Whoa. Where did all the talent go?
We're not used to this in Fantasy. We're used to first base being the money position, with more than enough big bats to go around. It's the position of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, of Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo.
By comparison, the minor-league offering is nothing short of sad.
It shouldn't be too surprising, really. Because first base isn't a premium defensive position, it's generally regarded as a fallback option for players who can no longer cut it elsewhere on the diamond. And those players are already so common in the majors that organizations prefer to play their up-and-comers wherever else they can for as long as they can.
The move to first base happens only out of necessity.
So even though you could probably name several prospects who are most likely to end up at first base down the line, these are the best of the ones eligible there right now.
The good news is that what first base lacks in potential long-term contributors -- and yes, it does offer a couple of those -- it makes up for in potential role players for AL- and NL-only formats.
Note: This list has been adjusted for Fantasy purposes. Though long-term potential is a factor, it's arguably less important than the player's expected role in 2013. These prospects don't all profile as superstars, but they're the names most worth knowing in Fantasy right now.
1. Mike Olt, 24, Rangers
Where played in 2012: Double-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .288 BA (354 at-bats), 28 HR, .398 OBP, .977 OPS
Major-league stats: .152 BA (33 at-bats), 0 HR, 5 BBs, 13 Ks
The downside to having a prospect-rich system is that the talent eventually bottlenecks at the highest level. That's Olt's biggest problem right now. Judging by his minor-league track record and 24 years of age, he's ready, but because he has Adrian Beltre blocking him at third base and because he didn't perform well enough in a late-season trial to earn a share of first base, he's fighting just to make the club this spring. Even if he does pick it up at the plate, the Rangers wouldn't want to confine him to first base because part of what makes him so valuable is his ability to play a premium position. So now he's in the same predicament that Todd Frazier was in last year, filling in here and there just to accumulate some at-bats, though not enough to make him an advisable mixed-league option. He's a better player than Frazier -- he draws walks and has a higher ceiling power-wise -- but he's not going to be of much value in the short-term. He's a must-own in long-term keeper leagues and a late-round flier otherwise.
2. Jonathan Singleton, 21, Astros
Where played in 2012: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .284 BA, 21 HR, .893 OPS, 88 BBs, 131 Ks
The biggest thing Singleton has going for him right now is that the Astros' roster -- the major-league one -- looks like something an owner puts together when he wants to move the team to Miami. As hard of a time as the Astros had filling out a lineup last year, they actually have one more spot to fill now they're in the American League. Singleton is only 21 and has yet to play a game above Double-A, so asking him to fill a void at this stage of his development is rushing things, to say the least. But the Astros are at least entertaining the possibility. Singleton projects as a fixture in their lineup long-term. With his size, he should generate good power in his prime, and he has a good grasp of the strike zone for a player his age. Still, you have reason to wonder if he's capable of handling a major-league pitching right now. If a job seems to be his for the taking in spring training, he'll get some late-round looks in mixed leagues, but for the most part, he's better left for long-term keeper formats.
3. Matt Adams, 24, Cardinals
Where played in 2012: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .329 BA (258 at-bats), 18 HR, .986 OPS
Major-league stats: .244 BA (86 at-bats), 2 HR, 5 BBs, 24 Ks
When Lance Berkman went down with a torn meniscus in late May, Adams was up in the majors and playing two of every three games at first base. He didn't live up to his crazy minor-league numbers, but for an up-and-comer taking his first crack at major-league pitching, he didn't embarrass himself either. Unfortunately, when Berkman went back on the DL with inflammation in the same knee in early August, Adams didn't get a chance for an encore. He was having surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. He wouldn't have gotten the chance to start anyway. By then, Allen Craig had firmly established himself at first base, with Matt Carpenter the first line of defense off the bench. So where does that leave Adams this year? In the minors, probably. Though he has benefited from some favorable hitting environments that might make him seem like more of a prospect than he is, he has hit for average and power every step up the ladder. Maybe, like Craig, he'll someday have his chance to prove those numbers are legitimate, but seeing as his path to a starting job is blocked twice over, he's just an NL-only option on Draft Day.
4. Dan Vogelbach, 20, Cubs
Where played in 2012: Rookie, Class A
Minor-league stats: .322 BA (245 at-bats), 17 HR, 1.051 OPS, 35 BBs, 48 Ks
Vogelbach is built like Matt Stairs: short and stocky, with a gut that would immediately preclude him from participating in most athletic endeavors. But the Cubs didn't draft him to sell jeans, as Billy Beane would say. They drafted him to hit bombs. Fortunately, he's a lot like Stairs in that regard as well, punishing pitchers with both his power and patience. And now, with a full minor-league season under his belt, his stock only seems to be rising, which is saying something given that he was a second-rounder in the 2011 draft. He still has a long way to go to reach the majors, and his physique will keep him under intense scrutiny as he works his way up the ladder. But with the optimism just beginning to build over him, now is your opportunity to get in on the ground floor in long-term keeper leagues. If the more optimistic projections ultimately come to pass, Prince Fielder might end up being the more accurate comparison for Vogelbach.
