Positional Preview – First Base

Players:

Ryan Howard -34 – MLB
Darin Ruf – 27 – MLB
Jim Murphy – 28 – AAA
Cody Overbeck – 27 – AAA
Brock Stassi – 24 – AA
Chris Serritella – 24 – A+
Art Charles – 23 – A+
William Carmona – 23 – A+
Wilmer Oberto – 21 – A-

Positional Overview: Across the minor leagues there is a dearth of pure first base prospects. For the most part top first baseman come along either rarely or at other positions. Looking at the Phillies system depth, it is much the same. None of the minor league starters profile as major leaguers on an NL team (AL team is slightly different with DH). Right now the major league job is blocked by Ryan Howard and his giant contract. Until the contract runs out or is bought out, the best the Phillies can really hope for is to platoon with him to recoup some value.

Future of the Position: Not surprisingly, the Phillies future first baseman is third baseman Maikel Franco. Franco may play third base for a bit in the majors, but ultimately his long term home is first base. The bat plays at first base where he has plenty of power, and enough bat speed and coordination to possibly hit for a high average at some point.

More Future First Baseman: Franco isn’t the only player who could end up at first base long term. Hulking right fielder Dylan Cozens can play the outfield now, but his frame isn’t going to put on any more good weight, and that combined with a likely loss of speed and range as he ages means first base might end up being his final position. Former first round pick Larry Greene is another large corner outfielder with range and body issues, the big question with Greene is the bat, which may not play in the outfield, let alone first base. The last player is 16 year old Luis Encarnacion. Encarnacion is currently listed as a third baseman, but his ultimate position is unknown, the bat will have to be his strength going forward regardless of the position.

Is There a Prospect in the Muck?:  It is hard to call anybody playing first base right now a prospect.  However, Art Charles and Wilmer Oberto provide some level of intrigue.  Charles had his power drop precipitously in Lakewood, which is one of the worst HR parks in the minors, but his strikeout rate went down, and his walk rate rebounded.  At 23, and with non-glowing scouting reports it is hard to see Charles breaking out, but if the HR power returns, he could see a cup of coffee has a bench bat/platoon 1B/DH.  Oberto appeared to come out of nowhere in 2013 to put up big GCL numbers.  There is some power in the bat, but it remains to be seen if he can build on that power and keep the other numbers under control.

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

6 thoughts on “Positional Preview – First Base

  1. What’s shocking is that we don’t have a single 1B prospect in the minors… especially given just how weak the position is at the MLB level and the fact that the phillies offense flat sucks. (oh and we’ve known this was going to be a problem for years now so the fact that we have so little talent is all the more unsettling)

    1. I would also argue that in the last few years, defensive positioning has become over-rated, and offensive upside undervalued. You can’t win without scoring runs, it’s a fact of life.

    2. If he was a first base only prospect Franco would be 1A with Jonathan Singleton for best 1B prospect in the minors. On Top 100 lists right now, the only consensus 1B only prospect is Singleton, and the only other two in the mix are Domonic Smith and Dan Vogelbach. The truth is that you need a lot of bat to survive as a major league first baseman. Look at Darin Ruf, he was worth somewhere between 0.0 and 0.1 WAR last year, it is a tough position to crack. The other thing is once a player is at 1B they aren’t going anywhere so you really need a new one every 6 years or so.

    1. He has good raw power but he isn’t showing it in games (a pitiful .128 ISO in 2013), he isn’t walking at a high rate (only 6.1%), meanwhile he is striking out a lot (23.9%). Overall he had a wRC+ of 88. He is a 1B only player who isn’t providing offense, it isn’t good right now.

  2. I think you finally talk yourself into the correct position that 1B is the strength of the Phillies organization. Howard is still good against RHP. Ruf has an MLB bat and okay defense. Franco is a potential plus guy at the position. Encarnacion has a touted bat and the sense seems to be that he ultimately is 1B only. Cozens likely doesn’t stay away from 1B much later in his career than Franco does. Greene not much more than low-odds lottery ticket now, but I’m thinking 1B or bust for him as well. We may find Joseph in that situation as well. A lot of depth at 1B. Really gotta switch to pitching and other positions for our high $$ draft and international signings.

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