After looking at the interesting and fairly loaded catcher position yesterday, we move to the grassless pastures of first base. Once past the big league roster, which is bare enough, most of the future first basemen in the organization are likely to be moved from other positions. Most of the current first basemen in the minors are not really prospects for one reason or another.
It’s too much to say the position begins and ends with Justin Smoak, but he is still the primary hope for 1B production. We could write posts for days about Smoak. I’m a big supporter, or have been in the past, but time is clearly running out. There are plenty of big time prospects that take a long time to find themselves in the majors, so there’s still hope. The question is how long the Mariners can wait for him to become that player. Given the current state of the team and the lack of better options, they can keep waiting for a while, but Smoak needs to show some consistency before this season ends.
The only other viable current option is Mike Carp. Carp has been hurt and bad this year, but I’m betting he’s been bad because he’s been hurt. Carp’s become a huge slugger in the minors (and Seattle at the end of last year) over the last few years, but it remains to be seen whether he can be that guy in the bigs. I think he can, and I’m hoping he gets a shot to show it before they have to cast him aside. With the current logjam of outfielders, it will be a struggle for Carp to find innings when he comes back from the disabled list.
After those two, the options are limited. There are a couple of guys who could move to first. Alex Liddi could certainly handle it defensively, but he has some big holes at the plate. As much as I love the guy, it’s no guarantee he can ever become a consistent big leaguer. Vinnie Catricala looked like an answer in spring training, but he’s been terrible in Tacoma thus far. He’s starting to perform now, so keep an eye on him. A third baseman by name, he’s getting time in the outfield now and should be able to play first.
After them, you have to look pretty hard to find prospects. Rich Poythressand Dennis Raben are former high draft picks and college sluggers who have either been injured or not performed. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to change. Mickey Wiswall was drafted last year, but aside from having a great baseball name, he’s not likely to be anything incredible. Steven Proscia, another 2011 pick, has been playing third, but might not for long. He’s putting up huge numbers in High Desert, but so does pretty much everyone else. If we want to take this even further,Taylor Ard in Everett is interesting. Just drafted out of WSU, he could turn out to be a bit of a steal. Unfortunately, he’s at least about 4 years from the majors, if he gets there at all.
Here’s an idea. How about Dustin Ackley? I have no problem with Ack at second, and would prefer to keep him there, but there are a lot more second base options in the system than first base options. He played first in college while recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s not ideal, but if the other options don’t pan out and he hits like we expect him to, he could be a solid option in the Darin Erstad mold. Hopefully, it won’t come to that, but I can think of worse options.
Prince Fielder sure would look nice in northwest green right now. There’s not much to do except wait/hope for Smoak or Carp to pan out. I’d say I’m about 50-50 on whether that will happen. It used to be that you could add a good first baseman pretty easily in free agency, but with power becoming a rarer commodity, that’s not so easy anymore. Barring a big unexpected trade, I wouldn’t expect any new options before 2014. Keep your fingers crossed that someone will take a Michael Saunders type leap in the next year.