The 2021 MLB Draft is coming up fast. Let’s take some closer looks at potential Brewers draft picks as they stock up the farm system.
First base is an organizational need, and a position the Brewers should look to address. However, it’s not a position they will address in the first round, considering there are no first basemen considered to be worth a first round pick.
However, it is a position that they could address starting as early as the second round. The 2-5 round range should have a number of the solid first base options to choose from.
Here are three first base prospects the Brewers could look to select in the 2021 MLB Draft.
1. J.T. Schwartz, 1B, UCLA
This kid can hit. J.T. Schwartz won the 2019 Northwoods League Batting Title with a .378 batting average for the La Crosse Loggers. Then he hit .328 in the shortened 2020 season with UCLA.
In 2021, Schwartz took the Pac-12 Batting Title with a .396 average on the year, including postseason. Overall, he finished the year with a .396/.514/.628 slash line. Yes, he got on base over 50% of the time. Yes, that’s good.
Schwartz is a smart hitter, with an advanced approach at the plate. He puts a barrel on just about everything. Standing at 6’4″ and 215 pounds, Schwartz has plenty of raw power to build and tap into. He’s just begun to tap into that power in games, with eight home runs on the season.
The power is really the lone knock on Schwartz’s game as he’s pretty much going to be limited to first base as a pro, which is a traditionally power-focused position. The team that drafts him will have to develop it, but Schwartz has an excellent work ethic and attitude which gives me the belief that he’ll be able to do it.
His approach at the plate has more been focused on hitting the ball to all fields, something he does quite well, rather than hitting it over the fence.
Schwartz drew 37 walks this season for UCLA and struck out just 28 times.
With Schwartz’s hitting ability, leadership ability and other intangibles, he would make an excellent addition to the Brewers farm system. He was on the Crew’s Area Code Games roster in high school, so the Brewers are already familiar with him. If they believe they can develop his in-game power, he could be the first baseman of the future.
Schwartz will likely come off the board somewhere in the 2-5 round range.
2. Niko Kavadas, 1B, Notre Dame
Kavadas is a kind of the polar opposite of J.T. Schwartz. Kavadas’ in-game power is completely developed and quite impressive. The 6’1″ and 235 pound slugger looks every bit a big league first baseman already.
The 22 year old Notre Dame senior hit a solid .305/.479/.766 with 21 home runs in 46 games this year. Not too shabby.
Kavadas also drew 50 walks but struck out 53 times in just 154 ABs.
As there is with most first base prospects, the concern with Kavadas is if he’ll hit enough to make good use of his tremendous raw power. He strikes out a bunch and hasn’t hit for a super high average throughout college. He profiles more as a three true outcome type hitter at the next level, and teams are going away from those types of hitters, even though the game overall has leaned more towards those three results.
If you want thunder in the bat, Kavadas probably has more of it than anyone else in this draft class. Kavadas is likely to come off the board in the 3rd-5th round range.
3. Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Washington State
The highest ranked first baseman per MLB Pipeline this year is Kyle Manzardo. Manzardo had an excellent Junior year, hitting .365/.437/.640 with 19 doubles, 11 home runs, and just 29 strikeouts in 197 ABs.
In the shortened 2020 season, Manzardo hit .435 with 10 extra base hits.
Manzardo is kind of a combination of the other two first baseman profiled in this article, Schwartz and Kavadas. Manzardo has the present ability to hit for both a high average and tap into in-game power. He stands at 6’1″ and 205 pounds.
Manzardo is one of the better all around college bats in a relatively weak class this year. He would go much higher in the draft if he weren’t limited to first base only defensively. The fact that Manzardo is a lefty hitter adds to his value, however.
Defensively, he has worked to become a serviceable option at first base, which ensures he won’t be forced to be a DH at the next level, and that has also helped his value.
He could go somewhere in the 2-4 round range this year, again as first basemen generally aren’t first round value type of selections.
These are some of the top first base prospects on the board in this year’s draft, which is a position that teams like the Brewers don’t value highly when it comes to the draft, but it’s something that they badly need depth at in the organization.