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State of the System 2020: First Base

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It’s a good thing Pete Alonso should be a fixture at first for years, because well...

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Pete Alonso
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Coming off of a 2018 season that saw him hit .285/.395/.579 with 36 home runs and get named the Metstop prospect, Pete Alonso made the Mets’ opening day roster, beating out his competitors for the right to be called the teams’ starting first baseman. Even those of us who have followed Alonso since he was drafted could not have foreseen the season he would have, hitting .260/.358/.583, being named National League Rookie of the Year, and setting the major league record for most home runs hit by a rookie, 53. While his 2019 season may in theory be a high-water mark he will never reach again, his ability to actualize his raw power into in-game power should make him a fixture at first base for years. It is extremely fortuitous that Alonso has worked out, because outside of him, the Mets’ minor league system is extremely bereft of first base depth.

Travis Taijeron, who manned first base for the Syracuse Mets, is no longer with the organization, having been re-signed as a free agent and then let go due to the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season. Chase Chambers and Brian Sharp, both of whom split time at first base for the Columbia Fireflies, and Christopher Pujols, who played first base for the Kingsport Mets, were all released as well. While none were prospects, their releases have left the organization without players with actual first base experience.

Historically a catcher, 8th round 2015 draft pick Patrick Mazeika was slowly being transition to first base over the course of the 2019 season owing to his poor defense behind home plate. Possessing an advanced hit tool, he rocketed through the lower minors before hitting a wall in Double-A, where he has a cumulative .241/.321/.405 batting line in 209 games. While his defensive inadequacies as a catcher will be hidden as a first baseman, more pressure will be put on his bat. Mazeika has added plane to his swing, progressively increasing his power output, but the viability of his bat at first base is still questionable.

Also a player who transitioned to first base from another position, David Thompson has failed to live up to expectations after being drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 MLB Draft on the heels of a season at Miami where he hit .329/.436/.647 with 19 home runs. Thompson hit a solid .280/.333/.444 in 116 games with the Columbia Fireflies and St. Lucie Mets in 2016 and .263/.325/.429 in 133 games with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in 2017, but has seen his career go into a tailspin after breaking his left hand in early May 2018 and then having season-ending surgery on his elbow not long after. Assigned to Syracuse to start the 2019 season, he hit an anemic .189/.257/.339 in 41 there and wasn’t much better when he was sent back to Binghamton, hitting .230/.304/.353. Without any real carrying tool to speak of- his ability to hit for average is in doubt and his ability to hit for power has always been below-average- Thompson’s future is in doubt.

Similar to Thompson, Jeremy Vasquez is another first baseman who possesses below-average power. Drafted in the 28th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Vasquez spent his first two years at the University of Florida, but transferred to Nova Southeastern University in his junior years so that he could get additional playing time, as the incumbent first baseman- some kid named Pete Alonso- was a pretty good player. Vasquez hit a career best .317/.453/.614 at the Div II school, slugging 15 home runs. Since becoming a professional, Vasquez has generally posted strong batting averages and on-base percentages, but has struggled to hit for power, maintaining a cumulative .274/.364/.401 batting line. Vasquez has worked to adjust his swing and mechanics to generate more power, but the changes he’s made don’t seem to really have had much of an impact, as he hit in .277/.359/.378 in 125 games with the St. Lucie Mets and .231/.333/.256 in his late season 12-game promotion to Binghamton at the end of the year.

Perhaps the most notable power threat in the system at first base is 2019 draftee Joe Genord. Selected in the 9th round after hitting .291/.382/.528 in four years with the University of South Florida, Genord was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones and hit .204/.273/.389 in 64 games. His nine home runs led the team and put him in a tie with Travis Taijeron, Rylan Sandoval, Jeff Flagg, and Raul Reyes for fifth most in a single season in franchise history. Power is indeed Genord’s carrying tool, possessing the middle-of-the-order raw power capable of carrying for a team while on a hot streak. His ability to hit for average is lacking, though, thanks to a long, uppercutty swing, locking away a great deal of his raw power. Whether or not his subpar hit tool destines Genord to flounder remains to be seen, but he certainly profiles best at first base than perhaps any other player in the system currently.