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Positional Prospect Ranks For Points Leagues: First Base
Zac Beck's Prospect Positional Rankings for Dynasty Points Leagues
Kyle Manzardo, Tampa Bay Rays, 22, - 6’1, 205 lbs
‘22: 397 PA, .327/.426/.617/1.043, 22 HR, 1 SB, 16.4% K, 14.9% BB (A+, AA)
The Idaho native was the second-best hitter in MiLB this year by WRC+. He split time between High-A and Double-A, amassing 22 homers and 81 RBI over 397 plate appearances. That translates to 36 bombs and 133 RBI over a full season of work.
When you draft a first baseman early, as the Rays did with Manzardo 63rd overall in 2021, you’re essentially betting on the bat and the bat alone. He describes his swing as simple and repeatable with a flat path, aiming to be short and direct. It’s optimized for contact and gap-to-gap line drives, though he does pull the ball with regularity. Power is the happy by-product of a good approach – key to his placement atop the list is that the production didn’t come with unsavory K and BB numbers. He walked nearly as much as he struck out in 2022, with 59 free passes and 63 punchouts. This color palette combines for a painting that looks a little like Freddie Freeman.
The hype has fully materialized but if you can buy at any sort of discount it’s likely a worthwhile investment.
Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox, 23 - 6’4, 252 lbs
‘22: 334 PA, .281/.389/.500/.889, 12 HR, 0 SB, 21.0% K, 14.7% BB (Rk, AAA)
USA! USA! USA!
Triston Casas has been around the block. He’s won 18U World Cup MVP honors and an Olympic silver medal with Team USA. He dominated the Florida prep ranks, led the Fall League in OBP, and reached Triple-A as a 21-year-old. His entire adult life has been devoted to hitting and that’s what I’m banking on continuing.
Last year he carried an .889 OPS on the back of some very impressive hard hit figures (40.2%) and walk rates (14.7%). He pulls the ball a healthy amount (8th highest pull rate among all minor league hitters with >100 plate appearances) and he’s a lefty, so he won’t get as much of the Fenway advantage, but I don’t anticipate that mattering very much.
He will open this season as the Red Sox’ every day first baseman.
Matt Mervis, Chicago Cubs, 24 - 6’4, 225 lbs
‘22: 578 PA, .309/.379/.606/.984, 36 HR, 2 SB, 18.5% K, 8.7% BB (A+, AA, AAA)
Never nervous Matt Mervis! His legend grew in Phoenix this fall. He was one of the most impressive players I got eyes on while visiting the AFL.
Mervis had a magical year. He started the season as the fiftieth-ranked prospect (by Fangraphs) in the Cubs system – not the fiftieth in all of baseball, the fiftieth on the north side of Chicago. He ascended to the top of the system both literally (he made it to Triple-A) and on prospect lists on the back of a .309/.379/.605 line. The surface-level stats are wildly impressive on their own, but by far the most impressive feat was somehow reducing his K% and increasing his BB% at every level.
Acquisitions of Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer threw some cold water on his stock in redraft formats. He likely won’t open the year as the everyday first baseman but he has an opportunity to win plate appearances should either of the vets falter.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Cincinnati Reds, 23 - 6’0, 224 lbs
‘22: 484 PA, .304/.368/.587/.955, 32 HR, 8 SB, 25.5% K, 7.4% BB (A+, AA)
It would appear I’m high on CES relative to the industry. I’m at a loss for why – he simply hit, and hit, and hit this year.
Turns out, all he’s done for the last several years is hit! He was a stud on the JUCO circuit as an amateur, then was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year at Oklahoma State for posting a .361/.442/.661 line.
Pundits cite his chase issues on spin out of the zone and undefined position as yellow flags in the profile, but when you’re hitting everything else as well as he does it warrants some attention. Defensively I think he can play an uninspiring but passable 3B in a pinch. Hell, I watched Casey McGehee play the position for 3 years in Milwaukee.
Dustin Harris, Texas Rangers, 23 - 6’2, 185 lbs
‘22: 382 PA, .257/.346/.471/.817, 17 HR, 19 SB, 19.4% K, 11.0% BB (AA)
Harris was a big time pop-up prospect in 2021. An 11th round selection in 2019, he’d have to wait until 2021 to truly showcase his abilities. He finished the first post-pandemic minor league season with a .327/.401/.542/.943 line, 20 home runs, and 25 stolen bases.
