The Dynasty Baseball Performance Report is a regular series, highlighting each position and providing insight into the risers and fallers of both the major leagues and prospects. Each week we’ll publish a positional report on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
First base can be a tough position to fill. The easiest position on the defensive spectrum, it should be an easy source of power – and it can be – but it also usually comes with a low batting average and inconsistency outside of the top options. Especially on the minor league side, you really have to be a special hitter to be considered a real prospect coming up at the position. Each month I’ll take a look at a few first basemen from the majors and a few from the minors to either target or stay away from based on the current trends of their season. To start off I’ll keep things positive since hope springs eternal.
Vinnie Pasquantino (KC)
All Pasquantino has done in his professional career is hit. Hit for average, hit for power. Hit, hit, hit. Most players that tap into their power are going to sacrifice contact in order to do so. Not Vinnie. He is in the top 12% of the league when it comes to strikeout rate (fourth best amongst first basemen) and he has been consistently in the mid to low teens in his career (14% at the time of this writing). The walk rate is top 20% of the league as well at 12.9%. Since he hit the minors in 2019, he has had an OPS in the mid .900’s and he is currently sitting at .923 after putting up a .832 over 298 plate appearances as a rookie in 2022.
The only real negatives to speak of would be his chase rate which is in the bottom 27 percent and the fact that he is never likely to hit 35+ home runs which you may want from your first baseman. Heis more often than not going to be in the 25-30 range and is currently ninth among first basemen with four. But the good news is that his total production is fifth with a 154 wRC+. While you may sacrifice some power with Pasquantino you will also get an above-average batting average and on-base percentage. Almost like a younger version of Freddie Freeman, he is a very high ceiling “set it and forget it” type of player that could be underrated in some leagues.
Rowdy Tellez (MIL)
While Vinnie Pasquantino may be underrated when it comes to a complete offensive player that doesn’t strike out much or hit for a ton of power, Tellez could be underrated in some leagues as a pure power play. That is less likely after the season he put up in 2022 where he hit 35 home runs over 599 plate appearances for the Milwaukee Brewers. He only hit .219 with a .767 OPS and 110 wRC+ but if you wanted cheap power he was a great late-round/waiver-wire pickup depending on your league.
This year has been more of the same for the former Blue Jay as he is hitting .229 with a .868 OPS and 126 wRC+ and seven home runs which is second most out of all first basemen. He is going to take his walks (13.3% walk rate this year, 10.4% in 2022) but is also going to swing a miss quite a bit as he takes his big power hacks (25.3% strikeout rate this year). Home runs tend to come in bunches so he isn’t the safe “set it and forget it” option that Pasquantino is but if you can time things right by playing the matchups (right-handed pitchers, playing in the same division as the Reds and Cubs with their homerun friendly ballparks) he could be a spark for your fantasy offense.
Heston Kjerstad (BAL)
The biggest way Kjerstad is trending in the right direction when it comes to first-base prospects is the fact that he is eligible for the position at all. Drafted out of Arkansas as a corner outfielder with serious power potential, he has been splitting his time in AA Bowie between right field, DH, and (you guessed it) first base. His professional career was delayed by two years after suffering myocarditis after being drafted second overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2020 MLB draft. A hamstring injury in spring training last year delayed it by a few more months but he finally debuted with low A Delmarva in June and he took out his frustration on Carolina League pitchers to the tune of a 1.201 OPS over 98 plate appearances with 11 extra-base hits, a 13.3% walk rate, and 17.3% strikeout rate. He struggled in high A Aberdeen over 186 plate appearances to end the 2022 season with a .674 OPS, 13 extra-base hits, 8.6% walk rate, and 25.3% strikeout rate. It was bad enough that he was benched during a game for not running out a ground ball when he was clearly irritated with himself.
His fortunes changed pretty quickly following the minor league season because he was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he proceeded to mash his way to be the league’s MVP, leading the league in hits (35), doubles (9), extra-base hits (15), and total bases (61) and finishing with five home runs and a 1.007 OPS. He carried that energy into his first major league spring training hitting four home runs and putting up a 1.219 OPS over 44 plate appearances before being assigned to AA. At the time of this writing, he has 59 plate appearances with Bowie and has a .981 OPS, five home runs, an 8.5% walk rate, and a 20.3% strikeout rate. Orioles general manager Mike Elias was on a recent tv broadcast and mentioned if he keeps hitting like he is he won’t be in AA long when asked about Kjerstad. I think it’s safe to assume he will be promoted to AAA Norfolk by June and then will be able to make his case for a September call-up with his bat. The Orioles will want his power bat in the lineup and a first-base prospect who also has outfield eligibility should make for a coveted asset in dynasty leagues.
Kyle Manzardo (TB)
Not that the Tampa Bay Rays necessarily need another jolt to their offense but whenever the need does arise for them they have a 22-year-old major league-ready top 100 prospect sitting in AAA doing nothing but what he has done since being drafted in the second round of the 2021 MLB draft out of Washington State. Manzardo owned the complex league following the draft with over 50 plate appearances five doubles and two home runs with a 1.045 OPS and 173 wRC+. Last year he raced up the ladder hitting .329 with a 1.072 OPS and 17 home runs in high A Bowling Green over 275 plate appearances and not slowing down with AA Montgomery with a .323 batting average, .977 OPS, and five home runs over 122 plate appearances.
Big league spring training was no trouble for the six-foot left-handed hitter. Even though he only got 30 plate appearances he batted .333 with a 1.030 OPS, two doubles, and two home runs. I’m sure Tampa Bay wants him to get a decent amount of experience with AAA Durham before thrusting him into the big leagues as the first-place team in the competitive AL East but so far so good. He is hitting .273 with a .971 OPS over 70 plate appearances with four doubles and five home runs. He is walking at an above-average rate (11.4%) and striking out at a more than acceptable rate (17.1%) so everything he is doing seems sustainable. He is four years younger than the above-mentioned Vinnie Pasquantino but has a similar profile as far as walks and strikeouts. There is more upside here when it comes to power but time will tell how his game translates at the major league level. All signs point to him being a nuisance to opposing team hitters for many years to come.