The top-ranked players at first base remain among the top picks in the draft and are elite fantasy options. The position is still plenty deep for a 12 team mixed league despite a narrative that the position has thinned. In anything deeper, it’s worth the price tag to make sure one of the top 12 first baseman is on your team. Check out the rest of the rankings below.
Goldschmidt remains elite and his decrease in power output last season came mostly from a drop in flyball rate. That is easily correctable and the power should bounce back.
There’s not much to say about Rizzo. He is an elite fantasy option and would be a great late first round building block.
Like the two others ahead of him at the position, Votto is an elite player. He got more aggressive at the plate last season, making him a more valuable fantasy commodity. Regardless of approach, Votto has a tremendous floor and equally high ceiling.
Last season was a get right year for Ramirez. He displayed better plate discipline and remained healthy, allowing him to drive the ball further. Now, he’ll move up in the order and be in a position to drive in even more runs in the Red Sox lineup.
Cabrera isn’t a big risk for injury in terms of losing playing time, but they have dampened his excellent skills in past seasons. Given that he is 33 and battling a back injury already, he falls a bit. That said, his production should remain very good and if he comes at any type of discount it’s worth taking advantage of.
Freeman showed his most aggressive approach at the plate last season and the results weren’t surprising as he took another step forward in the power department. The question is whether that will continue in 2017. Of course, there’s no way to know exactly, but the good news is that he is an excellent hitter and will have a safe floor regardless of the approach he decides to take at the plate.Think of him as a poor man’s Joey Votto.
Abreu started slow last year but his power is real and he has continuously shown the ability to hit for average. He is one notch below elite options at the position but is comes at a big discount in comparison.
Encarnacion is still a good hitter but his price is too high for my liking. He has shown more swing and miss in his game in the past two seasons and no longer drives the ball at an elite level. Being a part of the Indians’ lineup is nice, but he had been in the middle of good to elite lineups throughout his time in Toronto, so moving to Cleveland isn’t a big addition to his value.
Myers managed a full season last year and his skills continue to improve in important ways. He has lessened the swing and miss in his game, which allows him to show off his powerful swing more frequently. Poor plate discipline does continue to nag him as he chases a lot of pitches outside the zone. He has publicly stated he wants to post a 40/40 season, but 20/20 seems much more realistic and is still plenty valuable.
Hosmer had been incredibly consistent in his batted ball profile prior to last season, but he got on top of the ball a lot last year, resulting in a high groundball rate. Given his history, this should be chalked up as a fluke and not projected again this year. Assuming his groundball rate regresses to his career mean, he could see a boost in power if he keeps his aggressive approach at the plate from last year. While most people are down on Hosmer, I’m comfortable projecting him as a good first base option in most mixed league formats.
Just draft Davis for power knowing his average could be anywhere from .225 to .275 and everything will work out just fine.
Santana displayed an interesting approach at the plate last season as he dropped his strikeout rate but saw his swinging strike rate tick up. Part of the reason for that could be that Santana improved on his already impressive plate discipline by swinging more at pitches in the zone and less outside the zone. He also increased his aggressiveness generally, which is additional support for his career-best power season. These are sustainable changes but aren’t something I would bake into his projection. I’ll call 2016 a career season for Santana, but still recognize the very solid value he provides.
Health and just how far the average dips are the only real concerns here. If you’re left on the outside looking in at first base, Pujols is a nice way to pick up some power at the position.
At this point, Belt is the valedictorian of the post-hype sleeper school. Many have predicted that he would break out but he has yet to take the giant step forward that many may want. That said, there were some interesting changes to his batted ball profile and plate discipline. For one, he had a career-low groundball rate of 26.3% and a career high flyball rate of 46%. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to more power due to just a 9.3% HR/FB ratio. The other change in Belt’s profile was his patience at the plate, as he swung less overall but more at pitches in the zone. This is ideal growth as far as plate discipline and it translated into a huge 15.9% walk rate. These are exciting pieces taken individually, and if they all come together Belt will best the above projections by a hefty margin, but at some point, it’s time to accept the player he is and not hope for more.
Joseph has a true power hitter’s profile. He hits a ton of flyballs and barrels the ball a lot, allowing him to mash home runs. He also carries the streakiness and low BABIP characteristic of a power hitter. As for the streakiness, he had two months last season where he hit .211 or worse. It will be important to see where his strikeout rate ends up as he kept it under control in the second half of last season. He doesn’t walk a lot, so his contact rate will be important to keep his batting average and on-base ability afloat.
Everyone is ready to put one foot in the grave for Gonzalez, but at this price, he remains an interesting buy to me. His power actually remained intact, the reason for his downturn in home runs was his flyball rate. If that can rebound, he should be in line for a nice bump in power. He may lose some plate appearances against left-handed pitching, but given his production against them last season, that may actually help his overall value.
Duda is a big health risk but given his low price and the production we’ve seen from him in the past, it is a risk that could pay off.
Bour is well set in his role. He isn’t the most exciting but can fit in as a solid corner infielder. He may get his chance to hit lefties this season, which may not be a good thing.
Like Bour, there isn’t a whole lot of upside with Cron, but he offers enough to stay relevant. A high infield fly ball rate leads to a lot of automatic outs, which keeps his average from reaching the upper echelon at the position. Making matters worse, once Luis Valbuena returns from injury, Cron could lose out on playing time, which clearly further hurts his value.
The power is real for Bird but first base is a crowded position for the Yankees. He seems to be healthy and hitting well this spring, so he could vault up this list. However, there is still risk, if Bird stumbles at any point in the season, the Yankees have no shortage of viable replacements.
Bell isn’t an exciting option due to his lack of power, but if you’re looking to keep your batting average afloat late in the draft he is a good option. He has some run scoring upside due to what should be a strong on-base percentage and the possibility and that he bats toward the top of the Pirates’ batting order.
Napoli posted his best flyball rate since 2008 and best HR/FB rate since 2012. It’s not a good bet to count on that again, which is the reason for his tumble in the rankings.
There’s a lot of helium surrounding to Thames, but I want to see it before I pay any price for him.
Playing time and power production are both unclear at this point for Gurriel. He has some upside, but I wouldn’t want to count on him in mixed league formats.
It used to be that health was the only issue, but in more recent seasons his skills have come into question too.
Others to Consider: Dan Vogelbach, Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, Byung-Ho Park
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III