Amidst a 2020 MLB season that may not happen and a MiLB season that almost certainly will not happen, it can be tough to keep the motivation in fantasy baseball. Certainly, those in redraft leagues are not making many moves, as their entire draft could have been for naught if this season is unable to come together.
However, dynasty leagues exist for a reason, and folks who have a team to take care of for the future can still get their tinkering done during this pandemic.
First base is not a position that is rich with prospects, as most young players transition to first base later in their careers. Rarely do players come through the system as first basemen, making it a tricky position to target in dynasty formats.
Still, there are a handful of players who are almost certainly going to play first at the big league level, and many of them are more than worth a look in deeper, and even shallower dynasty formats.
Note: As stated above, there are a handful of players who will likely move to 1B down the line, including Bobby Dalbec and Brent Rooker, but since they are not currently 1B eligible in most dynasty formats, I did not include them on this list.
1. Andrew Vaughn – Chicago White Sox
Highest Level: A+
Vaughn hit just six home runs in nearly 250 professional plate appearances last year, but don’t let that fool you: This is a guy with a legitimate chance to post a 65-grade hit tool along with 65-grade game power at the MLB level, making him the no doubt number one first base prospect in the game and a potential top-15 prospect in all of baseball.
Vaughn was absolutely elite in college, and although his profile (right-handed hitter with defensive limitations) is scary, there’s virtually no reason to doubt Vaughn’s ability to swing it. He rarely strikes out, has a good eye at the plate, makes consistent, hard contact, and has many scouts believing he can routinely post an Edgar Martinez-like .300/.400/.500 slash line at the next level – with some pop as well.
Paul Konerko is the lazy comp here, but some believe he will be as good or better—so you don’t want to miss him on your dynasty rosters.
2. Evan White – Seattle Mariners
Highest Level: AAA
Evan White has pushed his way up a lot of prospect lists after a stellar 2019 season where he demonstrated that he’s more than just a good defensive first baseman with a 50-grade hit tool—he has some pop too. White blasted 18 home runs in 400 plate appearances in AA while slashing a stellar .293/.350/.488.
That was enough for the Mariners to sign him to a six-year, $24 million extension this offseason, virtually guaranteeing he will be with the big league club sooner rather than later.
White showed elite ability to hit the ball hard and on a line, and while he’s probably not a 40 home run guy there is plenty of reason to believe he could be a .280/.290 hitter with 25 or so home runs annually.
There are some plate discipline issues to work out and a 1B prospect without elite power playing in a pitcher’s park is no doubt a risk. But I’m willing to bet on White as an above-average regular for years to come and I’d be more than happy rostering him in most dynasty and even deeper redraft leagues.
3. Ryan Mountcastle – Baltimore Orioles
Highest Level: AAA
Fangraphs still lists Mountcastle as a 3B/SS, but he started 84 games at first base last year, a pretty clear sign that is where Baltimore has him penciled in going forward. His lack of positional flexibility has dampened his prospect star, as a shortstop with his kind of power is a dream prospect, but it’s not nearly as appealing as a first baseman.
Still, Mountcastle’s bat is good enough to play anywhere, as evidenced by his sterling AAA line in 2019: .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI in 127 games played.
There are some concerns here, namely the lack of plate discipline (he had a 4.3% walk rate in 2019) and the fact that his .312 average was buoyed by an unsustainable .370 BABIP.
Mountcastle will hit—.280 with 30 bombs annually seems like a reasonable prediction—but he can’t play the field and can’t draw a walk, and unless those things change he’s more of a Mark Trumbo type prospect. That’s still useful in fantasy, however, and his proximity to the major leagues and true raw power make him an appealing enough prospect, even without that positional flexibility.
I have him in a dynasty league where he’s still SS eligible, and if that’s the case in your league, you’re going to want to roster him. The bat should keep him on your roster, however, even long after that eligibility is gone.
4. Seth Beer – Arizona Diamondbacks
Highest Level: AA
The DH moving to the NL is a nice boost for a handful of players, including Beer. The 23-year-old lit the baseball world on fire his freshman year at Clemson, and while he has not replicated that ridiculous level of success, he’s mashed at every level of professional baseball—which included a .299/.407/.543 slash line with 16 home runs and a 162 wRC+ in just 63 games for Houston’s AA affiliate last year before getting traded to the Diamondbacks in the Zack Greinke deal.
