2024 Dynasty Baseball RankingsDynasty Baseball

TDG’S 2024 PLAYERS TO TARGET: FIRST BASEMEN

This is a companion piece to our 2024 Dynasty League Rankings. The opinions below are my own and do not reflect the TDG consensus.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, (AGE: 24, RANK: 11)

When I look at first baseman to target, the number one quality that is a must, above all others, is achievable game power. This brings us to the #11 player on our Dynasty First Baseman list, Christian Encarnacion-Strand. If you can get him at a value outside of a top-10 first baseman, it may just end up being a home run in the future. Let’s see why.

Encarnacion-Strand is built to hit and hit for power. He dominated Triple-A in 2023, forcing his way into the Cincinnati Reds lineup by mid-July. In his rookie season, he managed a slash line of .270/.328/.477 and a wRC+ of 112. He also powered his way to the tune of 13 home runs. Including his minor league numbers, he bashed a monster 33 home runs on the season. All very respectable numbers for a rookie. At #11 in our rankings, I think it might actually be a solid value overall for his output in the major leagues. The real value might come from what is hiding beneath his numbers though. When looking at the stats as a whole, we may see a very solid and useful, young first baseman, who is in a bandbox of a stadium for his home games and has the power potential to hit over 30 home runs. The downside holding him back might be his aggressive nature at the plate and higher-than-normal strikeout rate, 28.6% in the 63 games for the Reds. What I see is an uber-talented hitter, who will give you more than just power. He could hit close to .300 and have a very good on-base percentage when he hits his peak.

In Triple-A last season, Encarnacion-Strand would hit .331/.405/.637 and have an OPS of 1.042. This came with 20 home runs in just 67 games. He was an absolute terror for Triple-A pitchers. What is also important, is he had a career-best 10.4% walk rate and 21.8% strikeout rate. He was hitting missiles and taking walks. He maxed out at a 114 MPH exit velocity to go with a 48.3% hard hit percentage. Ultimately, he had a 155 wRC+, showing how elite he was at Triple-A. Fast forward to his major league debut and he had a decent drop-off overall. In his first 40 games, he only managed to hit .253/.316/.396, with five home runs, an OPS of .711, and a wRC+ of 90. He had a 5.3% walk rate and a scary 30.9% strikeout rate. Ah, but then it appears he got acclimated with the MLB life and pitchers. In his final 23 games, he would light the world on fire, as he hit .301/.348/.614, smashing eight home runs, having an OPS of .963, and a wRC+ of 151. He walked 6.7% of the time and only struck out at a 24.7% rate. All this, while in the thick of a playoff hunt in his rookie season. It may be just me, but those numbers look eerily similar to the superstar stats he had a Triple-A. 

Now, just on the numbers and talent alone, I’m all in on Encarnacion-Strand. There is one holdup though; everyone needs to be aware of the Cincinnati Reds in general. As much as he looks like a super buy for me, the Reds are stacked and even added infielders this offseason without subtracting anywhere. There is a logjam of all logjams for playing time and it just isn’t clear what the Reds are thinking, or what they will do at this time. Regardless of the immediate chase for at-bats, Encarnacion-Strand could be in for a monster season and has the stats to project a big-time jump in his value and ranking if given a full run in Cincinnati. I am already fully on board targeting him in dynasty leagues and his true value is set to rise in the years ahead. 

Xavier Isaac, (AGE: 20, RANK: 25)

Xavier Isaac comes in at #25 on our Dynasty First Baseman rankings, and I am taking every chance I can to acquire him, especially at this level. He is in a good organization for prospect development, as he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022. Maybe it is more about looking into the future than being stuck in the past, but if he can reach his ceiling he should fly up the first base rankings quickly. Even if he doesn’t reach the pinnacle of his ability, he is still an excellent hitter with the chance to move up in value and rank in the coming years at a minimum. 

If there was ever the prototypical first base prospect, Isaac is it. He has a big body at 6’3” and 240 lbs, but is still young at 20 years old and athletic for his size. Heck, he managed to steal 12 bases in 2023 between Low-A and High-A. What makes him stand apart from other prospects and project glowingly into the future, is his bat-to-ball skills, plate discipline, and tremendous power. At Low-A, over 90 games, he hit .266/.380/.462, with an OPS of .842. He powered up for 13 home runs and managed to have excellent plate discipline, with a 14.9% walk rate and a 21.3% strikeout rate. Even when he moved up to High-A ball, his walk and strikeout rates remained the same in 12 games, but the power hit the boosters, as he hit 6 home runs in the limited amount of games there. He was one of the standout teenagers in 2023 and looks to be just getting started. If I am looking for a first baseman to target, Isaac is the one I want right now. He is just scratching the surface of what is to come. 

 

The Author

Daniel Labude

Daniel Labude

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