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2016 MLB Draft Prospect Preview: HS First Basemen
Drawing a line from high school hitter likely to wind up at first base in the pros to actual professional first base prospect isn’t easy. In much the same way second base prospects are made and not born, so too are first base prospects. Corey Zangari, the second HS 1B selected in last year’s draft, was listed on my final pre-draft board as a primary RHP and a potential catcher otherwise. That was only after going unranked (whoops!) on my initial September list. Meanwhile there’s Brandt Stallings, the second HS 1B listed on my original personal board from mid-September, who went undrafted and is now a freshman enrolled at Georgia Tech. Hey, it’s more art than science when you’re trying to guess prospect futures eight months out.
As you can see below, each of the top five names listed play a secondary position in addition to first base. It’s not out of the question that a pro team will decide to Schwarber (that’s a verb now, BTW) TJ Collett into continue playing some behind the plate. Ulysses Cantu’s profile might be problematic enough at first base – there’s not too many 6-0, 225 pound RHH first basemen out there – to keep trying him at third or catcher. Maybe Christian Jones proves himself athletic enough for some to fake it in the outfield for a few years. Looking back on this list at a later date will be as interesting for where these players wind up defensively as much as how high they are drafted.
Whether he can hang as a left fielder or not, I like the bat of Jones enough to have him in the top spot for now. The approach, power upside, and bat speed are all clearly evident, plus he has that impossible to quantify (without the benefit of Trackman, of course) consistent loud bat-to-ball contact that just sounds different than that of his peers. I like the Perfect Game comparison of Jonathan Singleton a lot.
You want some really high praise for Cantu as a hitter? I’ve now heard the name Youkilis mentioned twice in conversations about him. That’s big time. Kevin Millar was another name that came up, as did a fun blast from the past Conor Jackson. I really like the Jackson comp and not just because I really liked him as a player. When was the last time you heard his name mentioned? He was a pretty interesting player for a while there. I liked that guy. Good talk.
Collett got a Josh Naylor comp from Perfect Game. Naylor got a lot of Dan Vogelbach comps from various places last year. If the transitive property holds, Collett is Vogelbach, right? In all seriousness, that’s not a terrible comp for Collett, at least when viewed as a reference point for what style of hitter he could be. Collett has obvious power, but also a better feel for hitting than most oversized teenage sluggers. I don’t think he’s a catcher, but he’s a hitter and that’ll play.
Walker Robbins looms large as a slick-fielding defender who has been described to me by multiple sources as the highest upside stick among this group. I haven’t seen or heard enough about him yet to put him higher than the three guys above him (based on my confidence of the present power of those other hitters), but I’m excited to track him this spring. Joey Wentz has the frame and lefthanded power you see out of big league regulars at first. Works for me.
I’ll slip this in at the end after you’ve presumably read the five hundred or so words about these prospects already. Something to keep in mind when considering high school first base prospects each June: fewer high school first base prospects were selected in last year’s draft than in any since I started this site in 2009. On the bright side, of the eleven HS first basemen drafted in 2015 four were selected within the draft’s top ten rounds; that’s good for a second-place tie for most since 2009.
1B/OF Christian Jones (Federal Way HS, Washington)
1B/RHP Ulysses Cantu (Boswell HS, Texas)
1B/C TJ Collett (Terre Haute North Vigo HS, Indiana)
1B/LHP Walker Robbins (George County HS, Mississippi)
1B/LHP Joey Wentz (Shawnee Mission East HS, Kansas)
1B Spencer Brickhouse (Zebulon HS, North Carolina)
1B Bryant Packard (DH Conley HS, North Carolina)
1B Cole Zabowski (Lawrenceville HS, Georgia)
1B Easton Bents (Grants Pass HS, Oregon)
1B/LHP Vinnie Pasquantino (James River HS, Virginia)
1B/OF Chris Winkel (Amity Regional Senior HS, Connecticut)
1B Jaquez Williams (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
1B Andru Summerall (Lake Park HS, Florida)
1B Zach Zientarski (Boca Raton Community HS, Florida)
1B Cuba Bess (Fruita Monument HS, Colorado)