First base is a shallow pool in this year’s draft class. That tends to be the case for a few reasons. One, most pro first basemen played other positions in high school and college (think Jake Burger). Two, most first basemen in high school and college are limited athletically, and therefore don’t merit high rankings come draft time. They are in a “prove it” category.
With that said, there are ten first basemen I’d like to highlight. Feel free to ask about anyone not listed in the comments below!
1. Brendan McKay, JR, Louisville
McKay is the top ranked left-handed pitcher in this draft. He is also the top ranked first baseman. It’s still a toss-up which way he’s drafted. Before this year, he was definitely expected to be drafted as a pitcher. Some still see that as his future home, but he blossomed at the plate this year, making the decision that much more difficult. He’s also considered an above-average defensive first baseman.
Last year, in both the Cape and on the College National Team, he showed he can hit for average and get on base. The only thing that was a question was his power, and he emphatically answered that question this season. The sweet swinging lefty has hit .357/.474/.688 this year, with 17 home runs, 43 walks, and 35 strikeouts. If it were me, I’d start him as a hitter, it’s easier to go back to pitching if he fails there than the other way around.
2. Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia
Smith is a stathead’s dream bat. He’s hit 12 home runs in a tough Virginia home park. But perhaps most amazingly, is he has hit more home runs than he has struck out! On the season, he’s hit .345/.430/.568, with a ridiculous 37 walks to only 9 strikeouts! He’s basically Ernie Clement with power. Add in solid defense at first base, and you’re looking at the best college bat if McKay is taken as a pitcher.
3. Nick Pratto, Mater Dei HS, CA - committed to Southern California
The dreaded high school first baseman. Usually a huge knock against a player, Pratto survives it due to his athleticism and a hit tool that is considered by many to be the best in the high school class. He’d be a top 100 draft prospect on the mound if his bat wasn’t so advanced. He’s basically the high school Brendan McKay. He’s also a great defensive first baseman.
The big question with Pratto is how much power will he develop? Those who think enough to justify playing at first base see him as a top 15 talent. Those more skeptical may see him as a back of the first round talent. Does he become Freddy Freeman or Keith Hernandez? (Yes, with the obvious caveat that neither is likely with draft prospects)
4. Evan White, JR, Kentucky
Speaking of athletic first baseman, White is takes the cake in that category. He’s probably the best defensive first baseman in this draft class. The athleticism and skill has some talking a move to the outfield, with those most optimistic talking about him playing center field. If he were a right-handed thrower, I could see him moving to second or third base. But if he can’t cut it in center, you have to hope his bat develops more power.
Or you keep him at first and bank on him providing most of his value with defense. The swing does have some kinks, and I think he’ll struggle with pro breaking balls until they are worked out. With that said, he should be gone by the end of the first round. On the season, he’s hitting .366/.439/.629, with eight home runs, 18 walks, and 30 strikeouts.
5. Gavin Sheets, JR, Wake Forest
Gavin Sheets ain’t getting drafted because of his athleticism. He’s getting drafted because he does violent things to baseballs. The son of former big leaguer Larry Sheets, Gavin is a big left-handed power hitter with good plate discipline. He did struggle in the Cape, but if a team believes in the power translating to pro ball, he’s a second round draft pick.
He’s no butcher at first base, so that won’t hinder his draft stock. He’s been one of the top power hitters in college ball this season, hitting .318/.423/.637, with 20 home runs, 40 walks, and 31 strikeouts.
6. J.J. Matijevic, JR, Arizona
Matijevic is a hitter, plan and simple. He won’t win any defensive awards. He’s small for first base, and could play left field if necessary. An adventurous team may try him at second base. But he’s getting drafted because he can hit. He’s hitting .389/.440/.650, with ten home runs, 22 walks, and 37 strikeouts this season. And he has one of the best track records at the Cape among this year’s draft class, hitting .349/.391/.507, with six home run, 17 walks, and 35 strikeouts over his two summers with the Falmouth Commodores.
7. Terriez Fuller, Griffin HS, GA - committed to Chipola JC
Terry Fuller is a big, strong kid who hits absolute bombs. I probably like him more than many others, but that’s ok by me. As a juco commit, he should be a relatively easy sign. He’s not fast or athletic, but a power bat with his potential is always a valuable commodity.
He reminds me of a taller Dan Vogelbach. He gets big marks on character from scouts, who paint him as a humble kid from a single-mom household. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him popped in the first three rounds.
8. Alex Toral, Archbishop McCarthy HS, FL - committed to Miami
Toral was a top fifty talent before this spring, some had him as high as the top ten. After a rough spring, and a commitment to Miami that seems to have firmed up, he has dropped quite a bit - he’s around 150th for me right now. At that point, he’s a fifth rounder and likely unsignable. I can easily see him as a top ten pick after three years at Miami, though. He’s a good defensive first baseman who flashes plus power in batting practice that doesn’t always carry over into games.
9. Chad Spanberger, JR, Arkansas
Spanberger was a catcher as a prepster, but has moved to first base in college. He struggled over his first two seasons, but something has clicked for him as a junior. On the season, he’s hitting .305/.385/.627, with 19 home runs, 23 walks, and 60 strikeouts. The power is plain to see, but so are the contact issues. He probably won’t be picked until the fifth round at the earliest. The team who want the power, and believes that the contact issues can be fixed in pro ball, will target him.
10. Sean Bouchard, JR, UCLA
Bouchard gets dinged as a right-handed hitting first baseman. He does have better contact skills than Spanberger, but no where near the same power. He did struggle in the Cape last summer, which knocks down his draft stock. But he’s a solid hitter on a good team that has played one of the toughest schedules in college baseball. On the season, he’s hitting .305/.390/.526, with nine home runs, 23 walks, and 47 strikeouts.