2019 Fantasy Baseball: NL First Base Profiles and Projections
Ah, this is more like it. Everyone knew things would be rough as we trudged through the catcher profiles, but honestly the bats were a little underwhelming in our American League First Base Profiles. Yeah, there were some big power bats, but even those players had their issues with Adam Dunnian batting averages. Now that we’ve moved on to the National League, we’re seeing a few more well-rounded players without obvious weaknesses. We’ll get to our NL First Base Profiles and Projections soon enough, first we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.
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About Our Profiles
Most of the profile is pretty self-explanatory. The one item people may be a little confused about is the row labeled 600 PA Extrap. What we did here is take each player’s three-year totals and extrapolate that to 600 plate appearances. This is intended to give us an idea of what a player who’s been in a part-time role or maybe played in partial seasons, could do in a full season of at-bats. It’s by no means a perfect predictor of future performance, but it does give us another way to look at some players and sometimes it’s just fun to see what those numbers look like.
Each profile also includes our 2019 projection for that player and a quick outlook from one of our top fantasy baseball analysts. Every profile is not a deep statistical dive, but rather a quick way to get to know the 2019 Fantasy Baseball player pool. For many of the pivotal players you’ll find more in-depth analysis elsewhere within our Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. Finally, as of this writing, there are still plenty of free agents yet to sign. As they do, we’ll add to and update the player profiles, not only for those free agents, but for all the players impacted by their signing. Enough talk; on with our NL First Base Profiles and Projections.
2019 NL First Base Profiles and Projections
Matt Adams, Washington Nationals
Matt Adams’ fantasy value is 110% tied into the spotty health of Ryan Zimmerman. “Oh no, Matt Adams isn’t going to get any playing time this season.” Hold your horses. We’re talking about a player that has averaged an even 100 games played over the last five seasons. That’s 62 games per season he’s missed. Now, I’m not saying that Adams is going to get enough playing time to be drafted in mixed leagues this spring, but he’s a solid NL-Only target and a great waiver wire fill-in for when Zimmerman hits the DL. Adams has averaged 36 homers per every 600 at-bats over the last three seasons and should provide similar power production whenever he’s playing this season. – Eric Cross
Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers
Jesus Aguilar showed us a little bit of what he could do in 2017, but he was still viewed as a bit of a Quad-A type player. He could never maintain that production with full-time at-bats… Until he did. Aguilar started a bit slow in 2018 with just one HR and eight RBI in the first month of the season. He then put up 18 HRs with 46 RBI over the next two months. Aguilar quickly turned Eric Thames from a platoon player into a part-time player. Though the final numbers look great, there were some warning signs in the second half when Aguilar hit just .245 with 11 homers. His .331 BABIP of the first half turned into a .283 BABIP in the second half, and his HR/FB% dropped from 27.0% to 19.0%. To put it in perspective Aguilar never had a HR/FB% over 20.0% in his minor league career. While they’re not extreme Aguilar’s splits are better against left-handed pitching. It’s possible that Thames could regain at least a chunk of that platoon role we thought he had in 2018. While Aguilar will still be a solid bat, he likely played a bit over his head in the first half of 2018. The projection above represents that. – Doug Anderson
Peter Alonso, New York Mets
Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve gotten the call-up on most other teams. Unfortunately, the Mets still thought Jay Bruce and Dominic Smith were better options than Peter Alonso to close out the year. Yes, service time played a role in that too. But not anymore, well maybe still a little, but Alonso should be up shortly into the season or potentially the starting first baseman on opening day. Alonso tied for the minor league lead in home runs last season with 36 and added in 119 RBI, 92 runs, and a .285/.395/.579/.975 slash line. Alonso is a power hitter through and through with solid enough contact skills and plate approach to hit north of .270. He’s never recorded an AVG lower than .260 or an ISO lower than .231 at any minor league level. This is going to be one of the top home run threats in the league in short order and that home run barrage will begin early in the season once all the service time garbage passes. Draft with confidence in the middle rounds and say hello to your 2019 National League Rookie of the Year front-runner. – Eric Cross
Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Josh Bell is quickly falling into fantasy mediocrity. The one thing we thought we could count on from him was a strong batting average due to his plus hit tool and advanced plate approach. He hasn’t been horrible there, but it’s fair to say we expected more than a .260 career average. At least in 2017 he slugged 26 home runs, drove in 90, and raised his ISO to .211. Then 2018 rolled around and he hit 14 less home runs, drove in only 62, and had a 61-point ISO drop. If Bell isn’t hitting for power, he’s barely mixed league worthy. Plain and simple. He’ll have the first base job once again to start 2019, but after his lackluster 2018, I’m only looking at Bell in NL-Only formats. – Eric Cross
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Belt’s a tough sell as a fantasy asset. Victimized by concussions, he’s never exceeded 18 home runs in a season, making his projected 22 for 2019 the top end of outcomes. It’s not that he can’t do it- he hits the ball hard and in the air a lot- but AT&T Park is a dreadful one for his skillset, with easily the toughest park factor for left-handed power hitters, per Fangraphs.
