THE DYNASTY GURU’S 2023 TOP 50 DYNASTY LEAGUE FIRST BASEMEN, #1-10
Continuing with our highlights of the league’s top First Basemen, as judged by our collection of industry experts, below are the TOP 10!!!!
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 1)
A 32-homer, 97-RBI season at age 23 would be an incredible success for almost any hitter. For Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it was almost a disappointment. His OPS dropped almost 200 points from his monster 2021, and advanced metrics don’t see it as bad luck. His groundball rate rose to over 50% while his walk and barrel rates both dropped.
Guerrero was still a near-unanimous choice as our No. 1 dynasty first baseman despite the down year. Several of the top players on this list weren’t even in the majors at 23, much less hitting 30 homers. His exit velocities are elite, he strikes out less than the league average, and he hits in the heart of a stacked lineup in a hitter-friendly park. The question isn’t if he’ll get back to star-level production, it’s when he’ll do it. (Ben Sanders)
2. Pete Alonso, New York Mets (Age: 28, Previous Rank: 4)
Pete Alonso got a little help from his friends in 2022. His slash line of .271/.352/.518 wasn’t all that different from his 2021 mark of .262/.344/.519, but his RBI total skyrocketed from 94 to an MLB-best 131. Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil can share some of the credit for that after bouncing back from poor campaigns.
The most exciting development was his 18.7% K-rate, his second straight year under 20%. Hitters whose game is driven totally by monstrous raw power often age poorly (see Chris Davis), but Alonso has shown he’s not so one-dimensional. He’s a free agent after this season, but with Mets owner Steve Cohen showing no fear of the luxury tax, it seems likely the Polar Bear will be crushing the ball into the Citi Field seats for years to come. (Ben Sanders)
3. Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 33, Previous Rank: 3)
The uniform changed, but the fantasy value did not. Freddie Freeman continued his consistent excellence in his first season in Los Angeles with a solid .325/.407/.511 line. If you’re really looking to nitpick and find something wrong, he only hit 21 home runs, but he made up for it with triple-digit R and RBI totals and a surprising career-high 13 steals.
Freeman’s age is a concern, but a minor one given his great plate discipline. He’s the type of hitter that could continue to produce at a high level well into his 30s, and he’ll do so in a stacked Dodgers lineup. He’s a top option at first base until he shows us otherwise. (Ben Sanders)
4. Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (Age: 29, Previous Rank: 2)
Matt Olson didn’t quite live up to the high expectations placed on him in 2022, but he was still pretty good. Acquired by his hometown Braves as the replacement for Freddie Freeman, Olson didn’t match his 2021 career year or Freeman’s past production, but he did hit 34 homers and drove in 103 runs. He’s in a wonderful fantasy situation on a team loaded with young talent, and improvement in his second year in Atlanta wouldn’t be a big surprise.
Olson’s K-rate will determine just how good he can be. His 2021 mark of 16.8% was phenomenal for a player with his elite power, but it looks like a bit of a fluke. Last season’s 24.3% is more in line with career norms. If Olson can get that number back into the teens, he could ascend back to the No. 2 spot on this list. If not, he’ll merely be very, very good. (Ben Sanders)
5. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 35, Previous Rank: 6)
Paul Goldschmidt probably won’t be able to repeat his 2022 NL MVP season. Statcast data gave him a .261 xBA and .482 xSLG, a ways off from his actual .317/.404/.578 line. Trading him is not the worst idea if you can find someone willing to pay for those numbers.
Hanging on to him isn’t a bad idea either. Even after you account for his advancing age and good batted-ball fortune, Goldschmidt still projects for 30 homers, 90-plus R and RBI, a solid OBP, and a handful of steals. He’s been one of the most consistent hitters of the past decade, with his relative off years still good enough to start in the shallowest leagues. Age eventually catches up to everyone, but there’s no real sign that decline is imminent. (Ben Sanders)
6. Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals (Age: 25, Previous Rank: 24)
Vinnie Pasquantino only has a half-season in the big leagues so far, but his numbers are eye-popping. Not only did he slash .295/.383/.450, but he walked more than he struck out. Plate discipline god Joey Votto didn’t do that until he was 28. The small-sample argument does come into play here, but his minor-league numbers back up his performance.
