The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty League First Basemen, #1-20
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2018 consensus rankings by looking at the league’s top-20 best first baseman in dynasty leagues. At the top spot is a familiar face…Paul Goldschmidt.
1) Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1)
We begin with an obituary.
Paul Goldschmidt was a great fantasy player, but, alas, today we lay his career to rest as he has reached the golden age: 30. He had a great run, never posting a walk rate under 10% his entire MLB career and only ever having a strikeout rate over 23% in his rookie year. An incredibly consistent contributor in almost all fantasy categories, he was the object of many fantasy players’ affections: providing a strong triple-slash line with double-digit home runs and steals for the entirety of his career, he nearly always returned first-round value.
There is little in Goldschmidt’s profile to suggest his age-30 season will be any different than his previous campaigns. His soft, medium, and hard contact rates seem stable, and his groundball rate has only ticked up ever so slightly in the last two years. Don’t be fooled! Despite the appearance of stability in his stats, Goldschmidt is now 30! An age that seals the fate of all dynasty players.
R.I.P. Paul Goldschmidt’s dynasty career. Stay gold, Goldy. (Patrick Magnus)
2) Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 7)
Still two years from dynasty death, Freeman has emerged as one of the best hitters in baseball. His power breakout from 2016 continued in a big way for the first 36 games of last season, leading the National League in homers and putting up a 1.209 OPS. Despite missing six weeks, Freeman was able to maintain his power increase and finished the year with 28 homers (the second most of his career). His strikeout rate has increased slightly with the power uptick, but he actually made more contact than the previous year. He even ended the season with his second highest batting average of his career.
Freeman somehow managed to steal a career-high eight bags in his 2017 season as well, which is impressive given that he’s 6’5″/220… essentially a tyrannosaurus rex running around the bases. That said, I wouldn’t count on Freeman continuing to “light up” the base paths. However, there are few tyrannosaurus-sized players who are as safe a bet for elite offense production. (Patrick Magnus)
3) Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Age: 28, Rank: 2)
Speaking of oddly quick dinosaur-shaped first basemen, at the number three spot we have Freddie Freeman’s statistical twin, Anthony Rizzo. Honestly, you could probably list Freeman and Rizzo as 2A and 2B. They are both 28-year-olds who have proven to be valuable assets at a position that desperately needs safe assets. For the second year in-a-row, Rizzo hit exactly 32 bombs. In fact, since 2014 Rizzo has been a remarkably consistent player
The biggest difference in 2017 was that Rizzo walked more than he struck out! Hey, not too bad. He also managed to swipe ten bags last year, but again, don’t count on that from dinosaur sized players. The only player that gives Rizzo a run for consistency at first base would be the robot we have listed below him. (Patrick Magnus)
4) Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 5)
Remember reading Paul Goldschmidt’s obituary? Joey Votto has been “dynasty dead” for four years! The 34-year-old robot-corpse of Joey Votto somehow continues to hit baseballs extremely well. After his brief fall from grace in 2014, Joey Votto’s corpse has displayed video-game-like plate discipline. Rising like he a phoenix from the ashes, he has posted slash lines above .300/.400/.500 thereafter. Then again, his average exit velocity was only 87.56 MPH and his average home run distance below league average. Father Time must be coming for him, right?!
In 2017 in an offense-friendly ballpark, an above-league-average launch angle, god-like plate discipline, and a juiced ball, this “dead man” hit 37 homers. And there isn’t really anything in his peripherals that indicate an impending decline. Maybe the power drops down in the next few years? Maybe his actual vision gets worse due to aging? The stats certainly suggest he can keep it all going, but how much longer can baseball’s favorite zombie continue to hit? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
He could probably still hit .300 with a wooden cane. (Patrick Magnus)
5) Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)
Will he stay or will he go? The White Sox GM, Rick Hahn, has been busy moving players, but “old-man” Abreu remains. Now entering his age-30 season, one would think they could get a sizable return for the power-hitting first baseman, but Rick seems perfectly content holding onto him. Can you blame him? No, you can’t.
Since arriving stateside, Abreu has failed to hit less than 25 home runs and drive in less than 100 RBIs. All this while lowering his o-swing from 40.9% to 33% and increasing his contact from 72.9 to 79.1%. So while he doesn’t walk as much as one might like, you can still bank on 25-30 HRs with a strong slash line to support it for the foreseeable future. Now draft or acquire him without worry, and enjoy the production. And don’t you ever doubt Rick Hahn again! (Patrick Magnus)
6) Wil Myers, San Diego Padres (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 8)
Ah, here we are again! Back among the living.
