My positional ranking series,
By Michael Kurland
First base… is just… rough this year. It is very heavy at the top with talent. It’s really a wasteland compared to previous years. It once was the deepest position around and you’d even try to squeeze 2-3 minimum onto a single roster if possible. Well those days are gone, and now we’re stuck with whatever you want to call this mess. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s still value to be had. You just have to know where to look for it. That’s where this list comes in. Let’s dive into this position and see what we can find. Maybe there is some treasure at the end of the rainbow after all…. or maybe just a puddle of mud.
This list is based on players CURRENTLY eligible at the position. There will be players like Daniel Murphy, Hoskins and others who will likely gain eligibility quickly once the season starts but they’re not on this list because they are not currently eligible.
Let’s get this thing rolling!
1: Freddie Freeman – He is an absolute stud at the position. No real holes in his game. He has a safe high floor. You can’t go wrong with freeman as the number one at his position.
2: Paul Goldschmidt – He’s more like a 1.b. at the position. These two guys are going back to back in most drafts or within a few picks of each other. It’s really a preference between Goldy and Freeman. Could easily flip them. Take him with confidence and don’t think twice.
3: Anthony Rizzo – He is being slightly overlooked in this first base wasteland. I have him in same tier as Freeman and Goldy, and I wouldn’t even be surprised if he out produce them this year. He’s easily in this top tier at the position and a solid value where you get him.
4: Cody Bellinger – We’ve seen what he’s capable of. There is so much upside for him and I expect him to improve from last season. The dodgers did ship out a couple of players this year and only brought in Pollock. I think his playing time “concerns” shouldn’t be so much of a concern going into this year.
5: Joey Votto – Now if this is he isn’t the definition of “Steady Eddy” then I don’t know what is. I am not willing to bet against a rebound season. He has one of the best plate approaches in the game. He is in the best lineup he’s been in since I can remember. Last year we saw his floor. Sure, now he’s he’s 35 and I think his best days are behind him, but he still offers enough upside to make my top 5 at this position.
6: Matt Carpenter – He had a helluva year last year. It was mostly a good two months that carried him to that final stat line. This is where the position gets murky. I think he has another year left in the tank. He looks healthy so far this spring and on a contending team. If he is healthy he’s a solid first baseman to have on your team.
7: Jesus Aguilar – Here is a guy no one is sure about. He broke out and had a great first half. After that great first half he had a, for a lack of a better word, meh second half. What is intriguing about Aguilar is that ball park mixed with hitting middle of that lineup. I’d bet this year he ends up somewhere in between the 1st half version and 2nd half version of himself from last season.
8: Matt Olson – He was everyone’s darling going into last year with that hot finish to the 2017 season. I think he has 40 home run upside without bottoming out your batting average. He’s definitely a post hype breakout candidate this year.
9: Jose Abreu – Coming off a bit of a down year last season, I think he’s in for a bounce back. His best days could be behind him but I like the chance for him to come in healthy and produce close to what we’ve come to expect from him year after year.
10: Edwin Encarnacion – He’s been on a steady decline last couple of seasons. Nothing overly drastic as far as a decline goes, but a decline none the less. The big home runs days I feel are behind him. All We can hope for is that he’s traded to a contending team sooner than later. He’s an every day starter and you know what you’re getting from him. Solid mid round guy to just plug in and forget about.
11: Jurickson Profar – Did he FINALLY breakout? Will he sustain it? I believe he can. He does offer 10 plus steal upside at a position where speed is hard to come by. Has the pedigree and after battling off injuries and rough start to his career, I think he’s going to continue from where he left off last season. He’s in a solid lineup but did go to a worse hitters park. The multi-positional eligibility is also a nice plus!
12: Max Muncy – There’s definitely some risk with Muncy. He is currently a projected starter per roster resource. The Dodgers are a crowded and deep, so he will need to hit to hold his starting spot. He showed he definitely can hit last season and I think he will. He has 30 home run pop and a solid team around him. Playing time is the only question but I believe in the talent.
13: Joey Gallo – The power is there, which we already know. If only he could just hit for somewhat of an average. The upside is there, but can he capitalize on it is the question. He needs to be planned for and built around in drafts.
14: Ian Desmond – He offers you some power/ speed combo and gets to call Coors Field his home. 20/20 seasons are his game. He has now done it for 5 of last 7 years. He’s coming off a 20/20 season as recent as 2018. It doesn’t hurt that he has a good lineup around him. Oh, and did I mention his home park is Coors Field?
