Four college first basemen the Pittsburgh Pirates should keep on their draft radar

With the Pittsburgh Pirates needing first base help, they should keep these draft prospects on their radar this year.
Tennessee infielder Blake Burke (25) throws the ball during a game between Tennessee and Albany, at
Tennessee infielder Blake Burke (25) throws the ball during a game between Tennessee and Albany, at / Angelina Alcantar/News Sentinel / USA
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The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't had a good first baseman in ages. The last 1B to post at least +3.0 fWAR was Kevin Young. Their last first baseman to have two consecutive seasons of at least +2.0 fWAR was Jason Thompson. First base is still a massive issue for the Bucs, and the system doesn't have any prominent up and coming names who could help resolve some of the issues.

First base is typically not an easy position to fill via the draft. That's because most first basemen formerly played other positions, either during their amateur career in school or internationally, or early into their pro career. While most first basemen played other positions in college, high school, or as an amateur elsewhere, and while this year's first base draft class is shallow, there are still some 1 B's the Pirates should keep on their radar during this year's draft class.

Cole Mathis

Starting off, we have College of Charleston first baseman Cole Mathis. Mathis has experience as a two-way player, having tossed 100 frames and playing the field. Mathis is in the midst of an outstanding college season and could go within the first two or three rounds of the draft.

Mathis is currently slashing .300/.429/.620 through 187 plate appearances. The right-handed hitter is on pace for a second season in a row with more walks than strikeouts and holds a 16% BB% and 12.8% strikeout rate at the time of writing this. Power is also a part of Mathis' game, and he has already hit 11 home runs, surpassing his 2023 total in 59 fewer trips to the plate with an ISO clocking in at .320.

One promising aspect of Mathis' resume is his numbers in the Cape Cod League. In 147 plate appearances, Mathis hit .318/.381/.667. Despite using a wood bat, Mathis had 11 home runs and had a .348 isolated slugging percentage. The change to the wood bat also didn't affect Mathis' swing and miss, only striking out 17% of the time. But his walk rate did drop from 16.7% to 8.2%.

Mathis has an almost golf-like swing. But he's able to turn on things and hit the ball with some serious authority with little effort. Mathis is 6'1" and 210 pounds, so he has a strong built frame. He has a very strong arm for a first baseman, given that he also has 100 innings logged as a pitcher. He typically works in the low 90s on the mound and projects as a back-of-the-rotation arm if a team were to make him a two-way player. However, that strong arm has let him play a few games at third base. He's a fringy runner, so a team could try him out in left field, too.

Mathis has done nothing but hit throughout college. He's been able to handle velo and in a wood-bat league. He has the potential to have both an above-average hit tool and above-average power. First base is likely his long-term position, but he could potentially occasionally play some third base and left field as well.