, and Manzardo as joining the star class of first basemen. Give him a boost in OBP leagues.
3. Matt Mervis, 1B, CHC, #68
Age: 24/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 512 AB/.309/.379/.593/36 HR/2 SB/92 R/119 RBI
Hello Mr. Mervis! Undrafted in the shortened 2020 draft, this time last year I don’t think many thought we would be here now when it comes to Matt Mervis. But, boy, did he really break out to a tune of 36 HR while maintaining a .300+ batting average across three levels, culminating in a trip to Triple-A. And he didn’t stop there as he headed to Arizona and arguably became the talk of the AFL thanks to his massive power (6 HR). Some may mention Mervis’ age, but given the curveball COVID threw the minor leagues, especially in 2020 (the year Mervis was supposed to be drafted), I’m going to be extra hesitant to write off this strong of a performance. Others may want to see him doing it again before they believe it, but at that point, it might be too late. Mervis has legit power potential and a strong plate approach that gives me reason to believe he can have success at the major league level. With Hosmer and other 1B options in Chicago, now is a good time to check on Mervis’ availability. This looks like the future Cubs’ first baseman, as early as 2023.
4. Blaze Jordan, 1B/3B, BOS, #146
Age: 20/2022 Stats (A/A+): 463 AB/.289/.363/.445/12 HR/5 SB/60 R/68 RBI
Blaze Jordan is a former third-round pick from the 2020 draft, and there’s a good chance his power preceded him. Known for elite raw power dating all the way back to high school, Jordan is still working towards finding the balance between making enough contact and getting to his raw power in game. But the strides in the contact department are promising, and there is still plenty of runway for him to develop and adjust. One thing Jordan may look to adjust is trading some contact for more natural lift in hopes of cutting down his 47% ground ball rate. Jordan is one of the more athletic first basemen on this list, so there’s a chance he could chip in a few stolen bases. It will be interesting to see where Jordan ends up defensively as the corners seem to be occupied for multiple years by Devers and Casas. Maybe a trip to the outfield? Jordan could be worth a look given that there’s a good chance he bounces back to 20+ HR potential.
5. Jordan Díaz, 1B/2B, OAK, #148
Age: 22/2022 Stats (AA/AAA): 491 AB/.326/.366/.515/19 HR/0 SB/67 R/83 RBI
MLB: 49 AB/.265 AVG/.294 OBP/.327 SLG/0 HR/0 SB/3 R/1 RBI
Jordan Díaz is a hitter. If that didn’t sell you, having the highest contact rate and 90th percentile exit velocity in all of the minor leagues should. Díaz has a quick swing with plus raw power and makes arguably too much contact. He has a hyper-aggressive approach that leads to few strikeouts but also few walks, which is something to monitor as he struggled in his first 49 AB in the majors. How Díaz handles elite breaking balls will also be something to watch, along with his ground ball percentage. The defensive position is in question, which may point to DH if there aren’t gains, and he’s not going to contribute to your stolen base category. But the potential of a plus batting average and solid power numbers is absolutely real.
6. Deyvison De Los Santos, 1B/3B, ARI, #153
Age: 19/2022 Stats (A/A+/AA): 513 AB/.306/.348/.499/22 HR/5 SB/72 R/106 RBI
Deyvison De Los Santos is an international free agent signee from the 2019 class out of the Dominican Republic. The 6’1″ 185 lb teenager has risen up prospect ranks this past year thanks to his prestigious power, making it all the way to Double-A before his 20th birthday. De Los Santos has plus bat speed and can drive the ball with power to all fields. He does make some questionable swing decisions, which might hold him back, but it is worth noting his 157 hits in 2022 while he was often the youngest player on the field, so maybe the hit tool has more potential than initially projected. De Los Santos’ approach will have to improve if he wants to have success against elite stuff, as we got a glimpse from the AFL. The pitching there isn’t even regarded as very high quality, but they are significantly older in age. His other tools aren’t very loud, as he won’t be a factor on the bases or much in the field. There’s a chance he could stick at third with improvement, but he might be more of a 1B/DH type, so the hit tool and approach will have to be good enough to allow him to get to his power. That being said, there’s big-league power in the bat, and at his age, there’s plenty of time for him to refine his aggressive approach. The upside is a middle-of-the-order power bat.
