01/18/11 11:00 AM EST
Prospect Watch: Top 10 first basemen
Hosmer and Freeman headline group that is knocking on the door
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
There's a prototype for first basemen, a standard set long ago and upheld by superstars like Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira these days. Perhaps that's setting the bar a bit too high, but every team would love to have that power-hitting, run-producing bat in the middle of their lineup at this position. Many of the names on this Top 10 list have a chance to fit that very profile when they establish themselves in the big leagues.
1. Eric Hosmer, Royals: He took the adversity he had in 2009, along with offseason LASIK eye surgery, and turned it into a huge '10. He's got tremendous plate discipline, should hit for a high average and he's still scratching the surface of his plus power. To think he'll be an annual .300-30-100-type guy, along with being a plus defender, isn't out of the question.
2. Freddie Freeman, Braves: He belongs on any list for 2011 National League Rookie of the Year Award candidates, and not just because he'll have the opportunity to play every day for Atlanta. He might not have the best power in this group, but there's plenty more than what he's shown to date (though he did have 35 doubles and 18 homers in 2010). His smooth left-handed swing should allow him to hit for average and drive in runs right out of the gate.
3. Brandon Belt, Giants: No prospect raised his stock more than Belt in 2010, as the '09 draftee played at three levels and finished second in the Minors in batting average (.352) and OBP (.455), while landing in fourth in RBIs (112). He draws a ton of walks and, with approach, he could compete for batting titles. There's plenty of extra-base power in his left-handed bat, but he may never be a home-run-title type. He can also handle an outfield corner, if needed.
4. Jonathan Singleton, Phillies: When he was drafted out of high school in 2009, Singleton was thought of as a project -- more tools than anything. The Phillies had liked his bat, and it turned out to be very productive right out of the gate -- as Singleton was named the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Major League Prospect this past year. It looks like he will be able to hit for both average and plenty of power, especially as he matures. He could make a move to an outfield corner, so he won't be blocked by Ryan Howard down the line.
5. Yonder Alonso, Reds: Finally 100 percent following a hand injury, Alonso had a huge second half of 2010 after starting off the season sluggishly. By hitting .335/.415/.561 after the All-Star break, all of Alonso's hitting tools were on display: hitting for average, power and getting on base. The only problem now is finding a place for that bat. Joey Votto isn't going anywhere. Alonso has played some left field, but first is his better position.
Top 10 first base prospects
6. Christian Yelich, Marlins: Taken No. 23 overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Yelich proved to be one of the best pure high school hitters in the Draft class. He's got a smooth left-handed swing and a very good approach, especially for someone his age. He may be more of a John Olerud-type than a pure power guy -- and with good speed, the Marlins might give him a chance to play some outfield to see how that works during his full-season debut.
7. Anthony Rizzo, Padres: One of the keys to the Adrian Gonzalez trade, Rizzo could be asked to take over at first in San Diego within the next year. Rizzo has already overcome Hodgkin's lymphona, and he had a big 2010 where he established himself as a bona fide offensive prospect by hitting 25 homers and driving in 100 runs. There's more power to come from his left-handed bat, and he's an excellent defender to boot.
8. Chris Carter, A's: Don't put too much stock into Carter's 0-for-33 big league debut last year. He's still one of the best power-hitting prospects in the game. Even after a slow start in 2010, he finished with 31 homers in Triple-A (34 combined) and drove in a combined 101 runs. He can hit the ball out to any part of any ballpark. While he will draw some walks, he's always going to strike out a healthy amount. He can play some left field, which might get him to the bigs this year, though first is clearly his better spot defensively.
9. Lars Anderson, Red Sox: While his stock has fallen a bit, it should be noted that Anderson played most of the year in Triple-A at the ripe old age of 22. He's a selective hitter who will draw walks. And while he hasn't tapped into his raw power, he still has time to figure it out. The one thing he doesn't have is an opportunity in Boston, with Gonzalez now effectively blocking his path for several years.
10. Mark Trumbo, Angels: The move to the Pacific Coast League served Trumbo well in 2010, as he tied for the Minor League lead with 36 homers and finished third with 122 RBIs. While the friendlier hitting climate certainly helped, he's got the kind of power that should work anywhere. He will also strike out a bunch, and that might keep him from being a big average guy. He can play the outfield in a pinch, though it's not a natural spot for him.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.