The Dynasty Guru’s 2021 Top 50 Dynasty League First Basemen: First Basemen to Target
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 50 Dynasty League First Basemen posts, of which you can find 1-10 here. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus.
One cannot go wrong with any of the top five of our top first basemen of 2021, but if you want to wait a bit longer in your drafts to dive into the first basemen pool, you will want to start thinking about two veterans with an ADP of around 100 (as of this writing on both NFBC and Fantrax). These two players that can provide excellent value are National League central division rivals, Anthony Rizzo and Paul Goldschmidt. I already expounded on their virtues in the top 10 first basemen of 2021. Look for both to provide a lot of value in 2021 and for the next couple of seasons as they are options for a Dynasty team drafting this season, looking to compete right out of the gate.
However, maybe you are the type of manager who wants to fill other positions on your roster and feel that first base is a deep position depending on what you are looking for. So if you want to be a bit riskier and wait on filling your first base spot two guys going a bit later in drafts worth targeting this season that deserve a deeper dive are Josh Bell and Bobby Dalbec.
JOSH BELL, AGE: 28, WASHINGTON NATIONALS
After having this ready to go while Bell was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nationals acquired Bell on December 24th and now he will have Juan Soto and Trea Turner batting in front of him. It has been trendy to write off Bell’s 2019 as an outlier and drop him in rankings but I see value here. Back in 2016 and prior Bell was a top-50 prospect and the Pirates felt they had their first baseman of the future when he became the starter in 2017. Here are his stat lines for his four big-league seasons:
Bell has no stolen base acumen and his home run numbers in the minors were underwhelming; however a player improving their power once they get to the big league level is not uncommon (and we saw it with his former teammate Ke’Bryan Hayes in 2020). A lot went wrong in 2020 for the Pirates (besides Hayes coming up) which Bell definitely contributed to. But a walk rate that was 2% lower than his career rate and a strikeout rate 7.5% higher than his career rate look like his 2020 season is more of a short season outlier.
As of this writing, his ADP on NFBC is pick #185 as the 20th first baseman off the board, and on Fantrax he is going as the 13th first baseman and an ADP of 168. For 2021 and Dynasty leagues at those ADP’s Bell can provide tons of value. Steamer has Bell with a 2021 line of 26 homers, 75 runs, 83 RBI, and a .259/.358/.475 triple-slash, which takes into account the lower counting stats of a (probably) bad Pirates team with a reasonable home run projection and rate stats. Remember Bell did hit 37 homers in 2019, so that ceiling is possible and he is 28-years-old and right in his prime.
BOBBY DALBEC, AGE: 25, BOSTON RED SOX
In NFBC he is currently being drafted as the 27th first baseman with an ADP of 263 and on Fantrax he is being taken at pick 293. As Fantrax factors in Dynasty drafts, that ADP on their website really hurts. No matter, we are using those ADPs to our advantage. Dalbec has climbed Boston’s organizational ladder since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. While his strikeout rates are ghastly, that has been the case for Dalbec since college, yet here he is, from a fourth-rounder with high Ks and 70-grade power to a major leaguer with high Ks and 70-grade power. By looking at his walk and strikeout rates in his minor league seasons we can tell that Dalbec has an adjustment period at every level he has played at. See the chart below:
|2017||Red Sox (R)||7||32||15.6%||28.1%|
|2017||Red Sox (A)||78||329||10.9%||37.4%|
|2018||Red Sox (A+)||100||419||14.3%||31.0%|
|2018||Red Sox (AA)||29||124||4.8%||37.1%|
|2019||Red Sox (AA)||105||439||15.5%||25.1%|
|2019||Red Sox (AAA)||30||123||4.1%||23.6%|
Dalbec’s strikeout rate dropped 6% in his second year in Single-A, then shot up again his first season of Double-A, only to come down 12% in his second season at Double-A, before he was promoted to Triple-A for the end of 2019, where that strikeout rate was even lower.
His 2020 season showcased the good and the bad: eight home runs in only 92 plate appearances with a walk rate of 10.9%, a .959 OPS and a .338 ISO. In those same 92 plate appearances, his strikeout rate was 42.4% with a .394 BABIP. Any mention of Dalbec focuses on that strikeout rate but does not take into account the small sample size and his minor league track record. The league average for strikeout rate in 2019 and 2020 was 23%; Dalbec brings enough power that even if his strikeout rate is 30% he will be valuable in fantasy leagues (and I think it will go down as his career progresses as we have seen already by his minor league improvements year over year).
It appears fast-rising fellow first base prospect Tristan Casas is destined to join Dalbec in the majors sooner rather than later, moving Dalbec off of first base. Lo and behold, Dalbec has a 70-grade arm and is a really good third baseman. While the Red Sox already have All-Star Rafael Devers at the hot corner, he is not good defensively and could shift to DH duties when Casas is ready. There is so little risk at Dalbec’s current ADPs and so much reward possibility that it is easy to jump on the bandwagon.