THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2021 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE FIRST BASEMEN, #1-10
WELCOME BACK!!! Despite a scorching hot stove (I can’t believe the player you’re thinking of did or did not sign with the team you thought they would!), these long winter months can be some of the darkest of the year (figuratively and literally). But fear not, restless readers. The Dynasty Guru is here to the rescue.
While you were quarantining and enjoying virtual holidays, our brave group of writers has been ranking, debating, re-ranking, re-debating, and re-re-ranking over 600 players for dynasty leagues. The fruits of our efforts will be filling January and February with the deepest, most thoroughly and painstakingly selected dynasty baseball rankings on the internet. We have top-40s, top-50s, top-125s, top-200s, and of course top-500s.
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Without further ado, it’s time to begin our 2021 consensus rankings by looking at the league’s top 10 finest first basemen in dynasty leagues. Some familiar names up top, and a lot of great production to be had all up and down the top 10.
1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 2)
The reigning NL MVP had a 4.4% better walk rate 4.3% better strikeout rate than any of his big-league seasons thus far. Some may say a .366 BABIP has that lead to a .341 average has to come down, but Freeman has prior BABIP’s of .371, .351, .370, and .358, so high BABIP is what he does. In redraft leagues, depending on size, Freeman is a back-end first round/early second-round pick. In Dynasty leagues if your team is not competing this season, the time to move him is Now, before the season, as his value will not be any higher. Add him to your trade block and see what comes. If you are competing, ride the wave. (Phil Barrington)
2. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR/ 4 at 3b)
Guerrero turns twenty-two in March and he already feels like old news. He was our fourth-rated third baseman in 2020 and he seemed poised to stay at the hot corner for a few seasons before moving to first. Well, that happened last year, in his second big league season. Toronto’s top third base prospects Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans gain some future value, but much less so for Dynasty teams that planned to have Guerrero as their starting third baseman. There is some hope he stays at the hot corner as he is playing third base in winter ball this offseason, but that is just delaying the inevitable it feels like.
Looking back to his breakout, Guerrero had a 2018 to remember, moving from A+ to Triple-A, hitting 20 home runs with a .381 batting average and 1.073 OPS. Then in 2019 he played 123 MLB games, hitting 15 home runs with a .272 batting average and underwhelming .772 OPS. Last season saw Guerrero make small improvements, dropping his strikeout rate by 2%, increasing his ISO to .199 from .162 while improving his slugging percentage to .462 compared to .433 in 2019. It is quite possible many fantasy players saw forty+ home runs right away, but Vladito is not there yet (and it may never happen, so plan accordingly). What we should expect as his floor for the next few seasons is 25+ home runs, .300 batting average, .850 OPS, and a lot of RBI. Sign me up. (Phil Barrington)
3. Pete Alonso, New York Mets (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 1)
The Polar Bear is down a couple of spots, but that is more due to the MVP season of Freeman and Vladito moving from third base, so Pete can still be #1 in our hearts. He did not have a good shortened 2020, at least if we go off of a .231 batting average compared to his 2019 .260 average (and 53 home runs). But looking at Alonso’s secondary numbers we see the differences between the prior season and 2020 are not as glaring as that batting average dip. Alonso’s strikeout rate was 10.0% compared to 2019’s 10.4% and his strikeout was 25.5% in 2020 versus 26.4% in 2019. He also ended the 2020 season with four home runs in his last six games and finished with the third-most home runs among first baseman with 16. A high (or decent) average may never be in the cards for Alonso but he will provide home runs in bunches, and we should all be excited for the improved pieces new Mets ownership will surround him with, leading to more RBI opportunities as well. In Dynasty leagues look to trade for Alonso if the price is right. (Phil Barrington)
4. Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
The Torklenator should be debuting in Detroit by 2022 and carry on the proud Detroit first baseman tradition of Miguel Cabrera, Cecil Fielder, Norm Cash, going all the way back to Hank Greenberg in the late 1930s and 40s. Detroit brought up almost all of their top prospects last season, and as they do not project to be very good this season as well, there is a chance we see Torkleson up in 2021. But my amateur thought is that he stays down until after the Super 2 deadline in 2022. Regardless of when he is called up to the big leagues, Torkelson is a top-ten overall prospect and an easy choice for the first overall pick in a first-year player draft. (Phil Barrington)
5. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 5)
As of this writing, Olson is being drafted as the eighth first baseman in NFBC leagues at an ADP of 88, so there is value to be had. In 2020 he hit 14 home runs with 42 RBI and improved his walk rate to a career-best 13.7% but that did nothing to help the fact that he just could not put the ball in play to the tune of a .195 batting average and .227 BABIP. His strikeout rate of 31.4% is 5% higher than his career average, so an improved BABIP to closer to his career line of .277 and a reduction in strikeouts should lead to an improved, acceptable batting average. The Oakland A’s offense overall was pretty poor in 2020 as they dealt with injuries, aging, and ineffectiveness but the team core of Olson and third baseman Matt Chapman should bounce back big in 2021. As such Olson is another first baseman to target in off-season Dynasty league trades. (Phil Barrington)
6. Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 6)
The third overall selection in the 2019 draft, Andrew Clayton Vaughn finds himself knocking on the door of the big leagues. Current Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is signed through the 2022 season, but the DH may be in his future as soon as Vaughn is ready, as Abreu has never posted a positive Defensive WAR in his big-league career. Vaughn had a .991 fielding percentage making only four errors in his last season at Cal and a .994 fielding percentage in 37 minor league games in 2019. There is also the presence of Yasmani Grandal, who while being catcher the vast majority of 2020 also played first base and DH, and one would assume would continue to see time at both those positions as he ages.
