MLB

Tomorrow's All-Stars: Predicting the 10 Best First Basemen in 5 Years

Karl BuscheckContributor IIIMay 7, 2014

Tomorrow's All-Stars: Predicting the 10 Best First Basemen in 5 Years

1 of 13

    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Power is one of the most elusive tools in baseball. 

    While combing through the minor leagues, it's not difficult to see why. Simply put, there is a glaring lack of quality players at first base—one of the traditional power spots. On MLB.com's list of the top 100 prospects, just two players at that position make the grade.

    Of course, the shortage of power makes the few sluggers who do have that skill all the more valuable. That brings us to stop No. 2 in this five-part series known as "Tomorrow's All-Stars."

    In the rankings that follow, I'll provide a rundown of which players will be the 10 best first basemen in five years and when they'll arrive in the big leagues. 

    Last time, we took a look at the 10 best catchers, and over the next three weeks we'll do the same with second basemen, third basemen and shortstops. 

    For now, though, let's focus on the first basemen.

A Word on the Criteria

2 of 13

    David Goldman/Associated Press

    The idea behind this series is to focus on prospects. 

    For that reason, players who have already made their MLB debuts have not been considered for the list. However, there are definitely current MLB first basemen who will still be playing at an All-Star level in five years' time.

    So, here's a quick look at some of the sluggers who would have been under consideration had the top 10 included current players—many of whom are already All-Stars. 

    • Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
    • Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
    • Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks 
    • Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
    • Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Honorable Mentions

3 of 13

    Before we get started with the top 10, let's take a look at a few of the first base prospects who just missed out on cracking the list: 

    • C.J. Cron*, Los Angeles Angels
    • Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays
    • Hunter Morris, Milwaukee Brewers
    • Matt Skole, Washington Nationals

     

    *Note: I've included Cron as an Honorable Mention because the first baseman lost his eligibility for this list after making his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Angels on May 3. In the video above, you can watch as Cron connects on a double in Triple-A.

10. Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers

4 of 13

    Age: 19

    Current Minor League Level: Low-A

    2014 Stats: .284 (21-for-74), .338 OBP, .365 SLG, 6 2B, 13 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Back in the summer of 2011, the Texas Rangers splashed out $3.5 million to sign Ronald Guzman out of the Dominican Republic, per MLB.com

    In 120 games in the minors since then, Guzman has hit .296 with a .350 OBP. However, the 6'5" first baseman has just five home runs during that time, and he has yet to hit a single one in 2014. Considering the left-handed hitter is just 19 years old, though, there's still plenty of time for Guzman's power to develop. 

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    After injuries limited Guzman to just 49 games in 2013, the first baseman is spending a second season in Low-A. The top prospect is still extremely early on in his professional career and likely will require full seasons at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. As a result, Guzman is slated to make it to the big leagues by the start of the 2018 campaign.

9. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

5 of 13

    Age: 20

    Current Minor League Level: High-A

    2014 Stats: .205 (23-for-112), .355 OBP, .402 SLG, 4 2B, 6 HR, 13 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Matt Olson has easy power. 

    In fact, the 20-year-old has power to all fields. On April 22, I watched as the first baseman deposited a home run just beyond the 385' sign in left-center field at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California, the home of the High-A Stockton Ports. 

    This season, the No. 47 overall selection from the 2012 MLB draft has hit six home runs. That's after hitting 23 a season ago in his first full campaign as a professional. 

    However, the left-handed hitter still has some holes in his swing. Most notably, Olson has been racking up strikeouts. In 2014, he's punched out 31 times in his first 30 contests. 

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Olson still has a lot of climbing to do.

    The first baseman is set to spend all of the 2014 season in High-A. He'll then likely need a full year in Double-A in 2015 and another season in Triple-A in 2016. Following that timeline, Olson should be ready for MLB action by Opening Day 2017 when he'll be 23 years old. 

    However, as you'll see, there's another first baseman in Oakland's system who could block Olson's path. 

8. Travis Shaw, Boston Red Sox

6 of 13

    Age: 24

    Current Minor League Level: Double-A

    2014 Stats: .311 (32-for-103), .408 OBP, .515 SLG, 6 2B, 5 HR, 22 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Travis Shaw literally has All-Star pedigree.

