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: Both the Yankees and Red Sox have begun to address their lack of depth at the first base position in the minor leagues in recent seasons. Heading into this past season the only viable potential long-term, impact solution at first base in either organization was New York's Greg Bird. And even though he missed the first five weeks of the 2014 season with an ailing back, he still managed to hit a combined .271 with 30 doubles and 14 home runs between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, securing the recently turned 22-year old's position as the top first base prospect in either farm system right now.

The Red Sox countered with Travis Shaw, the son of former big league pitcher Jeff Shaw. The former 9th round pick in 2011 has strung together a very solid minor league career thus far, including hitting a combined .278 with 29 doubles and 21 home runs between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this season. The former third baseman has also proven to be a better defensive option at first base, shows good plate discipline and patience, and a tremendous work ethic. While the ceiling is below that of Bird's, the 24-year old is still considered the top first base prospect in the Boston farm system.

While neither farm system has a bonafide high-ceiling first base prospect like Bird who has established himself quite as well -- although Shaw has certainly played his way into those discussions -- both organizations have begun to add some much needed intriguing depth at the position.

Boston started by adding Nick Longhi, their 30th round pick out of high school a year ago. The 6-foot-2, 205 pound right-handed bat was immediately lauded for his above average power potential. While he has just one professional home run under his belt, he has proven to be a very capable hitter in the early going while the power continues to progress. He hit a robust .330 as one of the younger players in the New York Penn League this past season but lasted just 18 games after a thumb injury ended his season prematurely. He may have enough athleticism to stick in the outfield but most scouts believe his long-term position will be first base.

The Red Sox added another high ceiling bat this past draft when they selected Josh Ockimey in the 5th round out of high school. The recently turned 19-year old is a burgeoning left-handed slugger with plus power potential to all fields, advanced patience at the plate, and a very projectable frame. He's not nearly as tall as Bird but there are some very similar offensive traits at a young age that could allow Ockimey to potentially one day become one of the better first base prospects in either organization someday.

Boston also drafted Sam Travis in the second round out of the University of Indiana this year. He's certainly on the smaller size of most first baseman, standing just 6-foot-0, and he's right-handed both in the field and at the plate, but despite the lack of size he shows intriguing average or better power potential and he can flat-out hit, hitting a combined .316 between short-season Lowell and low-A Greenville in his debut season. He has superb plate discipline [he struck out just one more time than he walked in his three years of college] too. The biggest questions surrounding him will be if the smaller size will limit his power potential at the plate and his defensive abilities at first base.

The Yankees have had their own version of Shaw as somebody who has hit his way up the minor league ladder in the form of Kyle Roller. The former eighth round pick is doing his very best to convince the higher-ups that he deserves a shot, hitting a combined .300 with 30 doubles and 26 home runs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton in 2014. Kind of a left-handed hitting version of Sam Travis too, Roller stands just 6-foot-1 and lacks the taller stature desired at first base but simply knows how to hit and has the requisite power desired from the position.

The Yankees have a couple of high ceiling first base prospects of their own at the lower levels too to combat the presence of Ockimey and Longhi in the form of Drew Bridges and Chris Breen. Bridges, last year's 20th round pick out of high school physically resembles Greg Bird in nearly every way. He too stands 6-foot-4 with a rock-solid build, he also bats left-handed, and he has a nice blend of plate patience and plus power potential to all fields. Like Ockimey, Bridge's lackluster production thus far shouldn't disguise the fact that he too one day could be the top ranked first base prospect in either organization.

Breen, a former high school catcher who is now learning both left field and first base, actually led the New York Penn League in OPS this past season [.881]. The former 12th round pick in 2012 hit a very respectable .281 with eight home runs for the Staten Island Yankees. A right-handed slugger, the 20-year old has the offensive chops to one day be a potential standout at the dish. Defensively, however, he doesn't have a whole lot of range and lacks foot speed so the defensive ceiling is pretty much limited to average at best.

While Boston has a solid quartet of first base prospects with Shaw, Travis, Longhi, and Ockimey, the depth of viable potential long-term solutions ends there. New York, however, has a few more 'what if' candidates, highlighted by Matt Snyder. The son of a former big leaguer who also has big league siblings, the former tenth round pick out of Ole Miss has great plate discipline and intriguing power potential after putting on nearly 40 pounds over the past couple of years but simply can't stay healthy for any length of time. If he can just avoid the freak injuries he has sustained over the years he could wind up being one of the biggest 'sleeper' prospects in either farm system.

Mike Ford, an undrafted free agent signing out of Princeton a year ago, gives the Yankees a left-handed hitting version of Sam Travis in that he stands just 6-foot-0 but still shows average of better power potential. He also shows amazing plate discipline too, walking six more times than he struck out in his first full season this year while hitting a combined .292 between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa. The ceiling isn't as vast as some others given his smaller stature but he has the kind of consistent bat, high level of intelligence, and great makeup that could force his way up the minor league ladder.

Another potential 'sleeper' prospect is New York's Connor Spencer, this year's 8th round pick out of the University of California-Irvine. The left-handed batter can flat-out hit, leading the New York Penn League with a .364 average in his debut season. And he's even got enough wheels to perhaps play some outfield too. But wherever he plays he's going to have to show a bit more in-game power as he's still searching for his first professional home run. He's shown some intriguing power in batting practice but is currently buried a bit in the first base prospect depth until it shows up in games.

How Do They Compare In...

Power: Even if one wanted to compare the power potential of Bird and Shaw [which it isn't] and cross them out, and continued to do the same between Roller and Travis, despite the high-ceiling power potential of both Longhi and Ockimey [who have one combined career home run between the two of them thus far], Boston can't really compare with the overall depth when you include Drew Bridges, Chris Breen, Mike Ford, and Matt Snyder right now. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting For Average: Both organizations have some standout hitters at the position -- Bird, Shaw, Travis, Roller, Ford, Breen, etc -- and they all pretty much cancel each other out. The wild cards for the Yankees, however, most notably Matt Snyder and Connor Spencer in this category, give the Yankees too much depth again. Advantage: Yankees

Defense: Bird and Shaw are the clear-cut top defensive first basemen between the two organizations. Roller, Travis, Ford, and others are all merely average right now. In the end it could come down to the development of Longhi [if he doesn't stick in the outfield] and Bridges at the position, and the health of Snyder. For now it's a pretty even contest. Advantage: Even

Overall Potential: With the combination of Bridges and Breen essentially canceling out the high-ceiling talent of Longhi and Ockimey, and the cumulative effect of Roller, Ford, and Snyder doing the same with the combination of Shaw and Travis, it comes down to who has the top guy and that is clearly Greg Bird at this time. Advantage: Yankees

Highest Ceilings: Greg Bird (Yankees), Drew Bridges (Yankees), Josh Ockimey (Red Sox), Nick Longhi (Red Sox), Chris Breen (Yankees)

Best Power: Greg Bird (Yankees), Drew Bridges (Yankees), Josh Ockimey (Red Sox), Kyle Roller (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Red Sox)

Best Average: Greg Bird (Yankees), Sam Travis (Red Sox), Travis Shaw (Red Sox), Mike Ford (Yankees), Kyle Roller (Yankees)

Best Defense: Greg Bird (Yankees), Travis Shaw (Red Sox), Matt Snyder (Yankees), Kyle Roller (Yankees), Sam Travis (Yankees)

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