5. C.J. Cron, 23, Angels
Where played in 2012: Class A
Minor-league stats: .293 BA, 27 HR, 123 RBI, .843 OPS, 17 BBs, 72 Ks
In Cron, the Angels have what might end up being another Mark Trumbo: an undisciplined hitter who makes up for his free-swinging ways with lots and lots of home runs. Granted, Cron -- a first-round pick -- won't sneak up on people the way Trumbo -- an 18th-round pick -- did, but just because Trumbo ended up exceeding his draft position doesn't mean Cron is destined to exceed Trumbo's production. The problem for Cron right now is that the Angels already have a Trumbo ... in Trumbo. They're already having to play him out of position to get his bat in the lineup, and with Albert Pujols locked up through 2021, they're going to be playing him out of position for a long, long time. At age 23, Cron doesn't have a long time to wait his turn, so he could end up being trade bait. Frankly, that's his only hope of contributing as more than a September call-up in 2013, so if you draft him in an AL-only league hoping for some cheap home runs, you better hope he actually stays in the AL.
6. Hunter Morris, 24, Brewers
Where played in 2012: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .303 BA, 28 HR, 113 RBI, .920 OPS
If C.J. Cron is the next Mark Trumbo among first base prospects, Morris is the next Tyler Moore. The numbers suggest he has game-changing, middle-of-the-order power (if not much else), but the buzz is nowhere to be found. We saw with Moore last year that the power did more or less translate to the major-league level -- he homered 10 times in 156 at-bats -- but even with the versatility to play the outfield, he was still no more than the lesser half of a lefty-righty platoon at any point during the season. He might not have even gotten called up if not for early injuries to Michael Morse and Jayson Werth. So far, Morris has gotten the same treatment in Milwaukee. Perhaps he wasn't ready when Mat Gamel went down with a torn ACL last year, but now that outfielder Corey Hart has worked his way into the first base mix, Morris is even further down the pecking order. A series of injuries could always force the Brewers' hand, but as things stand now, you should consider Morris no more than a deep sleeper for home runs in NL-only leagues.
7. Joe Terdoslavich, 24, Braves
Where played in 2012: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .262 BA, 9 HR, 71 RBI, .720 OPS
Terdoslavich made a name for himself (and what a name it was) with a 20-homer season at Class A Lynchburg in 2011, but he dropped to only nine between Double- and Triple-A in 2012. Granted, he was transitioning to third base for part of that time (which might end up becoming his long-term home with Freddie Freeman manning first base at the major-league level), but even when he was playing mostly first, he still wasn't hitting the ball with the same authority as one year earlier. So now, his offensive potential is legitimately in question. At age 24, Terdolslavich should be more or less a finished product, but even with Chipper Jones retiring, the Braves don't seem inclined to give him a shot this spring. He's probably the first in line if Freeman goes down or Martin Prado ends up being needed in left field, but again, is he a home run hitter or isn't he? To make up for his lack of plate discipline, he pretty much has to be. At this stage of his career, Terdoslavich is looking like a shaky long-term keeper, though he does have some sleeper appeal in deeper NL-only leagues.
8. Nick Delmonico, 20, Orioles
Where played in 2012: Class A
Minor-league stats: .249 BA (338 at-bats), 11 HR, .351 OBP, .762 OPS
Delmonico hardly set the world on fire in his professional debut for Class A Delmarva, but the scouts genuinely seem to like him. The .249 batting average doesn't tell the whole story, after all. He showed some pop and, perhaps more impressively, a better approach than you'd expect for a player with his level of experience. His on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher than his batting average, which is an accomplishment at any level. Still, at age 20, Delmonico has a long way to go, which is why he ranks so low on this list. Right now, he's at a crossroads. If the numbers begin to measure up to the scouting reports over the next year or two, he'll rank up with Dan Vogelbach among first base prospects. If not, he might drop off this list altogether. Ideally, you could do better than him in a long-term keeper league, but if you want to get a jump on the competition, he's a name to keep in mind.
Honorable mention: Darin Ruf, 26, Phillies*
Where played in 2012: Double-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .317 BA, 38 HR, 104 RBI, 1.028 OPS
Major-league stats: .333 BA (33 at-bats), 3 HR, 1.079 OPS, 2 BBs, 12 Ks
*Because he played mostly outfield during his brief major-league stint, Ruf technically isn't eligible at first base to begin the 2013 season. But since he's a natural first baseman who may ultimately prove incapable of handling the outfield, I thought I'd highlight him here. Trust me: We'll have more than enough legitimate outfield prospects to cover when the time comes.
The minor-league leader in home runs in 2012 wasn't Wil Myers or Miguel Sano or any of those other big-name prospects you hear so much about. It was Ruf, who, at age 26, might strike you as a Quadruple-A player along the lines of a Kila Ka'aihue or Mike Hessman. But unlike that notorious duo, he actually has the inside track on a starting job in 2013. With a couple unfavorable contracts already on the books, the Phillies have gone into penny-pinching mode, which could make an unexpectedly productive bat like Ruf just what the doctor ordered in left field. Of course, his natural position is first base, so he'll have to prove he's not a liability in the outfield before he can man it on a full-time basis. His brief audition there last September went well enough, though, and he certainly didn't disappoint with the bat, collecting six extra-base hits -- including three homers -- in 33 at-bats. It's true he could end up being exposed with more at-bats, a la Bryan LaHair, or the Phillies could decide to platoon him with a journeyman veteran. But if nothing else, Ruf's power potential makes him well worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
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