It took a little longer than the initial hype train forecasted, but Wil Myers has established himself as a top 10 dynasty first baseman. After a combined 50 stolen bases and home runs in 2017, you can bet the asking and acquisition price for Myers is fairly steep at this point. The steals are the primary difference maker in Myers profile, as, outside of our number one ranked first basemen (R.I.P.), you won’t find reliable speed at this position. Also, maybe you haven’t heard, but there’s been a tad bit of a drop off in steals across the league.
Myers is aggressive on the basepaths, but he’s also a little too aggressive with the bat. He’s whiffed at a 27.1% clip for two of the last three seasons, though his walk rates have remained near 10% for all three seasons. When he does make contact though, he does so with authority. Myers is above-league-average in average home run distance, average exit velocity, and holds an above-average launch angle. While his batting average may never be an asset, he’ll help in just about every other category. If you’re not back on the hype train, jump on and claim you’ve been there all along, that you did not just sneak on, and that you most definitely purchased a ticket. (Patrick Magnus)
7) Eric Hosmer, Free Agent (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 13)
Nobody likes plain oatmeal. I’m talking straight up plain oatmeal. No syrup, no brown sugar, nothing. I don’t know anyone that really likes plain oatmeal, but one might eat it for health, and health is sometimes underrated. Eric Hosmer is the plain oatmeal of first basemen. There’s not a lot of flash or, frankly, personality. However, he’s good for the health of your fantasy baseball team.
Annually he puts up great ratios with an AVG that will hover between .280-.300, 20-25 home runs, and low-to-mid 90 RBI and runs. He hasn’t ever scored 100 runs or 100 RBIs in his career, but depending on his landing spot this offseason, that could certainly change. Unless there’s a change to his swing, he’s unlikely ever to hit 30 or more HRs with a well-below-average launch angle, and an over 50% ground-ball rate. He walks, doesn’t strike out a ton, and makes enough contact that he’s still a very safe player. He’s not exciting, but you could do far worse.
Eat your oatmeal, it’s good for you. (Patrick Magnus)
8) Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
So young, so handsome, hits the long ball, and knows the strike zone. I’m head-over-heels for our number eight first baseman. Olson arrived in the majors in 2016 and showed a keen eye. In his first 28 PA’s he walked 25% of the time and swung at only 17.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone. However, he wasn’t terribly successful in any other aspect of hitting. Things changed in 2017 after Yonder Alonso was traded away from Oakland.
The 23-year-old started destroying baseballs upon his return to the majors, smacking 24 HRs in 216 PAs. Is that home run rate sustainable? Absolutely Not. However, the former first-round pick has shown strong plate discipline throughout the minors, he hits the ball extremely hard (twelfth in exit velocity last year), and is fifth in barrels per plate appearance. The .259 batting average may be the best we can hope for, and he needs to make adjustments to handle major league LHP’s. However, that mediocre average should come with plenty of runs, RBIs, walks, and home runs for a long time. This hype train hasn’t left the station. “All aboard!” (Patrick Magnus)
9) Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 6)
The oldest, most “dynasty-dead” man on this list: Edwin Encarnacion. In his old age, he’s taken on a strong affection for parrots. Pretending to carry one on his arm as he rounds the bases after a massive home run. This may seem like fairly odd behavior, but we just shake it off and grin. Old people get away with odd behavior all the time. It’s just what happens, you get old and suddenly a large chunk of social norms no longer apply to you.
2017 saw a continued slow decline in his contact rate, which resulted in an average of around .250. You can probably expect .250 or lower to be his base as he ages, but there’s a small chance that he bats .270 again. The power is still there, as his soft contact% was still quite low and in line with his career norms (15.5% in 2017). So indulge him in his love for his make-believe parrot, and enjoy the production for at least the next few years. (Patrick Magnus)
10) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 3)
Down here at the bottom of our top ten list is one of the best hitters of a generation, Miguel Cabrera. Miggy has been a stalwart at first base for a long time. Entrenched in dynasty lineups, he would have cost a fortune to obtain in leagues years ago. Injuries and concerns over his body type have led to Miggy’s stock price falling rather dramatically. So now we must ask: is he among the dead, or undead?
