First base is still a good position, but it’s not the same as it used to be. When I started playing fantasy baseball Albert Pujols was the king of the land and Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Konerko were top first baseman. There’s not quite that amount of power in the MLB anymore and there’s a large drop off after the middle of the pack. First base still has a lot of options and despite Miguel Cabrera being the best natural hitter I’ve ever seen I must admit that Paul Goldschmidt is the best fantasy option at first base now. Miggy is still really good and still is the better hitter, but Goldschmidt literally is a five category player. The top of the pack is loaded with talent is it’s really hard to pick apart the talent because it’s close. My advice is to look at the ten and sort them out yourself and pick the best first baseman on your board if you’re drafting in the first few rounds. Here’s the rankings I put together. Also, a note on the dollar values, I did them based on standard draft where $2,090 is allocated to 168 hitters, so some values might be less or more than you see other places.
- Paul Goldschmidt- Goldschmidt has been a top first baseman for a few years now and he has a track record of being a top 10 fantasy player and last year he added a final category to his arsenal, stolen bases. I think it’s pretty realistic to expect Goldy to hit more like 30 homers again. The reason his average and homers took a slight dip last year was because he hit more grounders and less fly balls. Goldy is an air hitter though and when he’s making more contact in the air then he’s hitting more homers and hitting less grounders that turn into outs. The dip was slight enough to look like some bad luck as Goldschmidt has had a pretty solid trend of hard contact and fly balls. Even if he doesn’t rebound he’s looking at season of hitting .300 with 25 homers and some solid counting stats along with probably more like 20 stolen bases. Goldschmidt is a good and smart hitter and player and you match that up with his skills and you have a top 10 fantasy pick and someone worthy of a mid-first round pick.
- Miguel Cabrera- Miggy is the greatest hitter of this generation being a great all-around hitter and power hitter all wrapped into one. Miggy is still making really hard contact along with his picturesque mechanics and if there’s one guy who can break the aging curve, it’s Cabrera. Think about this: Miggy has gotten at least 103 RBI in every season he has gotten 600 PAs along with at least 25 home runs and 85 runs scored, and these are his absolute floors. He’s also hitting in one of the best line-ups in baseball and he tends to get on base, so the counting stats will be there. We knew Miggy would come down from .338 in 2015 due to a BABIP that was about .020-.025 higher than his usual, but he seems to be a .315 hitter still and I’d put that with 35-40 homers and about 95 runs and 110 RBI. Miggy’s wOBA is still at elite power hitter level and he’s pretty consistently good. His name is a household name and though he will never have another 2011-13 run, but he’s still a first round level talent and his name still speaks for itself.
- Anthony Rizzo– Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the new Manny and Big Papi, but they have a chance to win more than two World Series together. Rizzo has been around five years now but he’s only just turning 27 and he gets to play his summers in Wrigley Field padded in the middle of Murder’s Row line-up. All this and we still haven’t even gotten to the fact he has some serious skills with the bat that make him a lock for around mid-30s homers, 100 RBI and close to 100 runs. He is patient and his approach at the plate draws consistency with the fact he’s putting a little over 40% of the balls he makes contact with in the air and has a solid line drive rate. Last year he stopped popping up as much and matured as a hitter so he can hit around .300. If you are looking at recent trends however, ignore the 17 stolen bases in 2015 because he’s more than likely going end up with around 5 because he just not that fast and the Cubs are about to have a line-up where four guys are capable of 30 plus home runs, no need to risk outs in that case. Rizzo is as close to as a consistent slugger as you’ll find, he’s only 27 so expect him to stay right here for many years and he’s worth a pick at the end of the first round or beginning of the second.
- Joey Votto– Votto is the elite case of slightly more valuable in real life than fantasy baseball. Most fantasy leagues are 5×5 and Votto is stuck in the middle of a line-up where the situation is best described as crappy. This is going to hurt Votto in the sense that he won’t get as many RBI and runs. Votto’s approach at the plate is one that almost guarantees a high batting average. I’d say he has the best hitting eye in baseball and always has an OBP that leads the league it seems (which helps him score a few more runs). His approach to hitting is so beautiful though it makes sure that your team gets a guy who hits .310 and has around 30 homers. Votto is consistent in the “what you can control” category but unfortunately has some not so great teammates around him. He’s actually close to what Rizzo is, just the more seasoned veteran on a worse team that is probably around the same talent level version. Now just because the Reds will likely finish last in the NL Central doesn’t mean Votto will get no love counting stat wise and that’s why he’s a really smart pick if you’re looking for a first baseman in the second round and he’s on the board.
