2019: Top 5 First Base Prospects

Welcome to top prospect month at Pinstriped Prospects.  Throughout this month we will be bringing you the top five prospects at each position, leading up to the release of our top 100 Yankees prospects list.

First base is an interesting position in the Yankees organization.  Currently, at the major league level, the Bronx Bombers have Luke Voit and Greg Bird manning the position.  Which means who ever doesn’t win the job will likely be the starter in Triple-A.

On the other hand, the Yankees have a few players at both the major league and minor league level that could see themselves moving to the position in the near future.

The Yankees have a tremendous amount of depth at first base in the minor leagues, with many prospects trying their hand there and others been playing there their whole careers.

New York Yankees Dermis Garcia (47) during a Florida Instructional League game against the Philadelphia Phillies on October 11, 2018 at Yankee Complex in Tampa, Florida. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP)

Dermis Garcia

Dermis Garcia, 21, is one of several prospects throughout the organization that only recently moved to first base.  When signed as part of the 2014 international free agent class he was a shortstop; he moved over to third base when he began his pro career in 2015 and then began playing first in 2017.  In 2018 he became primarily a first baseman but still plays third base as well.

In his first season, Garcia hit just .159/.256/.188 in 28 games in the Gulf Coast League.  He spent the 2016 season the Appalachian League where he hit .206/.326/.454.  He returned to Pulaski to open the 2017 season performed a lot better, hitting .270/.397/.565 in 33 games before being promoted to Class-A.  With the RiverDogs he hit .227/.312/.518 in 30 games.

After starting the 2018 season late due to a lower-body injury, Garcia returned to the Charleston RiverDogs.  He hit .241/.320/.444 in 88 games with 15 home runs, 50 RBIs and 36 walks.

Garcia is a power guy, possessing plus power that is somewhere between 70-80 on the scouting scale.  He has plus arm strength but did not have the range to stick at third base which prompted the move to first.  Like most power hitters, he tends to strike out a lot but is working on refining his approach at the plate and cutting down on strikeouts.

Glendale Desert Dogs first baseman Steven Sensley (21), of the New York Yankees organization, during an Arizona Fall League game against the Mesa Solar Sox at Camelback Ranch on October 15, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. Mesa defeated Glendale 8-0. (Zachary Lucy/Four Seam Images via AP)

Steven Sensley

When the Yankees drafted Steven Sensley in the 12th round of the 2017 draft, it was as a right fielder.  But with a ton of outfielders in the lower minors, he began the transition to first base during the 2018 season.

Sensley played at three different levels in 2017, most of his time came in Rookie-Advanced Pulaski, but he had two games in the Gulf Coast League and 21 games in Class-A with the RiverDogs.  Between all three he played in 50 games and hit .292/.370/.584 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs, and 46 RBIs.

He began the 2018 season back in Charleston where he hit .277/.354/.498 in 67 games.  He was promoted to Tampa in June and struggled, hitting just .203/.292/.371 in 43 games with the Tarpons.

Sensley makes good contact at the plate and a lot of raw power that he has yet to tap into.  He is not that strong of a runner, rating below average combine that with a fringe throwing arm you can see why he moved to first base full-time.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ Mike Ford at home against the Syracuse Chiefs on Thursday, August 30, 2018. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Mike Ford

Mike Ford is the first person on this list that has been playing first base his entire professional career.  Since he was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Princeton, the lefty-hitting first baseman has built up a solid minor league career.

He made his professional debut in Staten Island where he hit .235/.346/.374 in 33 games with seven doubles and three home runs with 17 RBIs.  He split his second season between Class-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, hitting .292/.383/.458 over 105 games between the two.

Ford spent the entire 2015 season with the Tampa Yankees hitting .260/.346/.368 in 123 games.  In 2016 he played in just 56 games due to injury, most coming in Double-A. Over 190 at-bats he hit .289/.411/.479 with 12 doubles and eight home runs.

His real breakout season came in 2017 when he hit 20 home runs over 126 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.  Between the two levels, he hit .270/.404/.471 with 24 doubles and 86 RBIs.

After being selected by the Mariners in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2017, he returned to the Yankees towards the end of spring training.  He went on to play for the Triple-A RailRiders where he hit .253/.327/.433 in 102 games with 15 home runs and 21 doubles.

Ford has above-average power and has a good approach at the plate which allows him to hit for power and a decent average in the minors.  Defensively he is below average but has improved over the years.

Trenton Thunder’s Brandon Wagner in a game against the Altoona Curve in Trenton on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Brandon Wagner

The Yankees drafted Brandon Wagner in the sixth round of the 2015 draft as a third baseman.  But since then he has seen time as a shortstop, second baseman and even outfielder before settling as a regular first baseman.

Wagner made his professional debut with the Staten Island Yankees where he hit .228/.347/.364 in 52 games.  He was sent to the GCL to start the 2016 season where he began moving around, searching for a position.  He hit .283/.367/.509 in 29 games before being promoted to the Pulaski Yankees.  With Pulaski, he hit .247/.371/.420.

His 2017 season was spent entirely with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs where he hit .277/.380/.392 in 110 games.

Wagner started his 2018 season with the Tampa Tarpons where he hit .270/.376/.510 in 87 games with 13 doubles and 20 home runs.  He was promoted to Double-A Trenton in July where he hit .262/.390/.346 in 37 games for the Thunder.

Wagner was always a strong hitter at the plate, drawing rave reviews from coaches throughout the system for his keen eye and patient approach.  Though he has settled at first as his primary position, he still has versatility being able to play other positions in a pinch.

Trenton Thunder’s Chris Gittens on deck against the Harrisburg Senators in Trenton on Thursday, May 3, 2018. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Chris Gittens

Chris Gittens was drafted by the Yankees in 2014 and made his professional debut that season with the GCL Yankees, appearing in just 11 games where he hit four doubles and had five RBIs.

He got into more games in 2015 when he appeared in 46 games between the GCL and Tampa Yankees hitting .341/.429/.594 over 138 at-bats with nine doubles, a triple, and eight home runs while driving in 30 runs.

Gittens spent the 2016 season with the Charleston RiverDogs where he hit .253/.359/.478 in 107 games with 23 doubles and 21 home runs and 70 RBIs.

He made his return to Tampa in 2017 where he hit .266/.372/.472 in 73 games with the Tampa Yankees.  He hit 12 doubles, and 13 home runs that season.

The 2018 season was his first chance to get a taste of Double-A, and he struggled.  Gittens appeared in just 53 games for the Trenton Thunder due to injury, hitting 197/.300/.339 with eight doubles and six home runs.

Gittens has some of the best raw power in the Yankees’ organization, and a decent eye to go with it. He can push the counts pretty well at times, and the next at-bat hit a ball where only a select few can. With most sluggers, strikeouts are an issue for him, but he fights counts more than what his walk numbers show, and it’s something he progressed throughout the season.

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