Nelson Maldonado – Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Smokies
As the Cubs head into the 2022 season, they actually have some first baseman in the system who could help out if needed. While Frank Schwindel will probably be the every day guy in Chicago, he’s going to need a backup in case of injury or a day off. The Cubs have a few players who could step up in a pinch. Patrick Wisdom is one while Ian Happ and Wilson Contreras could do the same.
But if the Cubs need somebody for more than one game, they are going to have to turn to their minor leagues. Let’s rank the top Cub prospects at first base.
This was actually a lot closer than I thought it was gonna be. There are three clear-cut candidates that’ll all be in Triple-A or Chicago to start next season.
1A. Alfonso Rivas
I have liked him since the Cubs acquired him in the Toni Kemp trade almost 2 seasons ago. He finally got to play this year and I could not be happier with the results. He hit .284 in Iowa with a .405 OBP. As his time there went on, his batting average improved greatly from month to month and he finally got a call up to Chicago at the end of the season. In 24 games with Chicago, he more than held his own hitting .318 with a .388 OBP. He also plays a little outfield and that helps his versatility. He’s also on the bubble for making the 26-man roster coming out of spring training. What really helps Rivas going forward is he’s also an outstanding defender at first base.
1B. Nelson Maldonado
I first fell in love with Maldonado‘s hitting back at Eugene as he just seemed to drive the ball with authority. Everything he hits, he hits hard. He just tore it up at Tennessee last summer and I was hoping he would get a call up to Iowa, but an unforeseen injury ended his season at the end of August. Still, I expect him to be playing every day or at least hitting every day in Iowa next spring. If the new CBA has a DH, Maldonado would be number one on that list. That’s how much I enjoy his hitting.
3. Jared Young
The former second baseman dominated at Tennessee last summer along with Maldonado. Young played a mixture of outfield and first base and his sweet swing from 2018 returned as he was one of the top run producers for the Smokies in his two month stay. He held his own in Iowa, but he still needs a lot more seasoning if he is to help the big league club. 126 ABs at Triple-A is not going to cut it for him.
This is pretty much where my list ends. It’s basically three guys at Triple-A and that’s it. The Cubs have several other first baseman but some of them have some developmental issues that they need to either improve on or get past to be considered for a future first baseman.
The guy closest to making this list was Bryce Ball whose number one thing he needs to improve on is hitting a curveball with two strikes. Ball has a great approach (17% walk rate) and some serious power. I saw it several times In Appleton, Beloit, and the Quad Cities. If he can start hitting curveballs around, his batting average could shoot from .220 up to .270 in no time at all and that will push his OBP well over .400 along with the possibility for more dingers. Who doesn’t like dingers?
The biggest thing that could affect the position rankings this year would be who moves to 1B from another position. It looked like BJ Murray, the Cubs 15th round pick last year, got some work there in Mesa. Owen Caissie and Felix Stevens are two options to move there along with Miguel Fabrizio and Ronnier Quintero. A year from now, the rankings could and should look completely different.