Every Major League Baseball season ushers in a new crop of promising rookies, eager to make their mark on the game.
Our “Rookies to Watch” series seeks to identify those first-year players that could have an impact on Fantasy Baseball leagues in 2015.
I already touched on my favorite rookie second basemen for 2015 here.
Unfortunately, the pickings among rookie first basemen are rather slim this season.
How slim? Well, after carefully examining the rookies vying for a major-league job at first base this spring, I have compiled a list of prospects that I think will be Fantasy contributors from Opening Day onward:
1. Player to Be Named
Move along folks, nothing to see here. While there are several decent prospects making their way through various farm systems, none of them figures to be on a big-league roster to start the season.
3 First Base Rookies to Watch
Therefore, this article will instead focus on three of those prospects that are waiting in the wings for a big-league gig, and who could find themselves in the majors come September — or sooner if an injury befalls the current starter.
Greg Bird, New York Yankees
The 22-year-old Bird displayed a solid bat and even better batting eye en route to forging a .271/.376/.472/.848 slash line with 14 homers, 30 doubles and 43 RBI in 102 games across High-A and Double-A last season. Bird followed up that performance by mashing out a .313/.391/.556/.947 line with 6 homers and 21 RBI in 26 Arizona Fall League Games; a performance which earned him that league’s MVP award. Bird does not project as a high-average guy in the majors, but his sharp batting eye (15.5 percent walk rate at Double-A) should give him value in OBP formats once he reaches the majors. He also does not possess elite power potential, but his ability to hit the gaps figures to make him a decent source of RBIs someday.
That “someday’ probably won’t be here before September at the earliest, but the Yankees’ collective age and extensive injury history could necessitate an earlier call-up. Keep Bird on your watch list as he toils in the minors this season, but he should not be drafted in non-dynasty formats.
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bell is a switch-hitting former outfielder who the Pirates moved to first base during last year’s Arizona Fall League. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder batted just .214 with no home runs during his 23 games in Arizona, but he did manage to parlay a 12.4 percent walk rate into a serviceable .320 OBP. The 2014 regular season was another story, though: Bell smacked out a solid .325/.375/.459/.834 slash line with nine homers, 22 doubles, 60 RBI and nine stolen bases in 108 games between High-A and Double-A. His efforts at the former level earned him the Florida State League’s Most Valuable Player award.
Bell is still learning to play first base, and Pedro Alvarez is currently manning that position for the Pirates, so the youngster figures to start the season in the minor leagues. It would probably take a major injury or two for Bell to make it to the majors before September, but his bat definitely makes him a prospect worth tracking as he adapts to his new position.
Christian Walker, Baltimore Orioles
Walker launched 26 homers, plated 96 RBI and slashed .288/.357/.489/.846 at Double and Triple-A last season. The young slugger, who turns 24 years old on March 28, was sent to minor league camp March 17, and he figures to spend a large portion of the 2015 season refining his craft at Triple-A. An injury to either Chris Davis or Steve Pearce could change all that, of course, and Walker’s right-handed power bat could provide a bit of respite for the veteran left-handed hitters when a southpaw is on the hill.
Walker’s power makes him a player worth watching this season, but he’s unlikely to make a Fantasy impact before September unless either Pearce or Davis goes down with an injury.
Well, that’s our look at a few first basemen that could be a Fantasy factor later in the 2015 season, but are more likely to be significant contributors in the ’16 campaign and beyond. Don’t forget to check out our rookie second basemen, and come back soon for more rookie breakdowns.
Christian Walker Photo Credit: Keith Allison
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