TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO TARGET: FIRST BASEMEN
Many people will say that first base is shallow, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with that. While it may be top-heavy with not many players in the elite tier, there are many excellent hitters. For players with at least 200 plate appearances, 35 first basemen had a wRC+ of over 100. While that may not translate to fantasy success, it does show you there are options out there. Below are three players that should not need an early draft pick in dynasty draft this winter that can deliver value to fantasy teams in 2022.
Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers
Despite the mediocre surface stats from 2021 (.242/.305/.414), there are plenty of reasons to target Rowdy Tellez. The surface numbers may show that he had a down year, but it was far from that. Tellez set new highs in max exit velocity, average exit velocity (114.8 mph & 92.2 mph) and rose his launch angle to 13.4 degrees. This elite power came with a solid approach, only striking out 20% of the time. It’s also important to note that he was a much different player in Toronto than after his trade to Milawake. As a Blue Jay, Tellez only mustered a .610 OPS versus a .803 OPS as a Brewer.
Despite the good first impression, Tellez will need to earn his at-bats in 2022. Milwaukee. As of this writing, there are at least three other players on the roster who can play first base. Tellez has the upper hand as he has no severe split issues. He has posted a .750+ OPS against both left and right-handed pitchers in his career. Keston Hiura and Mike Brosseau not only have serious strikeout issues, but they also have significant splits. It’s certainly possible that Tellez will begin the season in some platoon, which is killing the hype on him right now. But if that elite raw power translates to on-field production, they will not be able to sit Tellez. If the NL adds the DH, that’s another reason to go all-in on Tellez.
C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies
C.J. Cron has never gotten much hype during his eight-year career. It could be because he’s a first base only player. Or it could be because up until 2018; he had only posted mediocre power numbers. He only hit for a .756 OPS during his four-year career with the Los Angeles Angels, averaging 15 home runs per season. Since leaving LA, Cron’s power has exploded. In the 87 games split amongst Tampa Bay, Detroit, Minnesota and Colorado, he’s had a .836 OPS, averaging 22 home runs per season. That number gets better without the COVID shortened 2020 season.
Since 2018 Cron has been near the league’s top in max exit velocity, barrel percentage, and xWOBA. The power is legit. The approach is suitable for a power hitter, 21% K% and 11% BB%. The cherry on top is that Cron will be playing half of his games in Coors Field for the next two seasons. Though he doesn’t need the help, playing half of his games in Coors will boost his power and help with the batting average. It’s a safe bet that Cron will hit 30 home runs and drive in 80, with a good average and OBP. He’s a must-own for as long as he’s a Rockie, and it shouldn’t take too much to get him.
Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals
Yes, I am telling you to target a first base prospect on the Royals whose name is not Nick Pratto. While I think Pratto will be an excellent fantasy player, I firmly believe Vinnie Pasquantino will be the better overall hitter. As Pasqauntino has moved up levels in the minor leagues, his strikeouts have gone down, and the walks have gone up. He’s never had an OPS below .900 – his lowest was .949. In every season, he’s had a contact rate of at least 80%. Pasquantino was near among the league leaders in 2021 for max exit velocity. Steamer is projecting Vinnie to slash .275/.336/.475 with a .810 OPS in 2022. Despite all of this, he gets no hype whatsoever, probably because he’s a first base only prospect.
Kansas City is going to have a log jam in their infield soon. Pratto, Pasquantino, M.J. Melendez, and Bobby Witt Jr. will need at-bats soon. Getting playing time will be tough, not just for Pasquantino but also for these prospects. I do not think this is a reason to fade Pasquantino. What if he’s traded to a team that needs a first baseman? Or an AL team who needs a DH? Or what if the NL adopts the DH and a team trades for him? Let everyone else pass on Vinnie for this reason. He has the skills to be a major league hitter, and he’s absolutely a player you should be targeting in dynasty drafts.