Beer has virtually no defensive skills, hence the NL DH being a big boost, but his bat will play at all levels. There’s a real possibility he has a 40-ish hit tool at the next level, hitting below .250, but he doesn’t have too many strikeout issues and could easily hit 35-40 home runs annually if given an everyday role.
That’s worth gambling on, and with his age and proximity to the big leagues, I would happily own him in most dynasty formats and potentially even in deeper NL-only redraft leagues, depending on how this season’s roster rules shake out.
5. Triston Casas – Boston Red Sox
Highest Level: A+
I’ve seen a few places that still list Triston Casas as a third baseman, but he played 96 games at first and eight at third last year, so I think it’s pretty clear the Red Sox have him penciled in on the left side of the diamond.
Casas is behind a pair of young guys in Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec, but he has demonstrated incredible raw power throughout his high school days and in the minor leagues, where he blasted 19 home runs in 118 games at A-Ball as a 19-year-old.
There’s some swing and miss to his game, especially against lefties, and Casas is a teenage 1B only prospect with very limited speed, so he’s not without risk. However, the potential for a 60 hit tool and a 70 power tool is absolutely here, and the 80 grade raw power is not out of the question either—which at least makes him a candidate for home run derbies in the future.
I’m generally of the mindset that dynasty leagues should focus on safer, closer to the big league type hitters, especially for guys with defensive limitations, but Casas’ upside is big enough to land him within the top five of this list, and he’s squarely among the top 100 prospects in the game right now. If he’s available in your dynasty league, you won’t want to miss out.
Note: I missed Lewin Diaz in my original write-up so I have added him here
6. Lewin Diaz – Miami Marlins
Highest Level: AA
Diaz powered through the Twins asking him to lose weight, which sapped him of some power, to rebound with 27 home runs across two levels and two organizations last year, going from Minnesota to Miami.
At six-foot-four and 224 pounds, Diaz has legitimate 60 grade raw power, which he can access in game, and surprising athleticism at first base. There’s some plate discipline concerns, namely a lack of selectivity at the dish – and he did hit just .188 in his time with the Marlins AA squad, but I see a guy with enough power to be a regular at first base who will contribute in the power department, even if his batting average and OBP are below average.
That’s enough for him to be on the radar in most dynasty formats.
7. Kevin Cron – Arizona Diamondbacks
Highest Level: MLB
Kevin Cron’s power numbers throughout his time in the Diamondbacks system have been absolutely elite. He blasted 27, 26, 25, and 23 home runs from 2015-2018, before finally unleashing a massive power storm in 2019, blasting 44 between AAA and MLB.
His 38 home runs in AAA came in just 82 games, a staggeringly high rate of dingers even with the juiced ball and the friendly confines of the PCL.
Cron strikes me as a potential Quad-A guy however, thanks in part to strikeout concerns (35.9% in 78 MLB plate appearances) and a lack of defensive versatility. He came up a third baseman originally, but is almost certainly going to play first or DH at the next level.
Still, it’s hard to ignore a guy who has consistently demonstrated 25+ home run authority, and there’s little doubt he would regularly blast 30 or 35 in the show if given consistent playing time. Whether he gets those regular at-bats will depend on his defensive abilities and his ability to limit the strikeouts, two things I’m not entirely confident he will be able to do.
So, while Cron has the power to be an impact fantasy contributor, his playing time concerns makes him more of a wait-and-see type prospect in more standard formats, and a great stash candidate in NL-only leagues and deeper dynasty formats.
8. Edwin Rios – Los Angeles Dodgers
Highest Level: MLB
Rios, like Cron, was primarily a non-prospect until the 2019 season. He exploded at AAA Albuquerque, blasting 31 home runs with 91 RBI in 104 games with a stellar .270/.340/.575 slash line. That earned him a brief call-up to the Dodgers, where he mashed four more round-trippers with a .277/.393/.617 slash in 56 plate appearances.
As my colleague Nick Randall noted in his piece about the National League DH, Rios put up a ridiculous barrel rate of 26.9% with a hard-hit rate of 65.4% in that brief MLB sample—numbers that should be taken with a grain of salt due to the small sample size, but that are noteworthy nonetheless.
The power and high average are enough to make Rios an intriguing dynasty target, but his strikeout issues (34.5% at AAA, 37.5% in MLB) are severely limiting, and he lacks any defensive skills whatsoever. He truly is someone who will benefit from the DH, but having a guy who is only utility eligible hampers his value in most fantasy formats as well.
