The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League First Baseman, Nos. 21-50
It’s the time of the year where we offer congratulations to those of you brave dynasty league owners that survived the offseason. The greatness that 2016 will surely offer is upon us and that means we’ll be spending the next six weeks moving our way through the positional landscape, offering thoughts on the respective values of roughly 700 players throughout the process.
We sincerely hope that you enjoy the countless hours of hard work that went into these rankings and continue to support The Dynasty Guru by showing your appreciation through this link or via the splendid ‘donate’ button located on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Donations of any size are greatly appreciated.
Players are ranked where they played 20 or more games at during the 2015 season at their highest position on the defensive spectrum, e.g. Chris Davis played 30 games in the outfield, meaning he’s an outfielder for our purposes. We can’t assume that a player will have eligibility at a position in the future (so no Hanley Ramirez at 1b for these rankings) or that a player will lose eligibility at a position in the future. This should clear things up for all non-Javier Baez/Jurickson Profar players, and we’ll do our best to explain where those players are ranked when the time comes. All DH types, such as Evan Gattis and David Ortiz, appear on the 1B rankings, as we will not be doing a UTIL rankings list.
We lead off the second-half of our first base rankings by taking a look at a Cardinals slugger who has had his stock drop a bit from this time last winter:
21) Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 15)
The 2015 season was one that both Adams and his dynasty owners soon hope to forget, as he struggled through a quad injury early on that required surgery in late-May. His numbers suffered, posting a gut-wrenching .240/.280/.377 line spread across nearly 200 plate appearances. We know what a healthy Adams is capable of, and at 27 years old, there’s still plenty of time for the burly lefty slugger to right the ship, but his struggles against left-handed pitching could see the Cardinals deploy a platoon partner, depressing his overall value.
22) Adam Lind, Seattle Mariners (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 23)
In over 3,200 career plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Lind is a .293/.354/.509 hitter. He’s better served as a platoon bat given his poor output (.586 career OPS) versus lefties, but he rewarded owners with an outstanding .291/.380/.503 slash in 460 plate appearances against righties last year. While his move from lefty-haven Miller Park to lefty-killing Safeco Field likely won’t help his power output, Lind should continue to contribute solid counting stats against righties.
23) Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 11)
Here’s a sad ‘fun fact’ about V-Mart: if you add up his wRC+ from each half of 2015, it’s lower than either half of 2014. After a sub-par start last year, many expected Martinez’s knee would heal and his production would reverse course. However, it never did, and the Tigers continued trotting him out there anyway. Hopefully the offseason brings him the necessary rest to return to a sizable portion of the .335/.409/.565, 32 HR season he had in 2014.
24) Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 42)
There are only a few things certain in life: death, taxes, and Mitch Moreland not hitting very well against left-handed pitchers. Luckily for dynasty league owners, he broke out in a big way against righties, mashing to a .294/.348/.528 line, and hit 18 of his 23 bombs. 2016 should be more of the same for Moreland, and while his home run rate may regress slightly, he should be penciled in for a regular at-bats in a very productive Rangers offense.
25) Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 12, 3B)
Speaking of splits, would you believe Zimmerman slugged .681 against lefties last year? He launched seven home runs against southpaws in just 101 plate appearances. However, right-handed pitchers had his number, limiting him to an 80 wRC+ mark and a weak .241 BABIP. If Zim’s ridiculous power surge against lefties can be somewhat replicated, and he can post close to his career .274/.334/.463 line against righties, he could be in store for a strong rebound in 2016 and beyond. In the second half alone, he hit 11 home runs and slugged .652, indicating he may be completely healthy for the first time in years.
26) C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 30)
Looking more and more like former Halo Mark Trumbo with each passing day, Cron has established himself as a solid big league power hitter. His ratios hurt worse in an OBP league, but entering 2016 at age-26, there’s still room for Cron to become a more disciplined hitter. Regardless, his power will play for the foreseeable future. Interestingly, he’s shown reverse platoon splits to start his career, possibly leaving room for development against lefties and slight improvement in his average and on-base percentage, which would likely inch Cron inside the top-20 of the list.
27) Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 53, OF)
A three-time top-100 prospect, Bell may have hit his way into a starting gig at some point in 2016. Previously considered blocked due to a talented MLB outfield, Bell transitioned to first base in the minor leagues last year. With the Pirates opting to release Pedro Alvarez, the path to playing time looks better for the switch-hitting future-Pirate, but John Jaso and Jason Rogers are around to provide competition. Whether he gets the call for Opening Day, or the Super-Two cutoff, Bell could provide solid numbers in 2016, and he’s one of the youngest players on our list.
28) Pedro Alvarez, Free Agent (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 22, 3B)
Fitting that he falls one spot below his likely successor, Alvarez remains a plan-B option for many clubs seeking left-handed power. Pittsburgh’s decision to move on wasn’t unexpected given their financial constraints, but Alvarez could rebound nicely in fantasy circles if he lands in a favorable home park. He had a very impressive second-half of 2015, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .274 ISO. If you can handle the strikeouts, he redeems himself with a double-digit walk rate. Alvarez could prove to be a very nice value over the next few years, but if you’re going to buy, you may want to do so before he signs.
29) Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (Age: 40, Previous Rank: 37, 3B)
Dynasty owners can often put too much value in the future. As we like to say here, Flags Fly Forever, and Rodriguez was on plenty of championship rosters last year. Manny Machado very well might be the next A-Rod, but A-Rod still had a higher isolated power in 2015. He hit 15 home runs and had an ISO of at least .230 in each half last year. A-Rod’s not done, he’s going for that home run crown, and I just hope he does it with frosted tips.
30) Justin Bour, Miami Marlins (Age: 27, Previous Rank: NR)
There’s nothing boring about a left-handed rookie who hit 23 home runs. Bour’s a platoon bat, but his .270/.326/.519 slash against righties sounds an awful lot like Mitch Moreland’s. Given the out-of-nowhere nature of his 2015 season, and the everlasting stigma surrounding the Marlins offense, Bour might still be a buy-low candidate. Given he’s three years younger than Moreland, it’s not implausible that Bour will have jumped him by this time next year.
31) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 18)
Mauer will still hit for a decent average and won’t hurt your OBP, but it’s safe to say Mauer is effectively a $23.5MM James Loney for the Twins at this point. If you told the Twins prior to signing the then-catcher to an eight-year, $184MM contract in 2011 that his OPS would slip all the way down to .718 in year five, they probably would have tried to bury him in the same graveyard that they kept Oswaldo Arcia in over the course of the 2015 season.
32) Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 21)
Vargas followed up his promising finish to 2014 with a weak start to 2015, which resulted in a demotion back to Double-A. Given additional time to develop, Vargas’s walk rate shot up from 10.6 percent at Double-A in 2014 to 17.2 percent at the same level in 2015, which was then followed up with the same 17.2 percent walk rate in Triple-A. The increased walks weren’t without a commensurate increase in strikeouts, rising to nearly 26 percent at Triple-A. The power remains real, making Vargas a prime candidate to be a prototypical three true outcome player. Given that he hits switch, his ceiling remains even higher.
33) Dom Smith, New York Mets (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 37)
The heir-apparent to Lucas Duda’s throne (if you can call it that), Smith is one of the more refined 20-year old hitters in the minor leagues. His simple left-handed swing is geared towards hitting line drives at this point in his career, but with his frame, and sneaky athleticism, there’s reason to believe his power output will increase with time. It’s hard to put too much stock in a kid who hasn’t played above High-A, but Smith has a good chance to develop into an average or better Major League first baseman.
34) Adam LaRoche, Chicago White Sox (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 19)
There’s a chance the White Sox offense is pretty good this year, with the addition of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and potentially others through free agency. There’s also a chance LaRoche has a bounceback year. He could be a useful, cheap source of power if he can come anywhere close to replicating his 2014 campaign — 26 home runs and 92 RBI.
35) Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 27)
Vogelbach is still one of the premier first base prospects in baseball, and dynasty owners should remain as patient as he’s become at the plate. Posting an insane 18.2 percent walk rate at Double-A Tennessee in 2015, he’s clearly closer to being big-league ready than Dom Smith. He doesn’t have tremendous tools, but figures to be able to hang around for long enough to develop even more power. He’ll have a hard time finding playing time with the Cubs in the near future, but if he’s included in a trade, look for him to contribute almost immediately.
36) Byung-ho Park, Minnesota Twins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Park is the only first baseman on this list who hit 50+ home runs last year. Of course, he did it in the KBO, where teams averaged 5.5 runs a game compared to the MLB’s 4.3. Park’s former Nexen Heroes teammate, and current Pirates infielder Jung-ho Kang, proved in 2015 that Korean players can come over and hit in the big leagues, and that a good portion of their production could translate. Park enters a cloudy situation, with the aforementioned Joe Mauer (and his hair) and Kennys Vargas, plus the possibility of Miguel Sano also taking at-bats at DH, but if Park can find 500 PA, he stands a legitimate chance to be a 20+ HR threat. Waiting on first base, and grabbing a handful of Twins could prove to be a viable strategy over the next few years.
36) Mike Napoli, Cleveland Indians (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 22)
Remember last year, when Napoli was coming off of sleep apnea surgery and was a popular rebound candidate? Well, it didn’t quite happen, but he could be a solid buy low for 2016 if his torrid finish from last year carries over to Cleveland. After cratering in Boston, hitting just .207/.307/.386 in 378 plate appearances before being shipped to Texas in early August, Napoli hit an eye-popping .295/.396/.513 over his final 91 plate appearances in the Lone Star state. He’ll probably be undervalued once again heading into 2016, especially in OBP leagues, where his above average 12.5 percent career walk rate boosts his stock.
37) Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 31)
Coming off of a 41-homer season in 2014 that was spread across rookie-ball and High-A Stockton, a notorious hitters park in the California League, Olson experienced a massive power outage in 2015, slugging just 17 homers in 585 plate appearances at the Double-A level. Despite a downturn in power, Olson once again displayed his trademark elite patience, this time against better competition, posting a crazy-high 17.9 percent walk rate–making him the Billy Beane-iest of Oakland’s prospects.
38) Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Tellez spent his first full season as a pro spanning three levels, which is a sign that the Jays feel like he’s developing quickly. He showed decent pop, hitting 16 homers and slashed an impressive .275/.338/.473 over his final 148 plate appearances at High-A in his age-20 season. At the very least, your fellow owners will give you props for scooping up the man with one of the dopest names in baseball.
39) Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Mancini started 2015 in High-A, where he hit .314/.341/.527 in his second taste of the Carolina League. That’s pretty good. He followed up those astronomical numbers by slashing .359/.395/.586 in 354 plate appearances at Double-A. That’s also good. His final line included 21 home runs, 88 runs, 89 RBI across the two levels. He even chipped in six stolen bases, and could put himself into position for playing time in Baltimore with a strong start to the 2016 season.
40) Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 20)
One word: Power. Fine, here are more words. Carter has always been a dead weight on the batting average category, and he’s a lock to strike out a ton. However, even in a down year, with only 460 plate appearances, Carter still bashed 24 home runs. He’s averaged 30 home runs per season over the last three years, and kicked in an above-average walk rate (12.4 percent) in 2015 as well. With the move to the launching pad that is Miller Park, Bernie Brewer should start stretching now, because Carter is destined to provide him with plenty of reps on the slide in 2016.
41) Jon Singleton, Houston Astros (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 25)
For better or worse, it looks like Singleton could still get an opportunity to be the everyday first baseman for the Astros in 2016. Similar to his predecessor (Chris Carter), Singleton strikes out a lot more than you’d like, but he did improve on a disastrous first go-around in the big leagues in 2014 by cutting his strikeout rate by almost eight percent in 2015. A high walk rate could lead to lots of runs in a quality Houston lineup, but you’re definitely rolling the dice if you’re gambling on him to produce right now, as the Astros could quickly deploy a number of other options if Singleton continues to struggle.