- Freddie Freeman– Freeman is pretty underrated, in fact for some reason Team USA took Eric Hosmer over Freeman in the WBC this year, which is a head scratcher. Freeman was billed as a solid hitter with power coming up and he’s really shown that throughout his whole career. He’s one of the top line drive hitters in baseball and that will ensure that he hits for a decent average, even if it falls a bit due to a high BABIP. Freeman also finally figured out how to hit lefties at an all-star level. A realistic projection is .290 with 25 homers and 90 RBI. He seems to be able to make enough hard contact to sustain the homer spike and he’s only the same age as Rizzo despite being around full time since 2011, so he’s more liable to be able to sustain this breakout. He’s just going to have to build a bit more of a power track record. Also the big rumor is that the Braves new park will tailor to Freeman’s power, so he seems like a really good all-around option that is a bit underappreciated and that you could snag at pretty fair value.
- Edwin Encarnacion– Every year I buy Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster because I think it really makes me a smarter fantasy player by reading it. Shandler has a stat that measures a player’s base value as a fantasy player and a sub stat that measures how many weeks a player is Dominant or a Disaster. In 2015 Edwin had 81% dominant weeks and just 4% disaster weeks, and in 2016 he has 78% dominant and 7% disaster. Edwin and his power don’t really take a break. You know you’re going to get 2-3 homers from Edwin each week and that he’s going to be the slugger that your team needs. For that reason he’s worthy of that second round pick. We know he’s only going to go 1-4 on average in most games but the homers, RBIs and consistency he brings to the table have a real value. He is getting older so he could start to decline, but for now the reasonable expectation should be another season around 40 homers.
- Wil Myers– Myers had a lot of trouble with his wrist and pitch recognition, but the wrist was a temporary issue and the pitch recognition might have just been the wrist because in the last two seasons he’s had above average years in terms of run value on every popular pitch according to FanGraphs. So maybe Myers is an above average hitter with good power and some speed. His 2016 certainly showed it and he became one of the faces of the MLB during All-Star weekend and is now the franchise cornerstone for the Padres. Myers is a serious 30-30 threat. If Myers can get the ball in the air a little more this season there’s no reason to think that he can’t have 30 homers and his speed is real, it’s always been there. Myers is a bit of health risk, but after the first tier of first baseman he’s got the most upside, especially if he can just get a few more base knocks in 2017. A realistic expectation could be .260-25 with 20 steals, but if he can be consistent and get the ball in the air just a little more his value will sky rocket.
- Jose Abreu– Abreu broke out and was another Cuban who found success in the MLB in 2014. He then started to decline 2015 and through most of 2016. I remember being at a Tigers game at the beginning of August and Abreu was hovering around .270 with 11 or 12 homers and I was thinking that he was really going to have a disappointing season. He then managed to hit very well with lots of power pretty much from that day forward and he got to his 25 homer, 100 RBI plateau while hitting a really good .293. That was pretty much on par with his 2015 stats and I think his 2017 stats will resemble that too. He’s not a ground breaking slugging super star, but he’s a sure middle of the order threat on a team that still has a few pretty good hitters. He’s very confusing to figure out because of a lot of the trends you see in his secondary numbers and scouting can be refuted by another perfectly valid fact, so there’s a little wiggle room on how much better or worse he could be in 2017 than the last two years, so just expect something in between. The power is the most likely thing to fall off though as a low ISO (but he also was way below on his FB/HR rate).
- Hanley Ramirez– Ramirez isn’t elite anymore, but unlike Joe Flacco, Ramirez was in fact once elite. This fact kind of hurts him. Look at Bryce Harper whose had hype and expectations of amazingness follow him throughout his career and a big MVP season solidified that. His perfectly good 2016 was seen as a huge disappointment, and it really was for what he could accomplish, but he was still useful and had a positive impact. Ramirez gets valued wrong the same way now in my opinion. He’s still a perfectly good fantasy option, but some people draft him too high because of what he once was and others put him on their do not draft list because of what he once was. In reality you’re getting a really good hitter in the middle of a really good line-up. He’s older and doesn’t steal anymore and he’s more of a .270 hitter in all likelihood, but he will hit 25 homers and in that line-up it’s hard to imagine him not getting those counting stats if he hits with power and continues to hit at least .265-.275.
