Major League Baseball teams are traveling south, to sunny Florida and pleasant Arizona, as they escape the hostility of this God-forsaken winter. The gelid climate in the northern states has many longing for more balmy, forgiving temperatures. Mostly, there’s a longing for the national pastime to resume play.
Unfortunately, we have ways to go before Opening Day. Nevertheless, for those enveloped in the fantasy baseball realm, there’s plenty of activities to perform as we continue to prepare for our upcoming drafts. Good way to do this is by ranking the top first basemen in fantasy baseball.
Because of the many formats that are out there in the fantasy baseball landscape, these rankings will attempt to consider both head-to-head and 5×5 roto leagues. Projections are based on Steamer projections, available at fangraphs.com.
Be sure to check out our 2015 Fantasy Baseball Catcher Rankings.
BEST OF THE BEST
First off, you really can’t go wrong with any of the top five first basemen in this year’s draft. In a baseball world where power and production is scarce, first base is your best bet to stock up on these commodities. But only one player can be considered the best at his position. That player is Paul Goldschmidt:
|Paul Goldschmidt 2015 Projections|
Goldschmidt is projected to finish in the top five in the most important, offensive categories for the upcoming season. But the one attribute that puts him over the edge over his contemporaries is his ability to steal bases. Getting 10+ stolen bases from this position is just the extra gravy one is looking for on their turkey dinner.
Regardless, as we will explain later, one can’t really go wrong with selecting one of the top five first basemen this season and they all probably deserve to go early in the first round of many drafts.
To reiterate, you really can’t go wrong with any of the top five first basemen, especially when it comes to power. Nevertheless, we will highlight Jose Abreu here because he is projected to finish with the second highest Isolated Power (ISO–a stat that measures power) in the league. A distant second to Giancarlo Stanton, but second place, nonetheless.
Abreu deserves lots of credit for showing the ability to change his approach on the fly as pitchers began pitching outside the strike zone to the rookie from Cuba last season. He learned how to take walks and sacrificed power for average in the second half of 2014. Look for Abreu to continue to build off his rapidly maturing game at the plate for 2015.
It only seemed like yesterday that Miguel Cabrera was called up to help the then Florida Marlins win the 2003 World Series. Entering his age 31 season, Cabrera has lived up to the hype as a phenomenal prodigy with the bat.
Cabrera is projected to lead the league in Weighted On Base Average (wOBA–basically, not all hits are created equal) and his batting average is supposed to lead all first basemen in 2015. He is knocked down from the top spot because of lingering injuries in recent years that he valiantly played through. Even now, Cabrera is questionable to be ready for Opening Day as he is recovering from ankle/foot surgery.
Some leagues are starting to use OBP instead of batting average and once again, a familiar face is not only leading the way among first basemen, but is supposed to lead all Major Leaguers in this category:
Just like Cabrera, Votto has had to battle injuries the last few seasons. Although Cabrera rarely misses games and somehow manages to always obtain close to 650 plate appearances per year, Votto is more erratic in this category. However, when healthy, he is an on-base machine who is not afraid to take pitchers deep into counts and still has enough power to take pitchers deep.
THE TOP FIVE
As mentioned, one cannot really go wrong with any of the following selections:
1. Paul Goldschmidt, Age 27, Position: First Base (1B)
2. Edwin Encarnacion, 32
Our best-hitting first baseman of the 2014 season, Encarnacion matches power with a beautiful approach at the plate. Batting average is not his strong suit, but the potential to display plenty of power, while limiting his strikeouts, makes him an ideal selection in both points and roto leagues.
3. Jose Abreu, 28
4. Miguel Cabrera, 31
5. Anthony Rizzo, 25
Rizzo has a prime opportunity to take the reins of the position and become the best first baseman in baseball (a prediction that has been made here and here). He has youth on his side, an improving game, a maturing approach, and legit power. With a bit more polish and consistency, Rizzo can become the premier player at this position.
THE REST OF THE STARTERS
6. Joey Votto, 31
7. Freddie Freeman, 25
On the bright side, Freeman led the league in Line Drive Rate (LD%) last season. Unfortunately, he hit less than 20 home runs. Another knock against him is that he plays on a projected bad team. But Freeman is improving his approach at the plate and he has plenty of untapped potential.
