1. Utah JR 1B CJ Cron
*** 2010: .467/.518/.873 – 17 BB/23 K – 147 AB
*** 2011: .460/.536/.845 – 29 BB/20 K – 187 AB
I’d put the over/under on college first basemen from this class who get more than 500 PA in a single big league season at 2.5. Cron’s well above-average hit tool and present power make him a safe bet to become a starting first baseman and middle of the lineup bat, so now the challenge (assuming we’re being positive and looking for the over) is finding two more college first basemen with big league starter upside. This won’t be easy…
2. Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker
*** 2010: .360/.471/.602 – 47 BB/25 K – 236 AB
*** 2011: .350/.421/.574 – 23 BB/23 K – 223 AB
The case for Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker’s bat is strong; as a hitter, he is as close to big league ready as any player in the 2011 MLB Draft with plus present power and impeccable plate discipline. He’s also been praised for his crazy high baseball IQ and tremendous strength in his forearms, wrists, and hands. Of course, no scouting report on Tucker can be written without mentioning his body. Tucker won’t help whatever team drafts him “sell any jeans,” but he could help them win some ballgames, bad body and all.
In fairness to Tucker, his “bad body” is more about a height deficiency (generous listed at 6-0) than a weight surplus, so the typical concerns that follow less than ideally fit prospects aren’t warranted. In any case, I don’t care much about the “bad body,” especially when weighed against the practical plusses that come with his awesome wrist and hand strength. The unconventional swing mechanics also don’t bother me. If it works, and if it is projected to work going forward, stick with it. Plus power and plate discipline are an easy recipe for a high prospect ranking on this site, but I keep coming back to my general aversion to first base prospects. To be an above-average first baseman in the bigs, you either need to have a special bat, outrageously good defense, or a well above-average mixture of the two. Not sure Tucker falls into any of those three categories, but that doesn’t make him a non-prospect. There is some precedent for a player of Tucker’s skill set and body type going in the first round, believe it or not. In 2008, both Brett Wallace and David Cooper rode the wave of undeniably great college production and plus lefthanded power to become first rounders despite less than ideal body types. Tucker’s shot at the first round has seemingly come and gone, but I’d still pop the advanced college bat as early as the fifth or sixth round.
3. Vanderbilt SR 1B Aaron Westlake
*** 2010: 338/.434/.586 – 34 BB/44 K – 260 AB
*** 2011: .360/.484/.620 – 42 BB/44 K – 200 AB
Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.
4. Southern California JR 1B Ricky Oropesa
*** 2010: .391/.471/.787 – 35 BB/48 K -235 AB
*** 2011: .355/.444/.527 – 30 BB/39 K – 186 AB
There’s still too much swing and miss in his approach than I’d like, but the fact Oropesa fits the classic slugging first baseman mold better than, say, Preston Tucker could help him become the first college 1B (catching convert CJ Cron excepted) off the board. Scouts want the best players, obviously, but they do have their biases. I think said bias could help Oropesa this June.
5. Washington State JR 1B Taylor Ard
*** 2011: .311/.379/.519 – 15 BB/21 K – 183 AB
I feel as though my notes on Ard sum up his game pretty well: plus-plus raw power; average at best hit tool; good athlete; wrist injury kept him down in 2010; solid defender; strong track record hitting with wood; some question about ability to hit with funky swing, but just as likely an adjustment will help him tap into his raw power even more. Yeah, that sounds about right.
6. Wichita State SO 1B Johnny Coy
*** 2010: .353/.414/.619 – 11 BB/26 K – 139 AB
*** 2011: .282/.353/.424 – 25 BB/47 K – 238 AB
All of Coy’s raw tools grade out as average or better – 55 speed, 60 arm, 65-70 raw power, average hit tool, and above-average upside at first. I’ve long been a big believer in the big (6-8, 210 pound) righthanded sophomore. His true talent level makes him a target between rounds ten and fifteen, but the unpolished stone that is Johnny Coy’s game could use some extended time in a rock tumbler. Or something like that. He’s raw, is what I’m saying. Big gap between the potential big league regular he could be and the relatively inexperienced former high school hoops star that he is now.
7. Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Nick Ramirez
*** 2010: .350/.401/.654 – 20 BB/47 K – 260 AB
*** 2011: .290/.388/.495 – 28 BB/38 K – 186 AB
Ramirez has a well deserved reputation as a power hitting first baseman with a plus throwing arm, but what I think I enjoy most about his game is his quality defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter what becomes of Ramirez as a pro, he’ll go down as one of my favorite college players to watch.
8. North Carolina State JR 1B Harold Riggins
*** 2010: .319/.431/.602 – 22 BB/42 K – 166 AB
*** 2011: .317/.448/.448 – 37 BB/57 K – 183 AB
Riggins has done a great job of getting his body into better shape over the years, but you have to wonder whether or not the loss of bulk had some impact on the decrease of his power numbers. It could also just be the switch in bats, but you never know. Like Ramirez one spot above, I think I like Riggins’ surprisingly effective defense at first just as much as his above-average raw power.
9. Walters State SO 1B Cody Stubbs
*** 2010: .241/.369/.352 – 20 BB/16 K – 108 AB
Due to a similar positional reclassification (OF to 1B), Stubbs’ prospect stock gets the same artificial boost as fellow first baseman Jacob Anderson’s. Easy to like Stubbs’ power to all fields and above-average athleticism for a big man (6-4, 225). I remember thinking he could be a top five round prospect after three years at Tennessee. Things obviously didn’t work out for Stubbs as a Volunteer, but the talent that led me to that original conclusion hasn’t evaporated. If he slips past round five, as I think he will, you could wind up with a player with high round ability at the cost of a low round pick.
10. St. Mary’s JR 1B Troy Channing
*** 2010: .315/.473/.609 – 43 BB/47 K – 184 AB
*** 2011: .274/.365/.440 – 20 BB/44 K – 175 AB
Both the power and approach suffered in 2011 to the point that I expect Channing back for a senior season. A team might roll the dice on a return to glory at the pro level instead.
11. Central Florida SO 1B DJ Hicks
*** 2010: .111/.182/.167 – 2 BB/2 K – 18 AB
*** 2011: .358/.443/.618 – 34 BB/42 K – 204 AB
If any player on the list can be classified as a big 2011 draft riser, it’s this guy. With arguably the most raw power of any draft-eligible college first baseman, Hicks is a certifiable sleeping giant in the prospect world.
12. Oklahoma JR 1B Cameron Seitzer
*** 2010: .305/.425/.586 – 28 BB/44 K – 210 AB
*** 2011: .316/.417/.454 – 27 BB/28 K – 196 AB
Power and bloodlines will help get Seitzer through the door, but it could be the development of his already much improved two-strike approach that makes or breaks him as a pro.
13. LSU-Eunice FR 1B Hommy Rosado
Can’t help but be enamored with Rosado’s power upside and bat speed, even as the questions about his defensive ability and contact issues remain unanswered. He did enough out of high school to get drafted in the 11th round by Colorado last year. It will be interesting to see what a solid but not spectacular year at LSU-Eunice does to his stock, especially in a much deeper draft class.
14. Cal State Fullerton SO 1B Carlos Lopez
*** 2010: .359/.414/.540 – 23 BB/22 K – 237 AB
*** 2011: .338/.390/.478 – 12 BB/9 K – 136 AB
All he does is hit, hit, hit no matter what. Lopez has a professional approach at the plate, really quick wrists, and gap power. I can’t speak to his defensive ability, but have heard he has the athleticism to potentially play a utility role at the next level.
15. Connecticut SR 1B Mike Nemeth
*** 2011: .368/.475/.458 – 41 BB/17 K – 212 AB
Nemeth’s name kept coming up in discussions with people in the know leading up to the publication of this list. He was admittedly off my radar heading into the year, but those 2011 plate discipline numbers are eye popping. After having seen him myself a few times this year, I can say he looked to me like a guy with good power to the gaps with the chance to be an average hitter and above-average defender down the line.
