In the second of the series of top prospects by position, here is an early look at the Top Fantasy First Base prospects for 2011. As I mentioned in the Top Catching prospects article, this list is my take on which first base prospects will get the most playing time in 2011, and possibly help your fantasy teams.
Before I get started, a guy like Eric Hosmer, who is probably the #1 first base prospect in baseball, won't be ranked highly in this list as he probably won't see any time in the big leagues in 2011.
With that said, here is my take on the Top First Base prospects for fantasy purposes for 2011:
1. Freddie Freeman, ATL-barring signing or trading for a first baseman this offseason, which is unlikely unless his wrist injury is more serious than we know at this point, Freeman should be the Braves starting first baseman in 2011. Freeman, as a 20 year old, hit .319-.378-.521 with 18 HRs, 87 RBIs, 73 runs scored and 6 SBs at AAA Gwinnett in 2010. In his 4 minor league seasons, Freeman has hit 50 HRs in roughly 1,600 at bats, or about 1 every 32 at bats. Some question Freeman's power ceiling, and i think it is justified. Freeman just turned 21 in September, so he is very young for the majors, and I am not sure if he is draftable in any league, unless it is a keeper league.
2. Brandon Belt, SFG-Belt had a breakout season in 2010, hitting .352-.450-.620 with 23 HRs, 112 RBIs and 22 SBs at three levels in 2010 (A+, AA, and AAA). He sported an excellent 99-93 K/BB rate, and had a 15-13 K/BB at AAA in 48 ABs. With the Giants re-signing Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and Aubrey Huff, it appears Belt will get more seasoning at AAA in 2011, but he could get a call in June should anyone get injured or go into a prolonged slump. Belt is definitely draftable in keeper leagues, but he is undraftable in re-draft leagues.
3. Brandon Allen, ARI-Allen, at this point, appears to have first dibs on the Diamondbacks first base job, with Adam Laroche electing free agency this offseason. Allen hit .261-.405-.528 with 25 HRs, 86 RBIs, 14 SBs and an excellent 95-83 K/BB rate. His 2010 K/BB rate is a far cry from the 2006-2008 seasons where he accumulated a 374-121 K/BB rate. He has played some LF in the minors and majors, so he offers manager Kirk Gibson some options to keep his bat in the lineup should they sign a first baseman like Derrek Lee this offseason.
4. Chris Carter, OAK-Carter made his major league debut in 2010 with the A's, hitting just .186-.256-.329 with 3 HRs, 7 RBIs and a 21-7 K/BB rate in 70 ABs. In AAA, Carter hit .258-.365-.529 with 31 HRs, 94 RBIs, and a 138-73 K/BB rate in 465 at bats. Carter's strikeout rates (112-156-133-138) the last 4 years may hold him back, but he does have nice power, which Oakland is lacking at the moment. Carter is listed as an outfielder on the A's 40-man roster, but has played the majority of his games at 1B the last few season. It's possible he gets some playing time in the outfield in 2011 withDaric Barton at first base.
5. Eric Hosmer, KC-I didn't originally have Hosmer ranked here, as I had him in the keeper league list below. But, I was watching MLB TV last night, and saw an interview with Royals GM Dayton Moore (cue the boos), and he told Peter Gammons that he would like to see Hosmer get a full season in AAA in 2011. I was a bit surprised with that, as Hosmer had about 200 ABs at AA in 2010. Then again, Hosmer is the best first base prospect in baseball, and he had a breakout season at two levels last season. He hit a combined .338-.406-.571 with 20 HRs, 86 RBIs, 14 SBs, and an excellent 66-59 K/BB rate. He hit very well in AA Northwest Arkansas, hitting .313-.365-.615 with 13 HRs, 35 RBIs and 3 SBs in 195 ABs. Dayton Moore has some shuffling to do once he decides Hosmer is ready to play 1B full time in Kansas City. If Hosmer played a full season at AA in 2010, I probably would have him ranked #1 or #2 on this list.
6. Yonder Alonso, CIN-Alonso hit .290-.362-.458 with 15 HRs, 69 RBIs and 13 SBs at AA and AAA in 2010. Alonso is blocked in Cincinnatti with MVP Joey Votto at first base, so he will probably return to AAA in 2011, or there is a slight chance he is dealt to a team where he has more opportunity to play at the major league level (Pirates make sense). He is one year removed from the hamate bone injury, and many are skeptical of his power potential, for good reason. Alonso has hit just 24 HRs in 800+ minor league at bats.
7. Anthony Rizzo, SD-Rizzo was one the main pieces in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to theRed Sox on Sunday. Rizzo hit .260-.334-.480 with 25 HRs, 100 RBIs, 10 SBs, and 132-61 K/BB rate at High A and AA in 2010. Rizzo will probably start the season at AAA Portland, and could be a September callup.
8. Jerry Sands, LAD-Sands started the 2010 season with Low A Great Lakes, but earned a promotion to AA Chattanooga by dominating Low A pitching, hitting .333-.432-.646 with 18 HRs, 46 RBIs, 14 SBs, with a 61-40 K/BB rate. At AA Chattanooga, Sands continued to hit well, hitting .270-.36-.529 with 17 HRs, 47 RBIs, 4 SBs, and a 62-33 K/BB rate. He played in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .299-.410-.494 with 3 HRS and a 19-16 K/BB rate. Fangraphs Bryan Smith scouted him in the AFL and felt he could be a .300 hitter in the big leagues. With James Loney at first base, Sands is blocked.....for now. But the Dodgers infield is lacking a power hitter and Sands could be a fit should he continue to hit for power and put up a solid triple slash line at AAA Albequerque.
9. Mark Trumbo, LAA-Trumbo is blocked at first base in Los Angeles by Kendry Morales, but could get a look as he has plenty of power. Trumbo hit .301-.368-.577 with 36 HRs, 122 RBIs and a 126-58 K/BB rate in 2010 at AAA Salt Lake City. Some prospect experts feel he could be a legitimate 25 HR bat in the big leagues should he get a full time job, but time is becoming precious for the soon-to-be 25 year old.
Keeper league owners will have a different strategy than re-draft league owners, as they are drafting players who have future value, but may be more than a year away from the big leagues. Here is a look at the first base prospects with the most keeper league value in 2011, but not listed in the list above:
1. Jonathan Singelton, PHI
2. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI