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Colorado Rockies prospect Chad Spanberger slugged his way to an impressive debut

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Pre-season 2018 prospect rankings: No. 29, Chad Spanberger

29. Chad Spanberger (137 points, 24 ballots)

Any time a first baseman in college is selected as high as the 6th round, as Chad Spanberger was in the 2017 draft out of Arkansas, there are elevated offensive expectations. This is especially true for players placed in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. Fortunately, Spanberger, who signed for slot money at $260,200, at least met those lofty expectations in his professional debut season.

Playing as a 21-year-old (he’s now 22), the 6’3” lefty hitter was a destructive force in 269 Pioneer League plate appearances. Spanberger’s .294/.368/.617 line included 19 homers in 60 games (36 extra base hits overall), good for a 123 wRC+. The only real downside was his 26.4 K%, which can bode ill for his ability to handle higher level pitching.

The strong debut was enough for MLB Pipeline to rank Spanberger 29th in the system:

As a first baseman with big left-handed power along with swing-and-miss concerns, Spanberger earns comparisons to a poor man’s Chris Davis. With his bat speed and the size and leverage his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame provides, he can crush the ball out of any part of the park. While Spanberger may never hit for a high average, he has shown a greater willingness to use the entire field and has made more contact in 2017.

All of Spanberger’s value comes from his bat. A high school catcher who played some right field as an Arkansas sophomore, he’ll be limited to first base as a pro because of his well-below-average speed. Spanberger can become an adequate defender but will need to improve his consistency.

The power is clearly the carrying tool for Spanberger, but the question will be if that ability will translate against upper level pitching. At this point, we’re talking about a small professional sample size, but Spanberger has helped his cause so far with his strong Grand Junction debut. I’m interested to see if the Rockies would entertain the thought of jumping him to Lancaster, but I’m guessing he’ll get a chance to put up big numbers in lefty-friendly Asheville instead.

The elevated K% and the utter lack of defensive utility were both factors in me leaving Spanberger off my personal ballot this time around (I’m leery of first base prospects in general because they have to hit to provide value). With that said, I’m interested in watching Spanberger in full season ball next year to see if he can keep up this pace like Brian Mundell did recently.