Prospect Watch: Top 10 first basemen
Mix of power and patience earns Astros' Singleton top spot; Mets' Smith ranks No. 2
MLBPipeline.com's 2014 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Thursday, Jan. 23, on MLB.com, as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network, airing at 10 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
First base currently offers the lowest prospect potential among all the positions, with Houston's Jonathan Singleton the lone member of this Top 10 who was able to crack MLB.com's overall Top 100. Mets 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith could jump to the top of the list of first basemen once he establishes himself in full-season ball this year.
1. Jonathan Singleton, Astros: Singleton had a disappointing season, serving a 50-game suspension for multiple positive tests for marijuana before posting a .687 OPS in Triple-A, but scouts like his offensive prowess. He combines power, patience and an all-fields approach, which could make him a .280 hitter with 25 homers annually once he gets established in Houston. When Singleton gets there, he'll be the third big leaguer the Astros have gotten out of the 2011 Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies, following Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid.
2. Dominic Smith, Mets: The 11th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Smith joined the Royals' Eric Hosmer as the only high school first baseman to go in the upper half of the first round in the past decade. That speaks to Smith's offensive potential, as he has the bat speed and ability to barrel balls that should translate into the ability to hit for both power and average. As a bonus, he's also a slick fielder.
3. C.J. Cron, Angels: Some scouts viewed Cron as the best all-around hitter available in the 2011 Draft, during which the Halos selected him 17th overall. He hasn't lived up to that billing in pro ball, in part because he has been overly aggressive at the plate, but he may have turned a corner by winning the Arizona Fall League batting championship with a .413 average. Cron has plus raw power and could hit for a solid average.
4. Dan Vogelbach, Cubs: Vogelbach once crushed a 508-foot homer in a high school home run derby, and his power earned him a $1.6 million bonus in 2011 as a second-round pick. He can do more than hit baseballs for good distances, as he has an advanced approach and control of the strike zone. Vogelbach's hefty build and pedigree as a Florida high schooler are reminiscent of Billy Butler and Prince Fielder.
grading the prospects
5. Matt Olson, Athletics: Olson led Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., to a 2012 national championship, starring as a first baseman and a pitcher before signing with Oakland as a supplemental first-round pick for $1,079,700. Power is his best tool, which he demonstrated by smashing 23 homers as a teenager in the pitcher-friendly low Class A Midwest League in his first full pro season. While Olson hit just .225, scouts do like his easy swing and he did draw 72 walks.
6. Kyle Parker, Rockies: Parker is the only player in NCAA history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same academic year. The former Clemson quarterback, Colorado's 2010 first-round Draft choice, has topped 20 homers in each of his three pro seasons, thanks to his quick hands and strength. Parker has made more consistent contact as he has climbed the Minor League ladder, and he began to make the transition from outfield to first base in 2013.
7. Greg Bird, Yankees: Bird's $1.1 million bonus as a fifth-round pick in 2011 raised some eyebrows, and he did little to justify the investment in his first two pro seasons. But he broke out in 2013, leading the Minors with 107 walks while slamming 20 homers in low Class A. Scouts like Bird's hitting ability more than his raw power, but he could wind up being solid in both categories.
8. Travis Shaw, Red Sox: The son of former All-Star reliever Jeff Shaw had a breakthrough 2012 season but struggled in Double-A last year. He got back on track by hitting .361 with five homers in 17 Arizona Fall League games, and he has consistently demonstrated an ability to hit for power and draw walks. If Shaw can curb a tendency to get homer-conscious, which reared its head in 2013, he could hit for a decent average as well.
9. Max Muncy, Athletics: Muncy's pure hitting ability got him drafted in the fifth round in 2012, though scouts worried that he might not have enough power to be a first baseman. His pop wasn't an issue in his first full pro season, however, as he hit 25 homers, drove in 100 runs and slugged .857. Muncy is an OK defender who moves well enough to possibly see some time in left field.
10. Ronald Guzman, Rangers: Signed for $3.45 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Guzman was the best pure hitter on a low Class A Hickory club loaded with position prospects last year. Though a knee injury limited him to 49 games, he made hard contact to all fields and showed hitting savvy well beyond his 18 years. Guzman's power still is developing, but given his strength and leverage, he could develop into a 15-20 homer threat.
Matt Skole (Nationals) got off to a terrific start as a pro, leading the short-season New York-Penn League in RBIs in 2011 and winning low Class A South Atlantic League MVP honors in 2012. Then, on the same play, a collision at first base, he sustained a broken left wrist and torn left (non-throwing) elbow, ending his season after two games and requiring Tommy John surgery. When healthy, Skole has displayed power to all fields and good patience.
In three years at South Carolina, Christian Walker (Orioles) won two College World Series championships and finished runner-up once, and he tied Dustin Ackley's career CWS record with 26 hits. Walker's bat is more advanced than his power, as evidenced by his .297 average and 13 homers in 125 pro games. He's strong enough that he might develop into a 20-homer threat if he focuses more on driving the ball.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.