If you were to simply look at the numbers, you see 13 seasons of excellence. Most projection systems I’ve seen indicate that there’s a rather large bounce back coming in 2018. Last year’s dramatic drop in average was a result of a decreased walk rate and the highest strikeout rate of his career… both most likely due to nagging back injury. Turning 35 in April, you’ll want to keep a close eye on his BB/K numbers this spring and in the early parts of the season. That might be the key to knowing if Miguel can still be Miggy. (Patrick Magnus)
11) Greg Bird, New York Yankees (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 20)
There are a lot of reasons to question this ranking, but Bird checks all of the boxes. He’s young, left-handed, has elite plate discipline, refuses to hit the ball on the ground, and will play 81 games in Yankee Stadium hitting behind several MVP candidates. If Bird can stay healthy, he’s a mortal lock for 25 home runs and 100 RBI with room for a lot more. (Frank Sides)
12) Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 17)
In Bell’s first full season, he posted above-average strikeout and walk rates while hitting the ball as hard, on average, as Joey Votto. He finished 2017 with a 108 wRC+ and 26 home runs while hitting the ball on the ground more than half of the time. If a launch angle adjustment is in the cards for Bell, this may be your last chance to hop aboard this rocket headed to the island of top-five first basemen. (Frank Sides)
13) Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 38)
How do you generate 24 spots of improvement on this list after your age-32 season? You ask Dan Murphy to show you how to hit taters, then hit 36 of them to go along with a .300+ batting average. 2017 was not a fluke. Zimmerman tied Goldschmidt with the seventh highest average exit velocity among MLB regulars. I anticipate he’ll hold his spot in the top-20 of this list for the next three or four seasons. (Frank Sides)
14) Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 49)
Do you remember the guy the Rangers selected with the 11th overall pick a decade ago, who the Mariners traded Cliff Lee for? Smoak snuck onto this list at #49 last year and broke out in a huge way. No one saw it coming… except the team he plays for. I’m not going to pretend to have any insight as to whether or not he can do this again. Even if the improvements aren’t real, a .250 average with 30-plus home runs is playable in every league out there. (Frank Sides)
15) Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 10th at 2B)
Carpenter is a solid hitter, but he’s reached the bottom of the defensive spectrum and the bar for fantasy first basemen is pretty high. ESPN’s Player Rater ranked him 32nd among first baseman in 2017. He is infinitely more valuable in OBP leagues and he’ll be hitting atop an improved Cardinals lineup. Only two first basemen scored 100 runs last year and Carpenter is a safe bet to get there in the next few seasons. (Frank Sides)
16) Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 48)
Like Justin Smoak, Morrison barely snuck onto our list at #48 last year and broke out in a huge way. He appears to be another product of the fly ball revolution. His entire profile is nearly identical to his 2016 profile with the exception of his groundball rate. His 2018 situation is still up in the air, but he’s been good enough against left-handed pitching over the last few years that he will land a full-time job somewhere and be three-category-producer. (Frank Sides)
17) Carlos Santana, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 12)
Santana is what he is. He is going to hit .260, he’s going to get on base 36% of the time, and he’s going to score 90 runs. There is a ton of value in that. I really like the move to Citizens Bank Park and I love the Phillies’ young lineup. He’s a top-20 option at the position for the foreseeable future. (Frank Sides)
18) Justin Bour, Miami Marlins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 27)
Bour was surprisingly great in an injury-shortened 2017. Extrapolated to 160 games, his .289 batting average and 37 home runs would have been Paul Goldschmidt-esque. Unfortunately, the first base market looks like it may keep him in Miami for longer than you’d like. He’s a trade away from being a legitimate top-10 option at the position in the future. (Frank Sides)
19) Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 24)
Gurriel may be my favorite of the non-elite options at the position. He puts the ball in play and hits it surprisingly hard. His 89.9 mph average exit velocity in his first full MLB season ranked in the top 30 of all MLB regulars, tied with Yoenis Cespedes. He’ll continue to hit in the middle of a historically great lineup and if he can begin to lift the ball with more regularity, a .300, 30 HR, 100 RBI season is just around the corner. (Frank Sides)
20) Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies (Age: 23, Previous RankL 40th at 3B)
After a dismal 2016, McMahon rebounded nicely, splitting the year at Double-A and Triple-A. He finds himself with an opportunity to break camp with the Rockies or at least spend the better part of the year at Coors. McMahon did an excellent job decreasing his strikeout rate while increasing his contact rate, home runs, and batting average. He still needs to adjust to big league pitching, but the ceiling is extraordinary(.210 & .218 ISO at Double/Triple-A). Oh, and the whole Coors thing is nice. (Mike Tanner)