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First Base Tiers – Power, OBP Machines, and Sleepers

As we head into the heart of fantasy baseball draft season, it’s fun to glance at each position and their ADP. Not that we should use ADP as a guide, but more so to see where players fall in drafts. For instance, I’ll sort ADP by each position to see what players I like and put them into tiers. That gives me an idea of how I strategize certain positions, particularly first base tiers in this piece. However, when it comes time to drafting, ADP goes out the window. As a fantasy manager, it’s important to have a draft strategy and adjust during the draft.

Throughout the offseason, we’ll dive into ADP tiers by position and this week includes the first base position. In this article, we’ll look at first base tiers with groupings of power, OBP, and sleepers. With the first base position as a whole, I’m finding relatively fair values or players to target later in drafts. Don’t forget to check out the FantraxHQ Staff Consensus First Base Rankings.

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First Base Tiers – Power, OBP Machines, and Sleepers

First Base Tiers – Elite Group

Freddie Freeman, D.J. LeMahieu, and Jose Abreu – All three first basemen should provide a high batting average with tons of runs plus RBI. However, they all don’t typically provide too many steals.

First Base Tiers – OBP Machines

Luke Voit, Max Muncy, Anthony Rizzo, Rhys Hoskins – All hitters that rank a bit better in OBP leagues, but Rizzo, Muncy, and Voit should play in rotisserie leagues as well. I’ll discuss Hoskins a bit later.

First Base Tiers – Power Hitter Group

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Pete Alonso, and Matt Olson – With Alonso and Olson, they both proved their elite power. We’ll discuss my love for Olson a bit later on. However, with Guerrero, we’re drafting him at his projection. In 2019 and 2020, Guerrero totaled 24 home runs, 86 runs, 102 RBI, and one steal with a triple slash of .269/.336/.442 in 757 plate appearances. Meanwhile, the BAT X projects him for 31 home runs, 90 runs, 93 RBI, and two steals with a slash line of .291/.355/.522. I’m holding out hope that Guerrero meets those projections with his elite talent and prospect pedigree.

First Base Tiers – Injury Caution

Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

NFBC ADP: 17.8

We can’t deny his elite National League MVP 2019 season where Cody Bellinger smacked 47 home runs, 121 runs, 115 RBI, and 15 steals with a triple slash of .305/.406/.629. In 2020, Bellinger finished with 12 home runs, 33 runs, 30 RBI, and six steals with a .239 batting average. For reference, that would’ve paced out for 32 home runs, 87 runs, 79 RBI, and 16 steals in 646 plate appearances, which is his 2018 and 2019 average PA. Those counting stats look closer to his 2018 season, but he could’ve gone on a hot streak over a full season to finish in between 2018 and 2019.

Bellinger’s Shoulder Injury

Bellinger is still an elite talent, but one concern involves the shoulder injury. He hurt his shoulder when celebrating a home run against the Braves in the NLCS. Then Bellinger ended up having surgery on his dislocated right shoulder, which is his lead swing arm. Reports indicate he should be fully healthy by the start of the season. However, it’s concerning when we have hitters coming off of shoulder surgery.

A few notable hitters over the past few years include Michael Conforto, Jesse Winker, and Gregory Polanco. All three hitters suffered shoulder injuries and missed time during the season, granted that they didn’t all have the same injury. Conforto bounced back pretty well, but Winker and Polanco might not fall into the same talent category. According to Derek Rhoads’s injury dashboard tool, we have several notable hitters that missed time due to a shoulder injury below.

  • August 2017 – Michael Conforto (left shoulder dislocation) – 37 games missed
  • March 2018 – Michael Conforto (left shoulder dislocation) – 7 games missed
  • July 2018 – Jesse Winker (right shoulder subluxation) – 68 games missed
  • September 2018 – Gregory Polanco (left shoulder dislocated) – 14 games missed
  • March 2019 – Gregory Polanco (left shoulder surgery) – 28 games missed
  • July 2019 – Adalberto Mondesi (left shoulder subluxation) – 46 games missed
  • August 2019 – Byron Buxton (left shoulder subluxation) – 29 games missed
  • September 2019 – Byron Buxton (left shoulder subluxation) – 20 games missed

The BAT X projects Bellinger for 36 home runs, 108 runs, 103 RBI, and 15 steals with a slash line of .278/.371/.535. This assumes full playing time and barely any missed games. As of February 9th, Dodgers beat writer Bill Plunkett reported that Bellinger is currently taking one-handed swings per Dave Roberts. Bellinger expects to take full swings later in February. Overall, we’re just noting to have caution when drafting Bellinger with an NFBC ADP at pick 17, particularly coming off of offseason shoulder surgery. If healthy, he’s a unique player at first base that provides power and steals.

