Analyzing the First Basemen

There will come a time in the near future where a new first baseman at the big league level will be required. Now the question remains whether or not that successor will come from the system. Intriguing options have developed over the past two seasons and now there is competition to see who will separate from the pack.

Highest Ceiling:

Nick Evans: Is he a prospect? Is he no longer a prospect? There are two sides to that debate, but Evans totaled 109 at-bats in 50 big league games [21 below the rookie cut off] and could be looking at a spot in the Triple-A roster if he does not thoroughly impress during Spring Training. Nonetheless, his balance at the plate and in the field is head and shoulders above the pack.

Evans, who turned 23 years old on Friday, did not have the winter season he hoped for as he went 3-for-32 in ten Puerto Rican Winter League games before a quadriceps injury cut short his stay. There is still room for Evans to improve his line-to-line hitting and he needs to be more consistent against right-handed pitching, but he possesses the most refined defensive skills and the best offensive projection of any first basemen. He is on the 40-man roster and will compete for a spot in camp, but the odds may be stacked against him. Chances are he will suit up in Buffalo for his first taste of Triple-A, share time at first base and see plenty of time in left field.

Closest to the Majors:

Michel Abreu: Evans' 2008 big league debut disqualifies him from this category, leaving Abreu—who should return to Triple-A—as the closest to New York. After missing the 2007 season because of visa issues, Abreu appeared to not miss a step in his return. He hit .285 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI in Triple-A last season, two seasons after posting a .332 average with 17 home runs and 70 RBI with Binghamton in 2006.

He does not have the defensive skills like Evans, but hits pitching from both sides equally and could provide needed power off the bench. He too is destined for Buffalo where he will split time at first base and designated hitter. If he continues to hit for a high average and shows similar power, Abreu could make his debut if first base depth is needed or alternative bench options do not produce but is limited by lack of defensive options.

Sleeper:

Lucas Duda: The 2007 7th round pick struggled in the second half of the Florida State League season as pitchers got the best of him with breaking and off-speed pitches, but Duda's patience and plate awareness is a very strong base. He hit .291 in the first two months of the season before tailing off, yet his power and sharp eye remained through the summer months.

As he moves on to Double-A next season, the biggest question mark will be greater consistency for average. There are also concerns about his power despite swatting 11 home runs in 133 games. If he can overcome his struggles against higher-level breaking pitches, his stock should rise and help entrench him on the radar as a potential first base option. Duda will have a lot to overcome in his third season, but with little no to competition at first base in Binghamton this season, he should have the opportunity to make his mark.

Needs More Work:

Ike Davis: The 2008 top overall pick's struggles are widely known as he hit .256 without once leaving the yard. Nonetheless, he should still be off to St. Lucie to begin the new season where eyes will be on Davis to see if he can regain the stroke he possessed in college that allowed him to hit for power and a high average.

The rookie season comes with its adjustments and the jump to the Florida State League will offer further tests, but he should hold down the starting role. That will afford Davis more than enough opportunities to right his ship and squash concern about his long term value and projection. He brings an excellent glove to the field and has good strike zone awareness, yet his swing development will be more important. He is bound to face much tougher and deeper pitching in 2009 making "maturity" the key word this upcoming season.

Jeff Flagg: The 23-year-old spent his entire first season in the Gulf Coast League where he totaled 139 at-bats, a move done to get him as much playing time as possible. Flagg is very limited in the field and is predominately a one-tool player with his bat but possesses some of the best raw power in the system and could move quickly because of his power potential. However, he needs to show measured improvement in his contact skills to keep warranting promotions.

Jury Is Still Out:

Jose Jimenez: In his third season in the system, Jimenez continued to demonstrate very good power despite struggling to maintain a sound batting average for most of the season. He began last season in Savannah where he hit .253 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 90 games before moving to Brooklyn where he hit .212, hit four more dingers and knocked in another 16 runs.

Jimenez can pound fastballs with the best of them though has struggled against even average breaking stuff. His ability to play both corners of the infield adds value to his stock, but until he shows more of a complete package at the plate, his ceiling is likely as an organizational player.

