After yesterday’s Top 20 Catchers, we continue around the diamond to First basemen, where the production really lives. While it’s possible to find value deeper in drafts for first basemen, it’s imperative to grab a player from at least the top two tiers, if not the first. There is such a major drop off in production that you’ll be struggling to keep up, even if you made up areas in other positions on your team. Find your targets and make sure to incorporate a first basemen early in
TIER 1: The Golden Sluggers
1. Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Do I really need to justify this? He’s got all the power numbers you’d want plus speed and a top tier average. He’s a consensus Top 3 overall pick and he will help across the board. Let’s move on.
2. Anthony Rizzo (Chicago Cubs) – You know what’s cool about Rizzo? He only struck out 15.0% of the time last season. He’s still only 26 and has established himself as a premier power bat in one of the best lineups in the game, and even swiped 17 bases last year. Given his elite hard hit rates and discipline at the plate, I expect him to hint at .300 this season as well. If I’m at the end of the first round, I will be glad to add Rizzo to my squad.
3. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) – There’s a bit of disparity on where to rank Cabrera this season, but make no mistake, he’s still one of the best hitters in all of baseball. Even while struggling through injuries, Miggy slashed .338/.440/.534 and while his HR numbers were down, I expect both his FB and HR/FB numbers to rise in 2016, which means prime Miggy for all of us. For those who say he may miss time again, I’ll mention that prior to 2015 Cabrera played in at least 148 games in every season since his rookie year in 2003.
4. Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto Blue Jays) – The double E will make you doubly happy in 2016 as he bats fourth in the best lineup in the majors while also in a contract year that should produce another stud season for the Jays’ 1B/DH. His average most likely won’t exceed .280 due to his high IFFB rate, but the dingers, Runs, and RBI will be aplenty, which is exactly what you want with a high end pick.
5. Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox) – With only two seasons of data to work with, some are finding are hard to trust Abreu after hitting six fewer dingers in 2015 following his explosive rookie campaign. I think what we saw last year is what we can expect moving forward: a high average with 30 HR pop and triple digit RBI. There’s little reason to expect anything different at this point and having that certainty is welcome luxury early in the draft.
6. Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles) – First Davis had 50+ HRs, then he sported a sub .200 average in 2014, which he followed up slashing .262/.361/.562 en route to 47 bombs. What should we expect in 2016? I’m buying that Davis needed his Aderall in 2014, which led to his struggles and ultimate suspension that cut his season short. He was approved in 2015 and BAM, he was back on track to the Davis we know and love. Sure, he may not eclipse 45 HRs again, but another 35+ HR season with a .250 average seems like a given at this point with Crush, and when paired with upside for more I want to be all over him on draft day.
7. Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds) – After 2014’s disappointment, some were worried on grabbing Votto in the 3rd/4th round last season, and their boldness paid off with Votto’s best season since 2012. Can we expect a plateau now for Joey after displacing his perfect health following a worrisome knee injury? Well, at the very least we can for 2016. The biggest question is if he’ll have the support around him now that Todd Frazier was traded to Chicago and Billy Hamilton will most likely stick around near the bottom of the lineup. Still, we can expect a production across the board from Votto, though 30 HRs may be pushing it.
TIER 2: Getting By
8. Adrian Gonzalez (Los Angeles Dodgers) – While Adrian is one of the more stable options available at 1B, there’s a noticeable drop in quality from Votto. Prince Fielder and David Oritiz would both come right before him, though they don’t have eligibility in ESPN leagues, making AGon the first of this tier. Chilling the middle of the Dodgers lineup, he’ll hint at 100 RBI again while slugging over 25 HRs and not killing your average. That steady production keeps you afloat as you close the gap in other positions in earlier rounds.
9. Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels) – Believe it or not, Pujols was able to slug 40 dingers last season, though it came with a significant drop in his average. There is some inherent risk with Albert – even though he only missed a significant amount games once in his career, he often plays through many injuries – especially when he’ll be starting the season on the DL recovering from foot surgery. However, his time off the field looks to be limited, and he could miss just a week or two before continuing to mash in your lineup. It won’t be as flashy as guys in the tier above, but he’ll bring that elite pop every team needs.
10. Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves) – Freeman was on pace for about 25 HRs last season when he injured his wrist, sidelining him for five-six weeks and ailing him through the second half. He claims he’s “100%” now, though I am a little cautious trusting his power following a wrist injury through all of 2017. Additionally, Freeman has very little support in his lineup, which will make it tough to produce across the board. I’d rather go for Pujols and his mega upside over a smaller upside, but steady producer.
12. Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals) – Hosmer has been one of those guys that will always slot somewhere between 10-15 in 1B rankings as he doesn’t flash elite talent, but he quietly produces enough to make you satisfied having him on your squad. There used to be expectations of Hosmer featuring more pop and steadier producer, though last year’s .297/.363./.459 with 98 Runs and 93 RBI were sure to please any owner. They were career numbers, though, and I wouldn’t expect them to repeat in 2016. Pull it back a little as he hits around 17 longballs and he’s still suitable to start in a 12-teamer.
TIER 3: More Like UTILs, amiright?
13. Lucas Duda (New York Mets) – Since Kendrys Morales isn’t eligible at 1B, Duda gets the nod to led the third tier of first basemen. I completely understand the complaints of Duda’s hot/cold tendencies, but at the end of the day, he hit HRs at nearly the same rate as 2014, and I see little reason not to expect a 30 HR season from Duda in 2016. Keep in mind, his soft contact was a minuscule 11.3%, suggesting that his .285 BABIP could rise next year if the shifts aren’t purely to blame.
14. Brandon Belt (San Francisco Giants) – Every February I keep hearing the same things. “This is the year!” “Belt is the sleeper pick you want!” For a moment last season it looked like his time had come, belting 7 HRs and slashing .336/.405/.670 in May. Then the house fell down, hitting only three dingers in the next two months. Look, I understand he had a 39.5% hard hit rate and a .280 average last year, but the 26.4% K rate scares me, his FB rate dropped from 44.0% to 37.9%, and his HR/FB fell from 18.2% to 13.6%. I don’t see the all-star season coming just yet.
15. Mitch Moreland (Texas Rangers) – Here’s some fun facts. In 132 games, Moreland smacked 23 bombs while keeping an acceptable 21.7% K rate and .278 average – a number I see holding up in 2016 given his 36% hard contact rate. The biggest issue is his age as he’ll be 30 through the season and there may be question if he keep it up for a full season in the bigs, but the RBI will be there as well and we could be onto something special here.
16. Mark Teixeira (New York Yankees) – You’re taking a sizable risk if you’re depending on Teix to man the bag in 2016 as the aged Yankee can’t seem to run far enough away from injuries. He will hit a boatload of HRs when he’s able to play – at the cost of a sub .250 average, mind you – and the RBI should keep pouring in. What are the chances he plays a full season for the pinstripes? Mark it zero as it’s inevitable Teixeira will miss some time this year. Make sure to have a backup plan.
17. Byong-ho Park (Minnesota Twins) – There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Park, but everything I’ve heard dictates great all-around upside as long as he remains a starter for the Twins. It’s tough to project Park, but his upside could realize 20 Hrs, solid production stats, and a good .275 average, which makes him quite serviceable, especially when he’s going for a very late round pick in 12 teamers. As you look beneath Park, you’ll see a lot of guys with their own share of question marks, making me Byung-ho on taking the chance for the Korean import to…ahem…knock it out of the Park.
18. Mark Trumbo (Baltimore Orioles) – These final three hitters are in a separate mini-tier, but it’s not a big enough gap to turn it into an official tier. Trumbo used to be a sexier option, but then he’s done some weird things with his hair and now his HR/FB numbers have dipped from 20%+ territory to sub 15%. Still, it’s good enough for 20+ dingers and an average around .250, which isn’t that bad.
19. Adam Lind (Seattle Mariners) – Lind quietly put up a respectable season for owners in 2015, holding a .277 average en route to 20 HRs and 87 RBI. His rates were in line with career numbers, though he is starting to climb in age as he’ll turn 33 in July. The Mariners will trust him fifth in the lineup behind Nelson Cruz, and he could be a stable producer off the bench for your squad.
20. Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians) – The evil ways of Santana lie in his inability to keep a high average, as he’ll probably be sitting below .240 for another season. He’ll need some black magic if he wants to blast 25+ HRs again, as his HR/FB from his 27 HR season in 2014 was above 16% with a smooth 40% FB rate. These days that number is closer to 35%, with a drop in his HR/FB to 13%. I don’t see a major rebound for Carlos, and it could be a stormy 2016.