Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects: First Base (2023)
Now a couple of weeks into a new year, fantasy baseball enthusiasts are beginning to prepare for – even participate in – various types of drafts. An important part of that preparation process is digging through the farm systems of all 30 MLB organizations to uncover the next crop of potent producers. Below are the top-five 1B prospects that could emerge for fantasy managers in 2023.
(Each player included still holds MLB Rookie eligibility)
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Best MLB Prospects: First Base
Ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in the Red Sox organization and just inside the top 25 in the game (MLB.com), Casas is expected to become one of the next big stars in Boston. The Red Sox certainly hope that’s the case, as he should have the gig at first base locked down already.
After posting a healthy .863 OPS with 11 homers and 20 doubles across 72 games at Triple-A Worcester last year, Casas got his first call-up to the show and debuted September 4 in Boston. Things did not get off to a great start, as he picked only three hits (two HR) over his first 38 at-bats. However, Casas did not take long to adjust to MLB pitching.
Over his final 13 games in 2022, Casas posted an outstanding .316/.490/.579 slash line with three long balls across 51 plate appearances. He managed to walk (13) more than he struck out (11) during that stretch. That’s particularly impressive for such a young hitter and tracks right along with his reputation for solid plate discipline as a minor leaguer. Casas possesses both middle-of-the-order power and a mature approach beyond his 23 years of age.
Speaking of power, Mervis belted 36 home runs and 40 doubles over 137 combined games at various levels of the Cubs’ system in 2022. He followed that up by blasting six more homers (T-1st) in the Arizona Fall League.
Mervis will turn 25 in April and has so far played just 57 games at the Triple-A level in his career. His seemingly delayed development is due to the path he took at the collegiate level (Duke), which saw him spend two years as a pitcher before transitioning to corner infield. Then, he went unselected in the condensed 2020 MLB Draft and later landed with the Cubs as a free agent.
Mervis largely struggled during his first year of pro ball, which was mostly spent in Single-A. As already illustrated above, everything changed in his second year. In those 57 games at Triple-A, he posted a .297/.383/.593 slash line with 15 HR. Mervis has gone through a meteoric rise, but he looks about ready to contribute to the retooling Cubs. If he keeps on crushing the ball during the spring, the left-handed slugger could at least force his way into the strong side of a platoon at DH out of the gate.
Like Mervis, Soderstrom has only spent two years in the minor-league ranks. Also like Mervis, Soderstrom rocketed up through three farm levels in 2022, posting a .825 OPS with 29 homers across 556 plate appearances in total.
Soderstrom came to the A’s as a teenage catcher in the first round of the 2020 draft. His bat has far outpaced the progression of his glove, and after exclusively catching in 2021, he spent more time at first base than behind the plate last year. That’s a positive for his MLB outlook since his path to the bigs as a catcher could well have been blocked by Shea Langeliers. First base is likely where his future lies in Oakland.
So far, Soderstrom has played just nine games above Double-A. For what it’s worth, he did hit .297 with one deep drive across 38 plate appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas last year. At age 21, Soderstrom is likely to see the majority of his playing time at Triple-A in 2023. Still, it is reasonable to expect a promotion to the bigs at some point this upcoming summer. Fantasy managers will be scrambling to obtain his services at that point.
Manzardo is another uber-talented youngster that’s likely to see most of his at-bats in the minors this year. The 22-year-old product of Washington State was selected in the second round of the 2021 draft. He played 13 games at the rookie level that year. Then, 93 games between High-A and Double-A in 2022.
Over his 30 games at Double-A last year, Manzardo more than showed he belonged. Across 122 plate appearances, he put together an excellent .323/.402/.576 line with five homers and 10 doubles. Those results should land him in Triple-A very soon, possibly even from the outset of the 2023 campaign.
Manzardo may not quite have the same home-run potential as his peers at the position, but his grasp of the zone and ability to hammer the ball from gap to gap could make him a tougher out than all of them. The Rays tend to handle their prospects with the utmost care, but if the club is once again in contention, they may call on Manzardo sooner rather than later.
Toglia just did keep his rookie status intact after drawing 111 at-bats for the Rockies from Aug. 30 on last year. The 24-year-old switch hitter didn’t do much with his first opportunity at the highest level, batting .216 with two round-trippers while striking out at an ugly 36.7-percent clip.
First impressions aren’t everything in baseball. Many prospects find it difficult to swallow their first taste of MLB pitching. Toglia is capable of more, as shown by his .852 OPS and 30 homers in 114 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. The strikeouts are probably always going to be there for him, but so is the power, particularly while playing his home games at Coors Field.
Toglia will have to fight for a spot on the big-league club this spring. Even if he earns a place on the Opening Day roster, it is likely to be in a part-time role initially. That might understandably dissuade most re-drafters from using a late pick on him. However, it would be a mistake not to keep him on the radar. The 23rd-overall selection of the 2019 draft can adequately man the corner-outfield spots and is superb at first base. More importantly, he could be a serious source of home runs for fantasy managers.
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