- Chris Davis– If you’re willing to take a hit on your batting average for a 40 homer slugger, Chris Davis is your guy. He’s shown us that he can hit 40 homers consisntely and as long as he’s at Camden Yards there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t. Think of him as this generation’s version of Adam Dunn or Dave Kingman. If you really want to appreciate his power, look at BaseballSavant.com’s Statcast tracker. Average exit velocity of 96 MPH, barreled the ball 53 times and an average hit distance of 250, top five in the majors among those with 190 batted balls. On the plus side he had a really low BABIP and some suggest he could see a slight uptick in average, despite that I’d expect .225 and 40 homers and the RBIs and runs that come with those stats.
- Adrian Gonzalez- Declining superstar profile 1 of 2….A-Gone has traded in some power in recent years but it still looks like he can get to 20 homers and he’s still one of the most consistent hitters in that billion dollar Dodger line-up. Having Corey Seager in front of him gives him more RBI opps and he’s what some broadcasters would call an “RBI machine.” He’s 35 now so he just a solid mid-draft option at first base or for your infield slot. He’s still a good hitter with a good approach like he always was but at 35, he’s just having trouble driving the ball like he used too. That’s nothing to be embarrassed about though and there’s a chance he could still see a few more homers come his way in 2017. His career has been really good and it’ll end better than most careers, so there’s no reason to write him off yet.
- Albert Pujols- Declining superstar profile 2 of 2….So Pujols might miss the first couple weeks of the season and he’s now 37 but Pujols has had a really amazing career, I’d put him second to Miguel Cabrera in hitter primes that I got to fully watch (I started watching baseball in 2004). He’s still got power and he’s still able to hit, just at a diminished rate of what he used too. If I knew that he was going to start 145 games this year I’d probably put him right above Chris Davis, but it’s too much of a question right now. Looking at his last three season, we can see that Pujols is likely more of a .265 hitter (his 2015 featured a really low BABIP and a bit too much power), and 30-35 homers. He’s like Miggy and still chases after 100 RBI and more often than not he gets right around that number, which is aided by Mike Trout being ahead of him in the line-up. He’s still a decent pick with a lot of power that won’t kill your team in any sort of way. He could still put up a surprise above average season too, his skills aren’t completely gone, they just aren’t what they once were.
- Carlos Santana– Santana is a converted catcher who likes the three true outcomes of a plate appearance a lot. Despite the strikeouts he has a lot of fantasy value, and now that he’s hitting lead-off a lot he will have even more value with the uptick in runs he will receive. His calling card is his power and he’s coming off a career best season in homers and he did this while retaining his doubles rate. His power that left him during the 2015 season was more than likely a fluke and though his batting average will hurt you a little bit usually, he hit for one that was about average last season, which is probably going to be met with some regression. He will likely strikeout more in 2017 which will hurt his value a bit, but owners should look to his 2014 season and expect that with a bit higher of a batting average. If he reaches his true ceiling again he could be a cheaper and possibly better version of Chris Davis.
- Brandon Belt– Belt broke out as prospect in 2010 and he’s finally reaching his full potential. He doesn’t look like he will ever be more than a guy who floats around 15 home runs though there is a chance he goes up to thenext level based on age, line drive rate and the amount of doubles he hits, but he’s a great hitter who elevated his game to his peak level by becoming more patient last season. He keeps the ball off the ground and he’s consistently made solid contact. His wOBA and wRC+ suggest that he’s an all-star level hitter and Belt really doesn’t get the love that he deserves in fantasy which means if you need a corner infielder, he’ll likely be available at a good value. He will probably hit right in front of Buster Posey this upcoming season too, so that’ll mean more good pitches to hit for one of the most underrated players in baseball.
