Welcome to the next installment of my positional previews for 2020 fantasy baseball. Last week I kicked them off with a look at the Catcher position so this week we’re moving on to our first base preview.
I honestly thought catcher was a tough position to break down, and then first base came around. Don’t get me wrong, catcher is in a tier of its own with how bad the position gets at a certain point. First base, however, may be fighting for the second-worst position this season in terms of quality depth.
With that said, these are my 2020 fantasy baseball first base ranks and overall outlook on the position. I will break down my ranks as they now stand, provide tiers and discuss players individually. Lastly, I included the 2020 steamer projections as well!
I quickly want to clarify. The players listed are CURRENTLY first base eligible. The players that may gain first base eligibility once the season begins are not included.
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2020 First Base Preview
Tier One: Elite
This is basically the same across all positions. What I mean by “the same” is that very few players make this tier. I say, typically two or three players at most per position make it into this tier and first base is no exception.
It is a clear top two here for me. Cody Bellinger and Freddie Freeman are by far the top two options at the first base position and they have separated themselves from the pack.
Cody Bellinger is a consensus first-round pick after hitting on all cylinders in 2019. He is a five-category producer and offers a great, solid base to any team. Speaking of a solid base, Freddie Freeman is right there. He offers a similar floor to that of a Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon but at a position with far less depth. What keeps Freeman just outside the first round is the lack of speed. He will grab you a handful of steals but no enough to make a true difference.
Tier Two: The Next Best Thing
This tier offers three names that provide a solid floor but also still provide a high ceiling for the first base position. This tier is also where one of my 2020 breakout candidates as well. I will have quite a few shares of players within this tier.
Matt Olson is by far my favorite first baseman to target heading into the 2020 season. His numbers have been right in step with Pete Alonso. Take a look at their projections for 2020. They are basically identical. Matt Olson is Pete Alonso without the price tag and I am ALL IN on him for the 2020 fantasy baseball season.
This may come as a surprise but I have Pete Alonso at number four at first base. You cannot ignore the huge year and although I anticipate somewhat of a sophomore slump and regression, I also like his profile and feel even with regression there is enough reason to gamble on him being a top-five first baseman.
However, he is a preliminary bust pick of mine at the same time. Although I really like Pete Alonso and believe in his skill set, I am seeing really high ADP in drafts. He has gone early- to mid-second round in some cases and if that is where the price settles on Alonso, I am out and he will be a bust for me.
Anthony Rizzo offers arguably the highest floor of any first baseman not named Freddie Freeman or Cody Bellinger. He is just as safe as it gets and overall very boring. He is another solid, safe player who may be discounted compared to previous seasons due to the excitement of other players around him. The farther he falls come draft day, the more shares I will have.
Tier Three: Solid and Safe
Calling this the solid and safe tier just felt right. Coming up with names for tiers is probably the hardest thing about this. I digress, these players offer a high floor and provide a certain level of security at the position.
Jose Abreu is just such a solid producer across the board. Abreu as a fantasy player is nothing flashy but he definitely gets the job done. I feel he offers just a little less upside than the two names above him in this tier.
Last season I hit on Josh Bell and he was a difference-maker. He came out on absolute fire and then went on an equally long cold streak. Bell was coming around and proving that the early season production was not a fluke. He then got hurt which ultimately ended his season. I like Bell to bounce back and come out and be that solid, high floor type this year.
Paul Goldschmidt may be a surprise to some being this low, but we need to realize that his best days are likely behind him. I will not ignore the upside that still remains, but with his batting average taking a hit and the steals all but gone, the ceiling has been significantly lowered. He is surely a three category producer with a chance at batting average being a positive. I would expect similar results to 2019, but with .270 to .280 likely the ceiling at batting average entering 2020 compared to the .290 to .300 upside he was once capable of.
Tier Four: Upside and Breakout Potential
This tier is small and it has two names I want to rank higher but cannot at the moment. I would not mind finding myself taking one of these two players as my starting first basemen come draft day. It is getting close to where I do not feel comfortable saying that but we are not there yet.
Trey Mancini has grown on me and for all the right reasons. A lot of the underlying numbers are similar to what we saw him breakout in 2017. Mancini managed to improve in other aspects as well. He has a great home ballpark and great ballparks within the division. He is in a great position to produce similarly to 2019. Mancini is a good value entering 2020.
It blows my mind that DJ LeMahieu had a career year at age 31. What is even more surprising is that he did it after playing in Colorado all those seasons prior to 2019. His batting average has always been his strength. My concerns are mostly in the counting stat production.
To put up over 100 RBI while atop of any lineup is hard to bank on. He projects to lead off as of now for the Yanks according to Roster Resource. I think he is a great option if you need batting average, runs and 20 or so home runs. That is good enough to crack the top-10 at the position.
I really want to rank Max Muncy higher but I simply cannot due to the batting average woes. Rhys Hoskins actually has the same concerns. In a points or OBP format, these two would gain a ton of value. They both have great upside but the batting average and lack of steals gives them a high floor in only three categories. Muncy’s multi-positional eligibility definitely helps his value, and he is top-10 but to put him any higher at this time just isn’t going to happen.
I find myself low on Rhys Hoskins. His x-stats suggest last season was not much of a fluke as he took a step backward. The power and skill are still there. I don’t think he just lost it. I believe we could see a solid bounce-back and at his draft price there is little risk.
