2019 Fantasy Baseball: AL First Base Profiles and Projections
Welcome to the 2019 Fantasy Baseball season. We’re very excited to get things started and if you’re here reading this, we know you are too. The FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit is just getting rolling, but it’s going to be quite the fantasy baseball feast to say the least. We started it off looking at the catcher position. Please check out our catcher rankings (Mixed, AL-Only, NL-Only), Catcher Sleepers and Catcher Player Profiles (AL, NL). Catcher week was a lot scarier than shark week, that’s for sure. Now the real fun starts. In the paragraphs ahead you’ll find our AL First Base Projections and Profiles. Let me promise you the bats here are a lot more exciting than the catchers we’ve been talking about.
If you’re like us you can’t wait until spring to get the 2019 fantasy baseball season started? Well, you don’t have to. Leagues are already forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and start or join a league today.
AL First Base Projections and Profiles
Each of the player profiles below includes each player’s age, position eligibility info, stats for the last three years, three-year totals, an extrapolation out to 600 plate appearances, and our projection for the 2019 season. Of course you also get a quick profile of each player with analysis from our top baseball writers.
We’ve divided each position by league so it’s a little easier to find the players you’re looking for. Of course you’re not going to find some players because there are still plenty who haven’t signed yet. Have no fear our 2019 Fantasy Baseball Player Profiles will be updated with each signing. That means we’ll reevaluate the player who signs and all the players affected by it. Then once Spring Training is underway we’ll stay on top of all of the latest news there as well.
Enough with the small talk. On with the AL First Base Projections and Profiles and our quest to help you get to know the player pool for 2019 Fantasy Baseball.
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Abreu put up huge numbers in 2017, batting .303 with 33 HR and 102 RBI, marking the fourth straight season he eclipsed 100 RBI. A severe thigh infection limited him to just 128 games in 2018 however, snapping his streak of 100 RBI seasons. While his plate discipline numbers were normal, his .265 average was the lowest of his career. His .294 BABIP was the lowest he’s ever posted, well off his .329 career mark. While his hard contact rate dipped slightly, his batted ball distribution was consistent with every other year of his career. That indicates his BABIP should bounce back with a full healthy season, bringing his average back up with it. He doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls (34.6% career FB%), relying on consistently high HR/FB rates to push for 30 home runs per year. A very bad White Sox lineup could impede Abreu from driving in 100 runs again in 2019, but he offers a very high floor if he can stay healthy for what will be his age 32 season. – Nathan Dokken
Yonder Alonso, Chicago White Sox
Alonso largely made good on his 2017 breakout in 2018, hitting over 20 home runs in the second straight year. He also drove in over 80 runs for the first time in his career while hitting for a solid enough average (.250) to be worth your time in most leagues. He continued to be very bad against lefties though (.619 OPS) and he faded quite a bit over the second half, with a .709 OPS post-All Star break. The second half slump seems to be largely BABIP driven though, so we should expect a relative bounce back from those numbers. He doesn’t give you enough power or average to be drafted in standard mixed leagues, but in deeper leagues he can be a solid corner infield option thanks to his guaranteed playing time against right-handed pitching. – Nathan Dokken
Tyler Austin, Minnesota Twins
Austin was traded to the Twins from the Yankees at the 2018 trade deadline, and wound up seeing 136 plate appearances for the Twins down the stretch. He hit only .236/.294/.488 over that span, but crushed nine homers and four doubles. Austin has a lengthy injury history, so between that and his career .664 OPS against right-handed pitching, he was expendable for the Yankees. Austin destroys lefties (.937 career OPS), but that isn’t good enough to make him rosterable in standard mixed leagues. It remains to be seen how the Twins will manage the first base position in 2019, but giving Austin the full-time gig is unlikely and ill-advised. He’s a short-side platoon bat, which is much friendlier in DFS contests than season-long fantasy. Save him for AL-Only leagues. – Nathan Dokken
Jake Bauers, Cleveland Indians
For basically his entire minor league career, Jake Bauers has flown under the radar. People knew his name, but he never really got talked about due to him lacking any plus tools. Well, he still doesn’t have any, but he does have the ability to contribute across the board production. In 520 combined Triple-A and MLB at-bats last season, Bauers hit .235 with 16 homers, 72 RBI, 79 runs, and 16 steals. With the exception of a higher batting average, that stat line is right in line with the type of player Bauers is. He also walks a fair amount, so those in OBP leagues should give him a little bump up their draft board. While he’s likely to hit a little further down the order to start the season, the solid Cleveland lineup around him should give Bauers a chance at 150 R+RBI to go along with double-digit pop/speed and an average that won’t kill you. – Eric Cross
Greg Bird, New York Yankees
Yuck. I’m avoiding Greg Bird in 2019 like I’ve avoided broccoli every day of my life. Sure, he’s got some pop and is a lefty playing in Yankee stadium, but you actually need to make contact with the ball to hit home runs. Crazy idea right? Sure, his .230 BABIP was low and should normalize to some degree. But even with that, Bird’s batting average is capped around .240 and he’s losing playing time in a hurry to Luke Voit. It’s best to avoid Bird outside of deep AL-Only leagues to start the season. Make him prove he can actually do anything positive before scooping him up off the waiver wire. – Eric Cross
Justin Bour, Los Angeles Angels
Bour started 2018 in his typical fashion, but he couldn’t maintain the .322 BABIP that allowed him to hit .289 in 2017. His at-bats were then pretty much cut off when he was dealt to the Phillies. Now he heads to the Angels 1B/DH positions that also include Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani. There’s little doubt that Bour could meet or exceed the production that Pujols puts up at this point in his career, but will the Angels bench a future Hall of Famer? Best case scenario is probably Bour getting slightly more than half-time play and only facing right-handed pitching. Bour is a career .219 hitter against left-handed pitchers, with just eight of his 84 HRs coming against southpaws. As it stands now Bour is limited to AL-Only formats, but an injury to Pujols or Ohtani could quickly put him in the mixed league conversation.
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
A polarizing player heading into the 2018 draft season, Miguel Cabrera would wind up punishing those who invested in him. He took part in just 38 games before his season came to an end due to a ruptured biceps tendon. While his batting average did rebound from 2017’s .249 mark, his power did not return. His .149 ISO was identical to his 2017 mark, hitting just three homers over 157 trips to the dish. Perhaps most concerning is his drop in fly ball rate; it dropped over 12% from 2017, putting him at just 20.4%. You simply cannot be a power threat if you aren’t putting balls into the air. Pitchers clearly feared him less, as his 44.3% zone% is the highest percentage of pitches inside the zone since 2009. Perhaps he’ll be able to put the ball into the air more in 2019 and punish those pitches inside the zone, and his 94.4 MPH average exit velocity does leave room for optimism. He’s a risky bet at best, and a power/injury liability at worst. Perhaps some extra at-bats at DH with Victor Martinez retired will help keep him healthy, but he’s not someone to invest in as your starting first baseman in standard mixed leagues. – Nathan Dokken
C.J. Cron, Minnesota Twins
Finally, the 30-homer season we had been waiting on from C.J. Cron since 1926. Okay, it wasn’t that long, but it sure felt like it. The 2018 season was also the first time he had surpassed 500 PA also, so the power breakout shouldn’t come as much of a shock. The only problem is, he offers little outside of power. His contact skills and plate discipline are subpar, which should annually keep his batting average low, and he offers zero speed. You can probably pencil him in for something around what he provided us last year, but don’t get foolish and predict anything further. At least he has a starting job locked in for the Twins, so we don’t have to play the guessing game again for how many ABs he’ll get. A decent late-round power target. – Eric Cross
Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Does anyone really go into a draft targeting Chris Davis anymore? I sure hope not. When he was hitting 40-plus dingers it was one story, but he’s not even doing that anymore. A measly 16 home runs isn’t going to cut it when you hit .168. Excuse me while I go puke a little. Ever since his league-leading 47 homers back in 2015, his power output and batting average have been heading south, and not for the winter either. All of his peripheral stats are terrible and now that he’s not hitting for as much power, what use is Davis on your fantasy team in 2019? His contract is massive, so he should still play most days, so I guess if you’re desperate for some power at the end of your AL-Only league draft, he could help a little. – Eric Cross
Edwin Encarnacion, Seattle Mariners
