This analysis offers a tiered ranking system of first basemen for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. It assumes a 16 team mixed-league keeper format with a standard 5×5 scoring system and a 22 man roster with the following positional requirements: C (1), 1B (1), 2B (1), 3B (1), SS (1), CI (1), MI (1), OF (3), UT (3), SP (5), RP (4). All statistical information is referenced from FanGraphs.com.
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
Not much needs to be said here. Goldy is arguably the most valuable fantasy player and is only 28 years old. It will be fun to watch him lead a Diamondbacks team with World Series aspirations.
Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Jose Abreu (CWS)
The 26 year old Florida native is another stud. He is the cornerstone of what may become the Cubs team to break the Curse, and will hit in the middle of their lineup for the foreseeable future. Don’t expect the 17 stolen bases he had in 2015, but he is a high caliber talent worthy of your first round draft selection.
Jose Abreu gets included in this tier because at 29 he is reaching his prime as a first baseman, and in his only two seasons has hit 30 home runs with 100 RBI. This production may not rise any more, but is an absolute asset to fantasy owners as he reaches his prime as a first-basemen.
Miguel Cabrera (DET), Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
It’s hard to argue that Miggy is not the best hitter in baseball, but what separated him from the likes of Rizzo and Goldschmidt is the injury risk. Cabrera is 33 years old and has had trouble staying healthy in recent years. A luxury when he stays on the field but his ability to do so has become a concern.
Edwin Encarnacion is a similar case. Offers four category production when healthy but struggled with some wrist and hand injuries and is not getting any younger.
Joey Votto (CIN), Eric Hosmer (KC)
Votto is a model of consistency. He is a pure line drive hitter that reaps the benefits of Great American Ballpark and it seems like he is always on-base thanks to his 21% walk rate. His value is degraded slightly by the lousy Cincinnati lineup this season but he is still a fantasy asset.
Hosmer is a player on the rise after his performance last season and is hitting the stride of his career. His steady contact and line drive rates have helped him maintain a good average and there remains some untapped power potential.
Miguel Sano (MIN), Freddie Freeman (ATL), David Ortiz (BOS)
Sano is oozing upside despite the fact that he has yet to manage MLB pitching enough to maintain a decent average, He has keeper value rooted in the elite raw power and young age, but he needs to find a position to play on the diamond so that he does not have assume a strictly DH role.
Freddie Freeman will have the unfortunate duty of hitting in the middle of the Braves lineup this year. Pitchers are likely to pitch around him and there no one behind him likely to produce on a consistent basis. He is really good line drive hitter entering his prime but the problem is his supporting cast. A keeper, but he will not be able to do it all himself this season.
Last here is Big Papi. I acknowledge this is a generous ranking in his last year before retirement, but a lock to hit 30 HR with 100 RBI in his send-off tour, he deserves nothing less.
Adrian Gonzalez (LAD), Prince Fielder (TEX), Kendrys Morales (KC)
Adrian Gonzalez is a pure line-drive hitter that stabilizes the middle of the Dodgers lineup. Unfortunately he is on the wrong side of 30 and although a proven fantasy asset he does not offer the same potential as other options.
Prince Fielder is in a similar situation. He bounced back nicely at the start of last season from neck surgery but failed to maintain that performance in the second half of the season. He can hit when he stays healthy but, like Gonzalez, his best years are behind him.
Morales is aging too. Now 33 he has seen his peak years in the rear-view mirror. He remains a is a solid utility option that can boost the HR, RBI categories while maintaining a respectable batting average.
Albert Pujols (LAA), Brandon Belt (SF), Carlos Santana (CLE)
Pujols will provide power and power. His line drive rate was its lowest in five years last season (16%) as he hit for an abysmal .244 batting average. He did hit 40 home runs last year, but at 36 years old he is no longer the machine he once was.
Belt is the youngest of the group that is a contributor when on the field. But concussion problems are well-noted and make him a wild card at this point. This is confusing option for fantasy owners. A line drive hitter with some contact issues at timees, he offers surplus value if he falls in the draft because of health concerns.
The last on the list is Carlos Santana. He fits a power profile with a lack of batting average but supports his value with very good OBP and the opportunity he will have to drive in runs from his spot in the Indians’ lineup.
Mark Teixeira (NYY), Evan Gattis (HOU)
I am biased against anyone on the Yankees roster but Teixeira deserves a spot on here because he’s a proven veteran that benefits from playing in the new Yankee Stadium. If he can stay on the field he offers owners a nice value pick opportunity.
Evan Gattis’ fantasy value has dropped because of his status as a pure designated hitter with the Astros but his offensive output seemed to benefit from the change. One concern is a sports hernia that will delay his 2016 debut until after opening day. He will hurt a team’s OBP but make significant contributions in the home-run and RBI categories.
Ryan Zimmerman (WAS), Lucas Duda (NYM)
If Zimmerman can find a way to stay healthy he will serve as a run producer in the heart of the National’s lineup this season. The problem is his health; he hasn’t logged over 400 at-bats in either of the last two season so it’s hard to anticipate a valuable season from him.
Teixeria’s New York City counterpart, Luca Duda, is a pure power hitter. He won’t hit for an average but has shown promising improvement in his OBP over the last few years and is a mid-level fantasy option
This class of first basemen offer owners a wide range of quality options depending on the roster you have put together. At the top are bonafide fantasy baseball studs that can anchor a team through the season, and are absolute keepers worthy of top draft picks. If you miss out on those guys and get your fantasy star at another position there are other first basemen that make solid contributions. As expected, most of these guys will produce for power categories like home runs, and RBI and can provide decent production in a utility role for almost any team.
Fishing for Prospects: A.J. Reed (HOU)
If you only take only one thing away from this entire series, let it be this name because A.J. Reed is poised for stardom. He was selected 42nd overall selection in the 2014 MLB draft after a stunning season at Kentucky that culminated in the Golden Spikes Award. That season he led the nations in home runs with 23 with a .336 batting average, and also contributed a 12-2 record on the mound with a 2.09 ERA and 71 strikeouts. The Astros player development staff decided to commit to Reed as a hitter and he thrived in the Class A Advanced California league before earning a promotion to Double-A in the second half of the season. Headed in to 2015 the Astros have other options ahead of him, but depending on how spring training unfolds Reed may get a shot to prove himself with the major league club as soon as this season.