THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2020 TOP 40 DYNASTY LEAGUE FIRST BASEMEN, #21-40
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Without further ado, it’s time to continue our 2020 consensus rankings by looking at the 21-40 first basemen in dynasty leagues.
21) Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres, (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 15)
A year ago, Eric Hosmer entered free agency coming off arguably his worst season as a major leaguer, hitting .253 with 18 HRs, 63 RBI. He was rewarded with an eight-year, $144 million contract from the San Diego Padres. He did bounce back in 2019 to an extent, improving his exit velocity from 88.8 mph up to a solid 90.5. That contributed to a .265 BA, 22 HRs, and 99 RBI (23rd in all of baseball), albeit with significant declines in walk percentage (9.8% to 9.2% to 6%, 2017-2019) and strikeout percentage (15.5%, to 21.0%, to 24.4% 2017-2019). As he enters his thirties, you know what you will get with Hosmer. In real life, that’s a negative-WAR, but in fantasy, you should expect decent contributions in three categories, with a fluctuating average and no speed. I do expect him to be a non-flashy name that you can likely take as your corner infielder later in redrafts at a thin first base position in 2020. (Bob Osgood)
22) Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 29, Previous Rank: N/A)
After sporadic appearances in the big leagues since 2014, Christian Walker finally got his chance in 2019 to prove that he could hit for the power that he flashed for years in the minor leagues. Arizona gave Walker 603 plate appearances and he did not disappoint, sporting a .825 OPS, smashing 29 home runs, 73 RBI, 86 runs and even chipped in a surprising 8-for-9 on stolen base attempts, which were rare in the minors. This performance was good enough for 14th among first basemen on ESPN’s Player Rater (five of whom TDG ranked elsewhere, having played the majority of their games at other positions). A Statcast darling, he had a 48.4% hard-hit rate which was in the top 6% of all of baseball. That hopefully supports the contention that Walker is a late-bloomer, rather than a product of the baseball in 2019. Roster Resource predicts Walker to hit fourth in a respectable D-Backs lineup and should have plenty of opportunities to repeat last year’s numbers. (Bob Osgood)
23) Daniel Murphy, Colorado Rockies (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 15 2B)
A career .298 hitter, Daniel Murphy arrived in Colorado last year as a sleeper candidate for the NL batting title, with a presumed Coors Field bump ahead of him as he shifted from second over to first base. Murphy started the season with a fractured index finger in game number two, returned hastily after three weeks, and entered June with a .229 average. Murphy salvaged the rest of the season, finishing at .279, but when all was said and done the Coors Field bump simply brought his numbers up to a mediocre line. Murphy hit .317 in Colorado, and .237 on the road, and finished the season with an 86 wRC+, the lowest of his career. With two consecutive injury-plagued seasons and entering his age-35 season, it’s difficult to trust Murphy in dynasty formats at this point. However, with a $12 million salary, he should get every opportunity for at-bats when healthy and could be a late steal in redraft leagues. (Bob Osgood)
24) Dan Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 45)
The resounding joint opinion at The Dynasty Guru a year ago was to free both Dan Vogelbach and Willians Astudillo. Only one of these worked out and take that as you wish in terms of the types of players that we pull for here at the site. A true “Three Outcome” player, Vogelbach got a full-time gig on the lowly Mariners and jacked 30 home runs, walked 16.5% of the time, and struck out 26.7% of the time. Vogelbach increased his launch angle to 17.2 degrees, and when he did make contact he barreled 10.8% of all balls in play, which landed in the top 25% of the league. Thanks to the walk rate, Vogelbach is far more valuable in OBP leagues where his .341 OBP last year was far less unsightly than the .208 BA. Additionally, a .161 average and .602 OPS in 2019 vs. left-handers may leave Vogelbach with a strong-side platoon. For those desperate for power, the playing time should be there for Vogelbach against right-handed pitching in the middle of a rebuilding Mariners lineup, provided that you can find a way to mitigate the batting average risk. (Bob Osgood)
25) Justin Smoak, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 22)
I will do all I can to not copy and paste anything from the Dan Vogelbach paragraph. Last year, Justin Smoak finished the year with a .342 OBP and a .208 batting average, while barreling an impressive 11.0% of the balls that he put in play. This is tougher than I thought.