7. Tyler Locklear, 1B, SEA, #164
Age: 22/2022 Stats (ROK/A): 123 AB/.285/.366/.504/7 HR/0 SB/19 R/31 RBI
Tyler Locklear is a former Mariners’ second-round pick in 2022 out of VCU. The 6’3″ 210 lb third baseman is the definition of a bat-first profile, aka he rakes. Locklear is what you look for in a hitter: someone with plus bat-to-ball skills, the ability to take a walk, and plus bat speed and power. The reason Locklear isn’t higher on this list is that he lacks in most other facets of the game, such as baserunning and defense, which will put pressure on his bat to sustain pro ball success. He likely profiles as a first baseman or even DH, but there’s a good chance for a special bat and approach combination. He’ll be lower on non-fantasy lists, but the hit and power potential create a valuable profile for fantasy.
8. Jhonkensy Noel, 1B, CLE, NR
Age: 21/2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 485 AB/.229/.310/.489/32 HR/3 SB/80 R/84 RBI
Jhonkensy Noel is a former 2017 intentional free agent signee out of the Dominican Republic and is known for his power potential. Noel really introduced himself in 2021 with 19 home runs and a slash line of .340/.390/.615 between two levels. He added 32 more home runs in 2022, further cementing his power-hitting prowess. So why is someone with this much power not ranked higher? Hit tool concerns that those above Noel on this list don’t have and an approach that could use refinement. The numbers in 2021 were likely BABIP inflated at .382, and given his fly-ball approach, the .257 BABIP in 2022 is likely more who he is. Noel has a very big frame, so there will likely remain at least some swing-and-miss in his game, and he also doesn’t take many walks, which puts more pressure on the hit tool to allow him to get on base at a serviceable clip. Since we’re already seeing struggles against non-MLB pitching, there could be a reason for concern that he doesn’t hit enough to let the power play. But there is still lots of time for the 21-year-old slugger to work on his overall game in hopes of making it work against the highest level. If he can, he will likely answer whether we get to see 30+ home run potential on a nightly basis in Cleveland.
9. Xavier Isaac, 1B, TB, NR
Age: 19/2022 Stats (ROK): 19 AB/.211/.286/.368/0 HR/0 SB/4 R/5 RBI
Xavier Isaac is a former first-round pick (29th overall) from the 2022 draft and will play the entire 2023 season at the young age of 19. The Rays surprised people by taking Isaac in the first, but they must believe in the power profile as he projects to have plus-plus raw power thanks in part to his already physically imposing frame of 6’4″ 240 lb. Like others on this list, whether Isaac makes a big-league impact likely depends on his ability to make enough contact to display his power. If he struggles to make contact, it becomes empty power at best, and those profiles are much more common. This is a multiple-year wait-and-see project, but if you like to dream on massive power, Isaac may be your cup of tea. He could be a middle-of-the-order power bat in 3+ years.
10. Ivan Melendez, 1B, ARI, NR
Age: 23/2022 Stats (RK/A): 97 AB/.206 AVG/.358 OBP/.351 SLG/3 HR/0 SB/13 R/8 RBI
Ivan Melendez is a former second-round pick by Arizona in 2022 out of Texas. The 6’3″ 225 lb slugging first baseman struggled in his first taste of pro ball in 2022, but it was a small sample, and it’s far too early to draw any strong conclusions. Melendez fits the prototypical first baseman profile with extreme raw power and little else to offer speed or defense-wise. He should be able to stay at first, but a move to DH could be in the cards if the bat warrants it or the defense development lags. Melendez projects to have an average hit tool and does have a solid eye (13 BB to 25 K), which was one of the few bright spots we did see from him in 2022. Those factors should allow him to get to his plus-plus raw power in games. To have success at the highest level Melendez will need his bat to do the heavy lifting, but with the power he possesses, that is well within reason. The upside is a middle-of-the-order impact power bat.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)