Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Top Five 1B Prospects For 2011
In articles like this, many websites provide readers with the best overall prospects at any given position, but the intention here is to focus on those prospects that are likely to provide the greatest fantasy impact in the 2011 season; thus, while Oakland 1B prospect Chris Carter may have some long-term potential, he isnâ€™t on my list because he is blocked in Oakland, at least in the short-term, by the incumbent, Daric Barton.
Ditto for Yonder Alonso in Cincinnati.
With that said, here is my list of the five first base prospects who will likely have the greatest impact at the major league level in 2011:
#1: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
2010 stats: .319, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 6 SB, 73 R (at Triple-A Gwinnett)
Freeman, 21, was Atlantaâ€™s second round pick in the 2007 draft, the same year they selected outfielder Jason Heyward in the first round (#14 overall). Freeman had a breakout season in 2008 (.316, 18 HR), but regressed the following year, in large part due to a wrist injury. Many pundits started to question his status as a top prospect entering last year (as he had hit only 8 HR in 2009), but the young left-handed hitter quieted his doubters with a huge campaign at Triple-A Gwinnett. In spite of the fact he was young in relation to the competition in the International League (he was 20 years old for most of the year), Freeman hit .319, with 18 HR, 87 RBI and 6 SB. In four minor league seasons, he hit 50 HR in roughly 1,600 at bats â€” that is one homer in every 32 at bats.
There is some debate as to whether he has the power potential to be the middle-of-the-order hitter he was originally projected to become, but what appears certain is the club thinks enough of his potential to hand him the starting first base job entering 2011â€¦ and that means he should have a significant impact for fantasy baseball owners in 2011. Donâ€™t be surprised if he struggles early due to his age, but over the long haul he should be just fine.
#2: Brandon Belt, SFG
2010 stats: .352, 23 HR, 112 RBI, 22 SB, 99 R (combined stats at Hi-A, AA and AAA)
Belt is another prospect who will be relatively young as the 2011 season gets under way (heâ€™ll turn 23 in April), but it says here he will be a contributor in the big leagues before the end of the year. He will be blocked at the beginning of the year, due to the fact the ballclub re-signed both Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell. But letâ€™s be honest, at this point in his career, Burrell is a â€œhas beenâ€ who was re-signed to buy Belt another half-year in Triple-A.
He is a left-handed hitter who blitzed his was through three minor league levels last year (Hi-A, AA and AAA). He likely needs a few more months in the minors; but, if he proves capable of building on last yearâ€™s performance (when he hit .352, with 23 HR, 112 RBI and 22 SB), he will be in San Francisco some time around mid-season. Seriouslyâ€¦ Pat Burrell?
#3: Brandon Allen, ARI
2010 performance: .261, 25 HR, 86 RBI, 14 SB, 72 R (at Triple-A Reno); .267, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 5 R (in MLB with Arizona)
Allen, who turns 25 years old in February, will battle former NY Yankees prospect Juan Miranda for the starting job in spring training. While he hit just .261 last year, he slugged 25 home runs and showed improved plate discipline, as demonstrated by an excellent 95-83 strikeout-to-walk ratio (compared to the 374-121 ratio he compiled between 2008-09). He spent some time in the outfield in the minor leagues, so he has the potential to offer position flexibility for fantasy owners.
But caveat emptor! As with Anthony Rizzo below, the fantasy impact he provides in 2011 may be on the downside, as he will almost certainly struggle against big league pitching for the first year or two of his career. Scouts think he has a hole in his swing that will be exploited by major league pitchers.
#4: Anthony Rizzo, SD
2010 performance: .260, 25 HR, 100 RBI, 10 SB, 92 R (combined stats at Hi-A and AA)
Rizzo was one of the key pieces in the deal that sent slugger Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston. He is VERY young (heâ€™ll be just 21 years old on Opening Day) and he will certainly need more time in the minor leagues, but the Padres front office will hope to promote him to the big leagues at the earliest possible opportunity (as they will want to show a return on the Gonzalez deal at the earliest opportunity).
His 2010 numbers were solid (.260, 25 HR and 100 RBI), but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (132-61 in A and AA) was proof that he will need more seasoning in AAA (Portland). On the flip side, the two guys blocking him in San Diego are Kyle Blanks and Oscar Salazar, so Rizzo will have an opportunity to ascend to The Show by mid-season. But as with Allen, caveat emptor (see above)!
#5: Eric Hosmer, KC
2010 performance: .338, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 14 SB, 87 R (combined stats at Hi-A and AA)
Hosmer, 21, is possibly the best first base prospect in all of baseball, but he is not likely going to have a huge fantasy impact in 2011 unless it is at the end of the season, or as the result of an injury. Royals GM Dayton Moore recently told Peter Gammons he wants to take his time with Hosmer, but my gut instinct tells me Hosmerâ€™s ability may force Moore to make some tough decisions in the second half of the year. He hit .338, with 20 HR, 86 RBI and 14 SB last year, and compiled a 66-59 K/BB ratio between A and AA. He could be ticketed for KC by August 1st, leaving Moore with a different predicament â€“ what to do with either Billy Butler or Kila Kaâ€™aihue.