Going Deep at First Base


  Last week we examined the top tier of first basemen as determined by NFBC ADP data. Each of the twelve players mentioned was a Top-100 pick. This week we’re going much deeper. We’ll be looking for discounted starters, deep-league values, and low-risk/high-reward bats between picks 100 and 550.

Tier 5- Priced to Move

13) Eric Hosmer-

ADP: 103.87

2016 Stats: 605 AB, 80 R, 25 HR, 104 RBI, 5 SB, .266 AVG, .328 OBP

  Eric Hosmer is a good player. At 27, he’s not the best first baseman available, nor is he the worst. He’s a solid, above-average asset whom owners can count on for consistent R, HR, RBI and AVG production. However his 103.87 ADP is indicative of what Hosmer fails to bring–high-dollar power.

  It’s easy to see what Hosmer does well for fantasy owners. He hits in the heart of the Royals’ lineup and has surpassed 500 ABs every year since 2011. He’s eclipsed 600 ABs twice, scored over 80 runs three of the past four years, and knocked in over 90 runs the past two years. Last season Hosmer even hit a career high 25 homers.

14372220  But there are also wrinkles to consider. Hosmer had a nightmarish 2014, which is really only worth mentioning because it happened. Also, 2016’s power surge appears to be the result of Hosmer muscling a few of his normal doubles into home runs. As his ISO was at an unexciting .167, just .005 points higher than 2015 when he finished with only 18 HR, I’m extremely dubious of a repeat performance. Always more of a 30+ doubles hitter than 20+ home-run stud, he will likely see his HR total back in 16-22 territory this season. Good for a guy who has never had an ISO above .180, but not great in this world of light-tower power-hitting first basemen.

  Additionally, although I’m not ready to write off this KC core of Hosmer, Moose, Cain and Alex Gordon, it seems that both Father Time and the Royals are ready to move forward. As a result, I worry that anyone who drafts Hosmer could be left with the last man signed to a sinking ship at the trade-deadline.

  Hosmer is a great complimentary piece to own, but he’s not the player who will carry you to the championship. Ultimately I think he will look very good in line-ups where owners nailed their top three picks, and very bad in line-ups where they didn’t.

 14) Carlos Santana-

ADP: 121.20

2016 Stats: 582 AB, 89 R, 34 HR, 87 RBI, 5 SB, .259 AVG, .366 OBP

  Carlos Santana is the rare first baseman who bats leadoff instead of 3rd, 4th or later. Francona made the move last season in hopes of best utilizing Santana’s incredible batting eye and strong OBP atop a dangerous Indians’ lineup. The results were awesome. Now teams like the Cubs are expressing interest in experimenting with an unorthodox leadoff man. Yet, as the 30 year old Santana enters his contract year, what should we expect in 2017?

  Santana had career highs in R, HR, and RBI last season. His .239 ISO was also a career high, up from a .196 overall mark. He’s hit 20 or more homers in 4 of his 6 pro seasons, and narrowly missed with totals of 18 and 19 the other two seasons. His K% and BB% were impressively identical at 14.4% in 2016. He has had over 500 ABs every year since 2011, and over 600 PA every year in the same span. While he may not return to the lofty heights he reached in 2016, clearly Santana is pretty dang good in the batter’s box.

  At an ADP of 121.20, Santana is the first-baseman I’ve been targeting most often in my own drafts. While he doesn’t have a track record of 30+ HR seasons, Santana is still a great combination of power and patience. He hits atop one of the best lineups in the MLB, and with the recent addition of Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians’ lineup should get even better. Also, with such a forgiving price-tag, Santana is the ideal bat to buy after prioritizing other positions earlier in your draft. He might not win you the league on his own, but he is a valuable piece to own at this price.

 

Tier 6- The Last Go-Round?

