Looks around the minors at first base can be a funny exercise. Many MLB first basemen begin their careers at third base, behind the plate or even at shortstop. Last year, the first base list for the Mets was Dominic Smith and everyone else. In 2014, it's still Smith and everyone else.
- Dominic Smith
- Jayce Boyd
- Michael Katz
- Aderlin Rodriguez
- Allan Dykstra
- Brandon Allen
- Zach Mathieu
Playing as a 19-year-old in Savannah, the 2013 first-round pick was OK in his first look at full-season baseball. The game was fast for him in April, but once he settled in at the end of the month, he hit for average and showed a solid plate eye (9.8 percent walk rate) while striking out at a moderate rate (15 percemt) on his was to a .271 average, with .344 OBP and .338 SLG with one home run.
He displayed far less power than an above-average MLB first baseman did at the same age. He has emphasized again and again that he was trying to use the whole field. That's a good thing. And yes, he played his home games in spacious Historic Grayson Stadium, but he did not drive the ball with authority regularly, and almost never showed power to right and right-center, the areas where one would traditionally expect a left-handed hitting first baseman to make his money. At 6'0", Smith is smaller than most first basemen as well, so he will have to be extra-strong to generate the kind of power teams are looking for at first.
As JJ Cooper put it in his Baseball America chat for the publication's South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects List, (which Smith missed): "You could find a scout or two who were sold on Smith developing into a solid MLB first baseman, but they were in the minority."
Smith reminds me a little of a young Daric Barton, as left-handed hitting first basemen with enough hit tool and enough plate discipline to get to the big leagues as a first baseman, but without the pop to make an impact when he gets there.
Of course, if he explodes for 15+ homers in 2014, at age 20, his projection will change accordingly.
All of the guys below this line will likely land outside my Mets Top 41 list.
In his age-23 season, Boyd hit .293 with a .382 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage, with eight home runs in 119 games, at Double-A Binghamton. That’s fine, and if he were a catcher, it would be great. However, he’s a low-strikeout (14 percent), high walk (11 percent) first baseman with very little over the wall power. Maybe he’ll get to the big leagues as the 25th guy on the roster, but he’s not a regular, and as someone limited to first base, he’s not a bench player either.
This year’s ninth-round draft pick out of William and Mary, Katz hit a superficially decent-looking .275. He had a .323 OBP and .346 SLG in 42 games at Brooklyn. Breaking it down into components is alarming: he struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances, did not homer, and needed a .382 BABIP to keep his average up. He’s a big enough guy at 6’3”, 225 to generate a little power, but he should be in for a good challenge in Savannah in 2015.
4. RodriguezRodriguez first reached advanced Single-A in 2012, so 2014 was his third year in which he’s played in the Florida State League. That’s not good. Hitting .242 with a .284 OBP with a 4.4 percent walk rate in his age-22 season is worse. He can still hit the ball a mile, but he’s just not a good enough all-around hitter to get to his power.
Dykstra and Allen have org. value as they can contribute at Double- and Triple-A.
Mathieu is huge, at 6’7”, but at 22 in the Appy League and the length of swing to match his frame, I don’t see it working at higher levels.