There is more involved than player comparisons to find value when analyzing ADP. Pockets of value or a position to attack in a draft are also found. On a recent episode of Benched with Bubba, I was joined by Ryan Bloomfield of Baseball HQ. We discussed the middle rounds of a 12-team draft and stumbled upon a nice pocket of first basemen to draft.
The beauty of the pocket is the ability to fade early first basemen in drafts to load up at other positions. Sure, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson, and Pete Alonso are fantastic players, but you may be able to avoid them if you attack this first base pocket. I understand you may still want one of the early first basemen, but I will at least make my case for a handful of later first basemen that you can draft in the mid-rounds.
Besides the difference in draft picks, there is more reason to wait at first base. Most of the early first basemen do not steal many bases. However, other picks around Vladito, Freeman, and others do still bases, and that makes waiting on first base much more valuable for your team building. If you are not looking for stolen bases, you can also draft an ace for your rotation or join the early relief pitcher party.
There are many ways to build your fantasy team, but knowing where there are pockets of value allows you to pass on picks in certain parts of your draft to strengthen your team elsewhere. I will break down a handful of other options going between picks 120 and 146 according to NFBC Draft Champions ADP since February 1.
The First Base Sweet Spot
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels- ADP 124.67
After a 2020 stint that saw Walsh hit nine home runs with a .293 average over 32 games, he backed up the hype with a monstrous first full season with the Angels. He played in 144 games and hit 29 home runs while driving in 98 runs. It was not just power from Walsh, but he supplied your fantasy team with a solid .277 batting average.
Walsh showcased his power throughout the minor and so far so good with the Angels. Last season his 11.3% barrel rate was in the 75th percentile in baseball, while his 114.8 mph maxEV was good for the 94th percentile in baseball. His contact skills are slightly above league average, and with his quality of contact, he should continue to rake.
The primary concern with Walsh is his 48.3% ground ball rate compared to his 29.9% fly-ball rate. He did manage a 25.4% HR/FB with such a low fly-ball rate, but that is not always highly sustainable. He is a heavy line-drive bat, 21.8%, which helps with the BABIP and average. If he can elevate the line drives a bit more, he could have even more power. At the same time, a few more ground balls could spell trouble. Regardless,
Walsh backed up his solid 2020 performance and looks ready to thrive once again in 2022. The Angels’ lineup will also look better with a healthy Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon to go with Shohei Ohtani and others. If you wait at first base and draft Walsh, you can expect 25+ home runs with excellent counting stats and a decent batting average.
C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies- ADP 127.58
Once again, Cron put up another excellent fantasy season when he was given regular at-bats. In his first season with the Rockies, he played in 142 games, hit 28 home runs, drove in 92 runs, and most impressively racked up a career-best .281 batting average. Some expected more in the power department because of Coors Field, but Coors helps much more with batting average than power, and Cron enjoyed the latter in a big way.
Cron’s contact quality was outstanding yet again with an 11.5% barrel rate, hitting his 28 home runs on 41 barrels and his second-best hard-hit rate of 42%. He still had a 42% fly-ball rate with an 18.7% HR/FB rate, supporting more solid power production.
Cron was outstanding last season and now has 25+ home runs, 74+ RBI, and a .253+ batting average in each of his previous three full seasons. He should see plenty of playing time yet again in 2022 as he will play at first base as well as plenty of time at DH. In recent years, Cron has been a significant target as he was going much later in drafts, but he still makes for a great pick with plenty of upside at pick 127.
Josh Bell, Washington Nationals- ADP 128.17
The Josh Bell hype train is in full force this draft season. He is coming off an excellent 2021 season where he hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 runs. In addition, he once again walked over 10% of the time, 11.4%, and more importantly, lowered his strikeout rate to 17.8%. It was a strong season, and I do not mind taking him in a fantasy draft, but I have a little cold water to pour on the pick.
Sure Bell had a career-best 51.5% hard-hit rate but he only had 35 total barrels. That means he hit 27 home runs on 35 barrels which is a 77% clip, while the league average is around 64%. So that’s running pretty well. The other primary concern is his massive ground-ball rate. Once again, it was over 50%, 53.5%, and he ran pure with a 25.5% HR/FB rate on just a 26.5% fly-ball rate.
Bell has proven he can produce with a crazy ground ball rate in the past, but the quality of contact gains to go with his HR/Barrels rate is tough to sustain. The Nationals lineup will also be worse in 2022, which is concerning. Nevertheless, Bell is a good pick as his average should once again be quality, and his OBP skills are outstanding. Just know he ran well in 2021 and duplicating that will be challenging.
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies- ADP 138.08
Hoskins is my favorite target in this range. Sure, most will point to injury concerns from the 2021 season that saw a lingering abdominal injury eventually lead to season-ending surgery combined with a lingering groin injury. However, despite the injuries and only playing in 107 games, Hoskins still hit 27 home runs which is his third straight full season with at least 27 home runs. In addition, Hoskins again walked over 10% and had an average of .247, which gives him an average of .245 or better in four of his five seasons with the Phillies.
As most can tell, I am not worried about the injuries as he was still very productive and put up some of the best quality of contact skills of his career. Last season Hoskins had career-bests with a 17% barrel rate, 112.2 mph maxEV, and 46.3% hard-hit rate. In addition, the injuries did not stop him from doing what he does best, which is mashing.
Heading into 2022, I am all aboard the Hoskins train. Before last season, he played 41 games in a 60 game season and then 153 and 160 games in the previous two seasons. Playing time is not a problem with Hoskins, and in the loaded Phillies lineup, he should flourish once again. Those who love first basemen like Jose Abreu enjoy a similar statistical profile 46 picks later.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds- ADP 146.67
The 38-year-old Votto is coming off a monstrous 2021 season where he hit 36 home runs for the first time since 2017. He also drove in 99 runs which was also his most since 2017. It has been well documented that Votto has forfeited batting average as well as plate discipline for power, but not to as crazy of an extent as some may think.
Last season he did strike out a career-worst 23.6%, but still walked 14.4% of the time and hit .266. The average is more than satisfactory, and the OBP skills are still elite from Votto. The sacrifices have been tremendous as he had his best ISO of .297 to go with a .938 OPS and 140 wRC+. Votto’s contact quality correlated with his power resurgence as he had career-bests with a 17.2% barrel rate (previous best 9.5%) and a 53.2% hard-hit rate (last best 42.2%).
Votto’s chances at the plate also correlated to a lower ground-ball rate and an elevated fly-ball rate. The high fly-ball rate led to a career-best 26.5% HR/FB. So again, Votto did everything right, everything to a career-best level.
Now, the big question is, “Can Votto produce like this again?” To be this efficient could be challenging, but he should still put up tremendous power numbers. He will still be hitting in Great American Small Park. He will still be in a lineup with Jonathan India and Jesse Winker hitting in front of him. Votto should also benefit from more time at DH as well. So do not worry about it again, do not be an agist, and feel free to grab Votto as your starting first baseman or a solid corner infield option.
The first base position is deep this season. Again, this does not mean you have to avoid the elite talent that goes in the top 100 picks, but it also means you can pass and fill other spots of needs on your roster. I would try my best to get one of these first basemen as my starting first baseman, but if you do not, do not panic. Later in the draft, there is another pocket of value, and I will cover those targets in my next article.