Monday, August 10, 2009

Postseason Prospect Rankings: First Basemen

First base was a Cape League position with many solid players, but really only one top-shelf prospect. Here are the five best first baseman, as far as professional potential, who played on the Cape this summer.

5. Jaren Matthews, Orleans/Rutgers. Bats L Throws L. 6'2" 215. Teaneck, N.J.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .211 BA/2 HR/18 RBI/.643 OPS

Matthews started the season looking like one of the best hitters on the Cape, then fell off so dramatically it was almost difficult to hold a spot for him in these rankings. He was dropped in Orleans' batting order late in the season and looked lost at the plate toward the end of the summer. Matthews was coming off a spring season during which he hit .328 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. Matthews has a mature, powerful body and as a hitter often tries to get by with just his brute strength, but he doesn't seem to have much of an approach at the plate. He can turn on a good fastball, but really struggles to hit a breaking ball and his timing is off a lot of the time. He is always swinging hard and sometimes looks out of control. But the potential is there with a lot of good coaching. Defensively, Matthews is a very good athlete with good range in the field at first base.

4. Cody Hawn, Hyannis/Tennessee. Bats L Throws R. 5'11" 202. Knoxville, Tenn.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .375 BA/4 HR/14 RBIs/1.172 OPS (15 Games)

Hawn was having an MVP-caliber summer before he left prematurely with an injury, and it is unfortunate I didn't get a really good look at him before he departed. This ranking is based mostly on the observations of other people, but I think it's fair. Hawn also had a huge spring at Tennessee where he led the Vols in batting average, home runs, RBIs, hits, doubles and slugging percentage. Hawn is a strong kid who has quick enough hands to turn on inside fastballs. He consistently drives the ball during batting practice, but he also tends to occasionally get himself off-balance. Hawn mostly played DH for Hyannis, but when he did play the field it was at first base, and the one time I saw him out there he held his own and made more than one scoop on throws in the dirt. Hawn is a slow runner. Hawn has been drafted twice already, in the 23rd round out of high school in 2007 and in the 41st round after junior college in 2008. If Hawn can stay healthy, he will go much higher in 2010.

3. Kyle Roller, Bourne/East Carolina. Bats L Throws R. 6'1" 248. Rockingham, N.C.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .342 BA/10 HR/33 RBI/1.093 OPS

Roller won the league MVP award and was undeniably the most feared hitter on the Cape by the end of the season. Roller doesn't really have a position and his potential is limited because he might only be a designated hitter in professional ball, but after seeing how good he looked at the plate this summer it is almost comical he wasn't selected until the 47th round of June's draft after his junior year at ECU. He also had a pretty good year at school when he hit .336 with 16 home runs and 75 RBIs. Roller was one of the few players on the Cape who didn't look phased at all by the wood bat, as he consistently hit the ball with authority and had big raw power. He did a great job using the whole field and practically lived in the left-centerfield gap. He does strike out a good number of times and will occasionally wave at a good breaking ball, but he didn't get fooled as often as many Cape Leaguers did. He could turn on a fastball as well as anyone in the league. The main drawback against Roller is clearly his defense, but it's not as if his glove is completely hopeless. If Roller re-enters the draft next year, he will be taken a lot higher than the 47th round.

2. Mickey Wiswall, Y-D/Boston College. Bats L/Throws R. 6'0" 207. Stoneham, Mass.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .302 BA/5 HR/30 RBI/.788 OPS

Wiswall was just consistently solid the entire summer, and he was a fixture in the middle of the batting order for the league's best offense. He is a well-rounded player who does a lot of things very well, and this is why he is ranked ahead of Roller who is probably a more impressive hitter. Wiswall also had a solid college season, hitting .320 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs for BC. Wiswall is a bit of a free swinger who rarely walks or works the count. He has a quick bat and brings his hands straight to the ball. He always swings hard and generates good bat speed, but he can also sit back on a breaking ball and he also does a good job using the whole field. He is certainly athletic enough to play first base professionally, but he is probably not good enough defensively to play third base, his secondary position. Wiswall should go in the first few rounds next June.

1. Hunter Morris, Falmouth/Auburn. Bats L/Throws R. 6'2" 220. Huntsville, Ala.

2009 Cape League Regular Season Stats: .239 BA/8 HR/19 RBI/.786 OPS

Morris had the best raw power in the Cape League, and he was one of the only players in the league, if not the only player, who took must-see batting practice. He could crush a fastball better than perhaps anyone I saw up at the Cape in 2008 or 2009. Morris played for Team USA in summer 2008 after he was named the SEC Freshman of the Year that spring. Morris was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft out of high school but chose not to sign. It is a very risky decision that might actually pay off in his case if he is able to stay healthy for one more year. Morris hit .282 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs for Auburn this spring. Morris' main Achilles' Heel is his inability to hit a good breaking ball. For as many times as I saw him crush a fastball, I saw him look truly bad flailing at an off-speed pitch. I would never throw Morris a fastball in any kind of big situation. Morris isn't very good in the field but he is at least good enough to play out there regularly. And, again, his power is elite, and with work against secondary pitches he could become a very dangerous professional hitter. Morris will likely be a first-round selection next June barring injury.

Coming Tuesday: Second Basemen

Sunday: Catchers


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