A move to Milwaukee on a one-year, $5 million deal looks to be a good change of scenery for Smoak. At 33, the switch-hitting Smoak should get plenty of playing time in a solid lineup to eclipse the 414 ABs he had in Toronto last year, where he declined to 22 HRs and 61 RBI and only 54 runs. I do believe that Smoak’s average will move closer to the .231 career rate, as he was one of the ten unluckiest hitters in baseball last year, using expected statistics (xBA and xWOBA). Finally, walking at a 15.8% clip was good for the top 3% in baseball last year, and should make Smoak a good one-year stopgap in OBP leagues. (Bob Osgood)
26) C.J. Cron, Detroit Tigers (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 30)
For the third consecutive year, C.J. Cron will call a new ballpark home, moving into Comerica Park in Detroit. Cron signed a one-year deal and should have every opportunity for at-bats, at least in the first half of the season before a trade possibility presents itself. When Cron is healthy, he simply hits the ball hard, improving his Hard Contact % each of the last four years. He followed a 30 HR/74 RBI season in 2018 with a 25 HR/78 RBI season in 2019, which was backed up with a Barrel % that finished in the top 5% of the league, and a 91.0 mph exit velocity. Cron’s .258 career average has held steady year after year, and in the right lineup is a three-category fantasy contributor as well. It remains to be seen if Detroit is the right lineup, but he is another example of power help that can be found later in drafts. (Bob Osgood)
27) Renato Nunez, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 25, Previous Rank: N/A)
The Orioles handed the designated hitter reins over to Renato Nunez in 2019 and he ran with it. A track record of power for several years in the minors, Nunez cranked 31 HRs and knocked in a very impressive 90 RBI on a 54-108 Orioles team who were 23rd in Runs Scored. Nunez’s splits have their flaws: A .263 average at Camden Yards vs. .226 on the road, as well as a .270 average vs. left-handed pitching compared to .229 vs. right-handers. However, his power stayed consistent in all of these cases. Nunez will strikeout plenty (24.2% in his career) but should hit in the middle of an Orioles lineup that will likely be playing in front of family members only in 2020. Nunez did make an appearance at first base 24 times last year allowing him to qualify at the thin position this season. He, unfortunately, lost his third base eligibility in most leagues that carried over from 2018, making only 9 appearances there in 2019. Only turning 26 in April, it will be interesting to see if Nunez can make an additional leap in 2020 past the list of aging power hitters with a longer track record who are ranked slightly ahead of him. (Bob Osgood)
28) Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 38)
The Blue Jays gave Rowdy Tellez a chance in 2019 to show if he could be an everyday player, and while he did contribute 21 HRs and 54 RBI in 370 at-bats, he did so with some flaws. A .227 average and 28.4% K-rate likely gave the Blue Jays some hesitation going into the upcoming season. His average home run distance was 406 feet, and with plenty of power proven in the minors, the juiced ball should not be a factor for Rowdy from a power perspective. Tellez had some strange splits for a left-hander, hitting .270 with 6 HR in 115 ABs against lefties, but hitting only .208 with 15 HR against right-handers. Fellow left-handed hitter Travis Shaw was signed last week and should receive a fair amount of at-bats, which may prove our ranking to now be a bit too high for Tellez. That being said, Shaw’s .157 average in 2019 is no sure thing and a hot start by either player, and with the designated hitter an option as well, either player could gain the majority of at-bats in 2020. (Bob Osgood)
29) Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals (Age: 36, Previous Rank: N/A)
Howie Kendrick’s ranking may seem high for some, considering we’re talking about a 36-year-old who has played approximately half the time for three seasons, and whose notoriety in 2019 came from his playoff home runs in the most clutch moments. This led to Washington bringing Kendrick back for over $6M in 2020. I don’t believe this is a “Steve Pearce World Series MVP” signing though, as everything Kendrick did in 2019 was legit. Kendrick hit .344 in 370 plate appearances, and might have won the batting title (Yelich, .329) if he was given the requisite 502 PAs. He hit .376 against left-handers, and .327 against right-handed pitching. Kendrick added 17 HRs, 62 RBI, 61 runs, an eye-popping .966 OPS, and cut his strikeout rate five-ticks to 13.2%. He then followed this up with an NLCS MVP and the go-ahead home run off Zach Greinke in Game 7 of the World Series. His 91.6 exit velocity was in the top 6% of the league, and, even if playing 60% of the time, I’m buying Kendrick on the cheap heading into 2020. (Bob Osgood)
30) Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 28, Previous Rank: N/A)
The left-handed hitting Ji-Man Choi was productive on the strong side of the platoon in 2019. He mashed .274 with a .869 OPS against right-handers, and 17 of his 19 HRs coming from that side. However, his inability to hit left-handed pitching and the now-crowded roster in Tampa Bay may make it difficult to trust Choi in 2020 outside of deeper leagues. Nate Lowe should receive a majority of playing time, Yandy Diaz can play each corner, and the recent signing of Yoshi Tsutsugo creates even more flexibility for a Rays team that thrives on platoons and in-game moves. It’s hard to envision Choi getting the 487 at-bats that he received last year, but he is intriguing in OBP leagues as his 13% walk-rate contributed to a .363 OBP in 2019. (Bob Osgood)
31) Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins (Age: 29, Previous Rank: NR)
Cooper’s real breakout season came in Double-A and Triple-A back in 2017, when he posted a 1.057 OPS in 350 plate appearances. Moving from the Yankees to the Marlins gave Cooper the opportunity to demonstrate how authentic that season was, and in 2019 he was finally able to prove that those numbers weren’t a fluke. Okay, so he’s unlikely to post an OPS anywhere near 1.000 in the Major Leagues, but Cooper did turn in a very respectable .281 batting average to go along with some decent power (15 home runs) in 421 plate appearances. Given his track record across the minor leagues, it’s safe to bet that his batting average, at the very least, is something you can expect for him to replicate again in 2020. (Ross Jensen)
32) Michael Toglia, Colorado Rockies (Age: 21, Previous rank: NR)
The 23rd overall pick in 2019, Toglia is another prospect to add to the rock-solid collection of Roberto Ramos, Grant Lavigne, and Tyler Nevin at first base for the Colorado Rockies. Nevin and Lavigne both struggled to live up to their billing in 2019, opening the door for Toglia to move up the organizational ladder. He will still have some work to do to get to the top, but if his college career at UCLA can serve as any sort of indication of what we can expect from him, Toglia should bring a solid dose of power to the table. (Ross Jensen)
33) Brandon Belt, San Franciso Giants (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 19)
Coming into 2018, Belt felt like a good sleeper candidate coming off an injury and a down season. However, that turned out not to be the case, and the past two years seem to have confirmed that Belt has been in decline since his late 20’s peak seasons. The trend is certainly not in Belt’s favor, as his OPS has fallen now three years in a row. One positive is that Belt’s home run totals have remained consistent since he came into the league, ranging between 14 and 18 in seasons which he received at least 220 at-bats. Unfortunately, as it stands, instead of a .270-.280 batting average, you’re much more likely to get a .230 hitter to pair with those mediocre home run totals. (Ross Jensen)
34) Dominic Smith, New York Mets (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
With the emergence of Pete Alonso in New York, many had written off Dominic Smith, who was himself once considered a top 100 prospect. Despite being blocked at the position, Smith was finally able to prove his talents with the bat by posting an impressive .282/.355/.525 slash line. Smith may eventually lose eligibility at first base, as he started more games last season in the outfield, but he does appear to be a good candidate to provide solid production if/when he is able to get at bats. In redraft leagues, Smith would make an interesting later round play. In dynasty leagues, his youth makes him an interesting option as well, if you are willing to deal with some position uncertainty in the future. (Ross Jensen)
35) Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Bradley is known for two things: his swing-and-miss tendencies and his power. After hitting 20+ home runs in four straight minor league seasons, Bradley stepped up his game in Triple-A to set new career highs with 33 dingers and a .567 slugging percentage. He was rewarded for his power surge with his first taste of the big leagues. Unfortunately, the swing-and-miss outshined the power in his first 50 plate appearances, and Bradley finished with only 1 home run to pair with 20 strikeouts and a lowly .178 average. In discussing the top 101 minor league hitters of the past decade (a list which Bradley ranked #90 on), I had this to share: “Is Bobby Bradley in the same vein as Joey Gallo and Kyle Schwarber with his swing-and-miss tendencies? If so, considering the minor league results are not as elite (Schwarber and Gallo ranked #6 and #11, respectively), I probably wouldn’t invest in him expecting the same kind of return.” Bradley has the talent to be a power-hitting mainstay in Cleveland, just be aware that there is significant risk in his profile as well. (Ross Jensen)
