Brandon Laird: He grew up as a third baseman, he was drafted as a third baseman, and even played more than three times as many games at third base than first base a year ago, yet he still projects best defensively as a first baseman. Even with limited time at first he has shown decent range and good hands.
Offensively he has solid enough power to handle a corner infield position like first base, hitting .266 with 13 home runs in the pitching-friendly Florida State League last year. He has been plagued by slow starts each of the last two years and some believe he hasn't come close to showing his full potential yet.
Reymond Nunez: He was a high-upside signing two years ago with immense power potential but there was also much skepticism surrounding his ability to make contact. He quickly shortened his swing, made making more contact a priority, and saw his strikeouts go down drastically and his batting average rise considerably in his second season.
He also lost 30 pounds in one calendar year and that allowed his already nimble footwork to improve even more defensively. With plus power potential approaching the Jesus Montero range, an improved ability to make contact, and with above average defensive abilities, he has the highest ceiling at the position in the farm system.
Closest to the Majors
Juan Miranda: The Cuban has a sweet swing from the left side and even though he hit .290 with 19 home runs last season, and made marked improvement with his abilities to hit left-handed pitching, he still continues to fly under the radar.
His defensive shortcomings have also been overblown quite a bit too. He's not the greatest defensive first baseman, mostly because his range is limited, but he will make all the plays around him and he has pretty good hands. The bat is what is going to carry him though and he still has some more potential in his bat than he has shown thus far.
Jorge Vazquez: The soon to be 28-year old is hardly a true prospect age-wise, but that is perhaps the biggest reason why he is a true 'sleeper'. He hit .329 and slugged .578 at Double-A in his first season in the United States last year after dominating the Mexican League for several years.
|THE BAT IS LEGIT: Vazquez swings a very potent bat. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
Need to Make Their Move
Mike Lyon: He hit just a combined .231 between Charleston and Staten Island last year and struck out a whopping 74 times in only 234 at-bats. Considering his defense is suspect anyway, leaving the majority of his value as a prospect in his bat, he has some serious catching up to do in the production department.
Christopher Malec: On the other end of the spectrum, Malec continues to put up some pretty good numbers. He hit a combined .272 with nine home runs between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, and once again showed very good plate discipline. But the utility player, who plays mostly first base these days, doesn't have the prerequisite power for the position to stand out amongst his peers.
Kevin Smith: A defensive wizard at first base, one who is so good he could be a Gold Glover with relative ease should he ever make it to the big leagues, is also a good contact hitter with good plate discipline. However, he too doesn't have enough power potential to overtake others on the depth chart. A power surge is needed quickly.
The Jury is Still Out
Edwin Beard: The 20-year old Dominican native had a solid season in the Dominican Summer League last year, hitting .290 and showing good patience. Standing 6-foot-3 with some room to add some muscle mass down the road, he provides some decent upside too, but it's still too early to tell if he can develop the necessary power potential to become a legitimate prospect.
Luke Murton: College seniors drafted in the later rounds usually become organizational players when it's all said and done, but Murton put up some very good numbers in Staten Island last season: .295, 17 doubles, and eight home runs. He's a big kid too with good power so he'll get his chances for the time being.