    His father Jeff Shaw earned that honor twice during a 12-year MLB career. However, the younger Shaw is an accomplished player in his own right. The first baseman, who is repeating Double-A, is currently hitting .311 with five home runs and a .923 OPS.

    The left-handed hitter has absolutely torched right-handed pitching in 2014 to the tune of a .344 average and a 1.082 OPS. Shaw has always impressed with his patient approach at the plate. In 2014, it's been no different as he's drawn 16 walks and struck out just 11 times.

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    At 24, Shaw isn't old for Double-A, but he also isn't young. The 6'4" first baseman is hitting his way toward a midseason promotion to Triple-A and should be ready for Fenway Park by the summer of 2015. 

    Of course, with Mike Napoli anchoring first base for the Boston Red Sox, the club can afford to take its time with Shaw's development. 

7. Max Muncy, Oakland Athletics

7 of 13

    Age: 23

    Current Minor League Level: Double-A

    2014 Stats: .320 (33-for-103), .446 OBP, .476 SLG, 8 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Max Muncy leads the Texas League with a .446 OBP.

    His impressive on-base skills should make Muncy a perfect fit with the Oakland Athletics, who rank No. 3 in MLB with a .340 OBP as a team. The left-handed hitter has always had a knack for getting on base, sporting a .390 OBP in parts of three seasons in the minors. 

    The fifth-round pick from the 2012 draft also has the ability to hit for high average. In 2014, Muncy is batting .320 in Double-A. The big question is what kind of power numbers the first baseman will produce. 

    Last year, in the notoriously hitter-friendly Cal League, Muncy tagged 21 home runs in 93 games. He then added four more in a 44-game call-up to Double-A. This year, Muncy has gone yard twice. 

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Muncy is currently on the shelf after getting hit by a pitch in his left middle finger on May 4, per Athletics Farm. If he can avoid an extended trip to the DL, Muncy should earn a late-season call-up to Triple-A. The 23-year-old could be a viable candidate for a call to the major leagues as early as next summer.

6. Jesus Aguilar, Cleveland Indians

8 of 13

    Age: 23

    Current Minor League Level: Triple-A

    2014 Stats: .321 (35-for-109), .413 OBP, .578 SLG, 7 2B, 7 HR, 17 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Last year in Double-A, Jesus Aguilar crushed 28 doubles and 16 home runs while driving in 105 runs.

    According to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer, that RBI total set a franchise record for the Akron RubberDucks, an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. To follow up that performance, Aguilar went home to Venezuela for winter ball where he went yard 18 times in just 58 contests. 

    The 23-year-old has continued to impress at the plate in 2014. Now in Triple-A, Aguilar has connected on seven doubles and seven home runs and is hitting .321. 

    The 6'3" right-handed hitter has also demonstrated a solid approach at the plate, drawing 17 walks and striking out 23 times.

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    The answer could be very soon.

    As Hoynes reports, manager Terry Francona is not yet prepared to drop floundering first baseman Nick Swisher to the bench. However, Aguilar could slide into the designated hitter's spot where Francona is currently rotating a variety of players.

5. Greg Bird, New York Yankees

9 of 13

    Age: 21

    Current Minor League Level: N/A

    2014 Stats: N/A

     

    The Track Record

    Last year, Greg Bird connected on 20 home runs while playing for the Low-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. 

    The 6'3" first baseman also demonstrated a discerning eye at the plate. Bird drew 107 walks, which led the South Atlantic League. However, he'll need to cut down on his swings-and-misses, as he struck out 132 times in 573 plate appearances.

    The 21-year-old has yet to take the field in 2014, as he recovers from a back injury. Bird is expected to return in a matter of days, and when he does he'll head to High-A, according to Josh Norris of Baseball America

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Since he's getting a late start to the season, Bird will likely spend all of 2014 playing for the High-A Tampa Yankees before opening up in Double-A in 2015.

    If the Yankees decide to get aggressive with Bird's development, the first baseman could arrive in the Bronx by midseason 2016. However, a more realistic target would be Opening Day 2017.

4. Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs

10 of 13

    Age: 21

    Current Minor League Level: High-A

    2014 Stats: .245 (25-for-102), .325 OBP, .333 SLG, 3 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Dan Vogelbach has no shortage of power. 