15) Albert Pujols-

ADP: 134.26

2016 Stats: 593 AB, 71 R, 31 HR, 119 RBI, 4 SB, .268 AVG, .323 OBP

 37 year old Albert Pujols is an absolute lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown. The 3-time MVP has amassed an astounding 101.1 career WAR and shares similarity scores with a group of All-Time Greats. However, age eventually defeats all. I’m placing Pujols at the head of the Last Go Round Tier because like other members of this tier, I’m of the opinion that this will be the last season that we see him drafted this high.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels The fantasy community has faded Pujols before. We passed on him after a dismal 2013 season marred by injuries, only to be shown up with an 89 R/28 HR/105 RBI season. He’s continued to be a productive masher and RBI producer since. Still, questions about his age and ability continue to mount.

 

  His OPS has declined each of the past three years to a solid, but questionable .780. It has also been noted that in 2016, Pujols produced results unlikely to be replicated, as his 114 OPS+ was among the lowest of all time by players who produced over 120 RBIs.

 I’m not saying Pujols has nothing left; I’m simply saying that each season he flirts more and more with producing average results. It appears that he will meet this mark sooner rather than later. With an ADP only 13 slots behind Santana and 30 slots ahead of the next member of this tier, I’m passing on Pujols in 2017. He’ll be a lot cheaper next year anyway.

16) Adrian Gonzalez-

ADP: 164.85

2016 Stats: 568 AB, 69 R, 18 HR, 90 RBI, 0 SB, .285 AVG, .349 OBP

  With Bellinger’s stock rising by the minute in LA’s system, A-Gon is embarking upon his last hurrah as the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman. Like Pujols, Gonzalez has an impressive resume. And like Pujols, A-Gon’s best days are behind him as his power fades with time.

  Last season saw Gonzalez hit for his lowest home run total since 2012. He tied his career low in runs and his .784 OPS was his lowest total since his Texas Ranger days. His SLG% dropped from .480 in 2015 to .435 in 2016. Worst of all, Gonzalez saw his ISO fall to .150, the lowest ISO he’s ever posted over a full season. A-Gon is simply not the same power-hitter he was earlier in his career, and I’m not sure he ever will be again.

  For these reasons, I’m extremely wary of Adrian. Even more than I am of Pujols. He will get regular at bats this season, and if he remains healthy he could put up an above-average season. Something like a 70/18/85 season is still a strong possibility. But the cracks in his foundation are evident, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Buy with caution.

17) Brandon Belt-

ADP: 167.56

2016 Stats: 542 AB,77 R, 17 HR, 82 RBI, 0 SB, .275 AVG, .394 OBP

  I know what you’re thinking: Why the hell are you lumping the 28 year old Brandon Belt in with aging sluggers like Pujols, Gonzalez and Morales? It’s a fair question. The reasoning is simple: Like many of the sluggers in this tier, Belt is walking a dangerously thin line between fantasy goodness and a downhill slope towards irrelevance.St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants - Game Seven

  Baby Giraffe is a nice play in OBP leagues, but in standard 5X5 formats he always seems to be leaving juice on the table. Some will point to his home ballpark as a reason for his underwhelming power production, and they wouldn’t be wrong for making such a point. Look no further than this loud out against the mighty Clayton Kershaw to see how winds off the Bay can torment the left-handed hitting Belt.

  Still, others might point to his remarkably consistent power-profile to establish a case against Belt becoming anything more than what he is: Eric Hosmer-Lite. Like Hosmer, Belt is probably a more valuable player in real life than in fantasy. Like Hosmer, Belt is known more as a quality doubles slapper than as a home-run threat.

  But unlike Hosmer, Belt has never blasted more than 18 HRs in a season despite a better .188 career ISO. He’s also never scored more than 80 R, and last season was his first year knocking in over 70 RBI. Still, Belt is a fairly solid play at his price. And while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Belt get 20+ HRs for the first time in his career, don’t expect much more than an average Eric Hosmer line.

18) Kendrys Morales-

ADP: 177.98

2016 Stats: 558 AB, 65 R, 30 HR, 93 RBI, 0 SB, .263 AVG, .327 OBP

Kendrys Morales has been a favorite late-round target of mine for the past couple years. As the final member of the One Last Ride Tier, he’s also my favorite buy from the group.  Morales is cheap, hits for power, knocks in a substantial amount of runs, and will post a decent average. While he spent much of early 2016 mired in an atrocious slump, he spent the latter half of the year absolutely destroying the baseball. Simply put, he’s one of the last first-basemen I’d feel fairly comfortable starting on a daily basis.