Factoring in LA’s loaded group of hitters and you have a player who probably needs a change of scenery to really reach the potential that he has—and age at 26, he needs it soon. He’s worth a look in NL-only leagues and deeper dynasty formats.
9. Michael Toglia – Colorado Rockies
Highest Level: A-
Toglia is the exception to my rule about targeting guys who are close to making their big league debut, and he may stand out a bit on this list after a rather pedestrian college season at UCLA dropped him down on draft boards.
However, few places were better for him to end up than in Colorado, and his first taste of pro ball resulted in a .248/.369/.483 slash line with nine home runs, 26 RBI, and a 142 wRC+ in 41 games at short-season.
Toglia has graded out as a plus defensive first baseman, and he has shown he can swing it from both sides of the plate. Standing six-foot-five and 226 pounds, Toglia could fill out even more, giving him the potential for 60-grade in-game power if he continues to develop.
In deeper dynasty leagues I’d love to stash Toglia in my minors and watch him put up video game numbers in Colorado’s hitter-friendly minor league system—and there’s reason to believe he will put it all together and become a very high-quality big league regular with power from both sides of the dish.
10. Pavin Smith – Arizona Diamondbacks
Highest Level: AA
I’ve always been higher on Pavin Smith than the industry, although I can understand why folks are down on him, particularly in dynasty formats where power is the name of the game.
However, while some consider him a likely bust after getting picked seventh overall in 2017, his performance has not been bad by any means. He played all of 2019 in the very pitcher-friendly Southern League, where he put up an extremely solid .291/.370/.466 slash line with a 142 wRC+ and an outstanding 12% strikeout rate and an 11.6% walk rate.
The problem is his lack of power, which resulted in 12 home runs last year, along with 29 doubles and six triples. He doesn’t generate huge exit velocity numbers, and he puts the ball on the ground far too often to reach even the 25 home run threshold as an everyday player at the next level.
Still, I’m optimistic his approach at the plate will allow him to hit for a high average and get on base at a good clip, and his ground ball rate improved considerably from 2018 to 2019. A move to a league with a juiced ball could allow him to lean into 15-20 round-trippers annually even if he doesn’t change his profile, and some slight adjustments could get him to a .280 hitter with 30 home runs if he’s given everyday at-bats.
That’s the best case scenario here, and more likely he ends up as a platoon bat or even a bench option, which limits his value. Tread carefully, but I’m not as far out on Smith as many others.
10B. Bryce Ball – Atlanta Braves
Highest Level: A
I’m more skeptical than some of my colleagues about the excellent debut we saw from Ball last season. At 21 years old and with 70-grade power, however, he still finds his way onto this list and is a name to at least keep an eye on in dynasty formats.
Ball crushed the ball in his lone season at Dallas Baptist before the Braves took a shot on him in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB draft. He mashed 17 home runs in his first taste of pro ball, although most of that was against rookie ball pitching.
Still, his six-foot-six, 235-pound frame has the ability to crush home runs to all parts of the field, and there’s a legitimate 40 home run threat here if he can improve the hit tool. That’s going to be the big question, as he has not demonstrated great bat control just yet, and his 4.4% walk rate and 22.2% strikeout rate in a 21 game sample at A-ball are a tad concerning.
I’m not ready to crown Ball anything more than a power-heavy bench bat at the next level, but I absolutely have my eye on him. If he gets a chance to face more aggressive pitching, we will have a much better sense of what he’s truly capable of.
Others given consideration: Will Craig, Heriberto Hernandez, Bobby Bradley, Thomas Dillard, Tyler Nevin, Grant Lavigne, Jared Walsh
Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)
Lewin Diaz not given consideration was a bit surprising, given the frame and reports on raw power (FG has him a 60). Are you concerned he’s not a 1B or do you need to see more than his year at AA?
I’m not as high on him as some, but I’ll admit this was an oversight. He should probably be No. 6. I’ll make an edit here soon
Where would Tork rank on this list? 1 or 2?
Probably 2 for now, but him and Vaughn are close
Good stuff Andy! Tork would be No. 1 for me. He’s on Rutschman’s level, which is a level higher ceiling wise. Also, I’d say they both Vaughn and Tork have about the same chance to reach their potential. Tork’s a top 25 prospect before playing his first game.