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Deep Dive: First Base Edition, Part 4

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A snapshot of the top free agent first basemen, as well as the best projected first sackers in next year’s draft

Tough Stuff at the Dish: Seen here hitting for California with Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman behind the plate, Andrew Vaughn could be a Top 10 pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
@CalAthletics

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

So, finally, let’s take a look at free-agent first basemen, as well as first sackers who could be available in the first few rounds of the upcoming MLB draft.

Free Agents

With José Abreu penciled in as next year’s starter, and three other DH-types available to back up if/when needed (Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico, Daniel Palka), first base wouldn’t seem to be a position of need in next year’s draft. However, what’s out there in case Abreu gets traded during the offseason and the White Sox brass isn’t too enamored with the in-house options on the active roster?

Be forewarned; just like the catchers we looked at last week, this isn’t a strong list — perhaps even worse! Because none of the available free agents are likely to receive qualified offers, the Sox wouldn’t relinquish any draft pick compensation with any signing. Because the free agent depth isn’t good, other teams’ interest in trading for Abreu may actually increase, despite his off-year in 2018.

(age as of April 1, 2019)

Steve Pearce
Boston Red Sox
2018 bWAR: 1.4
Slash/power: .284/.378/.512, with 11 HR and 42 RBIs
Age: 35

Pearce missed much of the season with an oblique strain. He had favorable splits against southpaws this year, slashing .302/.433/.585.

Joe Mauer
Minnesota Twins
2018 bWAR: 1.2
Slash/power: .282/.351/.379, with six HR and 48 RBIs
Age: 35

While it’s not official yet, Mauer is likely to retire this offseason.

Matt Adams
St. Louis Cardinals
2018 bWAR: 0.7
Slash/power: .239/.307/.477, with 21 homers and 57 RBIs
Age: 30

Adams also played in the outfield this year.

Lucas Duda
Atlanta Braves
2018 bWAR: 0.4
Slash/power: .241/.313/.418, with 14 homers and 50 RBIs
Age: 33

Duda hit .267/.333/.475 against righties in 2018.

Hanley Ramirez
Boston Red Sox
2018 bWAR: 0.2
Slash/power: .254/.313/.395, with six homers and 29 RBIs
Age: 35

Released by the Red Sox on May 30, but Ramirez didn’t re-sign with anyone afterward.

Mark Reynolds
Washington Nationals
2018 bWAR: -0.3
Slash/power: .248/.328/.476, with 13 homers and 40 RBIs
Age: 35

Slashed .309/.402/.456 against southpaws in 2018. Reynolds also played third base, outfield and second base.

Logan Morrison
Minnesota Twins
2018 bWAR: -0.3
Slash/power: .186/.276/.368, with 15 homers and 38 RBIs
Age: 31

LoMo missed much of the season due to hip surgery.

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2019 MLB Draft prospects

I will be doing a more comprehensive list next year, so this is just a preliminary list of first basemen the White Sox could look into for the first round and beyond. The number in parentheses before the name is where FanGraphs ranked each player, as of October 14. Of course, players may eventually move up or down the charts depending upon how well they do in various offseason tournaments and upcoming collegiate/prep seasons. Because the White Sox tend to go with college players, I’ll list five college options and just one prep to consider.

College

(6) Andrew Vaughn
5´11”
210 pounds
School: California

First basemen usually aren’t drafted in the top five, because if their hit tool fails, they lose all of their value. However, Andrew Vaughn could be the exception to the rule. He burst onto the scene in 2017 with a monster year for the Golden Bears, slashing .349/.414/.555 on his way to Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors as a right-handed hitter. He parlayed the strong spring into a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where he hit in the middle of the order.

All Vaughn did last year as a sophomore was slash .402/.531/.819 (1.350 OPS), with 23 homers, 63 RBIs, 44 walks and just 18 strikeouts. (He only had six more strikeouts than hit-by-pitches!) Vaughn does have a good arm, with a fastball that runs it up to 92 mph; thus, it’s not out of the question that he could be converted to a corner outfielder. He spent his first two weeks this summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .306/.364/.654 with five homers in 14 games. It’s possible he could be a top-three pick, even though he is “merely” a first baseman. Here’s a nifty side-by-side look at White Sox legend Frank Thomas’s junior season at Auburn, compared to Vaughn’s sophomore season:

Vaughn: .402/.501/.819, 14 2B, 23 HR, 63 RBIs, 44 BB, 18 K, 12 HBP

Thomas: .403/.568/.801, 19 2B, 19 HR, 83 RBIs, 73 BB, 25 K, 10 HBP

Logan Wyatt
6´4´´
217 pounds
School: Louisville

There’s quite a big dropoff between Vaughn and Wyatt, but Wyatt is a nice prospect nonetheless. As a sophomore in 2018, left-handed hitting, first baseman, Wyatt hit .339/.490/.522 in at-bats, with 22 doubles, six homers, 69 RBIs, 63 walks and just 37 strikeouts. Some comparisons have been made to sweet-swinging Will Clark. Wyatt is said to have excellent power, but that has yet to show up in games. If it does, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him being drafted in the first or second round.

Michael Busch
5´10´´
200 pounds
School: North Carolina

Busch hit .317/.465/.521, with 13 homers, 63 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 55 walks and 30 strikeouts in 2018. He’s a left-handed hitting first baseman, but is athletic enough to play the outfield corners, second base and third base as well. Along with Vaughn and Wyatt, Busch has the plate discipline that could entice scouting director Nick Hostetler to draft him after the first round.

Bryant Packard
6´3´´
205 pounds
School: East Carolina

Packard hit .406/.462/.671, with 14 homers, 50 RBIs, 33 walks and 34 strikeouts in 2018. His plate discipline isn’t as advanced as the guys listed above, but his results from the left side certainly are nice regardless.

Spencer Brickhouse
6´3´´
220 pounds
School: East Carolina

I have a feeling what this guy’s walk-up music will be. In 2018, Brickhouse hit .298/.382/.502, with 10 homers, 50 RBIs, 33 walks and 34 strikeouts over 235 at-bats. He’s got a little better batting eye than his teammate Packard, but may eventually hit more homers due to his larger build. Reminds me a bit of Kyle Schwarber.

High School

Spencer Jones
6´7´´
212 pounds
School: La Costa Canyon H.S., Carlsbad, Cal.
Verbal commitment: Vanderbilt

Jones is a lefty hitter and a two-way prospect. As a pitcher, he throws a fastball in the 89-93 mph range, according to Baseball America. As a hitter, he has a good feel for the barrel and is surprisingly athletic for his size, posting a 4.22 home-to-first run time at the Area Code Games this summer.

Most of the higher-ranking preps are pitchers, or players at the more athletic positions like middle infield, outfield, and third base. While I noticed a few guys who do play first, they’ve played other positions more frequently and thus are not included here.