Unexciting Veteran – Eric Hosmer

NFBC ADP: 140.98

Amongst the first baseman, the only player I’m actively avoiding is Eric Hosmer. He currently holds an ADP inside the top-150 picks, which feels like his highest ADP in a while. Hosmer notably compiles plate appearances and counting stats, but it’s trending down over the past few seasons. That said, Hosmer hardly misses time, so that counts for something. However, with so many exciting players at the first base position going earlier and later, several could outproduce Hosmer.

Eric Hosmer lowered his ground ball rate early in the 2020 season and that warranted some excitement. He also injured his finger on a bunt attempt in early September, and Hosmer could’ve continued his hot streak in the shortened season.

  • Before Injury (7/24/2020 – 9/7/2020): 8 HR, 20 R, 32 RBI, 3 SB, .288 BA in 128 PA
  • After Injury (9/19/2020 – 9/26/2020): 1 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB, .280 in 28 PA

Not much we can glean from the splits before and after the injury. However, the image below gives an overview of how Hosmer’s groundball rate (red line) dropped in 2020 but then crept back up to his normal levels.

Eric Hosmer Ground Ball Rate & wOBA

On a positive note, Hosmer notched a career-best 10.3% barrel rate (68th percentile) and 47% hard-hit rate (85th percentile). Even Hosmer’s 94.4 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 55) tied with D.J. LeMahieu and Eugenio Suarez. Hosmer’s expected stats also backed up his solid 2020 season with a .291 xBA (89th percentile), .521 xSLG (87th percentile), and .354 xwOBA (81st percentile).

Eric Hosmer Statcast Data

In 2018 and 2019, Eric Hosmer averaged 20 home runs, 72 runs, 84 RBI, and three steals with a .259 batting average. The BAT X projects similar numbers with 20 home runs, 78 runs, 78 RBI, and six steals with a .257 batting average. I prefer to either grab a first baseman earlier or wait and snag a guy like Joey Votto and Brandon Belt who could provide similar numbers to Hosmer. Even though Votto and Belt haven’t touched those numbers in a couple of years, they both have that potential. Since we have quite a bit of depth at first, it’s easy to pass on someone like Hosmer.

First Baseman, I Love – Olson, Moustakas, Hoskins, & Dozier

Matt Olson, 1B, Oakland Athletics

NFBC ADP: 96.48

It’s difficult to call a player going inside the top-100 picks as undervalued, but Matt Olson feels like a Pete Alonso light. Both players have elite power but won’t help you in batting average. Although Olson’s batting average tanked in 2020 at .195, he provided a healthy amount of counting stats with 14 home runs, 28 runs, 42 RBI, and one steal. Over a full season, Olson’s batting average likely bumps up into the .250 range. Olson lowered his O-Swing% from 28.6% in 2019 to 23.5% in 2020. Meanwhile, his contact rate also dropped from 75% in 2019 to 68.1% in 2020. Olson swung slightly less and made less contact, hence the lower batting average.

Last season, Olson averaged 96.7 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 11) behind Joey Gallo and recorded a 112.5 mph max exit velocity (No. 40). As mentioned earlier, I prefer to wait and grab Olson over Pete Alonso going about 30 picks earlier. To compare, in 2020, Alonso hit 16 home runs, 31 runs, 35 RBI, and one steal. Sure, Olson doesn’t have a 50 home run season on the record, but both have elite power. Buyback into Olson for a bounceback 2020 season at the first base position. In the first base tiers, prioritize Olson and the next three.

Mike Moustakas, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds

NFBC ADP: 123.57

Here’s a guy with a similar skill set to Eric Hosmer yet more power – Mike Moustakas. Make him a priority over Hosmer since he provides better counting stats. In 2020, Moustakas totaled eight home runs, 13 runs, 27 RBI, and one steal with a .230 batting average. He landed on the injured list last season due to a quadriceps injury and that likely impacted his production in the shortened season. Even in a down 2020 season, his barrel and hard-hit rates finished similar to his 2019 numbers. In 2019, Moustakas finished with a 10.3% barrel rate compared to 9.5% in 2020. Meanwhile, his 40% hard-hit rate in 2020 dropped slightly from 40.8% in 2019. The BAT X projects Moustakas for 37 home runs 87 runs, 98 RBI, and two steals with a .249 batting average. Eat up his value like your favorite vegetables all day.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies

NFBC ADP: 174.76

Especially in OBP leagues, Rhys Hoskins feels undervalued at the first base position. Hoskins had a bit of a down and injury-riddled 2020 season, and then he underwent UCL surgery at the beginning of October. Recent reports indicate Hoskins is on track to play in 2021. Hoskins finished 2020 with ten home runs, 35 runs, 26 RBI, and one steal with a triple slash of .245/.384/.503. As mentioned earlier, he’s more of a target in OBP leagues since he boasts a career 15.3% walk rate and .366 OBP.