- Eric Hosmer- Hosmer accounted for a -.2 WAR last season despite hitting the 25-100 milestone. Since 2012, Hosmer has hit two less homers than Mitch Moreland in over 1,000 more plate appearances, he’s hit .275 which is in line with Brandon Belt’s .276. The point is that Hosmer is a bit overrated. He’s still good in terms of fantasy value though. The homers he hit last year are likely not sustainable and he will likely fall into the 15-20 homer range like he has three times in his career. He only hit .266 last year which is down for him and if he continues to keep the ball on the ground he will stay there. He still has the upside to hit anywhere from .280 to .290. As long as he continues to hit in the middle of the order he will continue to have some value, but don’t draft him before you have to or you will be disappointed.
- Chris Carter– He’s basically the right handed version of Chris Davis with less of a track record and is just worse overall. Homers are increasing and becoming easier to find (see all the juiced ball theories going around) so when your one true fantasy talent is to hit home runs, that kind of hurts your value. Despite this there still is value on a guy who homers as often as Carter does, but he might start to give way to the Baby Bombers later in the season if he shows any signs of slumping with his already ugly average.
- Greg Bird– A system player is more of a football term, but could there be someone more of a fit for the Yankees than Bird? A young, powerful lefty that can take advantage of that short porch at Yankee Stadium. He had a promising start to his career before a shoulder injury derailed his whole season, but he hit respectably with a lot of power in 2015. The good news is that only 5 of his 11 homers came in Yankee Stadium in 2015, so it’s pretty certain that the power is real. AT worst he can replicate what Mark Teixeira did the last few seasons before 2016 and hit for a lot of power while staying around .250. The main thing he has left to prove is that he can hit lefties, if he does he can become a blue chip power hitter in the fantasy world.
- Mike Napoli– Napoli has this knack for looking like he’s essentially done with his career then going somewhere a reviving it. His time ran out in Anaheim after 2010 and he went to Texas and launched 30 homers, then after 2012 he looked like a one season winder and went to Boston and was one of the top hitters on the 2013 world champs, then in 2015 he looked lost at the plate only to sign with Cleveland and be a key hitter in their AL championship run. Now he’s back in Texas and the good news is that he has power in a hitter’s park. The bad news is that he hasn’t hit above .250 since 2013 and it’s not likely to happen again. Basically he’s a power hitter with a low average and has only hit righties well once in the last three years and he’s getting older. It sounds like a decent back-up 1B to stash in the utility spot or bench, but don’t expect much more.
- Josh Bell– Bell was supposed to go high in the draft in 2011 but slipped due to concerns that he would go to college. Bell instead went in the second round to the Pirates and has the potential to fulfill that pick. Bell looks like a good all-around hitter that can do everything. He doesn’t really have a superstar written on him, but he definitely has “solid everyday first baseman” on his radar. He kind of reminds me of Brandon Belt in the sense that he’s huge but hasn’t hit for a ton of power ever and he is very patient. The good thing about Bell is that he is a switch hitter that has hit lefties very well (in AAA, the Pirates only gave him a few Abs against them). Bell’s biggest concern right now is his defense, it caused him to have a negative WAR last year. That isn’t a concern unless you play in a more realistic fantasy league, unless it takes playing time away from him. The bat was impressive though and I think it’ll keep him in the line-up. Just don’t expect an all-out breakout from Bell. He looked solid in his first 150 PAs and I’d expect some more solid ball from this year.
- Tommy Joseph– He’s more of a classic first baseman, with big power and a decent batting average that isn’t too concerned with walking, even though he improved his walk rate and patience upon coming to the majors. He has big power and it plays well in Philly, he’s the perfect guy to replace Ryan Howard because he will fit right into the middle of the young Philly line-up. The power is real and if he can even keep a rate near the one of HR/PA that he had last year, then he’s a lock for 30 homers. He swings and misses a lot but he didn’t have a ton of trouble with a curveball, just a changeup. I’d say he’s a safer bet than most think to repeat his success, as nothing super negative sticks out and a lot of projection systems like his talent, and the Phillies might have unearthed a pretty good slugger in the Hunter Pence deal. He has potential be a steal in drafts and could see a big gain on this list after the 2017 season.
- Mitch Moreland- He’s now older and a veteran but he stepped into a good situation where he will get playing time in a good hitter’s park in a good line-up. He saw a slight decrease in overall production but the overall power was still there and he’s still hitting the ball hard as often as he has in the past. He might just be a guy who slowly declines off into the sunset, but I think a realistic expectation would be slightly worse overall stats than last year. He won’t fall off the map unless he starts to miss the ball and strike out a lot. He’s a pretty consistent 20 homer guy, so if you’re lacking power late, he’s your guy.
