John Lepore | February 19th, 2020
First base used to be a spot on the diamond where teams had their big power guys. The position has fallen off offensively in recent years. Although there are still a few gems, the days of waiting on a first baseman for value later in the draft have all but disappeared. Let’s take a look at the top 30 players at first and see if there are a few values still out there.
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For the purposes of this article, and the other fantasy baseball rankings we will have for you in the next couple of weeks, we are basing them on standard 5×5 roto scoring. They are also based on redraft leagues. When a player gets a boost or drops in the rankings due to format or scoring, it will be noted with their outlook.
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(1) Freddie Freeman
This dude is the number one first baseman hands down. The consistency is there as Freddie hasn’t had a wRC+ below 130 since 2012. He set career-highs in HRs (38), Runs (113), and RBI (121) last season. Freeman is firmly in his prime at just 30 years old. He is in one of the best lineups in the league and while he may not hit 38 HRs again, he had a career-high 23.6% HR/FB%, 30 is attainable. When you add in the .290-.310 BA and over 100 Runs and 100 RBI, Freeman is easily at the top.
(2) Cody Bellinger
The reigning NL MVP is poised to have another stellar year. His batted ball metrics are incredible (45.5% HH Rate, 13.0% Barrel Rate, 90.7mph AEV, 17.6 LA). There is no reason to think Cody won’t put up similar numbers to last season especially with Mookie Betts added to the Dodgers. Expect another MVP-type year.
(3) Trey Mancini
After an off year in 2018, Mancini bounced back strong last season batting .291 with 35 bombs and 97 RBI for the lowly Baltimore Orioles. From 2017-2019, Trey has improved his AEV (88.6-90.3 mph), HH% (40.1-42.7%), and his BB rate (5.6-9.3%). He is the face of the franchise as they move forward and should put up solid numbers again as he enters his prime.
(4) DJ LeMahieu
There was doubt in LeMahieu when he left Coors Field for Yankee Stadium. He quickly shut everyone up and had a career year. He is in a potent lineup and should continue his production. DJ’s HH rate was 47.2% and his AEV was a solid 91.7 mph. There’s no reason to think he will regress.
(5) Paul Goldschmidt
Even though it may seem like Goldy has fallen off a bit, his decline is way too overrated. He still hit 34 bombs with 97 Runs and 97 RBI last season. While his Exit Velocity has dipped to around 90 mph, he has increased his Launch Angle to over 15 the past two seasons. The HRs will be there and his durability is hard to match having played in 155+ games the past five years. Goldy is still gold among first basemen.
(6) Matt Olson
The newer kid on the block has been crushing it the past two seasons. Even with missing 35 games last year, Olson managed 36 HRs and 91 RBI. The big lefty can straight mash with a HH% over 50% and a Barrel% of 14.5% which is more than double the league average. He will be only 26 at the end of March and should just be entering his prime. If you pass on the big names in your draft, he could be a steal.
(7) Josh Bell
Bell broke out last season to the tune of .277 with 37 bombs and 116 RBI. His gains in his batted ball profile should hold with a 47.1% HH rate, a 12.7% Barrel%, and a 92.3 mph AEV. He has always had solid plate discipline. I could see a similar season as Bell continues to be a top 5 first baseman.
(8) Jose Abreu
With the exception of 2018, Abreu has hit 25+ HRs and batted in 100+ each season. He is as consistent as they come, and with the improvements the Chicago White Sox have made along with young players coming into their own, he should put up another solid fantasy season. His EV (92.1 mph) and HH% (48.2%) were career highs last season and he shows no signs of slowing down.
(9) Pete Alonso
The Polar Bear took New York and the league by storm last season mashing 53 bombs. While a sophomore slump could happen, Alonso’s metrics point to him having another great season. His Barrel% was an insane 15.8% and his HH rate was at a solid 42.3%. Even though he could be in for a little regression, I still see Alonso as one of the top guys at this position.
(10) Max Muncy
Due to his multi-position eligibility, Muncy will find himself on a bunch of rankings. And deservedly so. He blasted 35 HRs each of the past two seasons and has above average Statcast metrics across the board especially in Barrel% (12.3%) and HH% (43.2%). His BB rate rivals that of Santana at 15.3% so he also gets a boost in OBP leagues. With Mookie Betts being added to the lineup as well as a healthy Corey Seager, Muncy could make a jump in counting stats and be a 100/100 guy.
(11) Anthony Rizzo
We basically know what to expect from Rizzo each year. His batted ball profile has stayed fairly consistent over the past five seasons. Although it has fluctuated slightly, the only thing that has gone down each year is his LA. Since 2015, it’s been 17.3-16.4-15.3-14.4-12.4. Not overly concerning but Rizzo has not reached the 30-HR plateau the past two seasons after passing that mark the previous four. He still has an excellent BB rate (11.5% career) and takes his HBPs as he’s led the league in that category three of the last five years. Be aware that he may bat leadoff for the Cubbies this season so his RBI total may take a hit.
(12) Miguel Sano
With the signing of Josh Donaldson, Sano will be playing first base this season. He hits the ball harder than just about anyone in baseball with a 57.2% HH rate, a 21.2% Barrel%, and a 94.4 mph AEV. Sano’s problem is his unsightly 36.2% K rate. His average may never be great, but Sano has a realistic shot to lead the league in HRs in a full season.
(13) Carlos Santana
Another consistent player from the AL Central, Santana came back to Cleveland last year and did his thing. While his Barrel% (9.6%) and his AEV (91.8 mph) spiked last year, his LA dipped to 11.8. He also outperformed his rate stats (BA .281 – xBA .268 and SLG .515 – xSLG .485). Even if the power and BA take a dip back to normal, Santana has elite plate discipline and would get a boost in OBP leagues.
(14) Yuli Gurriel
Gurriel’s power spiked last year as he hit 31 HRs, the same amount as in 2017 and 2018 combined. Some regression in the power department is coming. Most of his batted ball profile is above average, but nothing jumps off the page. He outperformed his expected slugging by .119 (.541 SLG – .422 xSLG). He will still put up solid counting stats and a good BA, but the HRs will likely dip to the low 20s.
(15) Luke Voit
The change of scenery has done Luke well. After being an afterthought in St. Louis, the big first baseman came to the New York Yankees and blossomed, albeit later in his career. In 157 games with the Bombers Luke has a roto-slash of .280/100/35/95/0. He is the starter in a potent lineup, and with a full season should continue that production.
(16) Christian Walker
The Diamondbacks first baseman absolutely punished the ball last season with a 48.4% HH rate. That went along with a 13.1% Barrel rate, 91.1 mph AEV, and a 14.8 LA. Another late bloomer, Walker is poised to have a solid year in Arizona. I don’t expect much regression either as he underperformed his expected SLG and wOBA.
(17) Rowdy Tellez
I’ve been a fan of Tellez for a long time. The big guy has 28 doubles and 25 HRs in 482 career PAs. He should see everyday playing time whether at DH or first base now that Smoak is gone, even though the Blue Jays signed Travis Shaw. He has an excellent Barrel% (13.2%) and a very good 90.7 mph AEV along with a HH% of 41.8%. If Rowdy gets 600 PAs he could push 40 bombs and 100 RBI.
(18) Rhys Hoskins
While the big first baseman in Philly still walks at an insane rate (16.5%) he lacks in his Barrel% (9.7) which has fallen off his crazy first 50 games in 2017. I expect Rhys to bounce back this year and fall into his talent. He is a high-upside guy with a definite boost in OBP leagues. Draft him if you have no problem with the risk, but I suspect he could turn out very good production.
(19) Edwin Encarnacion
Now on the White Sox, Edwin should be the everyday DH. Although his average has dipped the past two seasons (.246 in 2018, .244 in 2019), he still hits bombs and has a penchant for driving in runs. The last time EE didn’t hit 32 HRs in a season? 2011. Last year’s 86 RBI was only the second time in the past seven seasons that he hasn’t reached 104. He still takes a walk (11.9% BB rate) and still hits the ball harder than most (42.0% HH rate). The only question is when will he decline?
(20) Yandy Diaz
Although he will be playing mostly at third base, Yandy started 17 games at first last season so he will be eligible there. His power was non-existent with the Indians in 2017-2018 when he had one HR in 299 PAs. Last year he managed 14 with the Rays in 347 PAs. His LA improved to 5.7 and he barreled up 10.4% of his batted balls, an improvement from 4.4% in 2018. I expect Yandy to progress and could really break out in a full season.
(21) Danny Santana
He had a ridiculous .353 BABIP last season so I don’t see the BA staying in the .280s. His plate discipline is not good (4.9% BB, 29.5% K) and his power looks like it will regress also. Don’t be fooled by the gaudy numbers last season. The positives are he can give you cheap SBs and a little power plus play just about every position. He could be a solid utility guy in deeper leagues.
(22) Evan White
As the 17th overall pick in 2017 out of Kentucky, The time is likely now for White. At the Double-A level last season he blasted 18 HRs and slashed .293/.350/.488 in 400 PAs. While his plate discipline could use a little improvement, it wasn’t bad (7.3% BB rate, 23% K rate). If he gets and holds the starting first base job for the Mariners, he could be in the running for Rookie of the Year honors.
(23) Daniel Vogelbach
While Big Dan may be relegated to a DH role, depending on what Evan White brings this season, He can still be a cheap source of power. He will likely drain your BA but gets a boost in OBP leagues. Draft him late if you want some pop on your bench.
(24) Eric Thames
Playing time is a question for Thames. He has a ton of pop with 25 HRs in only 459 PAs last season, but he actually started only 74 games. Now in Washington, he will likely see the majority of games at first base as the strong side of a platoon with Ryan Zimmerman. He should provide 25-30 HRs and gets a little boost in OBP leagues.
(25) Garrett Cooper
With the additions of Jesus Aguilar and Corey Dickerson to the Miami Marlins, Cooper’s playing time takes a hit. He plays first base but before the moves, he could’ve seen time in left or right field. If there are injuries, underperformance, or even the aforementioned vets being traded mid-season, Cooper will see a regular role. All things considered, he could be a steal late in the draft.
(26) Joey Votto
After a bad 2018, many people were expecting a bounce back from Votto last season. That didn’t happen as his BA dipped below .280 for only the second time in his career (2014) and his OBP was .357 which was the lowest of his career. With a renewed team and the Cincinnati Reds looking to battle in the NL Central, Votto could be rejuvenated. Draft at your own risk but I think Votto will get back to being above average and still gets a bump in OBP leagues.
(27) Michael Chavis
While Chavis will likely man second base mostly, he could see some time at first base when the Sox face a tough lefty which sits Moreland on the bench. He has easy power and barrels the ball well (11.4%) with decent loft (12.0 LA). With a full season of PAs, Chavis could be a stud at the plate especially in the power department playing most of his games in hitter’s parks in the AL East.
(28) C.J. Cron
Cron joins his fourth team in four years signing a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. He crushes the ball with a ridiculous 15.0% Barrel rate and a 44.6% HH rate. He severely underperformed his expected stats last year (.277 xBA – .253 BA and .548 xSLG – .469 SLG). A move to Comerica is not ideal, but Cron should be able to blast his way to a good season regardless.
(29) Mark Canha
He followed up a solid 2018 with a breakout 2019. He hit .273 with 26 HRs in just 497 PAs. His batted ball profile is safely above average across the board. His plate discipline is also exceptional with a 13.5% BB rate and a solid 21.5% K rate. He should continue to build on his improvements and be a contributor to a good Oakland A’s lineup.
(30) Daniel Murphy
When Murphy went to the Colorado Rockies last season, the fantasy community rightfully thought he would be a beast in Coors Field. That didn’t happen, and he found himself having one of the worst seasons of his career. Murphy has been in decline for a couple of years now. In 2016 with Washington he had a 41.1% HH rate, an 8.5% Barrel%, and an AEV of 90.6 mph. Last season he dropped to 28.1% HH rate, 2.4% Barrel%, and an AEV of 86.3 mph. If a bounceback season is going to happen, Murphy will need to stay healthy and regain some of his batted ball talents.
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