This year represented a step back as he faced better competition at Double-A. I think the gap between High-A and Double-A is the largest in minor league baseball. I believe in the hit tool he showcased in ‘21 and in the approach. His spot here reflects those considerations.
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Tyler Locklear, Seattle Mariners, 22 - 6’3, 210 lbs
‘22: 142 PA, .285/.366/.504/.870, 7 HR, 0 SB, 21.1% K, 5.6% BB (Rk, A)
As I worked through this FYPD class it became pretty clear that I have a type: Productive college hitters who demonstrate exceptional game power and tremendous plate approach skills.
That’s Tyler Locklear. He is a points league darling that will come at a discount if your leaguemates rely on rotisserie-focused lists for draft preparation. In 2022 at VCU he hit 20 home runs, walked 47 times, and had just 25 punchouts in 295 plate appearances. Top all of that with exceptional zone contact rates, an excellent debut, and impressive power numbers on the Cape and you have a very compelling profile.
When the other owners in your league proclaim “overpay!” – I’ll be there telling you it didn’t cost enough.
Blaze Jordan, Boston Red Sox, 20 - 6’2, 220 lbs
‘22: 521 PA, .289/.363/.445/.808, 12 HR, 5 SB, 18.0% K, 9.2% BB (A, A+)
This represents an inflection point in the quality of first base prospects. I’m not particularly interested in rostering many players beyond Jordan, who figures to slot in around the ~150 range in my overall prospect ranks.
Famous for blasting an alleged 502 ft. home run in a showcase at just 15 years old, Blaze has been a known entity in fantasy circles since 2018 – which is impressive for someone not yet eligible for their first (legal) alcoholic beverage. That prodigious power hasn’t yet manifested in games but I’m encouraged by his ability to avoid the temptation of selling out contact and plate approach to get to it.
There’s a very real possibility that Casas and Mervis graduate and we open 2024 with Blaze Jordan as a top 2 prospect at the position. It’s a good time to invest.
Jacob Berry, Miami Marlins, 21 - 6’0, 212 lbs
‘22: 166 PA, .248/.343/.362/.705, 3 HR, 1 SB, 17.5% K, 10.0% BB (Rk, A)
This is probably lower than most evaluators are on Berry particularly in points formats. He was a tremendously productive hitter in college but from where I’m intermediately sitting-and-then-standing (I have a standing desk, and yes, I am bragging about it) there are some real concerns in the profile.
The biggest flag is that the batted ball data is reportedly less than stellar. He boasts great zone contact figures, but it’s kind of a moot point if he’s not getting to power. His speed and defense leave a lot to be desired. If the bat doesn’t work out there aren’t many clear paths to even making the bigs.
He’s at 8 here because the collegiate production was off the charts and even with some obvious flags, he’s still one of the better bats in the draft. Kim Ng is not holding me hostage.
Niko Kavadas, Boston Red Sox, 24 - 6’4, 235 lbs
‘22: 515 PA, .280/.443/.547/.990, 26 HR, 1 SB, 29.5% K, 19.8% BB (A, A+, AA)
When Kavadas wasn’t striking out he also wasn’t hitting the ball very often. Over 50% of his plate appearances in 2022 ended in a K or a walk, which unfortunately limits his output from a counting stat perspective. We’ll take the walks – those are as good as a hit in points formats (not literally as they don’t allow for many opportunities for RBI, but you get it).
The line really cratered in 100 PAs at Double A Portland. He K’d 40% of the time at the level and the home run power he’d showcased at A and A+ evaporated. The midseason hype has all but dissipated and owners are left holding the bag. I’m not sure there’s much to do at this juncture but hold and hope he can find his footing in 2023.
Ivan Melendez, Arizona Diamondbacks, 23 - 6’3, 225 lbs
‘22: 120 PA, .206/.358/.351/.709, 3 HR, 0 SB, 20.8% K, 10.8% BB (Rk, A)
If you don’t follow NCAA baseball, I’m not sure there’s much that can prepare you for Melendez’ 2022 line at Texas. I don’t want to ruin all the fun, so I’ll give a small spoiler and let you know in advance that he took home the Golden Spikes award as the best collegiate ballplayer in the nation. Take a second to pull up his baseball reference profile if you’ve got some spare time.