    Last year, the first baseman clubbed 19 home runs while splitting time between Low-A and High-A. During his first full professional season in 2012, Vogelbach went yard 17 times in just 61 games. So far in 2014, the left-handed hitter has two home runs and 12 RBI in 28 contests.

    However, the second-round selection from the 2012 draft is more than just a power hitter. In 225 games in the minor leagues, Vogelbach owns a .291 average. 

    The 6'0", 250-pound first baseman is also committed to refining his skills in the field, as Bernie Pleskoff of MLB.com explains.

    "He is working hard on his defense ... Vogelbach continues to make strides with his overall footwork and agility at first base. His range is improving, but it is still not the best."

    With immense power and a strong work ethic, Vogelbach has become a standout prospect in one of the top farm systems in baseball.

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    The Chicago Cubs have no need to rush Vogelbach with Anthony Rizzo currently occupying first base. Vogelbach's goal at this point should be to earn a late-season call-up to Double-A.

    If he can accomplish that, the first baseman could put himself in line for a promotion to the major leagues by the end of the 2015 campaign. 

3. Kyle Parker, Colorado Rockies

11 of 13

    Age: 24

    Current Minor League Level: Triple-A

    2014 Stats: .306 (33-for-108), .377 OBP, .574 SLG, 10 2B, 5 HR, 19 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Since the Colorado Rockies selected Kyle Parker with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the slugger has provided a constant source of home runs. Here's a look at his output from his first three full campaigns:

    • 2011: 21
    • 2012: 23
    • 2013: 23

    In 2014, Parker has launched four home runs and also added 10 doubles in his first 29 Triple-A contests. The right-handed hitter's uppercut swing produces tremendous power, but it has also led to a lot of swings-and-misses. 

    Cutting down on his strikeout totals is one final task that the 24-year-old still needs to work on in the minor leagues. This year, Parker has struck out 23 times in 108 at-bats.

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Parker could be ready for a late-season call-up to the Rockies by the end of the summer. He's obviously blocked at first base by Justin Morneau, but Parker is also capable of playing the corner outfield spots where he's been spending most of his time this season.

    With a .512 slugging percentage in his minor league career, Parker's power should play perfectly at Coors Field. 

2. Dominic Smith, New York Mets

12 of 13

    Age: 18

    Current Minor League Level: Low-A

    2014 Stats: .245 (24-for-98), .318 OBP, .296 SLG, 5 2B, 2 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Dominic Smith's stats don't exactly jump off the page. 

    This year, the 18-year-old is batting .245 and has yet to connect on a home run in his first 29 games in Low-A. However, Smith has all sorts of potential at the plate.

    Entering the 2013 draft, Matt Garrioch of MinorLeagueBall.com described Smith "as one of the best pure hitters of the class." The New York Mets clearly agreed, snagging the first baseman with the No. 11 overall pick.

    Smith will likely never develop into a major home run threat, but he's certainly capable of going yard, as you can see above. He has all the tools to hit for high average and is also a standout defender at first base. 

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Smith won't turn 19 until the middle of June, so he's still an extremely young prospect. However, with such promising skills at the plate, the top pick has the ability to move fast. It wouldn't be shocking if Smith ends up at Citi Field by midseason 2016.

1. Jon Singleton, Houston Astros

13 of 13

    Age: 22

    Current Minor League Level: Triple-A

    2014 Stats: .277 (33-for-119), .392 OBP, .605 SLG, 7 2B, 10 HR, 28 RBI

     

    The Track Record

    Jon Singleton has been battering the Pacific Coast League. 

    In 31 games, the first baseman has gone yard 10 times. The left-handed hitter has been crushing lefties this season with a .389 (14-for-36) average and a 1.213 OPS.

    Last season, Singleton totaled just 11 home runs as he only appeared in 90 games. The lack of playing time was due to Singleton serving a 50-game suspension for "his second violation of minor league baseball's drug policy," per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

    Back in 2012, Singleton totaled 27 doubles and 21 home runs.

     

    When He'll Arrive in the Big Leagues

    Singleton is doing everything he can to earn a call-up to the major leagues. However, the Astros might wait to promote him until after the Super 2 cutoff, which is usually around the end of June or the beginning of July. 

     

    Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MILB.com. All videos courtesy of YouTube.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices