The 2012 First-Year Player Draft provided two newcomers with hopes of adding some excitement to this group.
1. Jonathan Singleton, Astros: Originally drafted in the eighth round in 2009 by the Phillies,who signed him away from attending Long Beach State. Potentially blocked by Ryan Howard, the Phillies tried Singleton in the outfield, but when they dealt him to Houston in the '11 Hunter Pence deal, Singleton moved back to first, a better spot for him defensively. He has the ability to hit for average and get on-base, and the power has started to come. Singleton will begin the season serving a 50-game suspension for a marijuana suspension, but he will be allowed to play in spring games and is expected to have a good shot at the Majors if he continues to produce.
2. Matt Adams, Cardinals: Wherever he has gone, Adams has raked, hitting .300 or better at every Minor League stop since the Cardinals made him a 23rd-round pick in 2009 out of Slippery Rock University. The 2011 Texas League Player of the Year, Adams made his big league debut this past season and hit well in Triple-A, though an elbow injury interrupted his season. He's fine at first base, but it's Adams' bat that will land him a big-league job.
3. Hunter Morris, Brewers: Drafted out of Auburn in the fourth round in 2010, Morris has not disappointed in terms of living up to his offensive profile. The left-handed hitter has tapped into his raw power in each of his two full pro seasons, hitting 48 home runs in that span and winning the Southern League MVP Award last season. He's an acceptable defender at first base, but it's really his bat that will get him to the big leagues.
4. C.J. Cron, Angels: One of the better advanced college hitters in the 2011 Draft class, this University of Utah product did not disappoint in his first full season. The first-round pick led the Minors in RBIs last season, as his pitch recognition and pure hitting skills played well in the hitting-friendly California League. The son of Minor League manager Chris Cron, C.J. has had some injury issues in the past –- a torn labrum and a bad knee –- but while they will limit him to life as a first baseman, they haven't kept him from swinging a hot bat.
5. Darin Ruf, Phillies: When you're taken in the 20th round of the Draft as a college senior -- as Ruf was in 2009 out of Creighton -- the expectations aren't going to be all that high. It's safe to say Ruf already exceeded them by reaching the big leagues last season after leading the Minors in home runs. While he's played more first than anywhere, Ruf has seen time in left field as well, his flexibility adding to his value at the big-league level.
6. Matthew Olson, A's: The Georgia high school product came from the top-ranked prep program in the nation and was taken 47th overall last year. A two-way standout in high school, he would have continued hitting and pitching if he hadn't been signed away from Vanderbilt. The left-handed hitter is a good pure hitter who was already showing more power as a professional than expected at the start of his career. A third baseman as an amateur, he should be just fine at the other corner for the long-term as a run-producing first baseman.
7. Alex Dickerson, Pirates: An excellent college performer at Indiana, the Pirates took Dickerson's bat in the third round in 2011 and sent him right to the advanced Class A Florida State League for his full-season debut last year. His advanced hitting skills played just fine there, and he should hit for average and power going forward. The lefty didn't appear to have a defensive home coming out of college, but he's settled in nicely at first base, where he should profile well as a run-producer in the future.
8. Dan Vogelbach, Cubs: When Vogelbach was an amateur, he created a good amount of buzz with his left-handed power bat. Vogelbach has not disappointed as a pro after the Cubs took him in the second round in 2011. He has as much raw pop as anyone in the Minors at this position and can hit the ball out to all fields. Vogelbach has an advanced approach that has allowed him to get on base and hit for average. He was very out of shape in high school, but has worked hard to slim down since signing, something he will have to continue to do as his bat propels him up the organizational ladder.
A look at the Top 10 first-base prospects entering the past two seasons.
||Anthony Rizzo, CHC
||Eric Hosmer, KC
||Yonder Alonso, SD
||Freddie Freeman, ATL
||Jonathan Singleton, HOU
||Brandon Belt, SF
||C.J. Cron, LAA
||Jonathan Singleton, PHI
||Chris Parmelee, MIN
||Yonder Alonso, CIN
||Matt Adams, STL
||Christian Yelich, FLA
||Neftali Soto, CIN
||Anthony Rizzo, SD
||Chris Marrero, WAS
||Chris Carter, OAK
||Alex Dickerson, PIT
||Lars Anderson, BOS
||Dan Vogelbach, CHC
||Chris Owings, ARI
9. Keon Barnum, White Sox: There's nothing better than making a strong first impression. That's exactly what Barnum, a supplemental first-round pick of the White Sox in 2012 from the Tampa high school ranks, did after signing quickly. The big, strong left-handed hitter homered in three of his first four games before going down with a shoulder injury. Barnum did make it back in August for a brief spell. When he's healthy, the first baseman has tremendous bat speed which allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark. He should be able to hit it out of any ballpark in any direction as he refines his approach, though there will always be some swing-and-miss to his game. Barnum has the chance to develop into the kind of power-hitting run producer that profiles very well at first base.
10. Chris Marrero, Nationals: Marrero worked hard, moving up the Nats' ladder slowly after being a first-round pick out of high school back in 2006. He made it to the big leagues in '11 and looked just about ready to get a full-time shot in Washington last season. A torn hamstring cost him that opportunity, though he eventually did make it back to Triple-A. He's always had decent bat speed with some raw power and there's still time for him to show it more consistently in games.