THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2023 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE FIRST BASEMEN, #31-50
The rankings continue! This week, the Gurus tackle first base, starting with #31-50. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
31) Luke Voit, Free Agent, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 26)
Voit flashed as a 29-year-old in 2020 and based on current trends that were also his peak. He had a shot at playing time in San Diego and Washington last year and could not cash in. Now we are looking at a 32-year-old first baseman who has never hit more than 22 home runs in a season and grades out poorly defensively. First base is becoming increasingly tough to fill and leagues with Corner Infield in their lineup may still need to consider Voit at the end of drafts. Hopefully, he can catch on somewhere before Spring Training and carve out a role that will be useful in deep leagues. (Paul Monte)
32) Carlos Santana, Pittsburg Pirates, (Age: 36, Previous Rank: 39)
Plug your nose while reading. Santana has a .199, .214, and .202 batting average for the past three seasons. He turned 36 years old this year and has signed on with Pittsburgh. He has gained 7 slots in the first base rankings. Yes, it’s that desperate in the 31-40 section of the Dynasty Guru rankings. Even with all his failures, he is still useful in OBP leagues and should be able to hover around 20 home runs again in 2023. Much more valuable to an owner who is looking to win now but the return will be light. (Paul Monte)
33) Brandon Belt, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 34, Previous Rank: 28)
If you squint hard enough you can find a small reason to hope for something that resembles a bounce-back from Belt in 2023. The move from San Francisco to Toronto should give him ample opportunity for at-bats in the Designated Hitter slot which in theory should help keep his chronically inflamed knee in check. Those who have rostered Belt for years were rewarded for their patience in 2021 but are left clinging to hope again. Betting on a 35-year-old to bounce back is rarely +E/V but the situation may be worth a late-round shot. (Paul Monte)
34) Ivan Melendez, Arizona Diamondbacks, (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
You wouldn’t expect to find the 2022 NCAA Division 1 home run leader this far down the list but hitting .207 in your professional debut as a 23-year-old first base-only prospect will do that to you. All is not lost and it would be easy to forgive his pro debut if you look a little further back to his 2022 collegiate season. He hit .387/.508/.863 in the Big 12 conference which led to him being drafted in the second round. 2023 will be a big year for Melendez because the clock was already against him when he was drafted. (Paul Monte)
35) Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers, (Age: 26, Previous Rank: 35)
Hiura debuted in the majors in 2019 with a stellar .303/.368/.570 slash line for a rookie. That line included 19 home runs and 9 stolen bases in just 81 games. The following seasons were shortened by the pandemic but his performance could not have been more different than his 2019. He finished 2020 hitting .212/.297/.410 before bottoming out in 2021 with a .168/.256/.301 slash line. He has been demoted and recalled multiple times and has lost his second-base eligibility in the process. He’s going to be available in most leagues at the end of the draft. He is currently in line to be the short-side platoon partner. (Paul Monte)
36) Michael Toglia, Colorado Rockies, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 38)
Once a borderline top 100 fantasy product persistent strikeout struggles took the shine off of the Coors Field dream. That didn’t stop Toglia from debuting with the Rockies in 2022. Things did not go as hoped in his first taste of the big leagues but there is no reason to think that he will not get another shot at it in 2023. Much better suited for OBP and points league his profile is based on his power. He may start the season in Triple-A which would not be a bad thing for him. He only had 17 games at that level before receiving the call-up in August. You won’t find many opportunities for immediate upside at this point in the list, but there are some here in Toglia. (Paul Monte)
37) Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins, (Age: 32, Previous Rank: 132 in OF)
Cooper has posted a career OBP of .348 but has hit double-digit home runs once in his six-year MLB career. The lack of power and complete absence of speed leaves you with a very empty stat line from a position that is relied on for power. He should get at-bats this season so there is a positive there, beyond that you are just hoping he stays healthy enough to compile the other counting stats while not destroying your batting average or OBP. He did not play in the OF at all in 2022 so that eligibility is gone. (Paul Monte)
38) Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Age: 39, Previous Rank: 21)
Entering the final year of his ten-year $225M contract, Votto will start the year dealing with a shoulder injury that ended his 2022 season prematurely. An OBP monster in the prime of his career, he has sold out on getting on base for power and hit 36 home runs in just 129 games in 2021. 2022 did not continue that power output. The slash line fell to .205/.319/.370 with just 11 home runs. At 39 years old with an ailing shoulder, it would be foolish to expect much from Votto this year. He will spend the year saying goodbye to the fans and call it a career. (Paul Monte)
39) Harold Ramirez, Tampa Bay Rays (Age: 28, Previous Rank: NR)
Ramirez is another guy who is looking at increased playing time as the Rays have cleared space at 1B and DH in the offseason. He had a good 2022 for Tampa slashing .300/.343/.404 but like Cooper, there was not much in the way of power or speed. Just six home runs and three stolen bases will make it tough to get excited, but if you made it this far down the list you are likely in the late rounds of a deep league draft. He is one of the better options at this point. (Paul Monte)
40) Niko Kavadas, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Kicking off the 40s is a 24-year-old first base, possibly DH only player who has yet to see AAA. He destroyed the lower minors before struggling to a 40% strikeout rate in 24 double-A games. He will likely start back at double-A and will need to start hot to keep himself relevant in the fantasy world next season. It’s a coin-flip on whether he moves up a few spots in the rankings or returns to the NR ranking he held last year. Red Sox fans and Fantasy managers are hoping he can squeeze out more of the .308/.472/.592 slash line he posted in high A. (Paul Monte)
41) Ji-Man Choi, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 31, Previous Rank: 45)
Ji-Man Choi had a decent 2022 season, slashing .233/.341/.388 with 11 homers across 113 games (419 plate appearances). Is he going to blow you away with his fantasy awesomeness? Perhaps not. But he’s a potentially underrated OBP guy for deeper daily leagues or those rostering 600+ players. Keep in mind he’s on the Pirates now, and while the team overall may not yet be a powerhouse, he could very well hit smack dab in the middle of the under-appreciated top-6 of that lineup (Cruz, Reynolds, Hayes, McCutchen, Choi (?), Santana). (Taylor Case)
42) Yuli Gurriel, Free Agent, (Age: 38 Previous Rank: 23)
You want to know a secret? Yeah? C’mon in close.
I didn’t rank Yuli Gurriel this year.
Why did I feel the need to whisper? I don’t know. Nine of us Gurus ranked him. Maybe I missed something? For fantasy purposes, he seems like an empty batting average player to me. Maybe he’ll keep stealing bases? Seems unlikely to me as well, as he stole eight in 2022 but had only 15 in six seasons combined prior to last season. I suppose he could be late-round batting average help in a Roto league, but I’m not going out of my way to pick him up on any of my dynasty teams. (Taylor Case)
43) Xavier Isaac, Tamba Bay Rays, (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Drafted straight out of high school in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays last June, Xavier Isaac was a tough player for me to rank this year. He’s been blessed with a big frame to go with big power, but other than that it’s hard to get a true read on the 19-year-old. If you use his stats from his senior year of high school as any indicator (lol), big things may be coming (is a .578 batting average with 12 homers across plate appearances any good? LOL). It’s tough to project this dude. I’m hoping that power translates into the minor leagues come 2023, and I guess it’s encouraging that the Rays were willing to jump for him. At this point though, cross your fingers, throw that dart, and try to snag him in the 3rd or 4th-round in upcoming FYPD’s for deeper leagues. (Taylor Case)
44) Dominic Smith, Washington Nationals, (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 100 in OF)
Oh, Dominic. How I want you to succeed. Ever since that 2020 article.
Turns out that 2020 sample was just too small, my dreams too big.
In any case, Smith was another player that eked his way into the top 50 but I didn’t rank this year. There are almost zero stats to get excited about in his profile, to be, unfortunately, brutally honest. Maybe take heart in the fact that his hard-hit rate took a small jump up to 46.5% and his walk rate took the tiniest of leaps to 7.9% (from 6.5%)? Maybe injuries got him down? Who knows!? In any case, love the guy, truly – but not interested in rostering on my dynasty teams for leagues of pretty much any size. (Taylor Case)
45) Malcom Nunez, Pittsburgh Pirates, (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Onward to players I have ranked. And slightly above consensus at that!