16. Georgia JR 1B Chase Davidson
*** 2010: .211/.304/.289 – 12 BB/40 K – 90 AB
*** 2011: .295/.360/.576 – 12 BB/41 K – 132 AB
Davidson falling right after Nemeth on the list is funny in a way – Nemeth has a great approach but limited power while Davidson is all power all the time but with a hack at all costs attitude. Been a long time (three years to be exact) since we heard those Jim Thome comparisons…
17. East Tennessee State SR 1B Paul Hoilman
*** 2010: .353/.471/.723 – 51 BB/41 K – 235 AB
*** 2011: .285/.421/.671 – 44 BB/66 K – 207 AB
Hoilman’s raw power is undeniable, but that’s about all he brings to the table. Over half of his senior year plate appearances ended in either a strikeout, walk, or homer. That’s fun.
18. Minnesota JR 1B Nick O’Shea
*** 2011: .336/.378/.550 – 11 BB/15 K – 140 AB
O’Shea does a little bit of everything quite well, but nothing exceptionally well besides perhaps his defense. Still think there is some untapped upside here with the bat and I intuitively just like him as a prospect.
19. Northwestern JR 1B Paul Snieder
*** 2010: .349/.435/.533 – 31 BB/32 K – 212 AB
*** 2011: .330/.417/.500 – 26 BB/36 K – 176 AB
Snieder is another Big 10 prospect that I have a strong intuitively positive feel on. Part of that is probably because I love when a prospect answers questions about his game from year to year. Despite all the positive reports on Snieder’s raw power, I had only graded it out as average at best. This year, despite a slight dip statistically, Snieder has show more of a home run producing stroke and increased physical strength. I still have a hard time believing he’ll leave Northwestern for anything other than an oddly high bonus for whatever middle round he winds up going in.
20. Mississippi JR 1B Matt Snyder
*** 2010: .333/.473/.633 – 28 BB/36 – 147 AB
*** 2011: .301/.428/.534 – 29 BB/38 K – 176 AB
Merely a fun coincidence that the two Snieder’s/Snyder’s are back to back, of course. Positive reports on Snyder’s bat this spring had me give him a slight boost, but his defense, speed, and arm are all really weak. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is likely to be back for his senior season.
21. Central Florida SR 1B Jonathan Griffin
*** 2011: .347/.398/.653 – 22 BB/45 K – 225 AB
Griffin is the prototypical hulking (6-5, 230) first base slugger with ridiculous raw power and nothing else. You can be one-dimensional when that one dimension is as strong as Griffin’s power tool is, but his battle is still an uphill one.
22. Southern Illinois JR 1B Chris Serritella
*** 2010: .351/.438/.604 – 33 BB/52 K – 222 AB
An unfortunate wrist injury has knocked Serritella out of action. Luckily, he retains two full years of draft eligibility to help rebuild his depressed stock. I still might take a chance on him this year because of his phenomenal track record against righthanded pitching.
23. Belmont SR 1B Nate Woods
*** 2011: .379/.465/.641 – 22 BB/27 K – 195 AB
Woods have overcome a series of injuries to become one of college baseball’s best senior hitters. He’s got pro size, plenty of power, and a really sound approach to hitting.
24. Barry SR 1B Dean Green
*** 2010: .259/.340/.446 – 16 BB/23 K – 166 AB
Green has shown he can hit with wood, and now boasts a shiny trophy after being announced All-Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year.
25. Washington SR 1B Troy Scott
*** 2011: .279/.365/.397 – 23 BB/28 K – 179 AB
Even when I loved Scott as a prospect — and make no mistake about it, I truly loved his pro upside at one time — it appeared it would be his bat and bat only that would keep him advancing in pro ball. He’s not fast, he’s not a good defender, he can’t really throw. On the right day, however, his swing looks so easy and free, like the very best natural born hitters you can think of. Unfortunately, those days seem behind him. I have no clue where (or if) he’ll be picked anymore, but I’m secretly rooting for my favorite team to grab him in the fiftieth and final round.