A concern is that Kansas City doesn’t provide a very good offensive environment. Pasquantino’s lovely line only led to 25 R and 26 RBI in 72 games. Kauffman Stadium suppressed his ample power, as his actual total of 10 HR was well below his Statcast xHR of 14.8. But even if his counting stats suffer royally, that dreamy OBP should make up for it. (Ben Sanders)
7. Nathaniel Lowe, Texas Rangers (Age: 27, Previous Rank: 15)
Some baseball players break out like Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator, their careers accelerating rapidly until they smash through the ceiling and take off into outer space. Nathaniel Lowe’s breakout has been more like taking the work elevator up to your 14th-floor office and having it stop three times to pick up passengers and once more because somebody pushed the wrong button. After two seasons of limited opportunities in platoon-happy Tampa Bay, Lowe was traded to Texas, where he hit 18 home runs and 217 groundballs in an uninspiring 2021 campaign.
But hey, he finally made it! Lowe batted .302/.358/.492 with 27 home runs last season, and that will play nicely in any format. He probably won’t hit .300 again, as he can thank a fortuitous .363 BABIP for that, but he could make up for it in other categories. His walk rate was uncharacteristically low and he still hasn’t fully tapped into his raw power. With some more painfully slow incremental growth, we could be talking about a top-five first baseman in a few years. (Ben Sanders)
8. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 11)
Rhys Hoskins posted an OPS under .800 for the first time in his career in 2022, yet rose three spots in these rankings. Some of that is due to poor showings by players above him. He also stayed healthy, playing 156 games after missing roughly one-third of each of the previous two seasons due to injury. Expectations may have also been a factor.
Hoskins’ solid but unspectacular performance over the last five seasons felt disappointing after his impossibly good 2017 debut when he smashed 18 homers in just 50 games. Folks jumped off the bandwagon as it became clear that stardom wasn’t in the cards, and it felt like his ranking dropped a little too far. Now we all know what he is – a reliable veteran power source in a very good fantasy situation in Philadelphia – and No. 8 feels about right. (Ben Sanders)
9. Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 5)
It shouldn’t come as a shock when a 22-year-old struggles in his first MLB season, but Spencer Torkelson had given us little reason to doubt him. He put up ridiculous numbers at Arizona State, was drafted first overall by the Tigers in 2020, and was barely challenged as he tore through three minor league levels in 2021. He seemed like a safe bet to produce something more than a .203/.285/.319 line.
Torkelson did just enough for me to think it’s not time to panic yet. He still hit the ball hard, and his 24.5% K-rate wasn’t great, but not a disaster either. What was a disaster was the entire 2022 Tigers season. Hitting in a bad lineup in a pitcher-friendly park on a disappointing team couldn’t have helped. Detroit will be moving the fences in this season and has a new GM, so the external factors will hopefully improve. If you’re a Tork believer, now is the time to acquire him. (Ben Sanders)
10. Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 9)
Triston Casas debuted as a September callup last season, and if we can learn anything from his first 95 MLB plate appearances, it’s that he’s going to walk a lot. His unusual .197/.358/.408 line was the result of a 20% BB rate, and while that may not be sustainable, he kept that number comfortably in the teens throughout his minor league career. Look for his patience to keep his numbers palatable while he learns to hit MLB pitching.
Casas has little competition for the Red Sox first base job and assuming he can lock that spot up long-term, he’ll be in a great fantasy situation. Hitting lefty in Fenway Park could hurt his power numbers a bit, but he still has enough pop to produce 20-plus HR with solid run production and a very nice OBP. Expect him to be a fixture in the top 10 of this list for the next decade. (Ben Sanders)
Operating under the assumption that Andrew Vaughn loses OF eligibility this season. Where would you slot him in this list?
I’d have Vaughn 8th at 1B. I was slightly lower on him than the staff consensus in the OF (me 29, overall 23), so it might have been a close call between him and Lowe for 7th.
Was that a Monkees reference with (Peter) Tork (I’m A) Believer? Vinnie P (6) ranked higher than the highly regarded pair of S Tork (9) & TC (10)?
Man, my accidental music references are better than my intentional ones. Anyway, the Vinnie P hype is strong right now. There was a lot of debate about ranking him 5th ahead of Goldschmidt.