First base has long been a strange list to make for prospect rankings, as it’s often filled with players who have to hit their way to the majors due to their usual defensive limitations and lack of speed. It is also where catchers and third basemen often wind up if their defense doesn’t hold up at their position of choice.
It’s much harder to make a very long list of future major leaguers from players currently playing first base, so we only pulled out a top 10. We did include two catchers who we expect will soon be transitioning to first base in the Athletics’ Tyler Soderstrom (No. 3) and Hunter Goodman (No. 7), but there will surely soon be others making that switch or coming over from third.
Topping our 2023 preseason first base rankings is the Rays’ Kyle Manzardo (above), who went from a 2nd-round draft pick in 2021 out of Washington State to dominating High- and Double-A pitching last year – .327/.426/.617 with 22 homers in 93 games. There are some questions on how much power Manzardo will be able to get to in the majors, his smooth left-handed swing is part of a 65-grade hit tool that should allow him to post high batting averages and OBPs.
No. 2 Triston Casas of the Red Sox produces big-time power from a hulking 6-foot-4, 252-pound frame to go along with a plus hit tool featuring remarkable patience. There have been Freddie Freeman comps thrown around.
Soderstrom bounced back from an ice-cold April (.549 OPS) to finish with a combined .825 OPS, 29 homers, 105 RBIs over three levels, finishing with nine games in Triple-A. The bat is special while the glove is not, and with defensive-whiz Shea Langeliers establishing himself behind the plate, Soderstrom will likely be moving to first base if not a corner-outfield spot to get his bat in the lineup.
No. 4 Matt Mervis of the Cubs made an even more meteoric rise last year than Manzardo, going from an undrafted free agent in 2021 to compiling a massive .309/.379/.605 with 36 homers and 119 RBIs over three levels, finishing with 57 games in Triple-A. The Cubs signed veterans Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini to make Mervis win a job out of spring or start the season back in Triple-A and earn his way up.
First base can be a sneaky place to find future fantasy studs, as guys like Matt Olson and Rowdy Tellez were never ranked all that highly as prospects, but their bats carried them to being valuable fantasy assets. A couple from the rest of the top 10 that stand out for their bat-first prfile are No. 6 Niko Kavadas of the Red Sox and No. 10 Ivan Melendez of the Diamondbacks. Both have 60-grade power and could mash their way to the majors.