First Base Analysis

Bill Shanks takes a look at the firstbasemen across the Atlanta Braves organization profiling everybody from Robert Fick, Adam LaRoche and Scott Thorman on down and analyzes how they could possibly impact Atlanta in the future.

Last offseason Atlanta General Manager John Schuerholz made offers to three free agent first baseman. Luckily, former Detroit Tiger Robert Fick jumped at the offer. Fick mostley caught and played right field for the Tigers, but the Braves asked him to start and first...and he's done very well. Robert is hitting right at .300 with ten home runs and 61 RBI. The Braves will have to offer him a contract for him to be back in 2004, and all indications are Fick would relish the chance to return. He also could play the outfield again, especially if Gary Sheffield is not re-signed.

If Fick is re-signed, he might have to share first base with Adam LaRoche in 2004. The lefthanded hitting LaRoche is ready for the big leagues. He's split this season with Greenville and Richmond. Since his promotion to Triple A, Adam has hit .281 with five home runs in 171 at bats. Overall this season, LaRoche has seventeen home runs and sixty runs batted in. He's showing a bit more power than more people have predicted, as many compare LaRoche to a young Mark Grace. Defensively, LaRoche is excellent and is a legitamate Gold Glove candidate down the road. He's smooth in the field with excellent range and great work around the bag in catching errant throws.

Since LaRoche has been in Richmond, Mike Hessman has been moved from first back to his natural position of third base and to left field. Hess proved that he can play first, doing well in fifty three games there for Richmond this season. His versatility in the field will certainly help him as a potential major leaguer. Offensively, Hessman is putting together a solid season. He's now hitting .261 with fifteen home runs and forty eight RBI in 310 at bats. Hessman is on the Atlanta 40-man roster, so it is possible he could be with the Braves this September. He's also eligible for the Rule Five Draft this winter, so the Braves will have to protect him for him to stick aorund.

Now to AA Greenville, where James Jurries took over for Adam LaRoche in midseason. Jurries played most of his college baseball with Tulane at first base, but has mainly played third base since joining the Braves organization. Like Hessman, Jurries is also versatile. He may even start playing a little outfield this fall in the Instuctional League. There is no question at all about Jurries' offense. He's hitting right at .300 with eight home runs and 43 RBI in 367 at bats for the G- Braves. Since he's only a year out of college, his rapid rise though the system shows you how much confidence the Braves have in James' offensive potential.

Perhaps the best long term first base prospect is Myrtle Beach's Scott Thorman. The first round draft choice from 2000 still draws comparisons to Ryan Klesko with his powerful lefthanded swing. But he's struggled overall this season with the Pelicans. His average was down below .240 in early August with nine home runs and thirty nine runs batted in. Most people believe Scott will be a major league hitter once he becomes more patient at the plate and avoids pulling the ball. Defensively, Scott has made a great transition to first base from his natural third base spot. Scott had only six errors in his first ninety five games this season, although there are some whispers he could follow in Klesko's shadow and eventually move to the outfield.

Yaron Peters is also now in Myrtle Beach after starting his season with Rome. Peters hit .295 in the Sally League with six home runs and 30 RBI in 227 at bats. The Braves then promoted him and he's seen most of his action as the Pelicans' Designated Hitter. Peters has struggled some offensively with Myrtle Beach as many young hitters do when they arrive in the Carolina League. He's hitting only .173 with a couple of homers and 5 RBI in 110 at bats. Peters will probably return to Myrtle Beach next season to spend the entire year in the Carolina League.

There are a couple of players in the Gulf Coast League who are a long way off, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Carlos Moreta is one of the leading hitters for the GCL team with a .271 average and six home runs in 155 at bats. Moreta made the switch to first from catcher last year and has done well defensively.

Keith Eichas is off to a hot start. This June's seventeenth round pick out of Temple Junior College in Texas is hitting 325 with five home runs in 83 at bats. He's played eleven games at first.

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