2018 Non-Mock Draft: It’ll be the Year of the First Baseman

Justin Smoak is hitting .298, has 26 homers and a .960 on-base-plus-slugging average.

Logan Morrison has 26 homers and a .936 OPS. Eric Thames has 23 homers and a .371 on-base average. Even Yonder Alonso is getting on base at a .373 clip and has 21 homers.

All of those first basemen will become hot commodities in the 2018 I-75 League draft.

In the second round. Or maybe even the third.

The problem is, a plethora of relatively comparable available players at an already stacked position, most of whom are not going to be great fielders, affords drafting teams time to lay in the weeds and focus on other needs, biding their time until the talent pool thins and then snagging a still-big bat.

Which begs the question — so who will go in the first round?

Well sadly, this upcoming draft doesn’t shape up to have much more young talent than the grim 2017 draft, unless a whole lot of studs come up in the next two months. (Thank you Chicago White Sox; Yoan Moncada won’t make this list now but certainly will be a high pick come March.)

Drumroll, please. In reverse order, here are the current top 15 available players for the 2018 draft:

15. Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees, 27, S/R: Has been on the DL since June 25 with an oblique injury, but he already has 200 ABs, during which the switch-hitter hit .290 and posted a .398 on-base number plus a .513 slugging number. Always a good fielder, plenty of speed, Hicks’ biggest problem competing for playing time is a crowded Yankees outfield. Still, he’ll make an awesome fourth outfielder for a team drafting 15th.

14. Trey Mancini, OF, Orioles, 25, R/R: As reported by Orioles fan site Eutaw Street Report, Mancini “would lead AL rookies in wOBA, wRC+ and slugging percentage, and rank third in fWAR” if it weren’t for a guy named Aaron Judge. Mancini is hitting .305 with an .881 OPS, which looks even better when you check out his splits vs. RHPs: .330/.381/.570/.951.

13. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Reds, 27, L/R: The Reds have benched Jose Peraza and are giving Gennett a full-time look at second base, after he has clubbed a career-high 16 homers in just 231 at-bats. Draft him and he’s guaranteed to bash four homers in a game, as he did in one game for the Reds earlier this year. While he’s vulnerable to LHPs, Gennett is raking vs. RHPs: .328/.383/.650/1.033. Mama.

12. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals, 32, R/R: Wait, what? A first baseman? Thought you said… well, this one stands out a bit above the others, with a .320 average, 20 homers, .368 OBP and .950 OPS. That .320 average sets him about 30 points higher than other candidates. Zimmerman’s drawback is his throwing arm — he doesn’t use it, for fear of throwing the ball away. Not sure how Strat can capture that. He’s also streaky — hitting .229 with one homer in July. Prime candidate to fall off this list completely by the end of the season.

11. Greg Holland, RP, Rockies, 31, RHP: The Rockies’ resurgent closer is the best save artist available, sporting an MLB-high 30 to go along with a 0.99 WHIP. An impressive 48 strikeouts in 35 innings. Opponents are hitting just .160 off him.

10. Chad Green, RP, Yankees, 26, RHP: Righty reliever often twirls two innings at a time, making him a super-valuable setup guy with a dazzling 0.73 WHIP, 1.70 ERA, and 51 strikeouts in 37 innings. Lefties are hitting .098 off him, righties .150., thanks to 16 hits allowed in those 37 innings. Potential for a ‘clean’ card, at least vs. lefties.

9. Zack Godley, SP, Diamondbacks, 27, RHP: Watching this guy handcuff the Nationals as I write this. Like his intensity and his breaking ball. Prior to this game he’s put together a season with a .199 batting average against and a 0.99 WHIP. Has yet to allow a stolen base attempt in 75 innings.

8. Chase Anderson, SP, Brewers, 29, RHP: On the DL since late June with an oblique injury but expected back in the next couple weeks. He’ll resume a season in which he’s pitched 90 innings. giving up hits at a .224 rate and posting a 1.11 WHIP.

7. Jacob Faria, SP, Rays, 23, RHP: Called up in early June, went six innings or more in each of his first seven starts, never allowing more than six hits or three runs until his eighth outing, when he gave up four runs in five innings. Across 50 innings he’s allowed just 39 hits for a .217 average, walking just 15 for a 1.08 WHIP.

6. Bradley Zimmer, OF, Indians, 24, L/R: Cleveland’s hotshot center fielder has seven outfield assists in just 170 at-bats. Has stolen 10 bases in 11 tries; hitting .265/.326/.412/.738. First-round pick by the Indians in 2014. Regarded as a Top 25 prospect.

5. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cubs, 22, S/R: Cubs’ first-round pick of 2015 is manning center field, demonstrating balanced hitting from both sides of the plate while he matures. Hitting .259/.324/.527/.851. Regarded as a Top 25 prospect.

4. Marwin Gonzalez, UT, Astros, 28, S/R: Ben Zobrist called, he wants his “super utility guy” moniker back. Marwin plays the corner outfield spots and all four infield spots, he switch-hits, and boasts a .309 average and .962 OPS in 246 ABs. He excels vs. RHPs, with splits of .328/.406/.599/1.005.

3. Travis Shaw, 3B, Brewers, 27, L/R: Former first baseman has blossomed since switching to the hot corner in Milwaukee, where he has just four errors in 84 games. More interestingly, he has 21 homers and is hitting .295 with a .929 OPS. Favors RHPs to the tune of .310/.380/.596/.976.

2. Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees, 22, R/R: His time in the majors might be limited as he’s due to return to the minors when Aaron Hicks comes off the DL, but he’ll have enough playing time to earn a card. Fifth pick overall by Cleveland in 2013. ¬†Regarded as a Top 15 prospect. Doesn’t walk much so far: .298 BA and .306 OBA. But slugging .638 for .944 OPS.

1. Cody Bellinger, OF/1B, Dodgers, 22, L/L: Thank God for Cody Bellinger or this draft would be a total bust. At least at this writing. Bellinger’s 26 homers ties him for the lead among available players. Raking against righties to the tune of .281/.371/.658/1.029, also can hang against lefties (.839 OPS). Solid defender at both 1B and LF.

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