THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2020 TOP 40 DYNASTY LEAGUE FIRST BASEMEN, #1-20
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2020 consensus rankings by looking at the league’s 20 finest first basemen in dynasty leagues, starting with a Florida Man.
1. Pete Alonso, New York Mets, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 12)
Pete Alonso smashed his way into the hearts of dynasty league players everywhere (or at least, those who weren’t competing directly against him) by leading the league in home runs with 53. With those home runs, it is not surprising to see he also went for 100+ runs and RBI. While Alonso was all-around productive, he was very hot and cold. At his high in June, we saw him hit .307 and with a K% at only 18.5. He then followed it up with his July of .177 and a 26.3 K%. Even with the tendency to chase balls out of the zone (31.9%) more than league average (28.3%), he is able to get away with it by barrelling up the ball 15.8% of the time. Unless he starts changing popups to line drives, he will not be as valuable in batting average leagues. He is a pretty decent bet in OBP leagues, but not because of his eye at the plate- his 21 HBP is tied with teammate Jeff McNeil for third place in MLB. Even with the second-half swoon, you cannot go wrong with the Polar Bear. (Shelly Verougstraete)
2. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1)
Steady Freddie. He hit a career-high in home runs with 38 (Thank you Happy Fun Ball!) What makes Freeman so valuable is that you know what you are going to get. Yes, he likely will not lead the league in any one category but he will probably be in the top 10, with the exception of steals. That being said, he has even chipped in 5-10 steals the last couple of seasons, which not many players on this list can say. Freeman saw his first 100/100 season last year, and it should continue when he hits behind Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. Even with the offseason surgery on his elbow, he should be an asset in your dynasty league, even if you are in the rebuild cycle. (Shelly Verougstraete)
3. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 13)
Be aggressive. B.E aggressive. That must have been what Josh Bell was chanting during the offseason as we saw his 1st Pitch Swing% and overall Swing% increase from 27.8% and 42.9% to 38% and 48.1% respectively. If you were looking closely, you would have seen Bell starting to lift the ball more in 2018. He kept improving in launch angle and hard hit%, but after missing time with a hand injury in late July, he hit .233 with only 10 home runs his breakout season. His hard hit% decreased from a high of 56.7% to 38.2% right before he missed a couple of games for that injury. The biggest hurdle for Bell has nothing to do with his skill set but the team he plays on. The Pirates have an entirely new front office, there have been rumors of trading away players like Starling Marte, and PNC Park is not the easiest park to hit in. Even with that being said, I still believe in Bell for the long term. He continues to hit the ball hard and the average launch angle of 13 degrees was the highest of his career so he should continue to contribute in AVG and HRs for the next couple of years. (Shelly Verougstraete)
4. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 6)
Even a broken hamate bone could not stop the powerful Matt Olson, smashing 36 home runs in an impressive 547 PA. He went back to his 2017 ways by pulling the ball (49.7 Pull%) in the air (26.0 FB%). Dynasty owners should not be concerned with Olson spending most of his time in the Coliseum as he straight up destroys the ball. His Hard Hit% is in the 98th percentile and had a 14.5 Barrel%, which is in the top 6% of the league. While he doesn’t have the best contact skills and whiffs on balls in the zone about 6% of the time, it really doesn’t matter all that much while he still has that bat speed. Keep an eye on those contact% if and when the SwStk% start to go up. [also just keep an eye on him, ’cause he’s handsome- Ed.](Shelly Verougstraete)
5. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 4)
Anthony Rizzo has been one of the most consistent, albeit boring, players in the game. Due to his excellent eye at the plate, and the Cubs lineup, he has posted 90+ RBIs for the past five seasons. Rizzo is a must-have in OBP leagues, due to his eye but also his HBP. He has at 20 HBPs the past three seasons and lead the league this year with 27. That being said, I would be hesitant about his future power potential. His 27 home runs were nice but he had a career-high 19.9 HR/FB rate to get there. His average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives is 92.5 MPH is slightly below the league average of 92.7 MPH. With the lack of power and the Cubs crying poor, we might have seen the best years of Rizzo. (Shelly Verougstraete)
6. Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Andrew Vaughn has broken the mold of the old-school first baseman. He is a 6’0” R/R without much speed or defensive upside. But we play fantasy baseball, so who cares. What we do care about are Vaughn’s potential 65 hit and power. Vaughn shot up future draft boards after his sophomore season at Cal where he had a 0.402 AVG and 0.417 ISO. The White Sox drafted him third overall this past June. While he did not post outstanding numbers in his professional debut, his 30:38 BB:K ratio should not be overlooked. Being such a polished college hitter, it was not surprising to see him move up three levels after being drafted. There was a non-zero chance we could see Vaughn in Chicago this year but with the signing of Edwin Encarnación, it is doubtful we will see him. (Shelly Verougstraete)
7. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 5)