36) Lewin Diaz, Miami Marlins (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
Diaz’s prospect stock took a major nosedive after an extremely forgettable 2018 in which he posted a .598 OPS and looked over-matched by high-A pitching. Diaz rebounded nicely in 2019 while repeating High-A briefly and after a promotion to Double-A, posting a .270/.321/.530 slash more in line with his minor league career numbers outside of 2018, and more than doubled his previous best home run total. After being traded from the Twins to the Marlins, Diaz has a chance to lay claim to the label as the organization’s first baseman of the future. (Ross Jensen)
37) Kevin Cron, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 26, Previous Rank: NR)
The brother of current Twins first baseman C.J., Kevin posted video game-like numbers in 2019. His 39 homers and .329 batting average in 377 plate appearances were good for an absurd 1.226 OPS. On its surface, that would make Kevin a breakout candidate in 2020 and beyond. However, it’s worth noting that Kevin posted these numbers as a 26-year-old and in a Triple-A environment where the ball was flying off the bat for everyone. Players that have breakouts in the minor leagues at 26 years old don’t always have the greatest track record of Major League success. However, while 2019 was undoubtedly his best season from a statistical standpoint, Kevin is hardly a one-hit wonder, having hit over 20 home runs in four other minor league seasons and posting a .300+ batting average at Triple-A in 2018 as well. To get an idea of what Kevin can achieve, assuming he receives adequate playing time, his brother may serve as the best example: C.J. has a very respectable .258/.311/.462 career slash. (Ross Jensen)
38) Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 28)
I must admit that I see a healthy dose of sleeper potential for Guzman in 2020, despite the fact that he received a demotion during 2019 and has fallen 10 spots in our rankings (or perhaps this is part of the reason why). Guzman is a big, long first baseman (6’5, 225 lbs.) who, in seven years in the minors, has hit for a solid batting average but hasn’t shown the kind of power that his frame suggests exists. So far in the Major Leagues, the power has been okay, but the batting average hasn’t shown up. After being sent down by the Rangers to work out his hitting woes, Guzman came back during the final month of the regular season to post a solid .305/.397/.475 slash line (coming on the back of a similar .308/.400/.504 line in Triple-A). In addition, the Rangers appear committed to Guzman as their solution at first base. Despite being at a position suffering from a severe dearth of talent, nobody seems to be paying attention to Guzman, and that means that maybe you should. (Ross Jensen)
39) Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 36)
Over the last few years, Thames has been a solid and consistent performer at first base. Is there any reason to think that will change in 2020 as Thames enters his age-33 season? No, no there is not. Thames lacks the upside potential of the “sexier” dynasty options, but if you’re desperate for some reliable production, Thames should be considered an option while your minor leagues develop or if your team suffers a crippling injury at the position. You can expect a sub-par batting average (in the .245 range), but coupled with 20-30 home runs and a solid on base percentage. (Ross Jensen)
40) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 25)
Cabrera is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, no doubt about it. Before he calls it a career, he will likely have amassed over 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 2012 in 45 years. How quickly it seems people forget that before it happened, there were murmurs about how it would never happen again. Suffice it to say, I want to be kind to the legend. However, I also need to explain why he ranks #40 in our rankings, so here it goes: the single biggest culprit is that age and injury have all but sapped Cabrera’s power, as he failed to slug over .400 for the second time in the last three years. Entering his twilight years at age 36, there is very little reason why you would expect for much to change. However, let me also make a case for why it might be a good idea for you to roster Cabrera. Despite his age and declining skills, Cabrera still manages to maintain a solid batting average, hitting .282 in 2019. With limited options at the position, you may find it to your team’s benefit to have someone that won’t actively hurt your production. In addition, I want to believe that Cabrera will still have a throwback season or two, as we have seen sometimes happen with other great hitters before they hang it up. (Ross Jensen)