Canadian sluggers who have drawn comparisons to Dan Vogelbach (Perfect Game) and Prince Fielder (everybody) because of a wildly impressive natural gift for hitting, easy plus raw power, and an uncommon body type (not small) tend to get the imagination going. It is very possible – by the odds, almost a certainty – that another player will overtake Naylor at the top of this list by draft season’s end, but, as a player that breaks many of the molds we’ve grown accustomed to as baseball fans, Naylor will remain a favorite.
Everything I said about Josh Naylor (St. Joan of Arc SS, Ontario) back in September applies today. He’s such a fun prospect and very easy to root for. His time on the Canadian Junior National Team has reinforced much of what was seen as good about his game last summer, enough so that I think it’s fair to say he’s beat the odds and will remain the top name on the prep first base rankings for many clubs. There are arguments for others, as you’ll see below, but Naylor’s blend of present ability, upside (young for class), and experience against high-level competition make him the current frontrunner to go off the board first.
You hear so often about that different sound off the bat that certain hitters are able to consistently produce. I’m not entirely sure about the consistent part just yet, but even the amateur amateur scout in me is sold that both Luken Baker (Oak Ridge HS, Texas) and Joe Davis (Bowie HS, Texas) have made that sound. The phrase “hard contact” is in my notes on both guys, repeatedly and enthusiastically (underlined, exclamation points, circled). Both guys have big league power.
Baker is typically listed as a primary righthanded pitcher who moonlights as a hitter, but I prefer him as the hulking slugger with plus to plus-plus raw power that whatever maker created his 6-4, 250 pound frame was hoping he’d turn out to be. I don’t know if he’s fleet of foot enough to handle even faking it as an outfielder over the long haul, but he’s a reasonably good athlete with the kind of plus arm strength you’d expect out of player ranked by most as a potential first-day pitcher.
Davis has a swing geared towards power (slight uppercut, but it looks natural), incredible physical strength (plus to plus-plus if you were to grade it as a tool) to muscle up balls he doesn’t completely get, and a patient approach at the plate. There’s a lot to like about his offensive profile. I’ve tried to think of a better comp for him than Perfect Game’s initial Billy Butler offering, but I think that one is really tough to top. Physically, it just fits. The closest I’ve come to an alternative is Dmitri Young, which I like because I think they share some similarities as hitters but also because Young was an underrated athlete and defender in his younger years. Davis might not have the ideal jeans salesman physique, but he’s lighter on his feet than you’d expect on first sight. That kind of underrated athleticism makes sense since he’s seen as a passable defender at both catcher and third base by some teams.
I ultimately prefer Baker out of the two Texas mashers for a few reasons. Two relatively easy to explain ones: Baker carries his weight better – the extra height helps, but he appeared to be in better shape on top of that – and he has the fallback of stepping back on to a mound where he can fire 88-94 MPH fastballs (95 peak) with a good low-80s breaking ball and interesting low-80s changeup. I also think he has a touch more power upside and is the better all-around athlete.
If pure uncut bat speed is what you’re looking for, then Devin Davis (Valencia HS, California) is your guy. He’s also a really slick defender at first – without too much thought I’d say he’s the best glove out of the top guys listed – with more than enough power to profile as a regular if it all works out. He also has a little bit of growth left (potentially), so an uptick in his existing physical profile, especially in terms of power, remains possible. Projecting high school first base prospects is a dangerous game because out of any HS position group what you see is what you get with the heavy hitters at first, but Davis could have a little bit left in the tank that could help him eventually overtake Naylor or Baker as the best long-term player in this class.
Michael Hickman (Seven Lakes HS, Texas) has comparable bat speed and loads of lefthanded power, so consider him right up there with the top of this class in both categories. Tyrone Perry (Avon Park HS, Florida) has his fans as a big, strong 6-1, 240 pound power-hitting mountain of a man. Brandt Stallings (Kings Ridge Christian HS, Georgia) is a little bit lost in the shuffle as a second-tier prospect at his position and in his loaded home state, but he remains a prospect I’m cool with liking more than most. The swing works, he’s got a loose, athletic build, there’s bat speed, and he’s arguably the best athlete (average or better speed, very fluid movements in all phases of the game) of the first base class. He might be too good an athlete to restrict to first base, but I think that’s his best long-term spot right now. He’s far too well known to be a sleeper, but he’d still be my pick for player who provides the most value relative to his likely draft position in this year’s class.
1B Josh Naylor (St. Joan of Arc SS, Ontario)
1B/RHP Luken Baker (Oak Ridge HS, Texas)
1B Devin Davis (Valencia HS, California)
1B/C Joe Davis (Bowie HS, Texas)
1B/C Michael Hickman (Seven Lakes HS, Texas)
1B/OF Brandt Stallings (Kings Ridge Christian HS, Georgia)
1B Tyrone Perry (Avon Park HS, Florida)
1B Chad Spanberger (Granite City HS, Illinois)
1B Curtis Terry (Archer HS, Georgia)
1B Cade Sorrells (George Walton Academy, Georgia)
1B/3B Kolton Kendrick (Loranger HS, Louisiana)
1B James Monaghan (La Plata HS, Maryland)
1B Chris Gesell (St. Augustine, California)
1B Christian Steele (Lebanon HS, Ohio)
1B/OF Jason Heinrich (River Ridge HS, Florida)
1B Seamus Curran (Agawam HS, Massachusetts)
1B Jaxxon Fagg (Williams Field HS, Arizona)
1B Jacob Corso (Lake Mary HS, Florida)
1B Brennan McKenzie (Walnut HS, California)
1B Nick Patten (IMG Academy, Florida)