Let’s call it a joyful relief. That’s what I felt when I realized Jose Dariel Abreu is a prospect and I can put him on the top of this list. Joyful relief. If not for the Cuban defector and his Popeye on spinach potential, this list would be bleak. First base prospects just aren’t that great right now.
Everyone in baseball talks about the current shortage of power. The Power Well was pumping out Jim Thomes and Frank Thomases and Mark McGwires for years, and now it just bubbles up the occasional James Loney. It’s meant hard times for Wellville, the town that sprouted up around the Power Well. Unemployment’s at 19 percent, the elementary school’s total enrollment is just 85 kids, and Little Caesars shut down in November. It’s an ugly time in this metaphorical town and things aren’t looking up. You’ll see why when you read the list below.
There are some great first base prospects that aren’t on this list. That’s because this list only concerns 2014 fantasy relevancy. I love Dominic Smith. If this were a long term list he’d be my number two guy. But it’s not, so he’s not.
1. Jose Dariel Abreu — Chicago White Sox | (Cuba: .382/.535/.735)
We have no idea what Abreu is going to do next year. He could hit .220 and nine homers, he could hit .335 and 40 bombs. Both of those lines would be shocking but they’re plausible! Man, baseball’s just the best. Abreu’s been putting up something beyond video game numbers in Cuba. If you were playing a baseball video game and put up Abreu’s line over the course of a season you’d have to play on a higher difficulty level or become a professional baseball video game player or just quit playing the game entirely because you’ve mastered it. Time to climb another mountain. He’s the seventh grader with a mustache hitting bombs off of fifth graders. But, again, we can’t know what he’s going to do in the bigs, but we do know this: he’s outhit every Cuban player that’s come over to MLB the past five or so years. The reports I’ve read generally believe in his power, but aren’t as sure about the average transitioning. I expect he’ll hit around .290 and creep up near 25 home runs. That’s basically what Freddie Freeman did last year. That’ll play.
Draft Advice: Abreu is a guy that I’m not going to draft this year. Someone will get a little crazy and take him in the third round, and then everyone in the draft room will make fun of the person who drafted him and they’ll get a little defensive about it. I like him after the seventh or eighth round in standard, twelve team leagues.
2. Jonathan Singleton — Houston Astros | (A/AA/AAA: .230/.351/.401 in 367 PAs)
I’m going to use Singleton to make a non-fantasy point about an inconsistency between players on a team’s 40 man roster and those that aren’t. Both groups are tested for recreational drugs, like marijuana, but the penalties are extremely different depending upon what group the player is in. A first offense for a 40 man roster player means putting together a confidential treatment program with MLB doctors and counseling. Those not on the 40 man roster get a 50 game suspension. The infraction is the same, but the punishments are wildly different. I’d like to see consistency between the two groups of players — pick counseling or suspensions and make it universal. I just don’t see why minor leaguers should get punished more harshly than those in the bigs. We’ll see if this is addressed when the next CBA is negotiated. Singleton now has a 40 man roster spot, so this is moot for him. And maybe I’m totally wrong on this and minor leaguers need some Nancy Reagan style discipline to put down the bong, but I don’t think it makes sense.
Regarding Singleton’s baseball skills, he still needs some time in AAA to develop. He’ll take a walk and has solid power. This is a big year for him.
Draft Advice: You don’t need to draft him, but monitor him in AAA. He could have a big first half and get called up around the All Star Break.
3. Hunter Morris – Milwaukee Brewers | (AAA: .247/.310/.457 in 546 PAs)
In 2013 Morris moved to the Pacific Coast League and lost over .100 points on his 2012 slugging percentage. That’s hard to do, as the PCL is where the adventurous baseballs go when they want to go higher and farther than ever before. But still, he managed to hit 24 homers and another 26 doubles, so his power didn’t totally disappear. His walk and strikeout rates from 2012 and 2013 are nearly identical, but his BABIP went from .342 to .280. You can say he was really lucky in 2012 or really unlucky in 2013, or you can split the difference and say it was some of both. I’m going with that third option. The Brewers just signed Mark Reynolds to a minor league deal and have Juan Francisco atop their MLB.com depth chart, so I think they’re going to have a wide open competition in spring training for the starting job at first. Maybe Morris will win it.
Draft Advice: Even if Morris wins the job out of spring training, you don’t need to draft him in standard leagues.
4. Kyle Parker – Colorado Rockies | (AA: .288/.345/.492 in 528 PAs)
Concussions are terrible. We’re learning more about concussions all the time and everything we’re learning reinforces that. I hope Kyle Parker mashes in AAA all year but doesn’t have a place to play in the bigs because Justin Morneau is finally healthy. Parker had a strong year in AA last season, but he could use some more seasoning in the minors. His strikeouts went up and his walks went down when he made the jump from A+ to AA, but his performance was, on the whole, impressive. If Morneau is healthy this year then Parker will stay in the minors, where he should spend this season, and possibly get a September call up. He still has refinements that he needs to make in the minors.
Draft Advice: Don’t worry about drafting Parker, but if something happens to Morneau, and he gets promoted, he’ll be a viable play in deeper leagues.
5. CJ Cron – Los Angeles Angels | (AA: .274/.319/.428
The guy who’s blocked by Albert Pujols and His Contract is fifth on this list. He wasn’t particularly good last year! And this list is for 2014! I just don’t know who you put ahead of him, and Pujols hasn’t been healthy in a while. If Pujols goes back to being El Hombre then Cron won’t sniff the bigs. And I’m rooting for that. Baseball is better when Pujols is smiting balls. But if his plantar fasciitis returns and Cron is doing well in AA or AAA, then he’d probably get the call up. There’s no one ahead of him on the depth chart (aside from Pujols) that’s terribly impressive, so there’s some kind of chance for Cron to get some MLB at bats, but it’s one of those small chances.
Draft Advice: Nope.
The Last Cut:
Japhet Amador — Houston Astros
I hope Amador makes the bigs so I can watch him run the bases. The physics of it fascinate me. This man is dense. He’s made of bread pudding and little bits of black hole.
Jesus Aguilar — Cleveland Indians
Travis Shaw — Boston Red Sox