The upside here is a middle-of-the-order masher. There’s a lot of pressure on the bat to make a big league career sustainable, but he has an average hit tool and a relatively discerning eye that improves the possibility of an impact outcome.
Lazaro Montes, Seattle Mariners, 18 - 6’3, 210 lbs
‘22: 223 PA, .284/.422/.585/1.007, 10 HR, 3 SB, 33.2% K, 15.7% BB (DSL)
I quite fancied Montes as one of the more sought after options in the 2022 J2 signing period that has yet to produce an über prospect as many initially forecasted. In many ways he lived up to the billing (that OPS starts with the number one), in many others he did not.
Let’s start with the obvious: Lazaro Montes was a windmill last year. He struck out at an extraordinary rate in the DSL, which is a level not typically known for pitching prowess. That’s a major concern.
Typically I’d be singing the praises of any batsman who managed to draw a free pass with the frequency Montes did, but again, the DSL features pitching that is shaky at best – both in terms of control and stuff.
We talk a lot about prospects with extreme risk who feature both astonishing ceilings and no semblance of a floor. Montes fits that bill. He could go supernova or sputter out when he arrives stateside and nobody knows which. I’d recommend holding on tight – he’s moving fast and the direction he’s traveling is unknown.
Robert Perez Jr., Seattle Mariners, 22 - 6’1, 170 lbs
‘22: 568 PA, .288/.398/.523/.921, 27 HR, 6 SB, 25.0% K, 12.5% BB (A, A+)
The Mariners’ prospect really caught my eye at the AFL, and by caught my eye I mean almost blinded me with a screaming home run to the left field berm during the Fall Stars Derby.
There’s some hit tool risk here. He was old for the level during his stint with Modesto and K’d 26% of the time there, then followed the season with a passable AFL wherein he K’d at a 28% rate.
He should open at Double-A to start the year. If you can capitalize on an AFL Derby sizzle reel, you might be wise to sell before he faces better competition.
Jhonkensy Noel, Cleveland Guardians, 21 - 6’3, 250 lbs
‘22: 548 PA, .229/.310/.489/.799, 32 HR, 3 SB, 27.4% K, 8.9% BB (A+, AA, AAA)
It’s like he's Miguel Sanó reincarnate. Sanó isn’t dead – he just isn’t very good at baseball anymore. Noel’s profile is as if they both came from a long line of hulking men who swing with all their might but forget to open their eyes in the process.
The obscene .340 batting average in 2021 was a mirage clouded by an unsustainable .382 BABIP. He did put 13 more baseballs in the seats this year but sacrificed contact ability to do so, leading to an inflated K-rate. There’s still hope that he’ll find a happy medium between the approaches of the last two years but if you’re rostering him he’s not likely to garner a great return.
Xavier Isaac, Tampa Bay Rays, 19 - 6’4, 240 lbs
‘22: 21 PA, .211/.286/.368/.654, 0 HR, 0 SB, 14.3% K, 9.5% BB (Rk)
Isaac is one of the biggest unknowns in this FYPD class for me. The Rays selected him 29th overall in the 2022 draft in what was a rather surprising move – MLB pipeline had him firmly outside of their top 100 draft prospects. Say what you want about the quality of that assortment but a delta of that size is unusual and should catch your eye. When you push a prep player up that features his build, who is almost certainly relegated to a first-base-or-bust future, you must be absolutely certain about the bat. I’m trusting the Rays but ready to make a sizable move in either direction once we see a larger sample of professional at-bats.
Rainer Nunez, Toronto Blue Jays, 22 - 6’3, 180 lbs
‘22: 500 PA, .304/.340/.484/.824, 19 HR, 0 SB, 21.8% K, 4.8% BB (A, A+)
Initially signed in 2017, Nunez became an afterthought for most of the fantasy community pre-pandemic. He’s since gained some traction – taking home ROY honors in LIDOM this winter had something to do with that – and is an appetizing option that can be had for very cheap.
Nunez has a little whiff in the profile, but the raw power is real. He posted a max exit velo over 114 mph in 2023 and another handful over 110 mph.