  How much longer the 33 year old Morales can keep swinging the lumber with authority remains to be seen. Yet, with a move from Kauffman Stadium to the Rodgers Centre, Morales might be in for an even better year in 2017. Don’t sleep on this vet.

 

Tier 7- The Sleeper Tier

19) Eric Thames-

ADP: 207.49

2016 Stats: N/A

  Eric Thames flamed out in the MLB back in 2012. Since then, he’s become a legend in the KBO. Back in the States for 2017, Thames will look to reestablish himself as an MLB level talent in Milwaukee. But just how well might his skills translate to The Show?

  Steamer wasted little time getting everyone to dream big on Thames via their optimistic projections. Generously, perhaps, they have pegged him for 492 AB, 74 R, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 13 SB, .272 AVG and .350 OBP. This line, especially including the 10+ stolen bases, would play in any league at first base. While Thames is currently listed as OF on NFBC, many players will be looking to draft Thames as a first baseman this season.

  If you buy Thames, you’ll be taking a shot in the dark. You might also have to reach further for him than is a good idea because the Thames Hype-Train is real. He could bring his power stateside, or he might remind teams why he went to Korea in the first-place. And at an ADP of 207.49, he’s not exactly clearance-priced. The gambler in me is a fan, but the cautious part of my brain is telling me to wait for a more established veteran like V-Mart or Napoli to play in 2017.

20) Tommy Joseph-

ADP: 216.72

2016 Stats: 315 AB, 47 R, 21 HR, 47 RBI, 1 SB, .257 AVG, .308 OBP

Tommy Joseph is entering 2017 as the Phillies’ everyday first baseman. The opportunity will be huge, and Joseph will probably be selected late in drafts as a sleeper with upside. Perhaps too aggressively.

  ap_16261859243270-2e16d0ba-fill-735x490While Joseph is an exciting part of the Phillies’ current youth-movement, he might not bring anything above average first base production. For example, I don’t expect him to continue hitting with an ISO above .220. However, like everyone else, I’d take it if it happens.

  There are still strong options with a longer track record of success, and as much of an opportunity, on the board beneath him. Dream on Joseph if you’d like, but don’t forget that a high-floor often pays more than a perceived high-ceiling.

21) CJ Cron-

ADP: 224.00

2016 Stats: 407 AB, 51 R, 16 HR, 69 RBI, 2 SB, .278 AVG, .325 OBP

  CJ Cron could be in for a good year in Anaheim. When healthy over the past couple seasons, Cron has delivered with power. 2017 might be the year we see Cron take the next step as he emerges from Pujols’ shadow in Anaheim.

  Baseball-Reference has Cron’s 162-Game Average production at a 540 AB, 61 R, 23 HR, 83 RBI. While this sort of production won’t be mistaken for top-tier numbers, it’s a solid foundation to build upon his age 27 season. If Cron can stay healthy in 2017 and reach 550 ABs, he could set career highs in R, HR, and RBI and provide owners with nice, late round value.

22) Greg Bird-

ADP: 237.07

2016 Stats: N/A

  24 year old Greg Bird is an enigma at this point. After posting a nice 26 R/11 HR/31 RBI in 157 ABs in 2015, Bird and his .268 ISO looked to be on the verge of a breakout. Unfortunately his season was ended before it began due to a right shoulder labrum tear which required season-ending surgery. However, Bird has rehabbed and looks to be positioned for a pivotal role for the Yankees in 2017 and beyond.

  The addition of Chris Carter complicates the season’s fantasy outlook for Bird, but not enough to scare me off. Cashman seems to be simply hedging his injury-risks at first base with a cheap upside option who can provide power and roster flexibility.

  I still think Bird is the buy in New York, 1) because he’s the future of the position at Yankee Stadium, 2) because he’s a dynamic left-handed bat, 3) because they have the short-porch in right tailor-made for a left-handed hitter like him, and 4) because his BB% and K% are SO much more playable than Carter’s.

  If Bird can stay healthy for 2017 and maintain a regular role in the lineup, he might just explode. The price is steep for so many unknowns, but Bird has the upside to be a perennial top 16 first-baseman from this year forward.