If I wanted to make Encarnacion’s season sound really bad, I could say that he hit for his lowest home run total since 2011. Of course, he still hit 32 homers, and he played just 137 games due to injury. He’ll be 36 next year, and while it doesn’t look like he’ll fall off a cliff, there were some signs of decline in 2018. His contact rate dipped to 75.7%, his swinging strike rate jumped to 10.8%, both career-lows, and his strikeout rate jumped up nearly 3% as a result. His lack of foot speed limits his doubles ability, which hurts in points leagues, and his walk rate dipped 5.6% from 2017 as well. His hard contact rate was a career-high 42.4% though, and his batted ball distribution was right in line with his recent seasons. Entrenched in the middle of a powerful Indians lineup again in 2019, Encarnacion is poised to enjoy another shot at 30+ HR with 100+ RBI. There has to be at least a little concern that his production will taper off in 2019, but he still needs to be drafted in the single-digit rounds of all drafts. – Nathan Dokken
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
What if I told you that a first baseman could hit just 13 home runs and still be fantasy relevant? Gurriel has yet to surpass 20 home runs in a season, but his regular playing time in the middle of the Astros lineup has allowed him plenty of run and RBI opportunities to help buoy his value. He continued to hit for a .290+ average, despite a 4.5% drop in hard contact in 2018. However, his contact ability (86% contact%, 7% SwStr%) and batted ball profile still suggest a high batting average will be something you can continue to rely on. His career 3.9% walk rate dings him in OBP formats though, and there isn’t any upside compared to what he’s done in his previous two seasons. There should be enough at-bats to go around between 1B/DH to where Tyler White won’t eat into his playing time, but nevertheless, you don’t want to rely on Gurriel to be your starting first baseman in standard mixed leagues. – Nathan Dokken
Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers
Guzman didn’t grab many headlines in his rookie season outside of a three-homer performance against the Yankees in August. That hinted at his power potential, but he finished with just 16 home runs in 123 games for a .181 ISO. He walked at around a league-average clip, but his 28.3% K% will have to come down if he’s going to hit for a better batting average. He was also abysmal against left-handed pitching, with a nasty .572 OPS and 26% hard contact rate over 106 plate appearances. If he can’t step up his game against LHP, he’ll be a full-on platoon bat pretty quickly. He was still just 23 all season though, so some progression should be expected. You’d like to see some of that progression on his 33% hard contact rate, and his batted ball distribution profiles positively for a better average in 2019 – again, if he can cut down on the K’s. He’s not a player to be drafted in standard mixed leagues until we see more from him. – Nathan Dokken
Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners
The only thing stranger than the way Ryon Healy spells his first name is the fact that he was a right-handed batter who was worse against lefties than righties in 2018. He had a mere 76 wRC+ against lefties while also being below average against righties with a 97 wRC+. Healy missed some time due to an ankle injury in 2018, but managed to bash 24 home runs over 133 games for a .176 ISO. He scored only 51 runs due to his position in the lower half of the lineup and his inability to draw a walk, with a 5.2% walk rate that limited him to a gross .277 OBP. He managed a 17.3% HR/FB%, which is a bit of an inflated number given his 34.3% hard contact rate and 44.8% pull%, indicating a possible ISO regression in 2019. For a power hitter he only has a 37.7% FB%, which limits his home run upside as well. His .235 average should rebound in a pretty big way, so at least there is some upside there. Healy will present you with a fair number of HR and RBI, but his overall upside is capped as a low-end corner infielder option due to his approach and lack of elite power. – Nathan Dokken
Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
Do you hear that sound? That’s the sleeper alert going off in Tampa Bay. Nathaniel Lowe is coming off a phenomenal 2018 season across three levels of the minors where he hit a combined .330/.416/.568/.985 with 27 homers and 102 RBI. He’s always had this type of power brewing, but 2018 was the first year that his easy plus raw power showed up consistently in games. Adding some loft to your swing and pulling a few more pitches will do that to you. Lowe is one of the best first base prospects in the game and a rock solid all-around hitter. He can hit for both power and average while keeping his strikeouts in check. With C.J. Cron and Jake Bauers out of the picture, Lowe’s path to playing time isn’t as murky in 2019. Odds are he starts the season back in Triple-A Durham, but should be up by mid-season and provide power and a decent average over the second half of the season. Monitor his status during Spring Training and be ready to pounce in the later rounds if it looks like he might win an opening day starting gig at first base or DH. – Eric Cross
Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays
At this point, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from Kendrys Morales. He’s hit over 20 home runs in seven of his last nine seasons while hitting anywhere from .249 to .306 if you exclude his injury-plagued 2014 season. Last season, Morales only managed 130 games but was on pace for another 25-30 home runs and 70-plus RBI. Knowing what you’re getting is key with Morales. If you draft him with the expectation that he’ll get you around 25 homers, 75-95 RBI, and hit for an average that won’t kill you, you’ll probably feel okay with the results at seasons end. Just don’t expect any speed or a ton of runs. – Eric Cross
Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox
Mitch Moreland is one of those “better in real life than fantasy” type of players. In the real world, Moreland is a gold glove first baseman, a veteran leader, and a great clubhouse guy. Unfortunately, being a good guy isn’t a fantasy stat category. Fantrax has a ton of stat categories, but that’s surprisingly not one of them. Moreland will be in a platoon situation with 2018 postseason hero, Steve Pearce, in 2019, so don’t expect more than 400 at-bats or so out of Mitchy 2-bags, but he’s going to once again be hitting anywhere from 5th to 7th in a talented and deep Red Sox lineup, and should provide enough counting stats to be a viable AL-Only option. – Eric Cross
Ryan O’Hearn, Kansas City Royals
You could say O’Hearn’s skillset from the minor leagues translated pretty well to the majors. A moderate power threat throughout the minors, O’Hearn bashed 12 home runs in just 44 games with the Royals in his MLB debut. That’s a .336 ISO. Not too shabby. But how much power can we look for over a full season? His hard contact rate was solid at 42.3%, and he puts lots of balls in the air at 46.2%. His HR/FB was a grossly inflated 25% however, so suffice it to say, we shouldn’t expect 40 homers from O’Hearn in 2019. Mid-20’s homers is much more reasonable. He made just 70.6% contact, which led to a 26.5% K%. A mid-.200’s average is possible with such a high strikeout rate, but he’ll need to continue to crush his balls in play to keep his BABIP from cratering. It’s also worth noting that he only saw 41 plate appearances against lefties, but he was abysmal against them. His OPS against LHP was .465, with a 39% K%. There’s a very good chance he sits against lefties, capping his value. He’s only a deep league asset heading into 2019. – Nathan Dokken
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
Matt Olson only got to play 59 games with the A’s in 2017. To make up for lost time he decided to be one of just seven players in baseball to play all 162 games in 2018. He capitalized by bashing 29 homers with 169 R+RBI, although the .247 batting average left something to be desired. He trimmed over 3% from his 2017 season strikeout rate, down to a reasonable 24.7%, while increasing his contact rate over 4% to 74.3%. He continued to spit on bad pitches, with a 25.1% O-Swing% that fed into a double-digit walk rate. He also upped his hard contact to a career-best 47.3%, which ranked 8th in MLB among qualified batters. His 15% pop-up rate doesn’t do him any favors, but his 93.1 average exit velocity (5th in MLB) and 51 barrels (16th in MLB) indicate he was a bit unlucky on batted balls. His .357 xwOBA was .17 points higher than the .340 wOBA he posted as well, hinting at a brighter future. He was shifted on 60% of the time in 2018, and while he’s not a dead pull hitter, that won’t do any favors to his average. He should eclipse 30 homers in 2019 with a better average, making him potentially one of the more undervalued first basemen heading into next season. – Nathan Dokken
Steve Pearce, Boston Red Sox
Speaking of Steve Pearce, here’s the other part of the first base platoon in Boston. Pearce was an intrical part of the Red Sox championship run and was even the World Series MVP. Yes, Steve Pearce was the World Series MVP. And I may or may not have woken up my sleeping children when he went yard off Clayton Kershaw. Pearce is a great addition for any MLB team to have and should be a valuable piece to the 2019 Boston Red Sox, however, due to the fact that he usually only gets 250-300 at-bats per season. He’s a solid late-round AL-Only target though due to his ability to produce when given the at-bats. Take that 600 PA extrapolation above, cut it in half, and that’s what you can expect from the World Series MVP. – Eric Cross
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
