In articles like this, many websites will provide readers with the best overall prospects at any given position, but the intention here is to focus on those prospects that are likely to provide the greatest fantasy impact for the 2011 season; thus, while Oakland 1B prospect Chris Carter may have some long-term potential, he won’t be on my list because he is blocked—at least in the short-term—by Daric Barton.
Ditto for Yonder Alonso in Cincinnati.
With that said, here is my list of the five first base prospects who will likely have the most impact at the major league level in 2011:
1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freeman, 21, was a second-round pick in the ’07 draft, the same year the Braves selected OF Jason Heyward in the first round (No. 14 overall). Freeman had a breakout season in 2008, when he hit .316 and belted 18 HR…but he regressed the following year—in large part due to a wrist injury.
Many pundits started to question his status as a top prospect entering last year (as he had only hit eight HR in 2009), but the young left-handed hitter quieted his doubters with a huge 2010 season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
In spite of the fact he was VERY young in relation to the competition in the International League (he was 20 years old for most of the year), Freeman hit .319, with 18 HRs, 87 RBI and six SB.
In four minor league seasons, he hit 50 HRs in roughly 1,600 at bats—that is one homer in every 32 at bats. There is some debate as to whether he has the power potential to be the middle-of-the-order hitter that he was originally projected to become, but what appears certain is the ballclub thinks enough of his potential to hand him the starting first base job entering 2011…and that means he will have a significant impact for fantasy baseball owners in 2011.
Don’t be surprised if he struggles early due to his age, but over the long haul he should be just fine.
2. Brandon Belt, SFG
Belt is another prospect who will be relatively young as the 2011 season gets under way (he’ll turn 23 in April), but it says here he will be a contributor in the big leagues before the end of the year.
He will be blocked at the beginning of the year, due to the fact the ballclub re-signed both Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell, but let’s be honest—Burrell is a “has been” and was re-signed just to buy Belt another half-year in Triple-A.
Belt is a left-handed hitter who blitzed his was through three minor league levels last year (Hi-A, AA and AAA), and he likely needs a couple more months in the minors, but if he proves able to build on his 2010 performance (when he hit .352, with 23 HR, 112 RBI and 22 SB), he will be in San Francisco some time around mid-season. Seriously…Pat Burrell?
3. Brandon Allen, ARI
Allen, who turns 25 years old in February, will battle former NY Yankees prospect Juan Miranda for the starting job in spring training. While he hit just .261 last year, he slugged 25 home runs and showed improved plate discipline, as demonstrated by an excellent 95-83 strikeout-to-walk ratio (compared to a 374-121 ratio between 2008-08).
He played some outfield in the minor leagues, so he has the potential to offer position flexibility for fantasy owners. But caveat emptor: As with Anthony Rizzo below, the fantasy impact he provides in 2011 may be on the downside, as he will almost certainly struggle against big league pitching for the first year or two of his career.
4. Anthony Rizzo, SD
Rizzo was one of the key pieces in the deal that sent slugger Adrian Gonzalez from the left coast to Boston. He is another first base prospect who is VERY young (he’ll be just 21 years old on Opening Day) and who may need more time in the minor leagues, but the Padres front office will hope to move him to the big leagues at the earliest possible opportunity, as they will want to show a return on the Gonzalez deal as soon as is practical.
His 2010 numbers were solid (.260, 25 HR and 100 RBI), but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (132-61 in A and AA) is proof that he will need more seasoning in AAA (Portland). The flip side is the guys blocking him in San Diego are Kyle Blanks and Oscar Salazar, so Rizzo will have an opportunity to ascend to the parent club by mid-season. But as with Allen, above, caveat emptor!
5. Eric Hosmer, KC
Hosmer, 21, is possibly the best first base prospect in all of baseball, but he is not likely going to have a huge fantasy impact in 2011 unless it is at the end of the season, or as a result of an injury.
Royals General Manager Dayton Moore recently told Peter Gammons he wants to take his time with Hosmer and give him a full year in AAA—but my gut instinct tells me Hosmer’s ability may force Moore to make some tough decisions in the second half of the year.
He hit .338, with 20 HR, 86 RBI and 14 SB last year, and compiled a 66-59 K/BB ratio between A and AA. He could be ticketed for KC by August 1st, leaving Moore with a different predicament—what he’ll do with either Billy Butler or Kila Ka’aihue.
For this and more articles written by Jeffrey Brown, you can visit his website here.