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Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Ten High School First Basemen

In simpler, far more innocent times, a young scamp with nothing but a few connections, a love of baseball, and a dream sat down in his mother’s basement to rank a bunch of first basemen a few weeks in advance of the 2009 MLB Draft. If I had to do it all over again I think Singleton would be on top, followed closely by Jeff Malm and then Telvin Nash.

If we forget about my list and look strictly at where the players were selected on draft day, we’d have an order of Nash (3rd Round), Malm (5th), Singleton (8th), Geoffrey Baldwin (11th), Corey Davis (15th), and Ronald Sanchez (16th). Nash, Malm, Singleton, and Baldwin are all covered below, but I had to do some digging on Davis and Sanchez.

Assuming I found the right Corey Davis, he’s coming off a season where he hit .397/.486/.662 with 26 BB and 26/27 SB as a sophomore at Walters State CC. Not bad, right? Sanchez, however, signed out of high school and is currently hitting below .200 without a homer in almost 300 professional at bats so far for Houston. He is far too young to write off completely — a theme you’ll find throughout these rankings — but it’s probably not a positive that he has more errors at first (11) than extra base hits (9) as a pro.

The rankings below are from 2009 and don’t reflect current value. Stats are current as of earlier this week. New commentary comes first and the old scouting blurb is in beautiful navy.

1. Jeff Malm | Tampa Bay Rays | 5th Round Pick (2009)

.308/.439/.633 – 19 BB/27 K – 120 AB

Love it or hate it, Tampa has a developmental philosophy that they stick to almost no matter what. They stand by their strict slow and steady developmental path unlike any organization I can remember. Malm has gone from a short stint in one Rookie league (GCL Rays) in 2009, a longer (200 AB) run with another Rookie league team in 2010 (Princeton Rays), and is now in Short Season ball, where he is flourishing. He’ll be 21 going into what is hopefully his first shot at full season ball next spring. I’ll admit to being pretty stunned Malm couldn’t crack an admittedly loaded Tampa Bay top 30, at least according to Baseball America. I’m a huge Baseball America defender, but, come on, Malm really wasn’t good enough a prospect to rank ahead of Leslie Anderson (28th ranked in organization) on their system-wide first base depth chart?

good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…

2. Colton Cain | Pittsburgh Pirates | 8th Round (2009)

3.13 ERA – 95 IP – 74 K/26 BB – 0.89 GO/AO

Cain is pitching well as a youngster (20 all season) in Low A with the added bonus of still not having a ton of mileage on his arm. His solid 2011 performance was preceded by good performances last year (strong peripherals). I like pitchers like Cain: guys with good enough fastballs to keep getting looks and secondaries that will either click and become legit big league pitches all at once or…not. Of course there is some middle ground between the two outcomes, but not as much as one might think. If you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch starting pitcher, but the risk here is fairly self-evident.

first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit

3. Jonathan Singleton | Philadelphia Phillies | 8th Round (2009)

.284/.387/.406 – 53 BB/79 K – 303 AB

Long-term readers of the site may remember that I’m a Phillies fan. I try my best to be fair and balanced, but I’m only human. Well this human is an unabashed Singleton fan. He absolutely killed it his first two pro seasons, and is now hitting pretty well after a slow start. I’ve always walked away impressed with his gorgeous swing, excellent balance, and overall approach to hitting. I have no insider knowledge on what the Phillies think about his eventual defensive home, but he looked far more competent in left field than I had expected. Long the subject of trade rumors, wherever he winds up next year — left or first, Philadelphia or Houston — he’ll hit. Bonus points for being likely to start his age 20 season at AA next year.

very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit

4. KC Hobson | Toronto Blue Jays | 6th Round (2009)

.252/.355/.328 – 51 BB/56 K – 326 AB

Funny how well Hobson’s pre-draft scouting reports match up with his pro performance so far: his approach has always been sound but his power upside remains in question. Hobson still gets high marks for his hit tool and overall approach, so his once high stock has remained mostly unchanged.

not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit

5. Telvin Nash | Houston Astros | 3rd Round (2009)

.287/.400/.487 – 26 BB/46 K – 150 AB

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the raw Nash hitting as well as he so far in 2011. As a righthander with significant power, he’s very much one of the brightest spots in a weak Astros system. For the record, he’s played as much OF as 1B this year.

above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit

6. Ethan Bright 

Bright was last seen (by me, at least) putting up a line of .348/.408/.449 (6 BB/16 K) in 89 AB for Hinds CC after his dismissal from Mississippi State. Sorry I can’t offer much more than that, but probably not as sorry as Bright, who has thus far missed out on chance of being the eight player with the last name Bright to be drafted to a big league team.

in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit

7. Geoffrey Baldwin | Kansas City Royals | 10th Round (2009)

Baldwin struggled mightily in 2010 (.460 OPS in 174 AB) but much of that can be forgiven as rumors of family issues swirled. In what is likely not a coincidence, Baldwin has not played at all in 2011 and is currently on the Restricted List.

potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit

8. Breck Ashdown 

From undrafted to Oregon State and now to Notre Dame, Ashdown has seen it all. He’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore at Notre Dame and 23 years old by the time the 2012 MLB Draft rolls around.

ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player

9. Rudy Flores

.300/.378/.500 – 27 BB/60 K – 230 AB

Flores has shown big power since stepping on campus at Florida International and is now one of the better college first base prospects around. I saw him on tape this past year and came away impressed with his bat speed, pretty swing, and above-average present lefthanded power.

excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International

10. Kelly Dugan | Philadelphia Phillies | 2nd Round (2009)

.268/.320/.348 – 8 BB/24 K – 5/5 SB – 138 AB

After the draft I upgraded Dugan’s ceiling from Casey Kotchman (see below) to a poor man’s Lance Berkman in an attempt to talk myself into the selection (again, Phillies fan here), but he’s three years in and still in Short Season ball. That isn’t encouraging. My man on the scene who has seen a lot of Dugan since he signed has been effusive in his praise — mainly, that everything he hits is right on the nose and he’s got that special line drive sound working for him — but the numbers aren’t pretty. It was a massive overdraft at the time, and it doesn’t look any better with the benefit of hindsight.

my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months

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