23) Josh Bell-

ADP: 287.83

2016 Stats: 128 AB, 18 R, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB, .273 AVG, .368 OBP

  While Bell is currently listed as an outfielder, he’ll be the Pirates first baseman in 2017. Bell is much more well-known more for his advanced control of the strike-zone than for his still-developing power. This leads many to pass entirely on Bell until they see more from the rookie. I’m including him here with the Sleepers because with his size, batter’s eye and prospect pedigree, Bell could be a Brandon Belt-Lite sort of player in 2017.

  Belt, who was discussed earlier, is not known for prodigious power. However, as a big first baseman, he is still able to muscle out doubles and consistently get on base. Josh Bell will provide similar tools, if only with less power and a less premium spot in the everyday line-up. Still, this kid could surprise fantasy owners if he can stay healthy and let his tools play.

24) Justin Bour-

ADP: 309.91

2016 Stats: 280 AB, 35 R, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB, .264 AVG

  I’m slotting Bour in with the Sleeper Tier even though his 309.91 ADP is currently well below most members of our next group. He’s too much of a sleeper to fall any further. The first whistle of the 2017 Justin Bour Hype-Train blew on Monday, 2-13, when Don Mattingly declared Bour the everyday first baseman for the Fish. Mattingly then added, “We think there’s a lot in the tank with this guy. He brings fear to the lineup.”

  The 6’3” 265 pound behemoth produced a solid slash line (.264/.349/.475) last season, and has shown solid power with a .202 career ISO in 763 AB. He bashed 23 HR in 2015, and 15 in an injury shortened season last year. His career HR/FB% is 19.3%, and 82.7% of everything he’s ever hit into play has been classified as either Medium or Hard Contact. When he’s not chopping grounders over 40% of the time–an unsightly habit he’s improved each year in the MLB–this guy doesn’t mess around.

  With an everyday opportunity and 550+ AB, Bour could bring 24-30 homers home for fantasy owners. Hitting in a sneaky-dangerous Marlins’ offense could also provide Bour with good opportunities to collect RBIs. While there are a number of ‘ifs’ in his profile–if he’s able to hit in the 5 spot, if he’s able to improve his L/R splits, if he’s able to maintain a hold on the everyday 1B job–Bour could be a nice selection in the later rounds.

 

Tier 8- Handicapped Parking

25) Mike Napoli-

ADP: 226.07

2016 Stats: 557 AB, 92 R, 34 HR, 101 RBI, 5 SB, .239 AVG, .335 OBP

  Career years aren’t supposed to happen when a player is 34 years old. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Nap in Cleveland. He stung the ball and set career marks in AB, HR, R and RBI. His contact was classified as either Medium or Hard over 80% of the time he put the ball in play. Napoli’s HR/FB% was 20.5% for the year, just edging his career mark of 19.3%. In case you were wondering, Napoli is still a strong dude.

  If he can gets 550 ABs in Texas he could be in for another very good season. Draft him if you’re needing power late, but don’t expect another career season. Napoli, like many of the members of the Handicapped Parking Tier, may have played his best games already. Still, I think a solid 65 R, 25 HR, 80 RBI finish is a realistic expectation moving forward, and a good value at 226.07.

26) Victor Martinez-

ADP: 237.17

2016 Stats: 553 AB, 65 R, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 0 SB, .289 AVG, .351 OBP

  Martinez is 38 and he just had the second highest home-run total of his 13 year career. This one doesn’t feel as fluky as his 87 R, 32 HR, 103 RBI year in 2014, but it feels just as unlikely to be replicated. Still, Martinez is a mighty good buy from the Handicapped Parking Tier.

  He’s got a great eye, will hit for average, has a steady role in Detroit’s offense, and keeps hitting the ball hard. The only question will be, “Can he stay healthy?” If Martinez slips to, or past, his 237 ADP, I’d feel fine taking a chance on a sweet swing like Victor’s.

