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Projecting the First Round: MLB Draft 2013 First Base Prospects

“Locks”

1B: Dominic Smith (1)

The downside to any high school player destined for first base professionally is immense. Without speed, athleticism, and, most importantly, a defensive positional advantage over your peers, it is a really tough climb from high school standout to big league star. Going from beating up on prep pitching to knowing your future is on the line with every plate appearance isn’t for everybody. The margin of error for bat-first prospects is so small that it is really difficult to find a legitimate first round “lock” amateur first baseman in any given year. Enter Dominic Smith.

I recently spoke to one of Smith’s biggest fans in the scouting community who told me, all developmental caveats understood, Smith’s realistic big league floor is Adam LaRoche. That’s crazy, right? LaRoche as a potential floor? I’ve never been first in line for the Adam LaRoche fan club or anything, but he’s had a pretty darn good career all things considered. In addition to LaRoche, I’ve also independently heard Larry Walker and the non-2001 version of Luis Gonzalez mentioned, though in each instance the players discussed were only done so in terms of ceiling. Popular industry comps (ceiling, again) include Todd Helton and Adrian Gonzalez, both (I believe) from members of the excellent staff at Perfect Game. Love comps, hate comps, have no strong feelings either way towards comps…those names mentioned speak to what those in the business think about Smith’s upside with the stick. The comparison I’d make — you know, if I was the type who enjoyed making comps — is Justin Morneau, give or take an inch or two. One last mystery comp that I think you may hear again between now and June:

  • “bat speed to spare”
  • “as much raw power as anyone in the draft”
  • “power ranges to all fields”
  • “approach at the plate is advanced”
  • “solid defender with athleticism”
  • “well above-average arm”
  • “regularly touching 95 mph off the mound”
  • “could be an above-average defender”
  • “tools to be an all-star first baseman”

You can quibble some with the power (mystery guy had a touch more raw power in high school), defense (advantage Smith), and maximum velocity (Smith’s top reading is 92 so far), but I think most of those scouting blurbs could have been pulled directly from a scouting report of Smith. Our mystery comp is none other than Eric Hosmer, the third overall pick back in 2008. Excerpts were taken from Baseball America, where the full report can be found at here (for subscribers).

Definite Maybes

1B: Nick Longhi, Rowdy Tellez, Zack Collins, DJ Peterson (4)

*****

Smith isn’t alone when it comes to intriguing high school first base prospects. The hype on Nick Longhi has subsided some in recent months, but not for anything that will hurt his eventual draft stock. I had somebody in the know refer to him as “Dominic Smith without the big arm,” a fitting comp for a player who had scouts literally oohing and ahhing when last I saw him. Longhi seems quite underrated thus far — out of sight, out of mind — but that could just be me being way off base on yet another high school guy who impressed me a ton in person. Just below him you have Rowdy Tellez (arguably the best raw power of his class), Zack Collins (reminds me of a bigger, more athletic Mike Napoli), and Corey Simpson (like Collins, he also catches). You could keep going down the list and, if you’re a charitable soul, give an outside chance of one of the following big bats breaking through this spring: Bryce Harman, Joe Dudek, KJ Woods, Pete Alonso, and Cody Bellinger. All in all, a pretty solid group of high school first base prospects.

I don’t think there is much to be excited about in the way of college first base prospects, at least in terms of early round candidates who project as everyday ballplayers. The list below isn’t necessarily made up of the best prospects (like I would know anyway, right?), but rather the ones that jumped out to me as being especially intriguing follows as we head into the season. Peterson has the best shot of the group of cracking the first round – I could see some teams buying into him as a smaller, yet no less powerful version of CJ Cron, the 17th overall pick in 2011. I’d have Palka (huge raw power, gifted natural hitter, plus arm) just behind him, though Palka’s in more of a make or break situation than Peterson this year when it comes to plate discipline and overall approach to hitting (i.e. the stuff he presently gets away with in college won’t work in the pros). The Notre Dame lineup, led by their sluggers Jagielo and Mancini, should be a lot of fun to watch this year. I think both guys will keep mashing in 2013, so no less than 30 combined homers is what I’m hoping to see.

  • Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech)
  • Eric Jagielo (Notre Dame)
  • Trey Mancini (Notre Dame)
  • Ryon Healy (Oregon State)
  • Chase McDonald (East Carolina)
  • Nathan Gomez (Marshall)
  • DJ Peterson (New Mexico)
  • Chase Compton (Louisiana-Lafayette)
  • Brad Zebedis (Presbyterian)
  • Esteban Gomez (St. Thomas)
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