Potential first basemen who could be on the trade market the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider

With the Pirates needing help at first base, they should look into the trade market.
May 5, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir
May 5, 2024; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Prospects

There aren’t very many great first-base prospects. Most first basemen either started out or played other positions as an amateur or in the minor leagues. But there are definitely some names the Pirates could look into as part of a prospect-for-prospect trade or included as a larger part of another trade. One is New York Yankees’ catcher/first baseman Ben Rice.

Rice was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues last season, batting .324/.434/.615 with a .462 wOBA and 183 wRC+ between three levels of the Yankees’ system. He had a 13.3% walk rate and 18.7% strikeout rate. Rice hit for a ton of power, hitting 20 home runs despite only appearing in 73 games with 335 plate appearances. His ISO clocked in at just under .300 at .291.

Rice has opened the 2024 season at Double-A, where he’s continued to mash baseballs to the tune of a .252/.381/.487 triple-slash, .400 wOBA, and 150 wRC+. He’s striking out a little more frequently with a 23.6% K% but has upped his walk rate slightly to 15%. He got off to a cold start but has a wRC+ approaching 200 dating back to April 17. Rice splits his time between catcher and first base. He’ll probably be best suited for the corner infield position, however, because of his below-average arm and mediocre receiving skills. Still, Rice has a lot of potential with his bat. Rice is also someone I thought the Pirates should ask about in the JT Brubaker trade.

Now, heading over to Boston, you have Niko Kavadas. Kavadas had a good but not great encore to his outstanding 2022 season, where he finished the year with a .280/.443/.547 slash and 170 wRC+. The following year he had just a .805 OPS, .368 wOBA, and 118 wRC+ while striking out 35.8% of the time. But Kavadas is off to a scorching hot start to 2024.

He is hitting .319/.467/.702 with a .496 wOBA and 195 wRC+ through his first 122 plate appearances at Triple-A. He walks a ton and has an 18% BB%, and he’s lowered his strikeout rate dramatically but still sits at an unimpressive 27.9% rate. Kavadas is a hefty 6’1”, 235-LBS. His defensive skills at first base are fringe-average, but either way, you’re buying into the bat here. Boston has plenty of first base options ahead of Kavadas on their long-term depth chart, including 2023 Rookie of the Year finalist Triston Casas and high school prodigy Blaze Jordan in their system.

If the Pirates want to aim a little higher than Rice or Kavadas, another American League East team has a corner infield prospect they might be willing to part with in a prospect for prospect trade. That’s Coby Mayo of the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .290/.410/.563 with a .427 wOBA and 156 wRC+ through 614 plate appearances between the O’s Double-A and Triple-A teams. Mayo’s calling card is power, and he hit 29 home runs with a .274 ISO. He drew a decent amount of walks and posted a 15.1% BB%, but like many big power prospects, he also didn’t have a great strikeout rate, clocking in at 24.1%.

Mayo is batting nearly as well as last year with a .293/.361/.616 with a .417 wOBA and 145 wRC+. Mayo is hitting for even more power with a .323 ISO, but it has come at the cost of his plate discipline. His walk rate has dropped to 8.7%, while his K% has risen to 27.3%. Still, these are great numbers overall. While Mayo has the powerful arm needed to play third base, he’s struggled to make the plays at the hot corner. He’s also a below-average runner, giving him mediocre range. He has already played a handful of games at first base, and it could be his home long-term.