Now for most leagues defense is not a category, but determining playing time is, and with new manager Tony LaRussa most likely eschewing the youngsters, and Vaughn never having played above Single-A+ ball, Vaughn seems unlikely to reach the majors in 2021. For re-draft leagues that are drafting before spring training it is hard to invest a high pick on Vaughn but as a late round flier, sure; though as we get into Spring Training and the possibility of making the team becomes greater his draft position will rise. In Dynasty leagues one would have to be bowled over to trade him now as his value has never been higher. (Phil Barrington)
7. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 5)
There was talk in Chicago of declining Rizzo’s $14.5 million club option for 2021, but that quickly subsided and he will be a Cub in 2021. After that, maybe not? It seems a bit crazy that, while it was Rizzo has become the Mr. Cub of the 2010s, the Cubs would be ready to move on, though with the current ownership group in Chicago, nothing is off the table. 2020 was not kind to Rizzo in terms of batting average (.218 compared to career .270), on-base percentage (.342 versus .382) and slugging percentage (.414 versus .497). Though as it appears a .218 BABIP (versus .278 for his career) contributed to these poor rate stats. The bright side? His strikeout and walk rates were in line with his career norms and he still hit 11 home runs.
Expect Rizzo to bounce back strongly, leading to the Cubs deciding that their franchise player is worth an extension, and you have your first base cornerstone for the next few seasons. (Or you can be a cynical fan like me, and see how the Ricketts ownership is very similar to the Tribune ownership back in the 80s and 90s, and sigh). Entering his age-31 season, Rizzo is coming at a discount in drafts and is an excellent target for a competing Dynasty team. (Phil Barrington)
8. Luke Voit, New York Yankees (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 15)
Voit has improved eight spots per season, (ranked 23 in 2018 and 15 last year) so he’ll be the top guy next season, if all holds (I kid, I kid). The Major League leader in home runs in 2020 with 22, he also had the second-highest ISO rate, joining Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr, and Mike Trout in the top four. Voit also had a quietly productive 2019 as well, just with a lot less power. He has never hit more than 23 home runs in any season, and those 23 came between the majors (21) and minors (2) in 2019. So while 30+ home runs in a full 2021 season is possible, it is wise to assume 20-25, and then any more is a bonus.
Voit will be 30 years old when the 2020 season gets underway and does not reach free agency until 2025, so he should be the Yankees first baseman for the next few seasons. Leading the league in home runs and being a Yankee has led to Voit’s fantasy value being a bit inflated, so use that to your advantage if trying to move him. If you are drafting/holding, you know what to expect, 25-ish home runs and a good amount of Runs and RBI. (Phil Barrington)
9. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 8)
In 2020 Goldschmidt did what he normally does- an average around .300, a good amount of RBI and Runs and a few steals. He even improved his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate substantially, though that came at the expense of his power, as he posted the lowest ISO of his career.
Besides the Marlins, the Cardinals were most affected by Covid-19 in 2020, so a power bounce back is likely. His full-season standard line of 30 homers, 90 runs & RBI, 5 steals, and a .300 average should mostly continue in 2021, though the steals may not even reach five anymore and the average will decline as he ages. Goldschmidt will be 33 years old for the 2021 season and he signed a five-year extension with the Cardinals back in March of 2019. He is signed through 2024, meaning the first base job is his until then, making him a solid choice for your team’s first baseman.
Lastly, note that Goldschmidt had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, so that happened, and while bone spurs can be an indication of other underlying issues, there has been no indication he will not be ready for spring training next year, and Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said Goldschmidt was progressing well in his recovery. It did not appear to affect his playing in 2020, as Goldschmidt played in 58 out of 60 games for the Cardinals. Draft with confidence. (Phil Barrington)
10. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 7)
Down a few spots from last year and long an On-Base Percentage league darling, Hoskins ended his respectable 2020 season with a fluke forearm injury while tagging a runner at first base. Eventually, he needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow, with a four-to-six month recovery period, so he will hopefully be ready by spring training or soon thereafter (the surgery is relatively new and is similar to Tommy John with a shorter recovery). His ADP was dropping with the news he might not be ready, so use that knowledge that to snag him in non-batting average leagues at a discount.
In 2020 all of Hoskins’ rate stats such as walk rate, strikeout rate, ISO, BABIP, batting average, OBP and slugging were all in line or better than his career averages while hitting ten home runs to boot. His career batting average is .239 and one should not expect a higher one, but his career OBP of .366 and a slugging percentage of .495 look really nice at your first base spot for annual and Dynasty leagues. (Phil Barrington)