Position Projections: First Base

Continuing with our look at who will start where at each level, we continue our move around the diamond, this time taking a look at the organization's first basemen and who will be playing for what teams in the 2005 season.

Starting off in Toledo, the Tigers certainly won't be short on available (or talented) players for the spot. Erie's first baseman from 2004, Juan Tejeda, will likely get the bulk of the playing time at the spot, after hitting 23 home runs with a .517 slugging percentage.

However, he won't be the only one there, as DH/1B/C Chris Shelton will also likely see some playing time there, with Tejeda shifting to designated hitter in those instances. Shelton spent most of 2004 riding the pine as a Rule V pick in Detroit, but a .339 average in a brief rehab stint in Toledo as well as the Arizona Fall League's MVP award mean Shelton has plenty of potential, and will get plenty of opportunities to show it.

Moving down to Tejeda's vacated position in Erie, Lakeland's first basemen last year, Jody Roughton, is likely to make the move up. Roughton impressed last year with a .399 slugging percentage, and while he's a bit old (he'll turn 24 in May) he should still hold his own at the AA-level.

Roughton probably won't take the position exclusively though, as minor league free agent Mike Hessman will likely look to get some play. Although there's a remote possibility he could keep Tejeda in Erie, it's more likely that Hessman will move to Erie and help the SeaWolves (possibly from the DH position as well).

Taking Roughton's spot at Lakeland will likely be Kelly Hunt, West Michigan's first baseman from 2004. Hunt was the only player in the entire organization to reach triple digits in RBI's, while also leading the Whitecaps in home runs with 21 (an excellent number for a pitcher's park). Hunt should anchor the middle of the lineup, and possibly even help Brent Clevlen regain his '03 form by offering more protection in the lineup.

Once we make it to West Michigan, the team is much more up in the air. Rafael Mendez was the man at first for Oneonta, but didn't do much to help his case in garnering the job at West Michigan. Mendez hit just .220, and slugged just .321 in 246 at bats. Mendez only had a marginally successful 2003 for the GCL Tigers, so it'll be tough to see the Tigers hand over a full time job to Mendez for the Whitecaps.

If Mendez is passed over, that could open up a path for the GCL Tigers' first baseman, Josh Lee, to make the jump up. Lee didn't have an impressive showing for the GCL with 2 doubles and 3 home runs in 114 at bats, but he's patient at the plate, has excellent power potential, and was one of TigsTown.com's top 50 prospects.

With the unsettled situation for West Michigan, it makes it even more difficult to make projections for Oneonta, and especially for the GCL Tigers. The possibility remains high that the Tigers will look to add a first baseman or two in the early rounds of the upcoming draft, but of course, that remains to be seen.

As for the group as a whole, the cream of the crop obviously is at Toledo, where both Shelton and Tejeda have big league promise. Kelly Hunt is a bit old for his level, but it's hard to argue with the success he had in '04. As mentioned earlier, this group will likely need an influx of talent from the upcoming draft to help the lower levels in this season and in the coming years.

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