Douglas McNulty: McNulty, the 49th round pick in last June's draft, showed respectable power as he hit six home runs and drove in 26 RBI in 49 games with Kingsport, but barely got over the Mendoza line with his .201 average. He enters the new season looking for a spot on a long-season club, but the stiff competition ahead of him will make such an assignment tough to come by. He will need a very impressive Spring Training to jump anyone else on this list. He did not demonstrate much patience at the plate as he struck out 39 times against eight walks in 179 at-bats.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\nHighest Ceiling:
\r\n
\r\nNick Evans: Is he a prospect? Is he no longer a prospect? There are two sides to that debate, but Evans totaled 109 at-bats in 50 big league games [21 below the rookie cut off] and could be looking at a spot in the Triple-A roster if he does not thoroughly impress during Spring Training. Nonetheless, his balance at the plate and in the field is head and shoulders above the pack.
\r\n
\r\nEvans, who turned 23 years old on Friday, did not have the winter season he hoped for as he went 3-for-32 in ten Puerto Rican Winter League games before a quadriceps injury cut short his stay. There is still room for Evans to improve his line-to-line hitting and he needs to be more consistent against right-handed pitching, but he possesses the most refined defensive skills and the best offensive projection of any first basemen. He is on the 40-man roster and will compete for a spot in camp, but the odds may be stacked against him. Chances are he will suit up in Buffalo for his first taste of Triple-A, share time at first base and see plenty of time in left field.
\r\n
\r\nClosest to the Majors:
\r\n
\r\nMichel Abreu: Evans' 2008 big league debut disqualifies him from this category, leaving Abreu—who should return to Triple-A—as the closest to New York. After missing the 2007 season because of visa issues, Abreu appeared to not miss a step in his return. He hit .285 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI in Triple-A last season, two seasons after posting a .332 average with 17 home runs and 70 RBI with Binghamton in 2006.
\r\n
\r\nHe does not have the defensive skills like Evans, but hits pitching from both sides equally and could provide needed power off the bench. He too is destined for Buffalo where he will split time at first base and designated hitter. If he continues to hit for a high average and shows similar power, Abreu could make his debut if first base depth is needed or alternative bench options do not produce but is limited by lack of defensive options.
\r\n
\r\nSleeper:
\r\n
\r\nLucas Duda: The 2007 7th round pick struggled in the second half of the Florida State League season as pitchers got the best of him with breaking and off-speed pitches, but Duda's patience and plate awareness is a very strong base. He hit .291 in the first two months of the season before tailing off, yet his power and sharp eye remained through the summer months.
\r\n
\r\nAs he moves on to Double-A next season, the biggest question mark will be greater consistency for average. There are also concerns about his power despite swatting 11 home runs in 133 games. If he can overcome his struggles against higher-level breaking pitches, his stock should rise and help entrench him on the radar as a potential first base option. Duda will have a lot to overcome in his third season, but with little no to competition at first base in Binghamton this season, he should have the opportunity to make his mark.
\r\n
\r\nNeeds More Work:
\r\n
\r\nIke Davis: The 2008 top overall pick's struggles are widely known as he hit .256 without once leaving the yard. Nonetheless, he should still be off to St. Lucie to begin the new season where eyes will be on Davis to see if he can regain the stroke he possessed in college that allowed him to hit for power and a high average.
\r\n
\r\nThe rookie season comes with its adjustments and the jump to the Florida State League will offer further tests, but he should hold down the starting role. That will afford Davis more than enough opportunities to right his ship and squash concern about his long term value and projection. He brings an excellent glove to the field and has good strike zone awareness, yet his swing development will be more important. He is bound to face much tougher and deeper pitching in 2009 making \"maturity\" the key word this upcoming season.
\r\n
\r\nJeff Flagg: The 23-year-old spent his entire first season in the Gulf Coast League where he totaled 139 at-bats, a move done to get him as much playing time as possible. Flagg is very limited in the field and is predominately a one-tool player with his bat but possesses some of the best raw power in the system and could move quickly because of his power potential. However, he needs to show measured improvement in his contact skills to keep warranting promotions.
\r\n
\r\nJury Is Still Out:
\r\n
\r\nJose Jimenez: In his third season in the system, Jimenez continued to demonstrate very good power despite struggling to maintain a sound batting average for most of the season. He began last season in Savannah where he hit .253 with 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 90 games before moving to Brooklyn where he hit .212, hit four more dingers and knocked in another 16 runs.
\r\n
\r\nJimenez can pound fastballs with the best of them though has struggled against even average breaking stuff. His ability to play both corners of the infield adds value to his stock, but until he shows more of a complete package at the plate, his ceiling is likely as an organizational player.
\r\n
\r\nDouglas McNulty: McNulty, the 49th round pick in last June's draft, showed respectable power as he hit six home runs and drove in 26 RBI in 49 games with Kingsport, but barely got over the Mendoza line with his .201 average. He enters the new season looking for a spot on a long-season club, but the stiff competition ahead of him will make such an assignment tough to come by. He will need a very impressive Spring Training to jump anyone else on this list. He did not demonstrate much patience at the plate as he struck out 39 times against eight walks in 179 at-bats.
\r\n
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