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May 8, 2014

PECOTA Takes on Prospects

The Hard-to-Find First Base Prospect

by Andrew Koo


Series introduction and methodology
Previous positions: Catcher

First base is the safe haven of offense-only players who need a position. Of the league’s 30 current first basemen (the team leaders of PAs at the position), eight primarily played different positions in the minor leagues. They’re the usual bat-first players whose gloves demanded a move: Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, etc. For prospects, relegation to first base means they have nowhere else to go. If their hitting drops off in the slightest, they’ll have nothing else to compensate with, and they’ll be out of baseball.

The prospects below are not only prevented from playing more premium positions thanks to their body type, handedness, or lack of athleticism, but they live on the fringe because of holes in their profiles. They all show power, but power alone won’t be enough to guarantee a major-league future. A secondary skill—whether it’s a good batting eye, hit tool, or a modicum of defense—separates the good from average.

Speaking of good and average, we computed UPSIDEs for over 260 first basemen, but just 44 of them returned a score above the “average prospect” threshold (you can find the rating scale here). Because first basemen incur a negative positional adjustment, prospects playing there suffer in UPSIDE compare to say, shortstops. The latter crop comes with fielding upside, thus bumping them up in PECOTA’s rankings and pushing the former down. Only 45 major-league starting jobs exist for these prospects, and several of them will be filled by failed outfielders or third basemen. For first base prospects to keep up, PECOTA expects outstanding offensive grades. Some prospects demonstrate them, but most haven’t realized their power to justify a high UPSIDE.

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Related Content:  Prospects,  Minor Leagues,  PECOTA

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