Yankees vs. Red Sox: First Base Prospects

Continuing our comparisons between the Yankees and Red Sox farm systems, we take a look at the crop of first base prospects in each system. Which system is deeper? Which prospects have the most power? The highest ceilings? Take a look at this comparison between the two rival AL East farm systems.

The Two Farm Systems: It is weird to note given that these two organizations are known for their power hitting ways in recent history, but the fact is neither farm system has a whole lot of depth of quality long-term first base prospects right now, at least among those primarily playing first base right now.

Clearly the highest ceiling among first base prospects in either organization is New York's Greg Bird. A fifth round pick in 2011 as a catcher, he signed for an organizational high $1.1 million bonus for that Yankee draft class. Many believed the sweet-swinging lefty to be a great offensive potential backstop but back issues for most of the 2012 season forced the Yankees' hand and they moved him to first base.

His limited number of at-bats this year might allow him to sneak up some folks not too familiar with his game, but the fact is scouts are enamored with the 20-year old's combination of plus power potential, great plate discipline, and innate hitting abilities. He even proved to be a solid defensive first baseman in the handful of games he played there after making the transition.

Outside of Bird though, neither organization has what many would deem viable long-term first base solutions, especially after the Red Sox dealt away Lars Anderson to Cleveland at the trade deadline this past summer.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees have some intriguing 'sleeper' candidates at first base, however. Boston's Travis Shaw, a ninth round pick in 2011, advanced all the way to Double-A this year and hit a combined .287 with a remarkable 44 doubles and 19 home runs between high-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He plays a serviceable defensive first base, swings from the left side with a good approach and above average power potential, and even shows good wheels for a first baseman.. He's worth keeping an eye on and is currently the top rated first baseman in Boston's farm system.

Outside of Shaw though, Boston has little else in the way of potential long-term, in-house solutions at first base. Reynaldo Rodriguez had 49 more extra-base hits in 2012, but the soon to be 27-year old former Yankee prospect has the look of a quality organizational player more than anything else. 26-year old Drew Hedman hit just .215 with nine home runs this year between high-A Salem and Double-A Portland, and he's not really a long-term option either.

The two better darkhorses for the Red Sox at first base are 22-year old David Renfroe, a former a third round pick in 2009, and David Chester, a 33rd round pick in 2011. Renfroe has some upside to him and he has really learned to better his strike zone discipline over the past two years, but his power projects to be more average than anything and he has played just ten games above the low-A level so far in his career.

Chester is intriguing because of his size [6-foot-5] and plus raw power. The right-handed batter has hit 19 home runs in his first 358 at-bats, but while his plate discipline continues to get better he doesn't project to be a very good hitter for average as he ascends the minor league ladder. Still, the power is intriguing.

While the Yankees don't have another first base prospect with the sky-high ceiling of Bird, they do have a few 'sleeper' candidates of their own, highlighted by Kyle Roller. The left-handed slugger is built like an NFL middle linebacker and clubbed a career-high 18 home runs in the pitching friendly Florida State League this year. He plays an average defensive first base and has decent strike zone discipline, but while he hit just .266 this year he has proven to be quite a good clutch hitter in his career thus far.

Another intriguing 'what if' candidate for the Yankees is Matt Snyder, a tenth round pick in 2012 out of Ole Miss. A 6-foot-5 sweet-swinging left-hander, he can flat out hit and has three brothers who also play professional baseball. He hit .299 in his debut season in the New York Penn League with more walks than strikeouts. He also plays a solid first base defensively. His biggest question mark is his long-term power potential, but given the fact that he's added nearly 25 pounds since his selection, the jury is still out on whether or not he can get that power up to the average or above average range.

Saxon Butler is New York's left-handed hitting version of David Chester in that he has some questionable long-term hitting potential but some impressive raw plus power potential. Like Chester, Butler is a 33rd round pick [drafted in 2012] and he clubbed 13 home runs in his first 61 professional games this year. And like Chester, the defense is suspect and projects best as a designated hitter type.

The Yankees have a few other first basemen that are more suspects than actual prospects at this time, including 26-year old Luke Murton who just clubbed 25 home runs for Double-A Trenton but doesn't hit for much average -- he has the chance to be a Shelley Duncan type though -- and two rookie ball players in Austin "Bubba" Jones and Renzo Martini, both of whom have a ways to go.

One of the more intriguing and albeit frustrating first base prospects in either organization is New York's Reymond Nunez. He too is more suspect than prospect but he shouldn't be because the ceiling is sky high, but the floor is extremely low too. The 6-foot-4 Dominican native has monstrous power potential, plain and simple, and yet the power hasn't materialized in games after hitting just five home runs in low-A Charleston this year. He just turned 22 years old so there is still a chance he could develop, but time is running out.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: When it comes down to just minor league first base depth, the Yankees have a few more sluggers right now even though the bulk of them, like the Red Sox, don't exactly project to be viable long-term first base solutions. Still, with Bird, Butler, Murton, Roller, etc, New York has a few more round-trippers. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: The same holds true here. Outside of Shaw, the Red Sox don't have a whole lot of high-average hitters at first base and the Yankees at least have two in Bird and Snyder. Advantage: Yankees

Defense: This is really a toss-up category as there really isn't one standout defensive first baseman in either organization among the legit first base prospects. Bird has the chance to be a standout but he's too new to the position. Advantage: Even

Overall Potential: A year ago we gave the Yankees the edge here because of the presence of Tyler Austin who has since moved to the outfield, but he still hit like we predicted. Bird is potentially an even better hitter with the kind of power to match and perhaps even surpass that of Austin. The Red Sox don't have anybody like that right now among their first basemen. Advantage: Yankees

Highest Ceilings: Greg Bird (Yankees), Reymond Nunez (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Red Sox), Matt Snyder (Yankees), Kyle Roller (Yankees)

Best Power: Greg Bird (Yankees), Reymond Nunez (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Red Sox), Kyle Roller (Yankees), Saxon Butler (Yankees)

Best Average: Greg Bird (Yankees), Matt Snyder (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Yankees), Kyle Roller (Yankees), Reymond Nunez (Yankees)

Best Defense: Greg Bird (Yankees), Kevin Roller (Yankees), Matt Snyder (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Red Sox), Reymond Nunez (Yankees)

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