Belt’s 2018 season was one of two halves. Through July 25, he had hit .278 with 14 home runs. After suffering a right knee injury on that date, Belt hit .163 without a homer before undergoing season-ending surgery. Not only did the injury sap his batted ball authority, his strikeout rate spiked, and the underachieving Giants were wise to shut it down. On the one hand, Belt’s healthy now, so maybe there’s hope he can regain his first-half form. On the other, that was the fourth season of the last five in which Belt failed to exceed 140 games. Perhaps most importantly for fantasy owners, the injury makes it hard to envision San Francisco finding a suitor for Belt this offseason as they enter a rebuild. With Buster Posey dealing with health concerns of his own and no one else on the team a good bet to reach base consistently, Belt might be longing for RBI opportunities. Combine that with another 81 games in AT&T Park, and he’s a low-end option at the position. – Anthony Franco
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
For s sophomore slump that many projected, that wasn’t too bad. Nothing wrong with a .260/84/25/76/14 line with a .814 OPS. Nothing wrong with that at all. It’s just a step back from his 39 homer, 97 RBI, .933 OPS rookie season in 2017. -Now, when I say many projected a sophomore slump, that was largely due to his 25.2% HR/FB rate in 2017. That’s insanely high and not sustainable over a long period of time. In 2018, that number dropped to a much more reasonable 15.2%. Even with that drop, Bellinger remains one of the top power bats in the game and has now recorded a fly ball and hard contact percentage above 40% in each of the last two seasons, so expecting a return to the 30-homer club should be expected. The batting average, on the other hand, is limited due to his lower contact rate and higher strikeout rate. For 2019, that projection above is pretty spot on. Draft with confidence in the third or fourth round. – Eric Cross
Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
Desmond’s fantasy value lies in his home park and surprising speed. He’s third among first basemen in stolen bases over the past three seasons, and, per Statcast, he hasn’t lost much of a step with age. Relying on an age-33 first baseman for stolen bases, though, isn’t great, and Desmond’s bat hasn’t been commensurate with the position’s standards the last two seasons. Always a ground-ball hitter, Desmond has really struggled to elevate since signing in Colorado. That’s limited him to 29 homers over the past two years despite his hitter-friendly environs. It’s not hard to see him being a .275 hitter again, but without getting the ball off the ground, it’ll be an empty batting average.
Desmond’s two-year wRC+ is 77 (23 points below league-average). Park-adjusted metrics aren’t important to fantasy owners, but they should be to the Rockies, who have already bumped Desmond off first base this offseason by signing Daniel Murphy. Should he get off to a slow start offensively or struggle to re-acclimate to the outfield, his playing time will dwindle. Coors Field and the scarcity of steals at first base will get Desmond drafted again, but without major changes to his profile, he’s not a particularly appealing player anymore. – Anthony Franco
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Over the last few seasons, there’s been a two-man elite tier of first baseman and Freeman is one of those two. He’s hit above .300 in each of the last three seasons and has a 600 AB pace of 31 home runs, 95 RBI, 102 runs, and nine steals in that timeframe. What else can you really ask for from your starting first baseman and one of the cornerstone pieces of your fantasy squad? Now, Freeman did have a dip in power last season down to 23 home runs. A 9.3% drop in your flyball rate is a big piece of that, but also looks like an outlier when you see his 40.5% and 40.6% flyball rates in 2016 and 2017. Even when Freeman isn’t cranking home runs, he’s always amongst the league leaders in doubles, OBP, and a near lock for 180-200 R+RBI. This is one of the best pure hitters in the game and a great selection in the second or third round of your draft. – Eric Cross
Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy owners were a bit concerned when news broke that Arizona would begin using a humidor to store baseballs in for the 2018 season. Would this take away value from Arizona’s top hitters? The answer seemed to be yes if you looked at Paul Goldschmidt’s line after the first two months of the season. Goldschmidt then went on to hit .340 with 19 bombs over the next three months. Guess he still had it. Now Goldy moves on to St. Louis. The new home park will not help. Even with the humidor Chase Field still played as the third best place for right-handed batters in terms of both HRs and Runs. Busch Stadium rates 26th in Runs and HRs. I’m not expecting Goldschmidt to completely fall off a cliff. The new lineup should help prevent that, but scale back expectations just a bit. He’ll still be one of the more well-rounded first baseman you can draft and a solid building block for any fantasy baseball squad. – Doug Anderson
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
We had to know that ridiculous Babe Ruth level of production from 2017 wasn’t going to last. One homer every 9.4 at-bats was simply unsustainable. However, his 2018 season was still a damn good follow-up performance. No one is going to scoff at 34 homers, 96 RBI, and 89 runs scored. Hoskins ranked in the top-20 in HR (tied for 15th), ISO (14th), and RBI (20th) cementing himself as one of the top sluggers and run producers in the game. His contact skills will likely keep his average in the .250-.260 range more often than not, but you’ll certainly take that with the power numbers that come along with it. He’ll once again hit in the middle of an improving Philadelphia lineup that still might add a big bat in free agency so seeing him eclipse 200 R+RBI wouldn’t be a shock. – Eric Cross
Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres
Eric Hosmer was never elite. He’s always hit too many grounders to expect that to happen. He had, however, turned into a solid bat with decent power; a nice player you could slot into your corner slot. In 2018 he turned into a league average replacement. You can’t blame it on the new home. Petco is slightly more advantageous for left-handed hitters for Runs, but Kauffman Stadium was the second-worst park for left-handed hitters and HRs. You can blame his 2018 struggles on a career-high 21.0 K%, more than five percentage points worse than 2017. You could also heap some of that blame on a 60.4 GB% and a 19.7 FB%; both the most extreme of his career. Eric Hosmer saw the launch angle revolution and ran the other way! All of this while he had the second highest Hard Hit percentage (34.5%) of his career. We can expect a bit of a regression in the batted ball data, but the San Diego lineup is not going to give him any help in the counting stats. Unless he undergoes serious changes to his mechanics, Hosmer’s value is likely limited to the utility slot or and injury replacement in 2019. – Doug Anderson
Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
So much talent but no chance to showcase it. McMahon was everyone’s sleeper darling last spring as he was coming off a strong 2017 minor league campaign (.355, 20 HR, 88 RBI, 11 SB) and was set to open the season with a starting gig, or at least get enough playing time to carve out fantasy value. At least, so we thought. McMahon only received 11 starts through the end of April and didn’t perform well when he got into the lineup. Things aren’t any easier this year after the recent signing of Daniel Murphy and the emergence of Garrett Hampson who is currently the in house favorite for the starting second base job. McMahon carries intriguing upside due to his superb contact skills, modest pop, and double-digit speed, but is only an NL-Only target right now due to the playing time uncertainty. If he wins the second base job, h’ll immediately become a mid to late-round mixed league target. – Eric Cross
Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers
Muncy was the latest installment of the Dodgers’ seemingly annual out-of-nowhere breakouts. A 27-year-old corner infielder with 245 nondescript MLB plate appearances on his resume entering the year, Muncy blasted 35 home runs in less than a full season’s worth of work before his walk-off blast in Game 3 of the World Series. He blitzed the league early with 22 first-half homers, suffered an August swoon, then reemerged in September.