8. Adrian Gonzalez, 32
Gonzalez has posted more than 100 RBI in seven of the last eight seasons. The power is declining, but he still does a good job limiting his strikeouts, won’t hurt your batting average, and should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs batting cleanup for the Dodgers.
9. Todd Frazier, 29, First/Third Base (1B/3B)
Frazier emerged as the home run leader for the Reds in 2014 and he looks to finally have a niche carved out in the lineup. His plate discipline could be better, but a projected Strikeout Rate of 21.3 percent puts him closer to middle of the pack. Plus he showed the ability to chip in double-digit steals. Frazier has the ability to surpass his modest Steamer projections.
10. Prince Fielder, 30
Fielder is attempting to come back from neck surgery which ended his disappointing 2014 campaign. Weight issues have always been a concern, but he looks to be healthy coming into this season and he plays in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.
11. Buster Posey, 28, (C/1B)
For a detailed look at Posey, be sure to read our catcher rankings. Posey is so skilled as a hitter, he actually rates as a decent starter at first base.
12. Victor Martinez, 36
Our best player of 2014, V-Mart was every bit the professional hitter we’d expect from a seasoned vet of his caliber. Still, a player giving an above-average performance when he was supposed to be on the decline is skeptical, but he does possess amazing discipline and showed he still has power in his bat. He is coming off of knee surgery and his progress needs to be monitored, though he is supposed to be ready for Opening Day.
13. Carlos Santana, 28, (1B/3B)
Good: Great batting eye…legit power…great on-base skills…no more catching
Bad: Career low BABIP hitter kills batting average.
14. Chris Davis, 29, (1B/3B)
Good: Other-worldly power…good team will help him produce runs
Bad: Will start season serving suspension…way too many strikeouts…batting average will suffer unless he defeats extreme shifts
15. Albert Pujols, 35
Good: Magnificent job at limiting strikeouts…power should still be there in 2015
Bad: Still a player on the decline…low BABIP could mean no more .300+ average
16. Lucas Duda, 29
Good: Finally displayed consistent power last year…
Bad: Weak against lefties…emphasis on power affects BABIP which affects batting average…one-year wonder?
17. Mark Trumbo, 29, (1B/LF)
Good: Great source of home runs…
Bad: Strikes out a lot, which affects batting average…
18. Adam LaRoche, 35
Good: Decent discipline…will hit in hitter-friendly park…known commodity
Bad: Struggles against left-handed hitters…age… will play in a new league
19. Brandon Moss, 31, (1B, LF, RF)
Good: Power is real…move from Oakland…
Bad: Injury risk…southpaw problems…
20. Brandon Belt, 26
Good: Untapped potential to hit for power and average…
Bad: Too inconsistent; streaky…
21. Steve Pearce, 31, (1B/LF)
Good: Ideal home park for his power…Good discipline
Bad: Career year after age 30?
22. Eric Hosmer, 25
Good: Upside is still intriguing…limits strikeouts…can post decent average
Bad: Time is running out…lack of power is very frustrating
23. Matt Adams, 26
Good: Good pedigree…potential breakout candidate
Bad: Struggles mightily against left-handed pitching
24. Justin Morneau, 33
Good: Plays at Coors Field…keeps strikeouts in check
Bad: Age is a factor…higher than usual BABIP in 2014
THE REST OF THE SCRAP
Mike Napoli needs to show that he can stay healthy at his advanced age… Michael Morse is too inconsistent of a player despite decent makeup…Mark Teixeira/Garrett Jones the Yankees have a pair of 30-somethings that qualify here, but are better left for owners in larger league formats…Yasmani Grandal is a darkhorse candidate at catcher, not so much at first base…Ike Davis/Billy Butler have been discussed in detail before…Kendrys Morales may never be the player he was in Anaheim, but might still have enough to be a cheap source of power…Joe Mauer is the ultimate professional hitter, but without any pop left in his bat, he might be better off left on waivers.