Knocking on the Door: First Basemen
As we saw with the catchers, there are some first basemen that don’t belong in the top 24 and there are some first basemen that do belong, but they are difficult to rank because they don’t have major league track records yet. Still, we know that these guys belong somewhere. Including in our profiles will be a blurb about what barriers they have to launching themselves into that group of 24 first basemen.
Tommy Joseph— Philadelphia Phillies (.257, 21 HR, 47 Runs, 47 RBI, 1 SB, 22 BB)
There really are very few barriers to prevent Joseph from entering into the top 24. Ryan Howard is leaving via free agency, so he won’t have to share the position anymore. Of course, simply forecasting 30 home runs plus 80 runs and RBI is a bit simplistic. Joseph never hit more than 22 home runs in any individual season in the minors. Of course, he was a catcher in the minors, so we can allow for some depressing offensive numbers, but he simply doesn’t have the profile of a big time power hitter.
That being said, even if we assume that 20 home runs is the ceiling he would produce, he still has a place in that group of 24 guys because he should drive in and score 70+ runs in a full complement of plate appearances. If we include the fact that the Phillies offense is steadily improving with the addition of Howie Kendrick then we definitely should include Joseph somewhere.
Barriers to Launch: As was said earlier, there really isn’t a true barrier to launch for Joseph. The whole question is where he ranks in that group. He doesn’t have the look of a fantasy regular, but with regular playing time he could end up being a nice bench option.
Yulieski Gurriel— Houston Astros (.262, 3 HR, 13 Runs, 15 RBI, 1 SB, 5 BB)
The link actually shows what Gurriel did in Cuba. We include that because the numbers above don’t get anyone excited. If we total up what he did there, we find a .335/.417/.580 slash line. We can see why the Astros gave him the contract they did. However, as we have seen before, the exchange rate on Cuban statistics is not necessarily predictable. Some have come over here and produced big time numbers (Jose Abreu) while others have not.
It was good for Gurriel to get his feet wet this past season because it will make his preparation for 2017 that much easier. Of course, the same will be true for opposing pitchers. The lack of patience will give them something to work with next season. The Astros just swung a couple of deals to make their lineup deeper, so it should be interesting how that affects Gurriel.
Barriers to Launch: Gurriel showed flashes of brilliance, but they came between longer periods of mediocrity. Part of that can be attributed to the adjustment to baseball in America and the fact that he hadn’t really played before signing with the Astros. Some of it can be explained by the fact that the level of competition was higher. Gurriel does have positional flexibility, so taking a flyer on him on draft day could pay off big time.
Dan Vogelbach— Seattle Mariners (.292, 23 HR, 79 Runs, 96 RBI, 0 SB, 97 BB)
Vogelbach was a part of the Mike Montgomery trade and it’s hard to fault the Cubs on that deal. Montgomery gave the Cubs some key innings down the stretch and in the playoffs. Plus, Vogelbach wasn’t going anywhere in the Cubs organization. The numbers above represent what he did this past season between Chicago and Seattle’s AAA affiliates. The potential can easily be seen when you look at the batting average and walks. Keep in mind, these numbers represent essentially five months of baseball action.
The Mariners cobbled together decent production out of first base between Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee, but Vogelbach is the whole package as a hitter. In six minor league seasons he has put up a .286/.391/.481 slash line. Ironically, he hasn’t produced a lot of home runs, but scouts say he has what they would call “light tower power”. That hasn’t translated into games yet, but we saw it begin to happen last season. Seattle could be reaping the benefit of a hitter that can get on base proficiently and hit 20+ home runs.
Barriers to Launch: Both Lind and Lee are free agents, so there doesn’t appear to be anything in Vogelbach’s way, but it is November. Either one could be re-signed or they could bring in another veteran to compete for the job. Vogelbach had a cup of coffee last season with the Mariners, but that can’t be enough to make them 100 percent comfortable with just handing him the job.