01/21/12 10:00 AM EST
Prospect Watch: Top 10 first basemen
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Once upon a time, first base was a place where one could find some of the best hitting prospects in the game. It's where a team would want a middle-of-the-order run producer. While the names on this year's Top 10 first-base prospects list might eventually be those types of players, it is lacking on high-end Top 100 Prospect-type players after the first three names on the list.
1. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: Rizzo's big league debut in 2011 may not have gone very well, but that didn't mean his left-handed bat wasn't still in high demand. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who helped draft Rizzo in Boston and then traded for him while the GM in San Diego, acquired him in Chicago during the offseason. A solid defender at first, it's Rizzo's power bat (51 homers and 200-plus RBIs over the past two seasons in the Minors) that is his calling card. Look for him to make some adjustments and be ready for the big leagues in 2012, even if he starts the year in Triple-A behind Bryan LaHair.
2. Yonder Alonso, Padres: Alonso wasn't going to play first base in Cincinnati because of Joey Votto, and even with a valiant effort, left field really wasn't for him. So no one was surprised when Alonso was a part of the trade with San Diego that brought Mat Latos to the Reds. With Rizzo now in Chicago, first base in San Diego should be Alonso's for the taking. He brings to the table an advanced approach at the plate, with the ability to hit for average and power to all fields -- even if that will largely be doubles at Petco. No longer a stuck prospect, Alonso should take off and perhaps be a National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate in 2012.
3. Jonathan Singleton, Astros: The Phillies moved Singleton to left field to start 2011 in an effort to avoid the Ryan Howard roadblock, but after a couple of months, they moved Singleton back to first, where he is much better defensively. The Howard issue became moot when Singleton was shipped to Houston as part of the Hunter Pence deal. He has a special bat, regardless of where he plays, with the ability to hit for average and excellent on-base skills. The power will continue to come as Singleton matures. He'll make the big step up to Double-A in 2012.
4. C.J. Cron, Angels: Cron was high on Draft boards last June as one of the better advanced college hitters in the class. The son of Chris Cron, now a manager in the Tigers' Minor League system, his pitch recognition and plate discipline should allow him to hit for average, and his strength will bring power as well, as was on display during his summer debut. A former catcher, a torn labrum will limit Cron to first base, and an injured knee required surgery. He should be just fine for Spring Training and has the kind of hitting skills that should enable him to move quickly through the Angels' farm system.
5. Chris Parmelee, Twins: When he was a high school player in 2006, teams coveted Parmelee's bat at first base. He hasn't exactly taken a quick route to the big leagues, spending at least parts of two seasons at each level. In 2011, though, Parmelee jumped from Double-A to Minnesota and performed even better than expected. He has a good approach at the plate, with good on-base skills, and he doesn't hurt himself too much with strikeouts. The power hasn't shown up on a consistent basis, though it did during Parmelee's big league debut. If Justin Morneau isn't ready to play, Parmelee could be an option, though he could get some Triple-A time first.
6. Matt Adams, Cardinals: Simply put, Adams can flat-out hit. With a career .316/.365/.552 line, he's produced wherever he's been. The big jump came in 2011, when Adams moved up to Double-A and was named the Texas League Player of the Year. Few doubt now that he'll hit for average and power at the highest level. Adams is fine defensively at first, and now with Albert Pujols in Anaheim, the Cards don't have to experiment with Adams in an outfield corner. Give him some time in Triple-A and he'll be ready to contribute in St. Louis soon.
7. Neftali Soto, Reds: For three years in a row, Soto's overall production has increased, with upticks in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. Last year was his breakout, with a 30-homer season in Double-A. Soto doesn't draw many walks, but he also doesn't strike out much for a guy with that kind of power. With Alonso now in San Diego, Soto becomes the organization's best first-base prospect. Now it's his turn to be stuck in Triple-A behind Votto.
Top 10 First base prospects
|1.||Anthony Rizzo, CHC||1.||Eric Hosmer, KC|
|2.||Yonder Alonso, SD||2.||Freddie Freeman, ATL|
|3.||Jonathan Singleton, HOU||3.||Brandon Belt, SF|
|4.||C.J. Cron, LAA||4.||Jonathan Singleton, PHI|
|5.||Chris Parmelee, MIN||5.||Yonder Alonso, CIN|
|6.||Matt Adams, STL||6.||Christian Yelich, FLA|
|7.||Neftali Soto, CIN||7.||Anthony Rizzo, SD|
|8.||Chris Marrero, WAS||8.||Chris Carter, OAK|
|9.||Alex Dickerson, PIT||9.||Lars Anderson, BOS|
|10.||Dan Vogelbach, CHC||10.||Chris Owings, ARI|
8. Chris Marrero, Nationals: After five-plus seasons in the Minors, Marrero finally made his way to the big leagues, playing first for the Nats for much of the final month of the season. He's always had a decent bat with good power, though it hasn't always shown up consistently in games. Marrero has worked hard to become an adequate first baseman, and he might have received an opportunity to play there in Washington in 2012 if it weren't for a torn hamstring he suffered in winter ball. When Marrero gets back, he'll probably have to head to Triple-A and wait for an opportunity.
9. Alex Dickerson, Pirates: Dickerson had a very solid career offensively at Indiana, though his power numbers went down a bit with the switch to the new college bats in 2011. That, and a lack of a true defensive home, led him to be available in the third round for Pittsburgh. He's settled in nicely at first base and showed his advanced hitting skills during his debut last summer. Dickerson can hit for average and has some legitimate power, maximizing it all with excellent plate discipline. His left-handed bat should allow him to move pretty quickly up the ladder.
10. Dan Vogelbach, Cubs: Coming out of high school, Vogelbach was on radars because of his light-tower power from the left side. It's legitimately plus-plus, and he can hit it out to all fields. Vogelbach is not an all-or-nothing swinger, either, and his advanced approach should allow him to be a fairly complete hitter. Non-athletic would be a kind way to describe Vogelbach's body type in high school, but he's already trimmed down as he prepares for his first season of pro ball.
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.