42) Travis Shaw, Boston Red Sox (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Shaw didn’t grace the cover of any prospect magazines over the years, but he filled in nicely for the Red Sox in his MLB debut in 2015, putting up a .274/.331/.491 line with 13 homers in 62 games. He hasn’t put up monster numbers in his minor league career, but he does a lot of things well. Playing time could be an issue for Shaw with Hanley Ramirez moving to first base, but keep an eye on his positional eligibility, as he spent time at first base, third base and left field in 2015.
43) Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
After being drafted in the second round in 2014, all Travis has done is hit. He posted an .820 OPS in his first stint at Double-A, complementing an above average strikeout and with a plus walk rate. Just for good measure, Travis added 22 stolen bases in 2015. Although his speed may not translate to the major league level, it’s a bonus tool worth keeping an eye on.
44) Jake Bauers, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
The Rays were aggressive in promoting Bauers, who advanced to Double-A in his age-19 campaign last season. Bauers held his own, putting up a .276/.329/.405 line as a Montgomery Biscuit after posting a .790 OPS in High-A. His power doesn’t seem to be all the way there (just 13 total dingers in 2015), but if Bauers can show a little more pop as he gets older and fills out his frame, he could move quickly up these ranks.
45) Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 43)
In 2014, Bradley mashed in his first pro season, to the tune of .361/.426/.652 line in the Arizona complexes. However, in 2015, his strikeouts inflated to a Mark Reynolds-ian 31.8 percent, hurting his batting average. Despite the strikeouts, he popped 27 home runs (which led the Midwest League) and slugged a robust .529. He was promoted to High-A at the end of the season, so he should be tested more there to start 2016. If Bradley can temper the strikeouts while maintaining the walks and power, he could be a big time producer in the years to come. There’s still plenty of time for him to correct the problem, as he’ll still be one of the youngest players in High-A in 2016.
46) Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Hoskins posted a .900 OPS across two levels in 2015, but at 22 years old, was likely a little older than his competition at the level. He could move quickly through the Phillies system since, they’re uh, the Phillies, and you may have heard that they have an aging veteran currently manning first base. With decent strikeout and walk rates, Hoskins could provide a good batting average and average power numbers.
47) Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 34)
What is there to say that already hasn’t been said about Ryan Howard? His walk rate plummeted to a disastrous rate of just over five percent in 2015, making him tough to roster in OBP leagues. At this point, Howard might be a cheap 20-ish home runs and maybe a few RBI, depending on the lineup which surrounds him–whether that’s in Philadelphia or finally an American League team where he could best be utilized as a designated hitter.
48) Josh Naylor, Miami Marlins (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Naylor made waves during his first pro season, putting up a .327/.352/.418 line, albeit in only 105 plate appearances. The small sample requires temperance of emotion, either way, but Naylor has first round pedigree, making him someone to certainly keep an eye on as he progresses, and if he continues his good work over his first full-season, he could jump up this list next year.
49) Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Bellinger spent all of 2015 in the hitter-friendly California League at the High-A level, putting up video game numbers in the process, hitting .264/.336/.538 with 30 home runs, 97 runs, 103 RBI and throwing in ten stolen bases for good measure. He also struck out a ton in posting a 27.6 percent strikeout rate. With a little more discipline, Bellinger could turn into a very, very interesting deeper league sleeper. If you’re digging this deep at first base in a dynasty league, this is the type of prospect you want to gamble on.
50) Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 49)
2012 2013 2014 2015 This is the year Jesus Montero breaks out. Wait, Jesus Montero is only 26? He has followed a pretty similar pattern over the last several seasons of raking in the minors, only to get called up and have strikeouts wreak havoc on his production. If somehow Montero could reclaim the walk rate of around eight percent, as he showed as a blue chip Yankee prospect, he would at least be usable for the Mariners. Sadly, simply being usable would be huge leap for the once highly touted Montero.
Commentary by Matt Pullman and Mark Barry