Malcom Nunez had an awesome 2023 season, slashing .262/.367/.466 across Double-A and Triple-A (for two different organizations as well!) with 23 dingers and five steals. He’s also posted great walk rates that have only improved over the last few years, and hasn’t sacrificed his strikeout rate to the home run gods in order to do it. Another box checked!
Now, I know you’re asking, whether it’s internally, or loudly at my paragraph – if there’s so much promise here, why is he our #45 first baseman? (feel free to add exclamation points as appropriate). Well, valued reader, that is a good question. Maybe it was because of his slow start to the 2022 season. Mayhaps he got lost in the prospect shuffle when he was traded from St. Louis to Pittsburgh. I don’t know. I don’t care! I do know that I’ll be keeping an eye on him at the start of the 2023 season. As I mentioned above, Ji-Man Choi is a decent player, but he’s a free agent in 2024, which potentially opens the door for Nunez. (Taylor Case)
46) Lawrence Butler, Oakland Athletics, (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Lawrence Butler is another under-the-radar first basemen I have ranked a bit higher than the consensus at #40. He’s a big kid at 6′-3″, 210 pounds, but has shown a willingness to steal some bases over the past two seasons (42 between ’21 and ’22). Definitely a blend of skills we can all appreciate. And in an organization without much hope or direction, he’s the kind of player I wouldn’t mind taking a shot on in leagues that roster 250+ prospects. There is a bit of a cause for concern as he coasted through 2022 with an incredible .384 BABIP, but here’s hoping with that big frame he just keeps swatting those rocks over the fences and stealing bases when he doesn’t. (Taylor Case)
47) Miguel Sanó, Free Agent, (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 30)
Who has two thumbs and didn’t rank Miguel Sanó? This guy! Wow, what a stretch here.
Sanó just isn’t the kind of player I target in my leagues. I know he can hit homers and sure, he could probably rebound this year and make a huge jump in the rankings. But why risk it this year and even beyond? With the big power comes a massive strikeout rate and a slog of a batting average (.234 career). My advice? Use up a roster spot on someone else. (Taylor Case)
48) Spencer Horwitz, Toronto Blue Jays, (Age: 25, Previous Rank: NR)
Spencer Horwitz, on the other hand, has my full attention! The young future Blue Jay excelled last year in New Hampshire (Double-A) and Buffalo (Triple-A), finishing off the season with a neat .275/.391/.452 stat line to go with 12 homers and 7 steals. Now that’s the good stuff. Pair it with a walk rate around 15% and a strikeout rate around 20%? Yes please! Rostered in only 13% of Fantrax leagues, he’s definitely worth taking a chance on if you’ve got the space. (Taylor Case)
49) Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 25)
He’s GOT to gut those strikeouts down, man. He’s got to. I mean, he doesn’t have to do it for me. It would be nice if he did, and I know MLB pitching is hard and all…but still.
In all seriousness, Bobby Dalbec just made my list year at #52. That’s right, sometimes I rank more than #50!
I’ll tell you this for free though – I’m not very confident in him being even a league-average hitter anymore. 2021 feels like decades ago. At least 354 plate appearances ago. Maybe I target him extremely late in an OPS league? In any case, the homers can happen if he starts to make better contact. Just GOT to make more contact. (Taylor Case)
50) Bryce Ball, Boston Red Sox, (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 47)
High-A and Double-A have been a lot harder for Bryce Ball than Rookie and Low-A. I guess that’s not unexpected – baseball is hard, after all – but I feel for him. Armed with 70-grade power according to Fangraphs, the strength is there, it just hasn’t translated much lately. He did finish off the season with a respectable .762 OPS and a 105 wRC+ so all hope is not lost, but I think it’s fair to temper expectations at this point. (Taylor Case)