Torkelson No. 1 prospect at 1B

Detroit Tigers

Andrew Vaughn graduated, Spencer Torkelson moved across the diamond and, as a result, there is a new name atop the list of baseball’s Top 10 first-base prospects. Torkelson, who played first in college but was drafted as a third baseman, primarily played first with Triple-A Toledo and now headlines this collection of prospects.

Triston Casas opened the 2021 campaign ranked second among first baseman and finds himself in the same spot this season. Casas, along with Nick Pratto, Michael Toglia and Seth Beer, is one of four holdovers on the list. That means over half the list, which features two pairs of organization mates (Cardinals and Royals), is comprised of new names. There are also eight players with 2022 ETAs, so fans can expect to see many of these players in the Majors later this year.

(Note: Due to technical difficulties, the complete list is not available at this time. It will be published as soon as possible.)

Hit: Torkelson (60)
Torkelson’s bat garnered plenty of attention in college, was a large reason he was drafted first overall in 2020 and has continued to live up to expectations in pro ball. In addition to his massive power, which we’ll get to shortly, Torkelson has a patient approach and has made strides in his ability to use the entire field. The 22-year-old worked his way across three levels in his 2021 full-season debut and slashed .267/.383/.552 with 30 homers over 121 games.

Power: Torkelson (70)
Torkelson’s ceiling is that of an elite middle-of-the-order, run-producing slugger. He hit 30 homers last year, but his power has been on display for quite a while, dating back to his college days when he broke Barry Bonds’ Arizona State freshman record with 25 homers in 2018. The aforementioned patient approach helps Torkelson get the most out of his power as he’s unlikely to chase balls out of the zone. He waits for a pitch he’s able to drive and if that never comes, he’s perfectly content taking a walk, something he did 78 times last season.

Run: Harris (55)
First basemen aren’t typically a speedy bunch, though Harris is easily the best runner on this list. What’s more, he knows how to use his speed and stole 25 bases last season while only being caught twice. His above-average wheels also give him some defensive versatility. He’s spent some time at third base in the past and the Rangers feel he could play the outfield corners as well if needed.

Arm: Casas, Pratto, Baker (60)
Casas, Pratto and Baker all pitched as amateurs so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to seem them listed here. Casas, who also played third base, threw in the low-90s off the mound while Pratto pitched in the upper-80s. Baker also threw in the 90s at TCU before a multitude of injuries forced him to go from a two-way prospect to a full-time slugger.

Field: Pratto (70)
In addition to having a strong arm, Pratto is also an elite defender and was selected to MLB Pipeline’s All-Defense team prior to the 2021 season. The 2017 first-round pick has long been considered a top defender and it wouldn’t be a surprise if his hands and natural athleticism resulted in a Gold Glove Award somewhere down the line.

Highest ceiling: Torkelson
There’s a reason he was the consensus No. 1 pick in 2020 and if he hits as expected — somewhere between .250 and .300 with 30-plus homers — he has the potential to be a multiple time All-Star and win an MVP Award.

Highest floor: Torkelson
Torkelson’s advanced approach and massive raw power should keep his floor high. Even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, it’s hard to envision him as anything less than a productive middle-of-the-order bat.

Rookie of the Year candidate: Torkelson
For as good as he’s looked, Torkelson has played just 90 games in the upper levels of the Minors so the Tigers may opt to give him a bit more time in Triple-A before he gets called up. Also factor in the impressive group of rookies set to debut in the American League this season and the Rookie of the Year Award will likely be a tight race between some big-name, elite prospects.

Highest riser: Yepez
Signed for $1 million back in 2014, the Braves traded Yepez to the Cardinals in 2017 and the Venezuelan native exploded on the scene in 2021. After hitting a combined 21 homers over three seasons (2017-’19), Yepez added muscle to his frame in 2021 and mashed a career-high 27 homers, while slashing .286/.383/.586.

Humblest beginning: Harris
An 11th-round pick in the 2019 Draft, the A’s signed Harris for $250,000 and traded him to the Rangers in September 2020. Harris has quickly proven to be a solid hitter, slashing .327/.401/.542 over 110 games in his first full season. Harris’ speed and potential defensive versatility also add intriguing elements to his overall skillset.

Most to prove: Baker
Baker’s power took a step forward as he hit a career-high 26 homers in 2021 and his .282 isolated slugging percentage was third best among Double-A qualifiers. However, there’s some swing and miss in his game and his strikeout rate rose to 26.3 percent. If he continues to drive the ball out of the park, then everything will take care of itself. However, the 26 blasts were more than double his previous career-high mark of 10, so if the power dips a bit and the strikeouts remain high, adjustments will likely need to be made.

Keep an eye on: Toglia
A first-round pick (23rd overall) from the 2019 Draft, Toglia does everything well. A switch-hitter who can drive the ball out of the yard from both sides of the plate, Toglia is coming off a campaign in which he posted a .778 OPS, hit a career-high 22 homers and reached Double-A for the first time. Athletic enough to play the outfield, Toglia is also a plus defender at first base. There have been some inconsistent results early in his career, but there’s a lot to like in Toglia’s profile and the opportunity to watch him hit at Coors Field in the future has to excite both the Rockies and their fans.

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