“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:
- Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
- Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- 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.
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)
Boston Red Sox
2018 bWAR: 1.4
Slash/power: .284/.378/.512, with 11 HR and 42 RBIs
Pearce missed much of the season with an oblique strain. He had favorable splits against southpaws this year, slashing .302/.433/.585.
2018 bWAR: 1.2
Slash/power: .282/.351/.379, with six HR and 48 RBIs
While it’s not official yet, Mauer is likely to retire this offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
2018 bWAR: 0.7
Slash/power: .239/.307/.477, with 21 homers and 57 RBIs
Adams also played in the outfield this year.
2018 bWAR: 0.4
Slash/power: .241/.313/.418, with 14 homers and 50 RBIs
Duda hit .267/.333/.475 against righties in 2018.
Boston Red Sox
2018 bWAR: 0.2
Slash/power: .254/.313/.395, with six homers and 29 RBIs
Released by the Red Sox on May 30, but Ramirez didn’t re-sign with anyone afterward.
2018 bWAR: -0.3
Slash/power: .248/.328/.476, with 13 homers and 40 RBIs
Slashed .309/.402/.456 against southpaws in 2018. Reynolds also played third base, outfield and second base.
2018 bWAR: -0.3
Slash/power: .186/.276/.368, with 15 homers and 38 RBIs
LoMo missed much of the season due to hip surgery.
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.
(6) Andrew Vaughn
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.