Since Muncy had never previously done anything like this, the projections are understandably tempered. As I found in October, though, Muncy’s on a short list of hitters who can damage fastballs and offspeed stuff, so the power seems real. Even if Dodger Stadium and his issues against left-handed pitching take a few longballs away, this is a potential 35 home run bat who might offer fantasy eligibility at three infield positions. Power-only guys aren’t as valuable as they used to be, and Muncy strikes out too much to see much more than a .250 hitter here long-term, but in the middle of a loaded Dodger lineup, there’ll be runs and RBI opportunities aplenty. – Anthony Franco
Peter O’Brien, Miami Marlins
The Miami Marlins are going to be a dumpster fire this season. They might even challenge for 120 losses. But there’s always fantasy value to be found on every team, and O’Brien could be one of the lone bright spots on this Marlins team. Currently penciled in for the first base gig with no real competition, O’Brien will finally get a chance at regular at-bats and that in turn should make him a solid late-round power source. O’Brien has hit 10 home runs in his 58 Major League games and averaged 36 dingers per 600 at-bats in the minors. Now, an aggressive approach that led to a 32.1% strikeout rate will likely limit his batting average potential and the lackluster lineup around him will probably do the same on his runs and RBI. But if you’re looking for some cheap late-round power, O’Brien could be worth a flier. – Eric Cross
Jose Osuna, Pittsburgh Pirates
There’s not much to get excited about here with Jose Osuna. He’s blocked at first base by Josh Bell and hasn’t had the most exciting numbers in the minor leagues. If Bell were to go down, maybe there’s some back-end NL-Only value here as Osuna could give you a little power and speed, but leave him on the wire until more playing time opens up. – Eric Cross
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
2018 was a down year for just about the entire Cubs lineup and Anthony Rizzo did not escape unscathed. All things weren’t bad though. Rizzo still managed 101 RBI and he struck out a career-low 12 percent of the time. Rizzo’s slightly depressed numbers were mostly the result of trajectory. His 37.3 FB% was the second lowest of his career. Likewise for his 13e.6 HR/FB rate. There’s really nothing else glaring in his peripherals that shows any reason for the lower HR output. The low strikeout rate suggests that Rizzo may have focused more on contact and sacrificed a bit of power. It’s just as likely merely the result of statistical variation. Rizzo is the same player he was heading into 2017 and 2018. Draft him accordingly. – Doug Anderson
Dominic Smith, New York Mets
Six words: Stay out of Peter Alonso’s way. This once top prospect has failed to live up to the hype due to sub par contact skills and plate approach. If given 500-plus at-bats, he could crank 20 homers, but the AVG/OBP likely wouldn’t be pretty. Smith might open the season as the Mets starting first baseman, but this is Peter Alonso’s position by May. It’s best that he’s left on waivers in all leagues.- Eric Cross
Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers
Everyone loved Eric Thames when he was one of the hottest fantasy commodities around in the early part of the 2017 season. Then pitchers figured him out and he’s been highly inconsistent ever since, losing playing time along the way. He hit above .280 in three individual months last season and below .225 in each of the other three. With Jesus Aguilar at first and Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich manning the outfield, there’s just not much playing time for Thames. For NL-Only leagues there’s some intrigue here due to the power upside. Thames recorded a 46.7% fly ball rate and 46.0% hard contact rate last year so the power should be there whenever he does play which gives him some NL-Only intrigue, but with the sporadic playing time and below average contact skills that will limit his average, Thames can’t be counted on in mixed leagues to start the season. – Eric Cross
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Ahh the profile we’ve all been running from. Votto makes for an interesting case. Most of his peripherals (not related to power) look as good as ever. In fact the 41.0 Hard% he put up in 2018 was the highest of his career, as was his 31.4 LD%. His strikeout and walk numbers were in line with his career averages. He didn’t pull the ball or go the other way any more than normal. The only numbers that hint at the power outage were a 31.1 FB%, one of the lower marks in his career, though not extreme, and a 9.5 HR/FB%. That number was by far the lowest of his career and less than half the percentage he’d put up in each of the past three seasons. It sounds silly to say, but did he sacrifice HRs for line drives? In looking at his StatCast data there’s really nothing telling. His average exit velocity (88.1) was higher than 2017, but lower than 2015 and 2016. His launch angle (13.3) was slightly lower than 2017, but higher than those two previous seasons. His Barrel% of 6.7 was significantly lower than the previous three seasons. But then you compare that with his LD% and things just get confused. I just see no compelling reason for the extreme lack of power. Votto may never get back in the 30-HR range, but a bounce-back to the mid-20’s should be expected. Though there’s certainly age-related risk, Votto could be a huge value in 2019 if fantasy owners are completely writing him off. – Doug Anderson
Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
With Paul Goldschmidt out of town, the starting first base spot in Arizona is wide open. As of now, the leader in the clubhouse for that spot appears to be 28-year-old journeyman, Christian Walker. Walker has received at-bats in small doses over four different seasons, but only has 88 at-bats for his career at this point. The results have not been good in those at-bats either, hitting .170 with a 40.4% strikeout rate. So at first glance, you might not think there’s much, if any, fantasy value to be had here. However, his minor league numbers were much better with a .287 career average and 18 or more home runs in each of the last five seasons. He’s nowhere near mixed league consideration in 2019, but with a full-time gig, he could carve out some NL-Only value. – Eric Cross
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
Enjoying these NL First Base Profiles? 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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