The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 First Basemen, #1-20
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2019 consensus rankings by looking at our 1-20 dynasty first basemen.
1) Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves, (Age: 29, Previous Rank 2)
Now only one year from his dynasty death (age 30), Freeman is the best first baseman in baseball. Other than his age, there’s really nothing else to dislike about the Braves’ first baseman. Last year he managed to accrue a massive 707 plate appearances but only slugged 23 homers. Dude was coming off a broken wrist and still managed to hit for a .200 ISO; I think we can give him a pass. He’ll bounce back to those high twenty homers and also give you a handful of steals to boot. Not to mention the runs and RBI he’ll rack up in that budding Atlanta line-up.
Beyond the counting stats, Freeman is just a plain monster when it comes to ratios. For the past three years, he has failed to bat below .300 and posted OBPs between .388 and .403. The dude is an unstoppable force at the plate, checking all the boxes that make a brilliant option at first base. Draft this old man with confidence for many more years of top-notch fantasy production. (Patrick Magnus)
2) Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 31, Previous Rank 1)
In 2018, I wrote this man’s eulogy. The clock has struck midnight and all of a sudden the princess of first base was 30 years old. Yet somehow in his zombie-like form, he was able to still put up incredible numbers. Say whaaaaat?! A player can be good after 30? I know hard to believe (its not when you’re this talented). Enough old jokes. Goldschmidt put up 33 homers in 2018 and stole a handful of bases. The days of double-digit steals are likely over for this living-dead man, but there’s still plenty of value here. According to Baseball Savant Goldschmidt was top 4% in XSLG, top 4% in WOBA, and top 5% in Barrels%. That’s right, it’s not time to roll him out to the farm yet. Goldschmidt is still an elite talent in dynasty and should still be treated as such. Draft and trade for him with extreme confidence. (Patrick Magnus)
3) Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, (Age: 23, Previous Rank NR)
Now we’re talking! 23 years old?! 39 bombs and 10 stolen bases in his rookie campaign (2017), and then 25 and 14 in 2018. It’s encouraging that the top three here are adding to stolen bases from a position that is traditionally thought of as power only, and at such a young age Bellinger should be snagging bases for the foreseeable future. Particularly because he has such a high success rate (93% in 2018).
Bellinger will continue to provide strong counting stats in the potent Dodgers’ line-up, and while the swing can get a bit long at times, Bellinger has displayed strong plate skills through his first two MLB seasons. He’ll be more valuable in OBP leagues, as he’ll likely continue post OBPs of .340 and higher, but he won’t kill you in average leagues, setting the bar around .260 thus far. There’s lots to love here with Bellinger, and it’s possible his stock will climb even higher in the coming years. (Patrick Magnus).
4) Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 29, Previous Rank 3)
A-to-the-Rizzo (see what I did there) wasn’t quite his usual consistent self in 2018. He failed to hit 30+ homers after doing so for four consecutive seasons. There was also a slight dip in his launch angle, xSLG, and ISO. Yet his hard-hit rate and exit velocity both were higher than his monster 2017. Rizzo battled back injuries in 2018, which were most likely the cause of his lower than usual power production. Keeping an eye on his launch angle in 2019 may not be the worst idea.
Even with a hampered back, the slugger still put up a fine season. Hitting 25 bombs, stealing a handful of bases (6), and slashing .283/.376/.470. A clean bill of health should mean that Rizzo will eclipse the 30 home run mark again, and he’ll likely steal another 5-10 bases. Although temper your expectations on the speed as he’s a rather large man and his days of contributing in that category are likely numbered. (Patrick Magnus)
5) Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies, (Age:25, Previous Rank NR)
A big man who carries a big stick. Hoskins, at 6’4″ and 225 pounds, bashed his way to a fantastic first full season in the majors. While not quite the freshman campaign of Cody Bellinger it was an impressive feat none the less. He sent 34 baseballs over the fence and swiped 5 bases in the process. Hoskins barreled an impressive 11.4% of the baseballs he made contact with, while he also unsurprisingly produced an above-league-average launch angle and exit velocity.
