Atlanta Braves Position Profile: First Base

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Aug 25, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Detailed view of Atlanta Braves hat and glove in the dugout before a game against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Down on the Farm

Don’t look now, but there are no players in the top 30 prospects that play first base. Braxton Davidson played first before being drafted, but the Atlanta Braves hope they can keep him in the outfield to boost his value. It is not unusual for a baseball organization with a long-term plan at a position that is not particularly taxing and is easy to replace, to neglect to fill the farm with other candidates. There are a couple of guys to look at though.

Jake Schrader, out of the University of Tampa possesses decent pop, clubbing 15 homers in A+ ball at Carolina in 2015. He only hit at a .268/.313/.477/.790 rate, but power will take you places in today’s game so devoid of it. Schrader is older, at 24, to still be in A+ ball, but he did make the jump straight to AAA Gwinnett for 4 games in 2015. He has limited upside with not positional versatility, but his pop could make him worth keeping an eye on, at the very least as a major league pinch hitter.

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Now, let’s talk about Juan Yepez. This is a guy who could very well find his name on the Braves top 30 prospects – or higher – going into next season. Signed at age 16 out of Venezuela in July of 2014, Yepez received a $1 million+ signing bonus and was the priority international target of the 2014 Braves front office. He came in as a third baseman and outfielder, but has since seen the overwhelming majority of work at first base. The kid is 17, and has only played 59 total games in the Braves system, but he has impressed in that limited time. His rookie ball slash line is .299/.364/.458/.822 along with 4 homers and 16 doubles in 201 ABs. The Braves primarily signed him for his power, which doesn’t generally show up until further along in the system when pitchers throw harder and more accurately, but according to reports, Yepez has it in spades.

Already 6 foot and 195 lbs. at 17, Yepez has plenty of room to get stronger. It will be interesting to see his development as a fielder and to see where he lands on the diamond, but he stands as a first baseman, and could prove as a game changer down the road with incredibly high upside. Early estimates have his projected arrival time as 2019 at age 21, which will be within the last few years of Freddie Freeman’s contract. Remember his name.

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