Just like several positions across the diamond, the Red Sox have traditionally been very strong at first base. They’ve had Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, and Kevin Millar occupy that position over the years and haven’t really had a weakness until they traded Gonzalez to the Dodgers this August. For the rest of the season, they played new acquisition James Loney there and he didn’t exactly impress, batting .230/.264/.310 and expressing a position that could be a weakness for years to come. With a weak free agent market, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox will have to stay within their own organization, where they have a few guys who could potentially make a major league impact.
1. Travis Shaw- After being drafted in the ninth round of the 2011 draft, Shaw really exploded onto the scene in 2012. He started at High-A Salem, where he flat out raked, batting .305/.411/.545 with 16 home runs through 99 games. Shaw was promoted to Portland after that fast start and held his own in Double-A, batting .227/.353/.427 in 31 games. According to SoxProspects, Shaw displays very strong plate discipline and has the gap-to-gap power to be a starting first baseman one day. If he can improve his hands at first then Shaw, a former third baseman, should be fast tracked to the majors by 2014.
2. Mauro Gomez- There’s no doubt that Gomez would rank higher on this list if it weren’t for the fact that he’s 28, practically a post-prospect. Regardless, Gomez had a great season at Pawtucket, winning the International League MVP after batting .310/.371/.589 with 24 home runs. He was promoted to the majors, where he hit quite a bit better than James Loney with a .275/.324/.422 over the last few months of the season. While he may not be the longterm solution at first base, I would take Gomez over several of the first basemen on this free agent market.
3. Michael Almanzar- Acquired as a 16 year old from the Dominican Republic, 2012 was the first time Almanzar did anything of note in the Red Sox organization. He played the entire season at High-A Salem, batting .300/.353/.458 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases. The free-swinging 21 year old even stretched together a remarkable streak of reaching base 19 consecutive times. He’ll probably start the 2013 season at Double-A Portland with a chance to reach the majors by 2014.
Even though these players aren’t ranked too highly by SoxProspects’ ratings (#28, #27, and #51 respectively), I have faith that they can develop into solid major leaguers. Shaw and Almanzar are very young and raw enough that they could develop into excellent players. If the Red Sox can’t make a good trade, I’m all for Gomez starting the 2013 season as the starting first baseman, why not try? However, it’s Shaw that I think will be the first baseman of the next Red Sox dynasty.