However, he also reached a career-high 14.8% barrel rate and near career-best 42.6% hard-hit rate. Hoskins uses that pull-heavy (50.4%) and flyball (48.7%) approach that’s typically for a power hitter like Hoskins. The BAT X projects Hoskins for 36 home runs, 92 runs, 96 RBI, and three steals with a .241 batting average. Assuming full health, eat up Hoskins all day at his ADP.

Christian Walker, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

NFBC ADP: 198.35

Another undervalued guy is Christian Walker. Since 2019, Walker has produced in all categories including nine steals over the past two seasons. In 2019, he smacked 29 home runs, 86 runs, 73 RBI, and eight steals with a slash line of .259/.348/.476. Then he followed that up with seven home runs, 35 runs, 34 RBI, and one steal with a .271 batting average in 2020. With no brother Cron around, Walker will hold down the first base job to himself.

Christian Walker’s hard-hit metrics back up the power with a 13.1% barrel rate in 2019 and 6.4% in 2020. Although the barrel rate dropped, his 94.8 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 42) and 48.5% hard-hit rate in 2020 still looked solid. Walker should provide consistent and quality production with some steals as the BAT X projects him for 27 home runs, 84 runs, 87 RBI, and five steals with a .253 batting average. It feels like his ADP should be at least 50 picks higher.

Hunter Dozier, 1B/OF, Kansas City Royals

NFBC ADP: 242.72

Don’t sleep on Hunter Dozier even though he had a down 2020 season. Last season, Dozier landed on the COVID-19 list and missed time, so that probably contributed to struggles. In 2019, Dozier broke out with 26 home runs, 75 runs, 84 RBI, and two steals with a .279 batting average. Then in 2020, he notched six home runs, 29 runs, 12 RBI, and four steals with a .228 batting average. Dozier’s ADP is a bit low given the 2020 small sample. The BAT X projects Dozier for 24 home runs, 74 runs, 77 RBI, and five steals with a .247 batting average. That’s close to his 2019 breakout season, he should hit in the heart of the Royals lineup that added depth in Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi. Although he’s a better fit for a corner infield spot, he’s solid as a starting first baseman in your fantasy lineup.

Don’t Sleep on These Veteran First Baseman

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

NFBC ADP: 324.15

Don’t sleep on the veteran Joey Votto heading into the 2021 season, especially in OBP leagues. Sure, he could’ve fallen into the OBP league first baseman tier above, but felt like Votto and the next two should go into a grouping of their own. In 2020, he almost matched his home run numbers from 2018 and 2019, and that’s promising for a late-career breakout. Votto finished with 11 home runs, 32 runs, and 22 RBI with a triple slash of .226/.354/.446. However, in 2018 and 2019, Votto hit 12 and 15 home runs respectively.

In a Mining the News article by Jeff Zimmerman, he noted that Votto used a more aggressive approach and adjusted his stance in late August. The table below shows his stats from the start of 2020 to the end of August, and then the entire month of September. Notice that he matched his counting stats, but performed better in the final month. Hopefully, those changes stick in 2021 since his ADP past pick 300 makes his role and production extra juicy.

first base tiers
Joey Votto Splits

The BAT X projects Joey Votto for 25 home runs, 93 runs, 85 RBI, and three steals with a slash line of .262/.369/.448. It’s difficult to find players with full-time playing time this late in drafts and don’t sleep on Votto as signs point towards a late-career surge. It sounds silly but makes sense that the ever-patient Votto could serve well by using a more aggressive approach.

Colin Moran, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

NFBC ADP: 392.20

Last year, Colin Moran held his own with 10 home runs, 28 runs, and 23 RBI with a .247 batting average. If you recall, Moran was one of the prospects in the Gerrit Cole trade. That said, Moran’s heading towards a career-best 2021 season. I almost wanted to label one of the first base tiers as breakout season incoming with Moran as the headliner. With an ADP near pick 400, how could we not hype up Moran? Sure, the Pirates offense stinks as a whole, but that means we can draft Moran at a discount.

Colin Moran Statcast Data

In 2020, Moran crushed the ball with a 13.4% barrel rate, 47.2% hard-hit rate, and a 96.6 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 15) between Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna. That provides us a snippet into the power potential for Moran even in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. Roster Resource projects Moran to platoon at first base, but it’s hard to imagine anyone in the Pirates lineup taking away plate appearances from him.

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

NFBC ADP: 335.80

From Colin Moran to Brandon Belt, we find another lefty slugger that performed well in 2020. Belt finished with nine home runs, 25 runs, and 30 RBI with a triple slash of .309/.425/.591. Like Moran, Belt obliterated the ball with a 16.8% barrel rate, 46.9% hard-hit rate, and a 95.2 mph average exit velocity on FB/LD (No. 35) sandwiched in between Rafael Devers and Josh Bell. For Belt, it’s mostly about health with inconsistent opportunities over the past few years. However, the BAT X projects Belt for 23 home runs, 75 runs, 74 RBI, and three steals with a .247 batting average. Keep your eye on Colin Moran or Brandon Belt deeper in drafts.

For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2021 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!

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