Albert Pujols is a great example of where fantasy and reality diverge. In reality, Pujols is making an obscene amount of money to be a low-OBP bat with no defensive or baserunning value whatsoever. He was actually a below replacement level player according to fWAR in 2018. However, in fantasy he is potentially a cheap source of home runs and RBI. Pujols was limited to 117 games in 2018, and heads into 2019 coming off of knee and elbow surgeries. The chance for injury will remain until the day he retires, but last year was only the second time he’s ever played under 140 games. His inability to draw a walk dings him in OBP formats, and lowers his run scoring potential as well. He has hit for a .200+ ISO just once since 2012, and his consistently low BABIP’s cap his batting average to somewhere in the mid-.200’s. He’s only a deep league asset at this point in his career, but he’s one who will get consistent at-bats in a powerful Angels lineup. – Nathan Dokken
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Do you want consistency? Carlos Santana has consistency. A high OBP? Yup, he’s got that too. There are three certainties in life; death, taxes, and Santana putting up the same old line year in and year out. In each of the last eight seasons, Santana has finished with between 18 and 34 home runs, 74 to 87 RBI, and 68 to 90 runs with an average between .229 and .268 and an OBP between .351 and .377. Santana is always amongst the league leaders in walks, so those in OBP leagues should covet him more than AVG leagues. If you can stomach the usually low batting average, Santana is a fine middle-round mixed league target in 2019. – Eric Cross
Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays
After a breakout season in 2017, Smoak came back down closer to his career norms in 2018. I’ll give him credit, he cut down his strikeout rate by over 10% in 2017 and while that regressed a little last season, still sat at a manageable 26.3%. If he can keep his strikeouts in check, he shouldn’t have an issue keeping his average away from the Mendoza line while providing 25-plus home runs. Even if he does that, he’s still barely a borderline mixed league option due to a subpar Toronto lineup around him supressing his runs and RBI this season. He’s better left on the waiver wire in mixed leagues. – Eric Cross
Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays
There’s no need to beat around the bush here, Rowdy Tellez will only have AL-Only value if there’s an injury to Justin Smoak or Kendrys Morales. And even then, he’s a borderline option at best. He should be left on the waiver wire in all formats until there is an injury that opens up playing time. If that happens, he can provide a little pop and an average that won’t kill you. – Eric Cross
Dan Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners
Dan Vogelbach has been a sleeper pick off and on for the last several seasons but hasn’t gotten a chance at regular at-bats yet in the Major Leagues. Sorry to burst the Vogelbach bubble yet again, but 2019 won’t be the breakout year either. Not with Encarnacion manning DH and Healy at first base. There’s a change Vogelbach could get some time if Healy struggles, but we’re likely waiting for an injury before Vogelbach has any shot at playing time and fantasy value. If he can get time, some way somehow, he’d make for a decent AL-Only option due to his power upside. – Eric Cross
Luke Voit, New York Yankees
Mark it down right now, Luke Voit ends 2019 with more fantasy value than Joey Gallo. A little birdy whispered in my ear that it thinks Voit will be the Yankees starting first baseman in 2019. I tend to agree with this bird. Bird is the word after all. No, not Greg Bird. That guy makes Gallo look like Ichiro for crying out loud. While the .322 AVG is likely to drop around 50 points and the home run pace likely to slow, Voit still should be able to hit around .270 with 30 home runs playing half his games in Yankee stadium. He’s a sneaky good target that you can grab later on in drafts. – Eric Cross
Tyler White, Houston Astros
Tyler White feasted over the second half with the Astros, batting .287/.350/.551 with 10 bombs, 11 doubles, and even three triples. His hard contact rate wasn’t overwhelming at 32.9%, but a 16.9% HR/FB rate isn’t obscenely unsustainable. It’s a decent enough profile for second-division teams to deploy at first base, but the Astros have World Series aspirations, and White is primarily a DH. If the Astros surprise us and don’t sign or trade for a DH upgrade, White will make for a decent late-round bat. He’s capable of 20-25 home runs with a modest batting average over a full season, with a very good lineup to provide R+RBI. – Nathan Dokken
Hopefully you enjoyed our 2019 AL First Base Projections and Projfiles. If you have a beef or think we’ve left someone out, let the writer know about it on Twitter or leave your mark in the comments below.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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