27) Chris Carter-

ADP: 245.00

2016 Stats: 549 AB, 84 R, 41 HR, 94 RBI, 3 SB, .222 AVG, .321 OBP

  Carter’s pre-Yankees signing 245.00 ADP will probably continue to plummet as his role in New York becomes more apparent. Right now it seems the Yanks plan to employ a plethora of L/R platoons around Carter, Holliday and Bird. Barring injury, it also appears that Carter will be the least likely of the three to get regular ABs. Combine all these factors, and I get the vibe that Carter’s 2017 will look a lot more like his 2015– 460 AB, 50 R, 24 HR, 64 RBI, .199 AVG–than his very nice 2016. There’s simply too much uncertainty here for me to confidently recommend Carter as anything but a low-risk/medium-reward first baseman.

28) Lucas Duda-

ADP: 331.65

2016 Stats: 153 AB, 20 R, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 0 SB, .229 AVG, .302 OBP

lucas-duda-11  I will start by saying that I really loved Duda going into 2016 and owned him in multiple leagues… until a lower-back stress fracture killed his season. However, if Duda is coming back healthy, I am prepared to get back on board at his current ADP. His last two healthy seasons–2014 and 2015–saw him average 70 R, 28 HR, 82 RBI with a .249/.350/.483 line. The 31 year old Duda will be eager to show teams he still has power as he enters his contract year. If he can stay on the field and get back to slugging from the cleanup spot, this Met could be an amazing draft day steal.

29) Brandon Moss-

ADP: 337.36

2016 Stats: 413 AB, 66 R, 28 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB, .225 AVG, .300 OBP

If you read my Tiering Up the Top 12, you know I hate Chris Davis. To me Brandon Moss is about the same as Chris Davis, except he sucks a lot more. It’s extremely hard for me to get excited about Moss as a fantasy asset, and it’s even more difficult to imagine myself ever recommending that you use him as a fantasy asset. Even at the end of a draft. So I’ll just say that I liked the Moss-to-KC move a lot more in real life than in fantasy.

  Grab him if you’re needing HRs, and are looking for a good reason to despise yourself.

 

Tier 9- Dirt-Cheap, Deep-League Long-shots

30) Jefry Marte-

ADP: 426.06

2016 Stats: 258 AB, 38 R, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 2 SB, .252 AVG, .310 OBP

  Jefry Marte had a long, unremarkable road to the majors. Last season he had 284 ABs, and showed decent power while covering for Pujols and Cron during DL stints. Whether it happens again is another question. Marte is my least favorite member of this tier because he’s the member least likely to show anything over average plate production. However, a path to regular playing time is fairly easy to imagine. I’m not recommending you draft Marte, but remember his name, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself debating a Jefry Marte FA add a few times this season.

31) Dan Vogelbach-

ADP: 429.18

2016 Stats: 12 AB, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .083 AVG, .154 OBP

  Unathletic as he is, Vogelbach might be a major steal at his current price. Especially in OBP leagues. The only question will be whether he can he get enough ABs. The current plan in Seattle involves Vogelbach platooning at first with new Mariner Danny Valencia. Last season Vogelbach finished .292/.417/.505 in AAA. If Danny V gets 550+ ABs in the majors, this dough boy might just steal your heart.

32) AJ Reed-

ADP: 479.02

2016 Stats: 122 AB, 11 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, .164 AVG, .270 OBP

  Last year at this time everyone was calling AJ Reed a sleeper. Now, he’s getting drafted 479th overall. I’m not ready to give up on Reed just yet. Playing time will be the main factor for him. If Gurriel struggles to show more than the .262/.292/.385 slash he brought last season, don’t be surprised if Houston aggressively promotes Reed to compete for the first base job. He’s a major part of Houston’s future, but his bat may be ready now–2016 results be damned.

33) Trey Mancini-

ADP: 551.43

2016 Stats: 14 AB, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .357 AVG, .400 OBP

  Mancini has been waiting for an opportunity in Baltimore, and he will likely be waiting a bit longer with the re-signing of Mark Trumbo. Still, his MiLB home run total for the past two seasons are 21 and 20. During a brief stint in The Show, his power played as he hit three dingers in 14 ABs. If/when he gets regular ABs, Mancini should hit for decent power and average and could be worth a late round flier in very deep leagues.

 

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”



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