Carlos Santana posted a career-high .281 batting average. His next best was .268 … in 2013! The power production is very real. I expect the average to drop a bit but all in all, he still should be a solid fantasy producer. If you play in OBP or Points leagues, he would rank higher and may even jump up a tier or two. He often walks just as much, if not more than he strikes out. That is exactly the type of player you want in OBP and points formats.
Tier Five: Filling Your Needs
This is also the final tier I would aim to get my starting first basemen from. Beyond this tier, you will see plenty of upside options but these are the final what I would deem “safe” options at the position. This is also a good tier to pick whichever player fills a team need.
Yuli Gurriel is just so solid and safe. The hit tool is never a concern. If the ball does lose some juice, the power may be affected a bit and that is where my concern is. He lacks the upside of others in the tier above him. I want the upside over the known commodity in this portion of drafts but because he’s such a safe commodity, he leads off this tier.
When it comes to Danny Santana, I am higher on him than the rest of my fellow analysts over at Fantrax. There are a ton of red flags that I am aware of. Santana does not walk all that much, he strikes out more than you would like to see and he chases a ton of pitches outside the zone. The batting average may be a bit of a hit, but he may be able to sustain a high BABIP and keep his batting average from bottoming out due to his speed. He offers 20/20 upside from the first base position. Those stolen bases coming from a first baseman can prove valuable. At the 15th first basemen off the board, there is definitely room to profit but he could also be droppable sooner than later into the year.
Edwin Encarnacion is a great fallback option. He is who he is at this point in his career. He landed in the perfect spot. Edwin will slot into the middle of what’s become a very good lineup. Draft him, set him in your lineup and enjoy the home runs and RBI totals he brings you.
Luke Voit is coming off an injury but all things are pointing up for him on the health side of things he had notable pre and post-injury stats. I think a Voit can return to form this year. He should get the nod as the starter in New York initially, and it should be his job to lose.
Christian Walker, I am a bit bullish on. There are underlying metrics suggesting his breakout is legitimate. Another player in a potential platoon situation. He offers solid pop with a handful of steals. Not to mention, he is in a pretty decent lineup over in Arizona. That team surprised us in 2019 and could very well do the same in 2020.
Tier Six: The Glob
This is the part of my first base preview where things get tricky. You can really go any direction. If you look at 10 different sets of ranks, you will find 10 different orders. Every position has a portion known as the glob. It is where teams can be made. If you go digging into the glob and pull out some of the buried treasure, it can be league winning.
Yandy Diaz is a projected starter but he does have playing time questions entering 2020. Diaz has shown flashes and offers a high ceiling. There is a chance he’s just a great value in drafts this season again. I am betting on the upside here and I am hopeful he gets the full time starting job for the Rays.
Joc Pederson would be in the tier above if it weren’t for the platoon he is in. Although it is the strong side of the platoon, it still limits his overall potential. He will get you some nice home run totals, so in daily leagues, he gains value.
CJ Cron has 30 home run pop in that bat of his and since signing with the Detroit Tigers, the playing concerns are no longer an issue. You can draft him as a late round power source with confidence.
I like Mark Canha late for depth or as a corner infielder. We saw his potential and if you are hurting for a corner infielder or a little pop late in drafts, Canha is your guy.
I am being aggressive with the Evan White ranking here. He offers more upside than most at this point in the rankings. There is legitimate five-category potential here and because he offers upside across the stat line, there is no reason to take a shot on White. The only reservations I have is although he got the long term deal, he still lacks some minor league seasoning and he could still start the year in the minors unless he kills it in spring training.
Ryan McMahon was a popular sleeper coming into 2019 and even showed what he is capable of at times. He had a rough end to the season but ultimately, he has multi-positional eligibility and gets to call Coors his home. Let’s just hope the Rockies don’t sign someone to block him from every day playing time. But it’s the Rockies so they likely will.
I am pretty low on Michael a Chavis. I can understand the upside people see but the potential for batting average woes is far more concerning with the strikeout rate. Good for power and should get every day at-bats but middling average with power is not a difficult skill set to find.
Speaking of middling average with home run potential, we have Renato Nunez. I like the home park and there really isn’t any issue for playtime concerns. Ryan Mountcastle is on his way up so he could get pinched if he’s get off to a slow start or they feel the need to keep Chris Davis in the starting lineup. Which we all agree, they should not.
Tier Seven: Deep League Dart Throws
This is for the deep league fantasy owners out there. If you find yourself scrambling for a corner infielder late in drafts or you really whiffed on first base and need a last-ditch effort, this tier is for you. Upside is limited here if you haven’t noticed.
Free Nate Lowe! We know the upside is there. If the Rays commit to this kid full time, he could break out in a big way. The situation in Tampa has become very crowded and there’s no clear cut path to playing time. It is a situation to monitor.
What is there to say about Daniel Murphy and Joey Votto? Both are just late round corner infield targets. Murphy offers more batting average these days and could help stabilize a lineup in that manner while giving you 20 home runs.
Joey Votto offers you the good OBP and could be valuable in such formats as OBP or points leagues. Both are limited in upside. It kills me to even say that.
Eric Hosmer is the definition of “meh”. He is a compiler. If you happen to have him during his one hot streak a year you are lucky. At this point, he plays every day and that has value.
What did you think of my first base preview? Want to see how my fellow Fantrax analysts rank the position? Check out our 2020 Consensus First Base Rankings!
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