Thursday, January 18, 2018

Beyond the Top 30: First Base

As the old year fades away and the new season approaches, it's time to start looking at those players of interest who are beyond the Top 30. These players may not ever make a Top 30 list (or they may), but a combination of projections, actual results, incremental improvements and intangibles keep them in the mix as interesting players to watch. I am not including any players in these posts who have already made their major league debuts since, presumably, anyone reading my blog is already very familiar with those players.

Note: Many of the 2018 player rankings haven't been released yet so I will be using the MLB Pipeline postseason list, the Baseball Prospectus Top 10+ list and Baseball America's Top 10 list to denote those players who are currently considered Top 30 type players in the Astros system. Once FanGraphs weighs in, Baseball America publishes their Top 30 and MLB Pipeline posts their 2018 pre-season list, I will post a consensus top prospect list.

[UPDATES TO FINAL 2018 PRE-SEASON RANKINGS SHOWN IN RED.
BA= BASEBALL AMERICA, BP = BASEBALL PROSPECTUS,
FG=FANGRAPHS, MLB = MLB PIPELINE]

FIRST BASEMEN IN THE TOP 30

Yordan Alvarez - May 2017
Photo Courtesy of Rich Guill

Yordan Alvarez (L/L) - BA #3, FG #4, BP #4, MLB #4
OK, technically Alvarez spent more time in left field than at first base in 2017, but since there are a TON of outfield prospects in the Astros system and Alvarez is the only one from the current lists who spent time at first base, I'm calling him a first baseman (at least for now). Alvarez, a 20-year old Cuban who came to the Houston system in an August 2016 trade with the Dodgers for RHP Josh Fields, was ranked as the third best prospect in the Astros system by Baseball America last week (Baseball Prospectus and MLB postseason rankings have him at number 4). The reason that he is ranked so highly is because of his bat. He provides average defense at first base with an average arm and below average speed, so it was his 2017 offensive line of .304/.379/.481 in 90 games split between Quad Cities and Buies Creek that set him apart. Alvarez hits with authority to all fields and his power (17 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs) should continue to develop with more experience. His bat control and strike zone discipline have worked very well for him so far in his professional career.

FIRST BASEMEN BEYOND THE TOP 30 (in alphabetical order)

Troy Sieber - July 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jake Adams (R/R)
Adams, drafted by the Astros in the 6th round in 2017 out of the University of Iowa, did not have a very auspicious freshman professional season (.170/.280/.388). But as a unanimous Big 10 Player of the Year and semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, he has earned the opportunity to show the Astros what he can do in the new season. The bad news? He only collected 28 hits in 48 games for short season A Tri-City in 2017. The good news? 16 of those 28 hits were for extra bases (six doubles and 10 home runs). As a matter of fact, his first professional home run was a monster 425-foot shot in his first professional at-bat. There was more good news in that Adams cut waaayyyy down on his strikeouts later in the season (a total of 24 walks to 68 strikeouts in 48 games). Adams just turned 22 in December.
Keys: Work on his plate discipline and long swing, putting more balls into play and cutting his strikeouts down to a manageable level. Also, he reportedly will need to work on his footwork at first base.

Roman Garcia (R/R)
Garcia, drafted 13 rounds lower than Adams in the 19th round out of the University of San Diego had the kind of solid first season one would have liked to see from Adams. Granted Garcia's season was with the lower level Rookie League Greeneville team, but Garcia was able to show more plate discipline and keep the strikeouts reasonably within check while putting up a .277/.342/.457 line (eight doubles, one triple and seven home runs) in his 48 games. He also finished the season very strongly with a .337/.356/.530 line in 23 games in August, plus an excellent postseason. Garcia was a solid defender at first in his inaugural season. Garcia turned 22 this past November.
Key: Keep strikeouts in check (48 strikeouts to 14 walks in 48 games in 2017) while putting the ball in play at the higher levels.

Colton Shaver (R/R)
I find Shaver, the Astros 2017 39th round draft pick out of Brigham Young, to be very intriguing. With a .215/.332/.423 batting line and 25 walks to 63 strikeouts in his first 49 professional games (between Greeneville and Tri-City), Shaver certainly has his work cut out for him when it comes to plate discipline, but he has legitimate power. Shaver peaked in July (16 games in Greeneville and five games in Tri-City), hitting .275/.420/.609 with two doubles and seven of his 10 home runs. Shaver also collected the first and second walk-off grand slams in Tri-City history in 2017. With a bat that big, you have to root for the 39th round pick! Shaver really tailed off at the end of the season as first year players sometimes do. I'll be interested to see what he can do in his sophomore season.
Key: Work on plate discipline and strikeout rate without sacrificing a ton of power.

Troy Sieber (L/R)
I am a big fan of Sieber for all of his intangibles. He is smart, a very hard worker, a good clubhouse guy and a leader on the field. He started the season at Extended Spring Training taking additional instruction, but it only took two games at short season A Tri-City to convince the Astros that he was ready for full season A Quad Cities where he spent the remaining 54 games of his season. For the season, he compiled a .289/.403/.457 batting line with 37 walks to 49 strikeouts. His power (12 doubles and seven home runs) is developing and he shows the aptitude to hit to all fields. Sieber ended the season extremely well, hitting .343/.478/.514 in 20 games in August and .333/.478/.389 in five postseason games. Sieber is a very physical player who will use his body to keep the ball in front of him, if necessary, as he works to finetune his defensive game. The 2016 24th round draft pick out of St. Leo College (FL), will be 23 in June.
Keys: Sieber is working to drive the ball more. He will need to keep making adjustments, both offensively and defensively, as he climbs the ladder and faces more polished competition at the higher levels.

Final Notes:
  • I went back and forth about 20 times as to whether or not to include Hooks 1B Dex McCall on this list. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to see more consistency from him. At 24 later this month, going into his fifth professional season, I need to see more consistency for average, power and in his on-base skills in 2018. At this point in his development, he needs to prove that he can be a major league first baseman and I don't believe that he has yet done that. I hope for him to prove me wrong in 2018! [McCall was released prior to the 2018 season.]
  • I will also keep an eye on Angel Tejeda who hit .304/.398/.411 in 45 games between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. It was, however, Tejeda's third professional season and his first promotion to the U.S. Since he will be 20 later this month, any enthusiasm I have for him is somewhat tempered.
Previous Posts:
Shortstop
Second Base

2 comments:

  1. Nice list. Im very excited about Alvarez. Tyler White proves that it doesn't matter what round you were drafted in. Boy oh boy does Adams have power. Great job as usual Jayne !

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    1. Thanks! I didn't get to see Alvarez in 2017 because my travel schedule was limited, but he should be in Corpus at some point so I'll get the chance ... I'm really excited to see him!

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