Early 2020 First Base Preview: Heavy at the Top
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 “too early” 2020 fantasy baseball first base ranks and overall outlook on the position. Yes, plenty will change, and players will be moving up and down this list as more information is provided and signings or trades occur. When it’s all said and done, this list will be updated. Until then, 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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Early 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.
This may come as a surprise but I have Pete Alonso at number three 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-three 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 some early 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.
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.
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.
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.
Jose Abreu falls right in line with these last two names and closes up this tier. He is just 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.
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.
I find myself really wanting 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 actually found myself lower on Hoskins initially. 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.
Tier Five: The Vets
I have found myself struggling to rank these three players. How much of their production was the juiced ball? How much of the success will follow them back into 2020? These are the questions that come with these players and it is why I find myself placing them into this tier. 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.
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. I just cannot see a repeat of all those counting stats and I also anticipate a slight reduction in home runs.
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 to 25 home run upside. There is a really high floor with LeMahieu annually, but I cannot buy in that he suddenly is peaking in his early 30’s. That is why he fell just outside my top 10.
Speaking of career highs, 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.
I am really torn on Trey Mancini. He has a great home ballpark and great ballparks within the division. Not the toughest pitchers to face off against either. He is in a solid position to produce similarly to 2019. What has him ranked lower than some other players is lack of track record. I think he is a solid value entering 2020 but if he creeps into the higher tiers, I am willing to let other owners have him. He will be a mover on my ranks all off-season and into spring training.
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.
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.
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.
Edwin Encarnacion is a great fallback option. He is who he is at this point in his career. He is a free agent and where he lands will affect his stock. I assume he will play for a contender. Let’s just hope he goes to a hitter-friendly ballpark and hits in the middle of the order.
Yandy Diaz and Luke Voit are similar in my mind. Both are projected starters but both have playing time questions entering 2020. Both have high ceilings and would be great values in draft season if the secured everyday playing time. I am betting on the upside here and I am hopeful they get the full time starting jobs for their respective teams.
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.
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 ahead of him. I’m aware I may be too low on him but until playing time and roles for a few guys ahead of him are figured out, I want the upside over the known commodity in this portion of drafts.
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.
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 upside. He will get you some nice home run totals, so in daily leagues, he gains value.
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.
Yasmani Grandal made the first base ranks. This goes to show you just how much the position thins out. Grandal is solid but I doubt you are drafting him as your first base option. If you do for some odd reason, you could do worse. Being a catcher limits his chances at everyday playing time of course.
CJ Cron has 30 home run pop in that bat of his but somehow, as of now, he is not a starter for the Twins. Per Roster Resource, he is blocked by Marwin Gonzales. If the playing time comes and he is a starter, he could be a mover before things are said and done.
I like Mark Canha late for depth but I do find it difficult to truly buy-in on the late-career breakout we saw. Nevertheless, we saw his potential and if you are hurting for a corner infielder or a little pop late in drafts, Canha is your guy.
Garrett Cooper feels like someone who won’t hurt you but is not much help either. He is more of a lineup stabilizer that offers a little power and a little batting average help. My expectations are not too high on Cooper.
Howie Kendrick might need to move up sooner than later on this list. I just want to see where he lands next season. If he can land a starting gig, he is definitely moving up my first base ranks. Solid, high average and offers some pop. It is hard to find someone who can hit 20 home runs and hit .300 over the span of a season this late in drafts. If he is a starter I believe it is possible. We have to wait and see what happens with Kendrick.
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.
Daniel Vogelbach is the final guy on my top 30. He has big-time power but lacks in batting average. There is not a whole lot to be excited about from the looks of things but whenever I see his power potential, I see upside as well.
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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