- Lucas Duda– He established himself as a great waiver wire pick-up in 2014 and hit 30 homers. The next season he started the season as a platoon guy who couldn’t hit lefties, but then he figured them out. Unfortunately, he now looks like a guy who will have injuries limit his ceiling. His skills and stats all saw a decline, but that could’ve been due to injury. He’s a guy who if he’s healthy he’s a middle of the range first base option and worth a possible roster spot, but he could come back worse because of the injury and unable to hit lefties again as he really only had a short period of success against them. Duda has some good power but he has a lot of question marks around him. If he’s healthy he can still hit 20 homers, but the Mets are hoping for more and more is a possibility.
- Justin Bour– Bour became a legitimate above average hitter last year and that puts his upside at 30 homers. He has extra base power and an increase in walks is always a great trend to see hitters have. His biggest problem is that he has to learn how to hit lefties better or the Marlins will always need another platoon partner. Bour will be limited offensively to about a .265 average and 23-24 homers until then. He could breakout, but it just seems like he can be a good hitter who can hit righties, which will get him starts most games, but not enough fantasy value for you take him on.
- Ryan Zimmerman– Zimmerman fell off a cliff last year and he’s definitely past his prime, but there’s reason to believe in a bit of rebound and that he’s not completely done. He’s injury prone and everything has declined, his whole stat line looked ugly. If he’s healthy it’ll look better though. He actually looked impressive looking at Statcast, a high exit velocity shows he still has some of his slugging ways. Of course, he’s a huge risk and more or less not worth a pick unless you’re in a deep league or NL only and need an extra infielder really late.
- Joe Mauer– Mauer hasn’t been the prime Joe Mauer in years now and it’s not suddenly coming back. If he has a good spike you might be able to expect a .280 average but he really has no power and he’s basically a replacement level fantasy player at first base. If someone goes down, he can be a steady waiver wire pick-up that won’t sink you, but his biggest concern is being a decent table setter for the Twins big boppers in 2017. There’s not much fantasy value.
- Dan Vogelbach– I’ve always really liked Voglebach a little more than most prospect lists did, but he has power and really nice left handed swing. I think he’s the Mariners future 1B/DH and though he has to grow and might have some pains, he still has power and not having to face lefties should pad his numbers. He’s a guy to watch
- Danny Valencia– In deep league, Valecnia has some value. He’s the modern Matt Diaz, he hits lefties and not righties but still manages to start 90 games every season and he has power and can be a good option as a corner infielder in those AL only league. I also wouldn’t draft him because he hit .290 and then .287, his BABIP was high and for a guy who struggles against righties he either will hit .280 if he doesn’t face them or .265 if he faces them a lot.
- Steve Pearce– He’s very inconsistent and more of a lefty masher himself. He and Valencia are basically interchangeable, I just think he’s more inconsistent overall which puts him below Danny, but in Rogers Centre, a guy with some pop like Pearce could have some value.
- Eric Thames– He’s a prospect bust that is ripped and coming back from a very successful Korean career. What can you expect though? Korean ball probably is somewhere between as hard as playing in AA and AAA with increased homers. We can look at a guy like Nelson Cruz and say the Brewers just found a steal that’ll be a good power hitter in their line-up or look at the thousands of Quad-A players that never amounted. Thames is probably somewhere in between and if you’re experiencing a power outage this year, he’s worth a look.
- Travis Shaw– He had a solid year for Boston and got traded to Milwaukie because Kung Fu Panda is back. He will play both corners and he seems like a good left handed hitter with some pop, but he struggled after the first half and still has a ways to go and something left to prove.
- Logan Morrison
- Tyler Austin
- Matt Adams
- Luis Valbuena
- C.J. Cron
*Cody Bellinger– I have no clue if he will get a lot of playing time this year but if you see he gets called up, grab this guy, he’s a future star.
*A.J. Reed– He’s a great hitting option at first for Houston and I think he’s better than Gurriel, but he probably won’t get playing time. Post hype sleeper with mega power. Impressive player.
Nik’s SGP Projections: