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Top 1st base prospects

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Top 10 first basemen

(Note: Players with less than 200 major league at-bats were considered)


1. Travis Hafner, Indians

Before he was traded to Cleveland this winter by the Texas Rangers, the 25-year-old Hafner saw success at each level in which he played. Last year with Triple-A Oklahoma he hit .342 and led all minor leaguers with a .463 on-base percentage. In the last four years, the left-handed Hafner has hit a combined .347 against fellow southpaws. Hafner, who also has 20-plus home runs each of the last four seasons, showed plate discipline last season, walking more times (79) than he struck out (76).


2. Hee Seop Choi, Cubs

After injuring his wrist in 2001, Choi rebounded last year by hitting .287 with 26 homers for Triple-A Iowa before earning a September callup, becoming the first positional player from Korea in the majors. His success continued in the Arizona Fall League where he batted .345 and belted eight homers in 25 games. The 6-5 left-handed hitter set career-highs last season in games (135), home runs and RBI (97) and led the Pacific Coast League with 95 walks.


3. Jason Stokes, Marlins

Stokes' transition from short to full-season Class A last year exceeded expectations as he hit .341 and led all minor leaguers with an astounding .645 slugging percentage. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter, a second-round pick in the 2000 draft, hit a league-high 27 home runs and had 75 RBI in 97 games in the pitcher-friendly low Class A Midwest League. Stokes, a member of SportsTicker's 2002 All-Teen Team, finished his season with a .421 on-base percentage, good for second best in the league. He should be ready for spring training after having minor offseason surgery to remove a cyst on his left wrist.


4. Justin Morneau, Twins

In his first full season of Double-A ball, Morneau hit .298 in the Eastern League and set career highs in home runs (16) and RBI (80). Hampered by injuries at the start of the season, Morneau, a third-round pick in the 1999 draft, came on strong in the second half and finished the year with 31 doubles and a .474 slugging percentage. Originally a catcher, the 6-4 left-handed hitter's move to first gives his teammates a large target at the corner. His defense is average, but his pure hitting will compensate. Morneau, 21, makes solid contact with a strong stroke with potential to hit 30-plus homers a year.


5. Casey Kotchman, Angels

Kotchman is a rare breed because not only does he see the ball well for a 19-year-old, but his defense is above average. Kotchman, the 13th overall pick in the 2001 draft, has a solid glove and good footwork at the corner, scooping balls out of the dirt and saving errors. The transition from aluminum to wood in his rookie season proved tough, but he rebounded nicely last year in the low Class A Midwest League by hitting .281, with 45 percent of his hits going for extra bases. His power is not overwhelming with only five homers last season, but the 6-2 left-handed hitter is a complete player for his age. Kotchman had a .411 on-base percentage and drew more walks than he struck out, a sign that he does not get himself out.


6. Adrian Gonzalez, Marlins

After excelling in low Class A ball in 2001, the 19-year-old left-handed hitting Gonzalez skipped a level and became the youngest player in the Eastern League last year. Gonzalez, the first overall pick of the 2000 draft, batted .312 with 55 extra-base hits and 103 RBI in 2001, earning him SportsTicker's Teenager-of-the-Year award. Last season his average dropped to .266, but Gonzalez still produced 34 doubles, drove in 96 runs and hit .303 with runners in scoring position. Gonzalez belted 17 homers last year, but only three of those were on the road -- away from home run friendly Hadlock Field. Unable to play in the Arizona Fall League due to tendinitis in his right wrist, he will likely start in Double-A again next year.


7. Brad Nelson, Brewers

Splitting time between low Class A and high Class A last year, the left-handed Nelson led the minors with 116 RBI and 49 doubles. The 19-year-old is a power hitter, as he slugged .507 and hit 20 homers for the season. Listed at 6-2, 220 pounds, Nelson, a fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft, batted .289 and hit .321 with runners in scoring position last year. A converted third baseman, Nelson is still adjusting to the move and is an average defender. With less stuff thrown to him in the strike zone, Nelson's willingness to draw walks will be tested at a higher level.


8. Lyle Overbay, Diamondbacks

Overbay is a strong contact hitter who sprays the ball to all fields. Overbay has hit over .300 each of his four minor league seasons, combining for a .345 average. Last year, he drove in over 100 runs for the second straight season and hit .343 at Triple-A Tucson. The 25-year-old led the loop with 40 doubles and hit a career-high 19 homers, but his on-base percentage slipped a bit to .396.


9. Ken Harvey, Royals

Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Harvey dominated the Arizona Fall League this year. A fifth-round pick in 1999, Harvey broke league records in batting (.479), slugging (.752) and on-base percentage (.537) in 35 games. The 24-year-old, who took home league MVP honors, switched his stance at the start of the 2002 season and batted a career-low .277 in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. But the righthanded-hitting Nebraska product showed some power with Omaha last season, doubling his home run total from 2001 to 20 homers and hitting a career-high 30 doubles.


10. John Gall, Cardinals

Gall has a tremendous ability to make contact, witnessed by a .316 average in his first Double-A season. The 24-year-old Gall, who set multiple Pac-10 batting records while at Stanford, was an 11th-round pick in the 2000 draft. Unlike many prospects, Gall has adjusted quickly at each level. The right-handed batter tied for third in the minors with 68 extra-base hits last year with New Haven and set career highs in homers (20) and RBI (81) in 135 games. Gall, who has played both at third and in the outfield, is not known for his defense. He needs to draw more walks to help his on-base percentage, which was a lowly .265 in the Arizona Fall League.


Others to watch: Tagg Bozied (Padres), Chin-Feng Chen (Dodgers), Chris Duncan (Cardinals), David Kelton (Cubs), James Loney (Dodgers), Eric Munson (Tigers), Corey Myers (Diamondbacks), Michael Snyder (Blue Jays), Scott Thorman (Braves).



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