One of the more under the radar prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates have is corner infielder Alexander Mojica, but could he be the Pirates’ next first baseman?
Currently, Josh Bell is the Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman. The slugger has struggled so far this year, impart because of an inflated groundball rate, and getting unlucky with batted ball results. But regardless, with Bell only having two years of control remaining, it’s more than likely he’ll be traded as the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t project to be competitive until 2023 at the earliest.
But when the Pittsburgh Pirates reach that point, where their prospects are developed, and ready to add some payroll, first base looks like it could be Mason Martin’s job. Martin was a 17th round pick by the Pirates back in the 2017 draft. Martin obliterated the ball in Rookie-Ball during his first year in the pros, crushing 11 home runs with 8 doubles and a 198 wRC+ through 166 plate appearances.
After a sub-par second pro season, Martin made his presence known last year. Martin kicked the year off with a great .262/.361/.575 line across 355 plate appearances at Low-A Greensboro. Martin demolished 23 long balls, coming to a .290 isolated slugging percentage, .393 wOBA and 155 wRC+.
He was pretty good when he was promoted to High-A, batting .239/.333/.528 with a 155 wRC+ and .393 wOBA in 201 plate appearances. Martin again racked up home runs, hitting 13. All told, he had slugged 35 long balls, collected 32 doubles and hit .254/.351/.559 across 556 plate appearances.
Martin also projects as an average fielder at first base, a large upgrade over Bell in comparison. At just 21 years old, Martin already averaged an exit velo of 91 MPH. FanGraphs gives his raw power an outstanding 70 grade, and a future game power grade of 60.
But there are a few questions about how his bat will progress. While he did walk at a strong 12.2% rate, he struck out 30.2% of the time. His hit tool comes out to a future of 40, which is below average.
But instead of Martin, could this other corner infield prospect become the Pirates’ next first baseman? Alexander Mojica might only be 18, but he could be a well rounded hitter in the next few years.
Mojica was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, and was outstanding last year in his first pro season. His 218 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League saw him hit .351/.468/.580 line, a 182 wRC+ and .491 wOBA. In terms of power, he slugged 8 home runs, and had a .230 isolated slugging percentage. He’s also already averaging 89 MPH in exit velocity.
One trait many look for in players is their plate discipline, and Mojcia showed really good plate discipline last year. He walked at a rate of 17% and struck out just 15.6% of the time. He has a 55 future hit tool, a 55 future game power tool, and 60 future raw power tool. MLB Pipeline has compared him to Vlad Guerrero Jr. as he could fill out to be a much stronger player.
He primarily played third base last year, but saw some time at first base. He only has a future fielding grade of 40 and an average arm, so long term he isn’t going to stick at first base.
However, I do think that Mojica is a better pure hitter than Martin. Mojica didn’t post an absurdly high strikeout rate, and made consistent contact. Martin has, so far, posted a very high strikeout rate at every level he has played at. Though Martin is much more powerful, Mojica isn’t lacking. He averaged about 22 home runs in 600 plate appearances in 2019, and has above average grades for his game and raw power.
Hopefully, both prospects become successful at the Major League level for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Mojcia, to me, has a higher chance of success speaking that he isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of hitter. He hits for contact first, and power second, but that doesn’t mean he lacks power. By then, the universal designated hitter should be in both leagues, so that should make room for both Mojica and Martin.