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Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: First Base (2024)

Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings: First Base (2024)

That’s right! It is already time to prepare for the fantasy baseball season once again. The fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror, the NFL playoffs are rolling along and the NBA and NHL are both about midway through their respective 2023-24 campaigns. For MLB enthusiasts, that all means baseball is fast approaching.

Proper preparation for fantasy baseball drafts always includes digging through the farm systems of all 30 organizations to uncover the next crop of potent producers. In this piece, the focus will be on first-base prospects that could make an impact for fantasy managers during the 2024 season.

(Each player included still holds MLB Rookie eligibility)

Top 5 Fantasy Baseball First Base Prospects

1. Kyle Manzardo (CLE)

Acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for starting pitcher Aaron Civale this past July, Kyle Manzardo could be a mainstay in the Guardians’ starting lineup right out of the gate this year. If that does not end up being the case, the second-round draft pick (2021) should make his MLB debut relatively early in the season.

Manzardo was nagged by a shoulder issue that ultimately cost him six weeks during the middle of the 2023 season. Before that, his overall numbers had slumped a bit compared to 2022. However, after returning to Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 24, he slugged a hefty .590 the rest of the way with six home runs and eight doubles across 92 plate appearances. Manzardo followed that up with a tremendous showing in the Arizona Fall League, posting a .565 SLG with six homers and seven doubles over 103 plate appearances.

That power is what the Cleveland offense craves. Though Manzardo projects more toward the low-to-mid 20s regarding home-run power, he certainly has more time to develop in that area. At age 23, the former Washington State All-American possesses superb plate discipline and barrels the ball regularly.

2. Nolan Schanuel (LAA)

Nolan Schanuel definitely lags behind the production upside of other prospects at the position. In terms of fantasy potential, the 2023 first-round pick does not bring the power or speed to make him a highly sought-after option. Still, he features an intriguing offensive profile and should see regular playing time for the Angels from the outset of the regular season.

Schanuel barely kept his rookie eligibility intact for 2024, as he debuted at the show on Aug. 18, just a couple of months after the Angels selected him 11th overall out of Florida Atlantic. From then on, Schanuel immediately took over as the main first baseman for the Halos, hitting safely in 23 of 29 games while reaching base at an impressive .402 clip. That OBP is even more remarkable, considering he had just 97 plate appearances in the Minors before getting called up. Is it sustainable? Well, a 15.2 BB%, 28.9 LD% and just 20.4 Chase% in the Majors suggest it absolutely is.

Schanuel managed just one homer and six RBI while slugging only .330 over 132 plate appearances for the Angels down the stretch of 2023, but he also hit a steady .275 with 19 runs scored and finished with more walks than strikeouts. If he finds his way to the top part of the batting order, Schanuel could be a true asset in runs and AVG (OBP).

3. Matt Mervis (CHC)

After bashing 36 homers across multiple levels of the Minors in 2022 and continuing to display serious power in the subsequent Arizona Fall League, many jumped aboard, perhaps prematurely, the Matt Mervis hype train going into last season. I will enter a guilty plea, too. Even with a disappointing initial go-round against Big-League pitching last summer, it’s worth buying another ticket.

Mervis got into 27 games for the Cubs between May 4 and June 14 last year, struggling to a .531 OPS with just three homers and two doubles across 99 plate appearances. That was all the MLB playing time the Cubs chose to give him. It’s easy to understand why, as the Cubs were surprisingly competitive in 2023, and Mervis was not helping them much with a .167 AVG and an alarming 32.2 K%.

Will Mervis get another shot to prove himself this year? He certainly should. The power is legit, and the currently constructed Cubs need more thump, and neither first base nor DH is a settled situation. Mervis might have faltered in his first opportunity opposite top-level pitching, but he rocked Triple-A arms to the tune of a .282/.399/.533 slash line with 22 long balls over 100 games in 2023.

4. Tyler Locklear (SEA)

Tyler Locklear has ample collegiate and Minor-League experience at both corner-infield spots. Still, it appears the Mariners prefer him as a first baseman since that was his exclusive spot across various levels of the system in 2023. He also played 96 innings at first base during the Arizona Fall League last year, seeing time at no other position.

As for his performance at the plate, Locklear impressed during his first full year of professional baseball. He saw 275 of his 375 total plate appearances in High-A, turning in an excellent .305/.422/.549 triple slash with 12 home runs and 10 steals. The average tailed off a bit in his first taste of Double-A ball, dropping to .260 over 94 plate appearances. However, he still posted a lofty .383 OBP with eight extra-base hits at that level.

Over his 11 additional games in the Fall League, Locklear continued to rake with a .284 AVG, .888 OPS, three homers and five doubles in 94 plate appearances.

Having turned just 23 in November, many believe Locklear’s power tool still has a far to go before reaching its peak. He is most likely a mid-season callup at the earliest, but it’s easy to imagine the Mariners searching for a power boost to go with their talented pitching at some point this year.

5. Samuel Basallo (BAL)

Speaking of power, Samuel Basallo has loads of it and won’t even reach age 20 until August. A native of the Dominican Republic baseball factory that it is, the teenage catcher/first baseman has been in the Baltimore organization since 2021. However, It was as an 18-year-old prodigy in 2023 that his rapid ascent up the ranks began.

Basallo landed at Single-A Delmarva at the start of last season, spending 83 games mostly as a catcher but also getting in ample time at first base. Over 352 plate appearances at that level, he put up a .887 OPS with 12 homers, 19 doubles and four triples, leading to a promotion. Basallo made short work of High-A pitching, improving his OPS to a ridiculous 1.131 with 16 extra-base hits across 115 plate appearances. He would finally receive a cup of coffee at Double-A Bowie, going 7-for-15 with a double and a triple while striking out only once in four games.

Though he figures to begin the 2024 campaign back at Bowie or possibly the Triple-A level, if Basallo’s bat continues to progress at such a rate, he could end up forcing the Orioles to give him a shot at the highest level sooner rather than later. He will not supplant Adley Rutschman behind the plate, but it’s certainly conceivable that he will find MLB at-bats at first base and DH this summer.

If Basallo gets the call in 2024, he is highly unlikely to remain behind others currently ahead of him on this list. That “If” is the only reason he’s at No. 5 right now.

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