I covered the catchers in last week’s Future Rookies. Up this week is the first basemen. The position is lacking elite talent, but there are some names that fantasy gamers should file away for both this year, and long term.
Beau Mills, Cleveland Indians, 25 years old
The age probably immediately raises red flags in the minds of those that were observant. As a first round draft pick back in 2007, the Indians have to be disappointed with their return. Putting that aside for a moment, 2011 was arguably Mills best season in the minors (the raw numbers were better in 2008, but came in High-A). He flashed power and strong contact rates, but continued his trend of lackluster walk rates for a first baseman. Prior to the Indians signing of Casey Kotchman, I’d suggested at Fantasy Baseball 365 that Mills would be a perfect platoon mate for Carlos Santana at first base.
That goes out the window in the short term now. However, Kotchman has a longer track record of disappointing play, than starter worthy play. In the event he fumbles the gig, Mills may be the man to scoop it up. He’s not flashy, and his upside is limited. Mills could be an AL-only option by the summer if everything breaks perfect for him. There was a time he was considered a first round talent, so there are worse players to keep tabs on.
C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels, 22 years old
The Angels nabbed this Utah Ute in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft. Cron is a masher, and one expected to move quickly. With Albert Pujols in town now, Cron will eventually move to designated hitter (something that may have happened anyways given his poor glove work). His power grades as plus-plus, and his hit tool gets good reviews too. His walk rate was poor in Rookie Level ball, but was fine as a college Junior, so check back on that this year. Should his plate discipline return, he’ll profile as a heart of the order bat capable of hitting for a solid batting average with 30 plus taters.
Joe Terdoslavich, Atlanta Braves, 23 years old
Terdoslavich turned some heads with his strong play in the Arizona Fall League where he slashed .321/.424/.548 with three home runs in 99 plate appearances. He’s a sweet swinging switch-hitter that has good raw power generated by above average bat speed. Older than incumbent major league starter Freddie Freeman, and the owner of a lower ceiling, Terdoslavich will be attempting to convert into an adequate fielder across the diamond at third. There are serious questions about his ability to make the transition, but it would do wonders for his fantasy value if he were to stick. He’ll start in Double-A, and the glove more so than the bat, may determine how fast he moves.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, 22 years old
Rizzo follows Jed Hoyer yet again, this time from the Padres to the Cubs. He put up silly numbers in the Pacific Coast League, but was unable to enjoy the same success in the majors. Some scouting reports suggest Rizzo fell in love with the long ball and looked to pull everything. That would help explain his struggles at the major league level if pitchers took advantage of that weakness. At his best, he uses the whole field, and shows an aptitude to hit for a passable average, draw walks (something he actually did well in the majors), and hit for power. His power should be accentuated by trading in PETCO Field for the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. His ceiling isn’t as high as his Triple-A numbers would suggest, but he’s much better than he showed himself to be in his first taste of the majors. Good dynasty league target, and a possible contributor in yearly leagues by the summer if he proves himself ready to wrestle the job away from Bryan LaHair.
Neftali Soto, Cincinnati Reds, 22 years old
Soto is the best bet to be the Reds in house replacement for Joey Votto if he leaves via free agency after the 2013 season. Soto’s best asset both in reality, and in fantasy, is his power. The 30 home runs he hit in 379 Double-A at-bats are nothing to sneeze at. He lacks much patience, and has a swing that is described as long. Long swings have a tendency to get picked apart by advanced pitching, so don’t expect Soto to hit for a high average. Regardless, power plus Great American Ballpark make for an exciting combination. He’s too slow to play an outfield corner, so for now, he’s blocked by Votto. Keep tabs on his play in the International League this year.
Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros, 20 years old
Singleton is the prospect with the closest thing to star potential at the position, though he falls just short of earning that distinction from me. His patience belies his youth, and he has the type of raw power that hints at 30 home runs annually in his major league future. As a member of the Phillies organization, he got time in the outfield. Once he was acquired by the Astros as part of the Hunter Pence trade, he was moved back to first base, where he’ll stay. He has the makings to hit in the middle of an order. That won’t happen over night, but he may not be that far off from his major league debut. After spending all of 2011 in High-A, he should open the year in Double-A as a 20 year old. He won’t turn 21 until September, and will be young for the level. If he moves at a level a year pace, he could threaten for a September call-up in 2013 following the Triple-A season.
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals, 23 years old
Adams won’t win any beauty pageants, but this mountain of a man can rake. The question hounding Adams is if his poor body will prevent him from hitting at a high clip in the bigs. He has his share of skeptics, but with every passing level of success in the minors, he wins a few more over. He has excellent power, and passable patience. What he lacks in patience, he makes up for with a low strikeout rate. Both rates went the wrong way in the Arizona Fall League, but with just 89 plate appearances, it may just be a case of a player working too hard to impress onlookers. Next stop on the minor league ladder is Triple-A. A strong showing there could earn him a look in the majors as a bench bat. That role could expand with an injury to either Lance Berkman or Carlos Beltran (the idea being an injury to Beltran would result in Berkman moving back to the corner outfield). He may end up being nothing more than a prodigious minor league slugger in the mold of Ryan Shealy, but his success is too great to ignore.
Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres, 24 years old
There was a price to pay for Alonso that came with no longer being blocked by Votto, and that price was trading Great American Ballpark for PETCO Field. Alonso’s power is already a question mark, and PETCO Field will do him no favors. It’s possible some of Alonso’s modest power can be attributed to a broken hammate bone suffered in the summer of 2009. Just how much is up for debate. His swing is conducive to hitting for average, and he further increases his offensive value with outstanding plate discipline. If he’s able to hit 20-25 home runs annually in his peak years, he’ll bring enough other goodies to the table to slot well as a corner infield or utility option. It’s hard to envision him turning into a starting fantasy first baseman in anything other than NL-only or deep mixed league formats though. Don’t go overboard investing in him in redraft leagues, but keep him in mind in the late rounds about the time Gaby Sanchez and other first baseman of that ilk go off the board.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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