The beefy destroyer of baseballs certainly looks inclined to do more of the same for a long time. The Phillies slugger executes his plan well putting up formidable at-bats seeing an astounding 4.42 pitches per at-bat in 2018. Unfortunately, his patience and tough plate appearances won’t be leading to much help in average. When the big fella isn’t hitting the ball for extra bases, he’s generally not really hitting the ball. Hoskins’ patience will assure continued success, but he won’t be hitting much more than .250. (Patrick Magnus)
6) Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, (Age:24, Previous Rank 8)
Let’s describe Matt Olson in one word: handsome. The dreamy big boy has bashed a robust 53 home runs in his first two seasons in the Big Leagues. Olson wasn’t able to continue his torrid pace from 2017, but he still managed to slap 29 dingers. Similar to Hoskins, those bombs came with an elite hard-hit rate, exit velocity, and barrel%. Olson has power to all fields and is going to continue to murder baseballs for a very long time. That’s right people, he’s not only handsome; he’s country strong as well.
Now playing in Oakland may be a concern for some dynasty owners, but I’d merely point to the success of Olson’s teammate Kris Davis as an example of a power hitter doing great things in the Colosseum. That’s the kind of strength Olson has, and he’s got the patience to match. Similar to Hoskins, the average may be an issue for the slugger, but he has a promising 21% line-drive rate which could lead to some improvement. Consider any improvement in average a bonus from the sexy beast. (Patrick Magnus)
7) Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 4)
The ol’ baseball-hitting machine had a down 2018 and the baseball community freaked out. Votto failed to hit his almost automatic .300+, and he only hit a mere 12 homers. While Joey Votto is an absolute joy of a baseball player, father time comes for us all. The good news is that the majority of Votto’s statistics indicate that he should have a more productive 2019, although he likely won’t approach the 30 homer mark.
Despite diminishing power, Votto’s plate skills remain intact. While his batting average fell .284, his xBA was .292 which is good for top 7% of the league. Even if it doesn’t jump back up into the .300 range, he’s still a plus in the category, and his power should bump back up to the low to mid 20’s. Votto’s still got some gas in the tank, and make sure to use the concern over his performance and age as a way to acquire him. (Patrick Magnus)
8) Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 15)
Woo! What a season out Carpenter in 2018: 36 home runs, 111 runs scored, and a .257/.374/.534 slash-line. Oh wait, there’s more. Like a lot more. Take a look at some of his stats from Baseball Savant:
- Top 4% in Barrel%
- Top 5% in xSLG
- Top 6% in xwOBA
- Top 9% in wOBA
- Top 4% in BB%
The dude was seemingly the best hitter of the first half of the season, and he left a trail of murdered baseballs behind him. The power faded in the second half, but he still managed to hit a career high in homers. Although unlikely to repeat such a performance, even when he regresses there’s still a very productive dynasty asset here. (Patrick Magnus)
9) Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 5)
Abreu wasn’t quite himself in 2018. Although, he was on pace for mid-to-upper twenties in home runs and was still smashing the ball to all parts of the baseball field. However, he’s eclipsed the 30 home run mark in several of his five big league seasons, and those of you who rostered Abreu were likely disappointed by the 22 homers. The culprit though was a nagging thigh injury that eventually ended his season prematurely.
The Chicago slugger should be back to his normal baseball smashing ways in 2019. A contact-oriented hitter who just levels the ball, Abreu will likely return to .280-.300 batting average, upper 20’s to 30’s home runs, and average counting stats as the White Sox continue their rebuild. Count on him as an elite first baseman, and if there’s anyone in your league down on him due to age and a poor 2018, scoop him up! (Patrick Magnus)
10) Max Muncy, Los Angelos Dodgers, (Age:28, Previous Rank: NR)
The round, ugly, yet somehow beautiful Dodgers slugger with utility-player-like position eligibility, had himself quite the breakout last season. In 481 plate appearances, he obliterated 35 homers, which was good enough to put him in the top 5% of the league, and tied for 14th with the dinosaur-shaped terminator of baseballs ranked below. Muncy posses tremendous power to all fields, which is likely rage-filled due to being bullied his entire life because of his monstrous face. That power and rage make Muncy a candidate to continue smashing in 2019, but beware because he’ll likely be platooned. Still, even in a platoon situation, Muncy should receive a lions’ share of at-bats with his position flexibility and is a good bet to approach–if not surpass–the 30 home run mark again. The batting average will fluctuate from anywhere between .240 to the .260 range he hit last year, so not exactly an asset there. Though his walk rate assures he’ll be very useful in OBP formats. Regardless, with a top ten ranking, we’re buying this beachball-shaped home run hitting Goliath.
11) Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Aguilar was among the biggest breakouts of 2018, slashing .274/.352/.539 with 35 bombs. We’re optimistic he can sustain much of his 2018 gains. Aguilar had already mastered Triple-A at 24 in 2014, pairing good plate discipline with power, posting a 149 wRC+. For his troubles, he was rewarded with two more seasons to beat down Triple-A pitching before finally getting a taste of the majors in 2017. In 2017, he flashed excellent power, homering 16 times in half a season, but struggled with a 30.2% strikeout rate. Everything came together in 2018: the strikeouts dropped to 25.3% and he posted a 134 wRC+. His expected stats, based on exit velocities and launch angles, supported his performance, with a .276/.353/.538 expected triple slash. Given his 2018 performance, 2017 teaser, and minor league history, it’s reasonable to expect 30+ bombs and a .245 average in 2019, Aguilar’s 28-year-old season. (Jordan Rosenblum)
12) Peter Alonso, New York Mets, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 37)
Peter Alonso is easily a top-25 dynasty prospect, and even that may be too low. He’s regarded as maybe the most powerful hitter in the minors with 42 homers last year. He’s crushed every level, never in his career hitting for lower than a 139 wRC+. He also brings excellent plate discipline, walking at a healthy clip and never exceeding 26% strikeouts professionally. Clay Davenport does major league translations for minor league statistics and then applies typical aging curves to produce a peak major league triple slash, an important quantitative tool for judging prospect value. Alonso’s peak major league equivalency for his 2018 minor league performance is .269/.359/.536 with 41 home runs. Scanning 2018 for comparable seasons, Giancarlo Stanton’s .266/.343/.509, Nelson Cruz’s .256/.342/.509, and Jesus Aguilar’s .274/.352/.539 stand out. This trio also averaged 36 homers apiece. Get this guy before it’s too late…it’s probably already too late. (Jordan Rosenblum)
13) Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 12)
Josh Bell was solid in his second full season in the bigs, slashing .261/.357/.411 with elite plate discipline. His power tumbled though, with 12 home runs and a .150 isolated power. In 2017, he hit 26 bombs and posted a .211 ISO. Bell turns 27 in 2019, so there’s still room for him to take another step forward, and he’ll need to improve to justify this ranking. There are some reasons for optimism. Foremost, he added power in 2018, his average exit velocity improved two miles per hour. He’s now among the top 100 qualified hitters in exit velocity. If he continues to add power as he enters his prime years, he could break out. He also might benefit from a change in launch angle, as he hit 49% grounders in 2018, 6% above the major league average—not an ideal distribution for a player with his power. (Jordan Rosenblum)
14) Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: NR)
There’s not a player more volatile this off-season than Jose Martinez. He’s shown he can really hit the past two years, with a .309/.372/.478 triple slash, a 130 wRC+, and 20 homers per 600 plate appearances. His performance is backed by excellent batted ball data: he hits a ton of line drives, and he hits the ball hard. He’s similar offensively to Daniel Murphy, and with playing time he’d be an easy top 50 hitter; a rare breed who consistently hits .300+. Major playing time is not in the Cards, though…at least with the Cards. This makes following Martinez trade rumors particularly thrilling and gut-wrenching, like watching Dunkirk [ Can confirm. Dunkirk rules- Ed.]. A month ago, the Cardinals almost traded him for Giants’ reliever Will Smith. Lately, the Cardinals seem to be more open to keeping him as a backup for Goldschmidt. Time will tell if Martinez can escape the beaches of Northern France St. Louis. (Jordan Rosenblum)
15) Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 7)
The Padres were ridiculed in sabermetric circles for signing Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal in 2018. Hosmer accordingly struggled to a -.1 WAR, and .253/.322/.398 triple slash in 2018, easily his worst performance in the past four seasons. Hosmer is only 29 this year, though, and his pre-2018 track record is too good to easily dismiss. Hosmer’s past four wOBAs, from 2018 to 2014, are .309, .376, .326, .355 (.320 is major league average). His past four xwOBAs, based on exit velocities and launch angles, are .333, .380, .324, .363. His 2018 decline looks more like a normal season-to-season fluctuation than anything else. Plus, his power skills haven’t shown any sign of decline; his average exit velocity on fly balls and liners improved last year to an impressive 95 miles per hour. He’ll never live up to his huge contract, but rumors of his demise are premature. (Jordan Rosenblum)
16) Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 17)
Santana enters his aged 33 season as a pinnacle of consistency, starting designated hitter for the Cleveland Indians. He hasn’t really changed much since 2012, an OBP machine with elite plate discipline, low batting average, around .200 isolated power, and 25-ish home runs a year. He’s shown no sign of decline yet, with stable exit velocities and a strong 2018 (marred by a bit of bad luck). He had a low, even by his standards, .231 BABIP—.260 is more typical Santana. Until he starts to show signs of age-related decline, you can expect more of the same from him. He should be a strong contributor in a championship-caliber Indians lineup in 2019. (Jordan Rosenblum)
17) Jake Bauers, Cleveland Indians, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
The Indians acquired the 23-year-old Bauers to start at first base in 2019. In his rookie year, he slashed .201/.316/.384, with 11 homers and six stolen bases in 388 plate appearances. Throughout the minors, he’s consistently shown 20 home run power, and 15 stolen base ability—pretty similar to his MLB production in 2018. He has consistently walked over ten percent of the time in his career, and he struck out 26 percent of the time in 2018, a few points worse than the major league average. Bauers progressed through the minors quickly, always one of the youngest players at each stop, and he remains one of the youngest in the majors. His youth gives him some power upside, and it’ll be necessary to add power to maintain this rank as his speed declines with age. In 2019, expect 20 homers, 15 stolen bases, a .250 average, and solid counting stats in a strong lineup. (Jordan Rosenblum)
18) Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
As someone with an affection for numbers, it’s hard to write about Nathaniel Lowe in a reasonable manner. The rest of this comment should be read in a shout (our editor wouldn’t let me capitalize it). The 23-year-old Lowe was perhaps the best hitter in the minors in 2018, hitting around .350/.440/.600 across High-A and Double-A, with around 14% walks and 14% strikeouts, a 190+ wRC+, and 23 homers in 445 plate appearances. His Triple-A numbers were more human: he slashed .260/.327/.460, and his strikeout rate jumped to 24.5%. This was still above average for the league though, with a 119 wRC+, and it was also only 110 plate appearances. Clay Davenport’s major league translation for Lowe’s total 2018 minor league performance, adjusted upward for aging, is .304/.385/.545 with 35 homers per 600 plate appearances. Lowe and Alonso look like the next crop of prototypical, slugging first basemen. (Jordan Rosenblum)
19) Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 21)
San Francisco kills lefties. Belt averaged 19 homers per 600 plate appearances over the past three seasons—he would have averaged 23 homers in a neutral park. His unfortunate situation has him chronically underrated. Belt had a down year last year by his standards, slashing .253/.342/.414, but his expected slash, based on exit velocities and launch angles, was .272/.359/.507, aligned with career norms. In San Francisco, where he’s under contract through 2021, Belt is a back end top-20 first baseman. He’s once again been the target of trade rumors this off-season, and if traded his value should receive a nice bump no matter where he lands. Tragically though, he’ll be 31 this year, and showed some early signs of decline in 2018, with a two mile per hour decrease in average exit velocity. If and when he finally gets out of San Francisco, it might already be too late. (Jordan Rosenblum)
20) Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros, (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 19)
Across three MLB seasons since literally hitting .500 in Cuba, Gurriel has established himself as an above average major league hitter, consistently batting .290+ with around 15 home runs. He’ll be 35 in 2019, and a backend top-20 first baseman in a championship-caliber Astros lineup, subject to a few caveats. The first is whether he can hold off father time—at 35, some decline might be coming, although he hasn’t shown major signs yet, save for losing a few miles per hour on line drives and fly balls in 2018. The second is whether he can outhit Michael Brantley and Tyler White, no easy task. The Astros have Kyle Tucker, Josh Reddick, and Michael Brantley competing for two spots in the outfield, and Gurriel, Brantley, and Tyler White competing for the starting jobs at first base and designated hitter. Gurriel has his work cut out for him. (Jordan Rosenblum)
Where They’d Rank- First Basemen, 1-20
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers- 8, in front of Joey Votto
Edwin Encarnacion, Seattle Mariners (for now)- 15, behind Josh Bell
Jurickson Profar, Texas Rangers- 16, in front of Jose Martinez
*ranked as though all were included in the list.