I think sometimes we take for granted that first base is really hard. Often times you’ll just hear someone say “you could move him to 1B” as if it’s just a simple switch (Ron Washington will disagree with you). Moving a guy to 1B is a last ditch effort really and it puts enormous pressure on their bat. Since 2010 there has only been one player who put up a >1 fWAR season at 1B with a wRC+ lower than 100 (league average). That was Travis Shaw and he only did that because he also played third too.
First basemen have to hit. I’m sure you know this. There is no such thing as a glove-first first baseman (sorry Mitch Moreland). So you can’t just hide guys who can’t field/run well at 1B. First basemen have to hit. The end.
Ryan O’Hearn - 22 years old .258/.339/.437 123 wRC+
It doesn’t seem like that long ago I asked if O’Hearn was the Royals 1B of the future but that was May of 2015. All O’Hearn did before that was hit. All he’s continued to do since then has hit. His strikeouts continued to rise after the promotion to AA but he’s able to offset that with power and walks (finished top 10 in BB% among Texas League players). The defense at first got a bit better from my previous viewings (though admittedly I didn’t see him much in A+).
I’m still a big fan of his but also recognizing that the strikeouts are concerning, he doesn’t have stellar bat speed, and the defense may drop off in a few years. The power is real and accessible.
Frank Schwindel - 24 years old .270/.301/.446 112 wRC+
Schwindel out-homered O’Hearn in Northwest Arkansas this year (his second season with 20+ home runs) but he’s a few years older. Schwindel used to be a catcher (that seems to have passed) but has moved to 1B decently. He’s allergic to walks and I think the power is just a product of good strength and higher leverage swing rather than hitting skills. Hes not really a prospect but worth mentioning at least because of his production.
Samir Duenez - 20 years old .300/.363/.479 136 wRC+
Deep down inside I wish I graduated from the Keith Law School of Prospect Lists where you just start from scratch each year. Most the time though I’ll take prior lists and move players relative to their performance among their org mates. Duenez has bounced around a lot for me. I think I took a “risk” when I put Duenez in my top 20 way back in 2014 before he even played post-instructional league ball. I’m not sure if anyone else had him in the KC top 20 (maybe Baseball America?) but I liked his profile and a 17-year old who did just fine in his debut worked for me as more than just an org guy.
Duenez was supposed to be polished but after a good pro debut he posted really poor results over the next few years. I bounced him around my lists, all the way behind someone like Dominique Taylor (who the Royals released). This year though Duenez rocketed from A Ball to AA briefly, ending up with a 112 wRC+ for the season.
Maybe I’ll go deeper in Duenez when I rank 75-100 guys in the org, but I’m not in just yet on him like I used to be. It’s hard to shake a few years of struggle but the polish has come back on him a bit. I wonder if the power will come (the Texas League is generally a hitters park and Duenez only managed a .093 ISO - less than 2B/SS Jack Lopez) but maybe the bat looks a bit better than it did.
Brandon Dulin - 23 years old .254/.312/.391 102 wRC+
Finally, Dulin (a Kansas City native who went to Longview Community College - part of the MCC system alongside the school that spawned myself and Albert Pujols) got out of Rookie Ball and made it to a full season. He’s not really a prospect nor young for his league obviously but he’s worth mentioning as a local guy.
I actually like Dulin’s swing and he’s similar to Eric Hosmer...just with way more muted tools.
Joe Dudek - 21 years old .346/.469/.625 173 wRC+
I didn’t watch much Idaho Falls action this year so I didn’t get to see much of Dudek or his teammates but you can see how well he did even without watching him. Dudek transferred to a decent college program in Kentucky his sophomore year but wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot at 1B (he was moved to the outfield). He also was forced to sit out a season due to transfer rules. Surprisingly he decided to go pro but went undrafted. He ended up signing a non-drafted free agent deal with the Royals. He’s unlikely to be anything but is worth mentioning in this deep of a dive.
Chris DeVito - 21 years old .261/.346/.445 118 wRC+
Just looking at DeVito’s pro ball debut wouldn’t tell you much about him. He didn’t strike out much and didn’t hit for a gaudy amount of power (though he had a .183 ISO). DeVito (nicknamed Red Hercules) was an 8th round pick from New Mexico where he basically hit every ball he saw out of the park (aided by a hitting friendly climate). I mentioned his pro debut because it’s a bit opposite of his profile. RH has plus raw power that he can access when mistakes are made, but his swing is long and the bat speed is really questionable. Strikeouts weren’t an issue for the Californian, but they likely will be as he moves up the ladder. The hitting performance was expected to be good as a DI hitter in the Rookie League. Also defensively at 1B he’s not very good.
DeVito will need to hit maybe more so than any other 1B in the system given that he’s likely to strikeout often and no contribute at all defensively.
Just off the top of my head it doesn’t seem like there are many very good first base prospects among any teams in the minors. For the Royals that still rings true, at least when it comes to depth. Right now it’s Ryan O’Hearn, a size-able gulf, Samir Duenez, the grand canyon, and everybody else.