Hoskins moved to first full time in 2019 which seemed like a great idea at the time as he could concentrate on smashing baseballs instead of his defense in left field. Well, 2019 might be a season to forget as Hoskins saw pretty much all of his stats decrease, including his Hard Hit%, Barrel%, and home runs even with the Happy Fun Ball. His BB% makes him valuable in OBP leagues, but his passivity might be hurting his overall numbers. He saw a strike as the first pitch thrown 54% of the time and once he got behind in the count he only hit xwOBA 0.191 (league average xwOBA was 0.225). His poor season got even worse after being hit on the hand in mid-August. If we see him become a bit more aggressive at the plate, we should see his numbers improve in 2020 and beyond so it might be a good time to target him in a trade. (Shelly Verougstraete)
8. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 2)
Was it the move to Busch Stadium, a notorious pitchers park, or hitting the age of 32 that caused Paul Goldschmidt to see his worst season since his rookie year in 2012? As with most questions, it is probably both. In 2019, we saw his SwStk% increase and Zone Contact% decrease, which could signal diminishing bat speed. Also, his production against fastballs was the worst of his career, with an xwOBA of 0.369 and 22.7 Whiff%. The stolen bases of 2015-2017 are never coming back but Goldschmidt is still a valuable dynasty asset, especially if you are in your contention window. He has played over 155 games the past five seasons so you won’t have to scramble to the waiver wire to fill in when he is not playing. He would be a great guy to target if you are going to the championship and need a reliable bat at first. (Shelly Verougstraete)
9. Nathaniel Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 18)
Lowe made his major league debut this year and performed well by slashing .263/.325/.454 with seven bombs. Known for his excellent contact skills with big power (perfect for AVG leagues), he can also take a walk. Except for a quick stop in Triple-A at the end of 2018, he has posted above 10% walk rates so he is an excellent player for OBP leagues as well. Lowe changed his profile a bit this season by pulling the ball more in the air. Unfortunately, he is in the Rays organization who love their platoon rosters. With Ji-Man Choi and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo on the roster as left-handed hitting 1B/DH types, Lowe will probably begin the 2020 season in Triple-A. Oh, why does Tampa loathe thee? (Shelly Verougstraete)
10. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 9)
After a down season in 2018 where he struggled with injury, Abreu returned to his consistent productive ways this past season. Abreu has always had excellent contact skills with power. Even at the age of 32, where production typically declines, his hard hit% and average exit velocity are in the top 7 and 6 percent of the league, respectively. His strikeout rate was the highest of his career at 22%, I would not be as concerned as his swing and miss in the zone is a very low 3.24%. Thanks to the breakout of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, he had a career-high 121 RBIs. There is little doubt, unless injury of course, that Abreu should drive in 100+ runs the next couple of years due to the White Sox moves this offseason. If someone in your league is down and out due to his age, I would totally scoop him up, especially if I was competing in my league this year and/or next. (Shelly Verougstraete)
11. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians, (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 16)
What can I say? The old man’s still got it. Santana appears to have stumbled upon the fountain of youth before the 2019 season and proceeded to post a career year. He tied set a new career-best in every standard fantasy category aside from steals. The walk rate remained elite and the strikeout rate stayed under his career mark. What changed? Simply put: he hit the ball harder. Santana put up the best exit velocity and hard-hit rate of his career. The only concern for him is the Indians’ insistence on stripping down the lineup which could hamper his Runs and RBI. Other than that, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. (Joe Drake)
12. Evan White, Seattle Mariners, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 47)
Much has changed in the last 12 months for Evan White. He went from potential glove-first, soft-hitting first baseman who might not have enough thump to break into fantasy lineups, to a near-lock to open the year as Seattle’s first baseman of the future. After hitting just 2 HR and slugging .333 through April and May, something clicked and sent White on a tear. He smashed 16 HR over the remaining 3 months with a .560 SLG and .246 ISO. That falls in line with Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto’s statement that White had the 2nd highest exit velocity in their farm system and it was enough for the Mariners to sign him to a long term deal. Assuming the new swing that led to fewer groundballs sticks, White suddenly looks like a middle of the order, 4-category contributor as soon as 2020. (Joe Drake)
13. Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros, (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 20)
Much like Carlos Santana, Gurriel had a surprising breakout year in 2019. The difference between the two is that Gurriel hit for an even higher average with fewer strikeouts, but doesn’t have the exit velocity numbers to drive confidence in this level of power going forward. Both his average and max exit velocities ranked outside the top 100 in MLB. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue to stroke 15-20 a year going forward though. He’s shown a propensity for getting the most out of the Crawford boxes (29 of 31 HRs were pulled in 2017 & 2018) and is hitting the ball in the air more than ever. I would expect the power to pull back if the ball isn’t as juiced as it was in 2019, but he’s still going to be a batting average monster playing in a stacked lineup. (Joe Drake)
14. Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 27)
New position, who dis? Mr. Chavis moved across the diamond in 2019 en route to making his MLB debut and played the vast majority of his games at first and second. In some ways, his debut was exactly what we expected (33.2 K%, 8.1 BB%), while it was a bit surprising in others (145th in Avg Exit Velo, 14th percentile xwOBA). Despite his pedestrian Avg Exit Velocity of 88.8, Chavis did manage 18 HRs in 382 PAs and had a Max Exit Velo of 113.8 which was just outside the top 50. The power was there when he squared the ball up, but he struggled with his bat to ball skills, as evidenced by his 18.6% swinging-strike rate. Temper expectations on the AVG, but the HRs and counting stats should continue to rise as he settles into the big leagues. (Joe Drake)
15. Luke Voit, New York Yankees, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 23)
Despite a start that picked up where his torrid finish to the 2018 season left off, 2019 was merely lukewarm for Voit. He suffered a sports hernia in June and missed 6 weeks on the IL. He had surgery to repair the hernia immediately following the season. Looking at the splits, his power production started hot and went ice cold in June: 14 HRs in Apr/May, 7 in June-Sept. That’s not to say his 2019 should be ignored, but it paints a picture of a potential return to power prominence in 2020. If you don’t have any of the top options at first, Voit is a pretty low-risk/high-reward option who could hit for big power in a stacked lineup without hurting your AVG. The downside is he’ll have a short leash on a loaded roster with plenty of other options at first. (Joe Drake)
16. Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Casas’ first full season as a pro did not disappoint. The 2018 1st rounder missed nearly all of his pro debut after injuring the UCL in his right thumb. Casas and his imposing frame spent most of 2019 at Greenville in A-ball where he launched 19 HRs with a double-digit walk rate and 136 wRC+ despite being 2.5 years younger than the average hitter in the league. He’s got all the makings of a future fantasy stud with a 55 bat and 70 raw power that some think will grow into 80 as he fills out. Casas is still a few years away from lining frozen ropes off the Green Monster and dropping towering fly balls over the bullpen in right field, but you’re going to want to get in early here before his stock takes off.
17. Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Mountcastle is another new addition to the first base club as he slides across the diamond from third. His poor defense may relegate him to LF in the long term, but his bat should stick here for now. He matched his successful Double-A campaign in 2018 with an equally successful run at Triple-A this past summer and probably would have earned a September call-up on a competing team. He projects as a .275/25 HR bat at the next level who should contribute to 4 out of 5 categories. The biggest question for him at this point is how long Baltimore will keep him down in 2020 to maximize their control and how much their feeble lineup will hold back his counting stats. (Joe Drake)
18. Seth Beer, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 46)
So, the Diamondbacks traded away Zack Greinke for Beer? Before you get up in arms DBack fans, this Beer has a little more pop than most. First of all, he’s a person and not a keg, so there’s that. Second, he has laid waste to pro pitching in his short career despite flatlining in his first 100 PAs in the Arizona system. Expect him to spend most of the year in Triple-A working on his defense at first and fine-tuning the bat for his MLB debut. The below-average hit tool and plus power don’t point to a superstar ceiling for Seth, but he’s a no-doubt major league bat who could be helping your lineup as early as late 2020. (Joe Drake)
19. Edwin Encarnacion, Chicago White Sox, (Age: 37, Previous Rank: 15)
The legend of E5 just keeps on ticking. Despite being on the cusp of 37 years old, Steamer still likes Encarnacion for 35 HRs in 2020! The newly minted White Sox 1B/DH is leaving a stacked lineup in NY to join what looks to be a stacked lineup in ChiTown, so you shouldn’t be too concerned about a drop-off in counting stats. The only real question here is how long can he keep this up? His underlying stats held steady in 2019 and he recorded his highest Max Exit Velocity (113.0 MPH) since 2015. I know that father time is undefeated… but Edwin Encarnacion seems poised to give him a run for his money! He remains a prominent 3 category masher who won’t kill your AVG and should be considered a stud for contending rosters. Just keep in mind that he probably can’t keep this up forever. Probably.
20. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 7)
This one hurts to write, but it appears the end is nigh for Joey Votto. 2019 was not pretty for the former slugger and it makes for 2 straight down years. The good news is that he’s still a terrific defender and locked in at first for the Reds. The HRs made a very slight bounce back up to 15 and his Avg and Max Exit Velocity both rebounded ever so slightly. The bad news is that he still isn’t hitting the ball hard and the xBA eroded in 2019 (.290 -> .256). His strikeout rate (20.2%) was the highest of his career and the walk rate (12.5%) was his lowest in over a decade. Votto still managed to be a league-average hitter last year (101 wRC+), but at this point, it’s getting tough to bet on a rebound anywhere close to his previous levels. (Joe Drake)