15: Peter Alonso – UPSIDE! The position starts to fall off a cliff here. Right when you are ready to throw in the towel, he injects life back into the position. He can be a difference maker at the position. Could even be, dare I say, a league winner! Such a glob here, and he stands out as a potential difference maker. I’ll gladly take the upside play and you could pair him with another guy later on. He might miss first month but could light the world on fire once called up! The beauty of Alonso, is his price! You can get him after some of these other guys I have ranked behind him. He’s going late in most drafts so there is little risk but a huge reward to drafting him on your team this year.
16: Miguel Cabrera – He could play some first, but I expect him to play a lot more DH this year. Which in return should help him stay a little healthier. He is obviously past his prime but he still has his plate vision and hit tool that’s just undeniably great. Little lineup support but I think, ultimately, he has one more year left in the tank.
17: Hosmer – Words that come to mind when I think of Hosmer are boring and safe. He’s coming off a down year and should improve. He would benefit from some lift in his swing. He’s in a far better lineup so he shouldn’t feel nearly as much pressure to perform. If he can get back to 2017 or even close he could provide solid return.
18: Yuli Gurriel – Just like Hosmer, Yuli is just safe and solid. Won’t win you your league but definitely won’t lose it for you.
19: Josh Bell – I’m higher than most on Bell. I think he returns to form and gives you closer to what he did in 2017 than 2018. Walk rates and K rates improved last year. He has a great approach and it even improved last season. I think he offers some upside late at a position that lacks depth.
20: Luke Voit: I’m afraid he isn’t going to win that job in New York. If he does, there’s always the chance at a platoon. DJ Lemahieu needs some at bats and Greg Bird is around. If I knew he had the job to himself, he’d move up into the teens in my rankings. There’s too many question marks here with playing time, but the fact remains he can still win the job and be a solid contributor. Keep an eye on that situation in NY. So for now, he sits at 20th in my first base ranks.
21: Jake Bauers – He flashed a solid hit tool in minors. He came up and hit but then struggled to end the year. He is going to gain OF eligibility and does have some speed so maybe a few steals can be had here late. Because he offers steals there is definitely some upside here.
22: Carlos Santana – You’re going to get 20+ homruns and solid rbi production from him. He’s back in Cleveland and joining a team who isn’t as good as it’s been in recent years. He is who he is by now. He will be hitting in the middle of the lineup and should still produce solid numbers.
23: Marwin Gonzales – He’s going to start for the first Month (minimum) of the year. Sano just can’t stay healthy it seems. Even when Sano is back, he still provides solid value due to positional eligibility and will get his games weekly either because of injury or rest for other players. There’s even the chance he just earns a starting spot over someone else who is struggling. There is a lot of avenues to playing time and a lot of position eligibility will help him find his his way to solid production.
24: C.J. Cron – He is coming off a career year, and I can’t help but be think of a LoMo comp here. He’s coming into a more secure roll here with the twins and las year he flashed what he’s capable of. He will be hitting in the middle of solid lineup. He should have every opportunity to show what he has to offer and that last year wasn’t a fluke.
25: Jose Martinez – I really wanted to put him higher. The problem is his unsure role and playing time. He’d be farther up this list without question if he had his spot secured. He’s fighting for a spot against Fowler and O’Neill for RF. I just don’t think he wins it right away. Fowler is being paid a lot of money and I believe he is going to be given every opportunity to perform because of that. If he were to win that RF job, however, then he moves up my ranks a good bit. With his playing time far from certain, I think this is an appropriate spot for him for the time being.
The guys who just missed my list but could easily make a case for are Tyler White and Justin Smoak.
Tyler White – He was a pleasant surprise last year. I think he needs to hit to hold onto the full time DH spot in what is a very crowded offense this year. Any sign of struggle and he could be out of a gig. There is no room for error with Tucker likely back in the minors ready for an opportunity to open in the majors, as well as other capable hitters on bench ready to jump on their chance for at bats. With all that said, he still offers upside and just missed my top 25.
Justin Smoak – He just doesn’t offer enough upside for me. It really is just as simple as that. He’s safe but low batting average with mid 20’s home runs. I just think he doesn’t offer enough upside to make the top 25.
Well there you have it. That covers my first base rankings. Hope it helps provide some guidance going forward with you drafts.
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