If you’ve read any of my work over the last two months, then you know that I’m not particularly fond of first base prospects. In my opinion, it’s an incredibly limiting position and can be misleading in projecting a prospect’s true ceiling. It’s a position that’s designated for players with plus power and minimal defensive value, or those who have physically outgrown their original position.
For those draft prospects that have already been slapped with the first-base-only tag, they will have to be enormously productive at the plate to ultimately reach the major leagues at that position. These days, it’s increasingly rare to see an impact prospect crack a big-league roster as a first baseman. More often than not, they simply become just another Quad-A slugger.
Therefore, my list of the 10 best first base prospects is based upon each player’s potential to make an impact in the major leagues. As you will see, there are outfielders and third basemen on this list, but only because I genuinely believe that they will land at first base before making their major league debut.
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220
High School: King HS (Fla.)
Besides Joey Gallo, Barnum possesses 70-grade power and the most of any prep player in the 2012 draft class. He has a long, powerful, lofty swing that allows him to drive the ball with considerable backspin to all fields.
However, due to his lanky frame, he has a tendency to cast his hands around the baseball, which in turns prevents him from turning on quality fastballs. Barnum has also struggled against above-average off-speed offerings, and he’ll need to improve his pitch recognition skills to be successful at the next level.
Height/Weight: 6’5”/225 lbs
Walker is one of the top power hitters in this year’s draft, and he possesses the raw strength to jump the yard to all fields. His swing has a hitch in it and, at times, can get too long and drag through the zone. However, as one looks for in an elite college bat, Walker has the plate discipline that makes his power especially projectable—especially in a weaker draft class.
Given his size and average athleticism, he’ll likely be a first-base-only prospect. At the same time, if I were the organization that ultimately drafts him, I would attempt to keep him in the outfield for as long as possible.
A left-handed hitter, Muncy has a fairly compact swing for a power hitter and a mature approach that allows him to manipulate counts in his favor. Over the last three seasons at Baylor, he has demonstrated the ability to consistently square-up the baseball and drive it to all fields.
However, most of Muncy’s power is to the pull side at the moment, so he’ll need to show that he can consistently leave the yard to the opposite field. At the next level, pitchers will inevitably try to exploit his middle-in approach with off-speed pitches on the outer-third of the plate. Muncy’s athletic enough to warrant a look in left field (and possibly even behind the plate), but he’ll likely continue his development at first base.
College: South Carolina
One of the more impressive hitters in all of college baseball this season, Walker is at a clear disadvantage as a right-handed hitting first baseman. Although he’s physically strong at 6’1”, 225 pounds, it’s hard to see Walker’s power improving in the minor leagues, as many scouts believe he’s already reached his offensive ceiling. If anything, he projects to offer production similar to Gaby Sanchez and Yonder Alonso—players whose hit tool receives a higher grade than their power.
Walker’s excelled over the last three seasons at South Carolina thanks to excellent plate discipline, as well as an ability to exploit inexperienced pitching. While he may post above-average on-base rates as a professional, there’s bound to be some regression in his approach in relation to more advanced pitching.
High School: Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
College Commitment: LSU
Gallo put himself on every scout’s radar at the Perfect Game All-American Classic last August, when he blasted a monster 442-foot home run at PETCO Park. Furthermore, his 60-plus career home runs and counting at Bishop Gorman is a Nevada state record.
Without a doubt, the left-handed hitter possesses the most power of anyone in the 2012 draft class. However, like most young power hitters, Gallo’s swing can get long at times and he lands hard on the front side, causing him to struggle with quality off-speed offerings.
On the infield, Gallo has showcased a low- to mid-90s arm across the infield, and he moves surprisingly well for his size. However, his hands can be rather hard, and he has a tendency to rush both his actions and footwork.