Who are the next wave of superstars in Major League Baseball? That’s what we are about to dive into, as we go position-by-position, looking for the best players who are 25-years old or younger (as of April 1, 2013). Obviously, things will be slightly skewed to those who have already reached the Majors and produced, but minor leaguers and their upside will not be ignored.
Next on the list are the first basemen around the league. In general it is a deep position, and there are three players who all have the potential to become superstars as soon as 2013. Who is the best of the group? Let’s take a look:
5) Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants (24-years old)
While he has struggled in the Majors overall, his experience gives him a leg up on the prospects coming up the pipeline (like Jonathan Singleton or C.J. Cron). Belt’s biggest problem has been a lack of power, though he did have 19 extra base hits over the final two months of the year in 2012. Maybe that’s a sign of things to come?
He likely will never be a 30+ HR threat, at least consistently, but if he can pair 20+ HR with a strong average he is going to blossom into a strong first base option. That said, unless he significantly improves he is going to fall short of this list a year from now.
4) Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals (23-years old)
It is very easy to forget about Hosmer, especially after his disastrous 2012 season (.232 with 14 HR over 535 AB). However, how much different were the underlying numbers from his strong 2011 debut (.293 with 19 HR over 523 AB)?
- His strikeouts were consistent (14.6% vs. 15.9%)
- His line drive rate was nearly identical (18.7% vs. 18.5%)
- His fly balls and HR/FB were similar (31.7%//13.5% vs. 27.9%//11.3%)
We can easily argue that he doesn’t put enough balls in the air to generate significant power, and that is incredibly fair. We have to hope that he adds that more to his repertoire, though it isn’t going to eliminate him as a potential 1B option.
The biggest problem last season was luck, with a .255 BABIP (.314 in 2011). With improvement there he is going to produce a solid average with some power and some speed (16 SB). At worst, he is cut from the Hal Morris/Mark Grace mold. However, the potential is still there to blossom into a consistent 25+ HR threat.
3) Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs (23-years old)
And so begins the grab bag, because you can flip the top three names on this list any way you want to and not be wrong. The difference between them is razor thin and it wouldn’t surprise me if any of the three emerge as the star of the group (or if all three do).
Why is Rizzo third? He may have slightly less power upside (compared to Goldschmidt) and doesn’t have the same type of elite average upside (compared to Freeman). While people will argue that he hit 38 HR last season, 23 came in the PCL and therefore need to be taken with a slight grain of salt. His 15 HR in 337 AB in the MAjors may be a little bit more realistic.
That said, would it surprise me if he deeloped into a perennial .300/30 hitter? Absolutely not, and that’s what makes this group a scary bunch.
2) Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves (23-years old)
While he only hit .259 in 2012, the number is completely unbelievable. Despite a 26.0% line drive rate (after a 23.0% mark in 2011), his BABIP sat at .295.
Just to put the line drive rate in perspective, he was one of only 10 players to qualify for the batting title to carry a mark of at least 25%. Over the past two seasons he ranks fourth (tied with Michael Young), behind only Joey Votto, Andre Ethier and Nick Markakis. The fact that he has done it in back-to-back years makes it hard to ignore and a great reason to believe that he should consistently hit for a high average.
Throw in hitting in the middle of a newly loaded Braves lineup, meaning he could easily go 100/100 routinely, and there is a lot to like moving forward. The power still needs to develop a little bit, but if he can generate 30 HR in a season we are talking about a potentially elite first baseman.
The sky is the limit, it’s just a matter of if he takes the next step.
1) Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks (25-years old)
While he only hit 20 HR last season, that’s just not indicative of what is possible. After hitting 73 HR from 2010-2011, we all know the potential is there to become a perennial 35+ HR threat, especially playing in Arizona (where he hit 10 HR in 2012).
As it is he hit .286 and showed that he can consistently hit the ball hard (23.9% line drive rate) and make contact at a good enough clip (22.1% strikeout rate). Of any young first baseman he has the best chance to combine a .290 average with 35 HR, the perfect combination at a deep position. At first base power is key, and Goldschmidt is the one that has the most of it.
When we throw in his ability to steal a few bases (18 in 2012), we get a potentially elite player. Don’t be surprised if he fully busts out in 2013.
Make sure to check out all of our 25-Years Old Or Under lists:
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