Fantasy Baseball: Highlighting top first base prospects for 2017

First thing's first: This generally isn't a position for prospects.

For big bats, yes. In fact, it's the ultimate fallback position for the ones who prove they can't handle a more premium spot. The next great first baseman is an overgrown third baseman, a slow-footed second baseman, a weak-armed catcher. It's rarely the guy drafted to play first base from the get-go.

But this year's crop is pretty good -- so good, in fact, that Tyler Austin , who produced in a late-season trial for the Yankees and projects to have an actual role next year -- couldn't quite make the cut. That's mostly because I think he's no more than a role player long-term, but still, he wouldn't have slipped through at second base.

Granted, some of these prospects are flawed and liable to wind up as role players themselves, but their ages leave a little more room for imagination.

Note: This list is intended for a variety of Fantasy formats and thus weighs short-term role against long-term value. Not all of these players will contribute in 2017 -- most, in fact, will not -- but among prospects, they're the names to know.

1. Josh Bell , 24, Pittsburgh Pirates

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .295 BA (421 AB), 14 HR, .850 OPS, 57 BB, 74 K
Major-league stats: .273 BA (128 AB), 3 HR, .775 OPS, 21 BB, 19 K

We've been hearing about Bell since the Pirates convinced him not to go to college in 2011, making him a steal of a second-rounder, and this year, he finally began to deliver on his power potential. He's a physical specimen at the plate, and yet his strikeout-to-walk ratio reveals a composure few players ever develop. He could quickly become the Pirates' version of Anthony Rizzo .

2. Cody Bellinger , 21, Los Angeles Dodgers

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .271 BA (410 AB), 26 HR, .872 OPS, 60 BB, 94 K

The scouts love this guy, in part because his father Clay was a major-leaguer, but it's not clear what he brings to the table aside from home run power. Still, he's a high-floor prospect who figures to take over for Adrian Gonzalez two years from now, batting in the heart of the Dodgers lineup.

3. Casey Gillaspie , 24, Tampa Bay Rays

Where played in 2016: Double-A, Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .284 BA (472 AB), 18 HR, .866 OPS, 80 BB, 117 K

Not everyone is so keen on Gillaspie, who isn't regarded as an exceptional athlete. But anyone who walks 80 times with power is OK in my book. And as badly as the Rays need offense, the chances of him getting confined to a reserve role, like his not-as-talented brother in San Francisco, are pretty low.

4. Dominic Smith , 21, New York Mets

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .302 BA (484 AB), 14 HR, .824 OPS, 50 BB, 74 K

Smith is still a couple years away, but the former 11th overall pick is back in the good graces of prospect evaluators after proving that, yes, he has some power in that bat of his, more than doubling his previous high in home runs. He already had no trouble hitting for average, so with even more growth, he could be something special.

5. Bobby Bradley , 20, Cleveland Indians

Where played in 2016: high Class A
Minor-league stats: .235 BA (485 AB), 29 HR, .810 OPS, 75 BB, 170 K

Bradley is one of the most powerful hitters in all the minors, twice leading his league in home runs despite his young age, and he knows how to take a walk. But if his strikeout rate is already sapping his batting average at the lower levels, it could limit his ability to break through to the majors, much as it has to Joey Gallo .

6. Dan Vogelbach , 23, Seattle Mariners

Where played in 2016: Triple-A, majors
Minor-league stats: .292 BA (459 AB), 23 HR, .923 OPS, 97 BB, 101 K
Major-league stats: .083 BA (12 AB), 0 HR, .237 OPS, 1 BB, 6 K

Vogelbach is a squatty fellow who may soon outgrow even first base, so he'll have to hit out of his mind to hold down a regular job in the majors. Fortunately, he has done exactly that throughout his minor-league career, looking like a Moneyball throwback with his monster OPS, and the Mariners seem to be keeping a spot open for him.

7. Chris Shaw , 23, San Francisco Giants

Where played in 2016: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .267 BA (502 AB), 21 HR, .819 OPS, 48 BB, 125 K

Shaw's numbers won't knock you over, especially considering he spent half the year in the hitter-friendly California League. But he may not have been quite ready to move on from there, hitting just .246 at Double-A. He still has serious raw power and profiles as a middle-of-the-order bat, but his so-so plate discipline also gives him a lower floor than some of these other prospects.

8. Josh Naylor , 19, San Diego Padres

Where played in 2016: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .264 BA (481 AB), 12 HR, .710 OPS, 25 BB, 84 K

If Shaw's numbers are underwhelming, Naylor's are downright depressing. The Padres still were aggressive in promoting him immediately after landing him in the Andrew Cashner deal, making him one of the youngest players at his level. The scouts remain high on him, comparing him to Prince Fielder in terms of build and power potential.

9. Rhys Hoskins , 24, Philadelphia Phillies

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .281 BA (498 AB), 38 HR, .943 OPS, 71 BB, 125 K

Hoskins' prospect status is built almost entirely on his production, and even that's questionable after he spent all of 2016 at hitter-friendly Reading. But he did hit 13 home runs on the road, and the rebuilding Phillies may not be completely sold on Tommy Joseph at first. It's a shame they both bat right-handed.

10. Rowdy Tellez , 22, Toronto Blue Jays

Where played in 2016: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .297 BA (438 AB), 23 HR, .917 OPS, 63 BB, 92 K

Tellez also benefited from a hitter-friendly environment, hitting 14 of his 23 home runs at New Hampshire's home park, but he has always earned high marks for his bat. It's just that he, like Vogelbach, has serious questions about his defensive viability, so he'll need to kill it at the next level if he wants a shot at Toronto's hitter-friendly environment.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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