TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO AVOID: FIRST BASEMEN
This is a companion piece to our annual Top 50 Dynasty League 1st Base series, which you can find here and here and here. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus.
I wrote about the top ten Dynasty first basemen this season and last and while I love the top ten, I have found it is not of the utmost importance to get a top first baseman. There are a lot of guys I would take at first base in a Dynasty league that we have ranked lower than 20th (C.J. Cron, Bobby Dalbec, Miguel Sanó, Rowdy Tellez, Jesús Aguilar) will all provide home runs and RBI, which is what you want out of your first baseman, first and foremost. So the guys rated higher than them are the ones I want to avoid, as they will cost too much in a trade, or get drafted higher than the other aforementioned guys, while not providing that much more (if any) better production.
Anthony Rizzo, Free Agent, Age: 32, Rank: 17th
I want to hope that Rizzo bounces back from an poor 2021 and awful 2020, but I have serious doubts that happens. Whichever team he signs with, he should hit somewhere between the fourth to sixth spots in the lineup, but will quickly slide downhill with a sub .240 batting average. As a supposed team leader, some team may sign him to be just that, but as he fought with former teammate Javier Báez last season, is Rizzo really the leader we thought he was?
What also worries me is the starkness(and weirdness) of his splits in 2021; against RHP he hit just .214 (in 405 plate appearances) compared to .325 against LHP. He did hit 15 home runs against RHP, so it looks like when he faced a RHP, it was a home run or bust. In 2020, he hit .204 against RHP and .215 against LHP (he was pretty terrible in 2020). What is interesting is that through 2019, he was well better against RHP than LHP. However at this point in his career, if he is just hacking against RHP and continues to hit LHP well, a platoon is probable; or even worse, a pinch-hitter. Usually left-handed hitters do worse against left-handed pitching, but Rizzo doing well against them in 2021 is a bright spot, albeit a strange one.
Lastly, let us look at his spray chart from last year (compared to 2019):
Rizzo has become especially pull happy, which will just lead to more infield shifts against him. He still has name value, so putting him on the trade block may yield positive results; but expecting a return to his pre-2020 numbers is not going to happen.
José Abreu, Chicago White Sox, Age: 35, Rank: 12th
Now we are Heading to the southside of Chicago, where Abreu has been Mr. Consistency at first base since he arrived in the big leagues in 2014. He has hit 30 home runs five times, knocking in 100+ RBI 6 times, a batting average over .284 six times, and even winning MVP in the shortened 2020 season. While I do not give a ton of credence to the players who did not do well in 2020, I also do not want to over inflate the ones who did super in 2020 as well. So let us compare 2019 and 2021, like we did for Rizzo above:
Someone has become pull heavy, just like Rizzo, and that is worrisome as he ages, when pitchers can attack him differently, knowing he has issues going the other way. As this is Dynasty Guru, we are talking about Abreu’s value in Dynasty leagues. While I think Abreu will still provide good value (though not as 6th overall first baseman drafted in NFBC leagues as of this writing) in 2022, father time catches us all, and with so many other available options at first base, especially young and up-and-coming ones, using an early round pick on Abreu would not be prudent for Dynasty purposes.
I would rather be one year too early in moving an over-30-year-old veteran than a year too late, and that is also why I am avoiding Abreu unless he comes at a great discount in 2022 Dynasty drafts. If your team is built to win the upcoming 2022 season, rolling with Abreu at first base is a prudent move, even if he has a worse season than 2021, he will still hit home runs and drive in a lot of them too. But if the decline is real, and age is truly catching up with Abreu, the prudent move for a non-competing team would be to move him now, instead of letting another year go by, when he can still bring a good return.