So far this fantasy baseball draft season we’ve heard just how shallow the first base position is compared to years past. Although this is somewhat true, it’s somewhat false. It is shallow compared to recent years when it comes to the normal star power we’ve become accustomed to at the first base position, but there is still some late round depth. This year there are only 8 first basemen going in the Top 100 according to NFBC. There are currently no first basemen being drafted in the first round in 15 team leagues. Those are things we are definitely not accustomed to when we are drafting.
On the flip side, there is some nice overall depth at the first base position. Again, not star power, not must have early in your draft targets, but suitable options nonetheless. Many, will say, and I kind of agree, that the deeper you go these options are likely more CI options not starting first base options. For myself I’d like Matt Olson or Joey Gallo to be one of my last options to start at first base. If you weren’t so fortunate to grab one of the top 10 1B options, then you have to be creative. Here we will showcase 6 later round options, preferably for CI, but still suitable for 1B for your fantasy baseball teams.
Justin Smoak (20th 1B, 222.22 overall)-
The powerful switch hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays is usually a forgotten man. Smoak is coming off a season where he hit 25 HR, drove in 77 and scored 67 runs for the Jays. That is a very solid season for a later round target, but let’s not forget how awesome his 2017 season was. In 2017 he hit .270 with 38 HOME RUNS while driving in 90 and scoring 85. If you are in OBP leagues he gets an even bigger bump as he’s had an OBP of at least .350 in each of the last 2 seasons. Since 2015 he has had a barrel rate of at least 10.6% and a hard hit rate of at least 41.5%. Smoak should be hitting in the middle of the Jays order and is a great source of at least 25+ home runs, with solid counting stats and is being drafted at the end of the 14th round in 15 team leagues.
Josh Bell (24th 1B, 240.63 overall) –
Josh Bell was everyone’s favorite sleeper last season and rightfully so after the 2017 season he had. In 2017 he hit 26 home runs, had 90 RBIs and scored 75 runs. Bell didn’t live up to the hype in 2018 with only 12 home runs, with 62 RBIs and scored 74 runs. When you look at Bell’s statcast metrics they don’t jump off the page, but they still are good. He’s slightly above average in barrel rate, exit velocity and slightly below average in launch angle. He has nearly a 50% ground ball rate and a slight improvement there would be nice. He’s shown improvements each year with exit velocity and hard hit rate. Bell is still only 26 years old and is just a few more home runs away from being great value. The projection sites have Bell hitting at least 18 home runs, with 75 runs and RBIs while hitting around .265. If these projections hold he’ll be great value in round 16 of 15 team drafts.
C.J. Cron (25th 1B, 246.47 overall) –
Cron is one of my favorite later round 1B targets. Last year Cron finally was able to get a full season of playing time. He played 140 games for the Rays and he went off. Cron hit 30 home runs, with a .253 and average and combined for 142 runs/RBIs. Cron’s peripherals have always looked nice, but the playing time was always an issue when he was with the Angels. Last season we saw Cron have a career best 12.2% barrel rate and a solid 36.6% hard hit rate. The crazy part with Cron’s awesome year with 30 home runs and all the hard hit numbers was the fact he only had a 23.5% FB rate to go with a really bad 41.6% GB rate. Cron now moves to Minnesota, which is actually a solid part to hit in after the cold spring months. At worst we should expect Cron to hit 20 home runs with 30+ home run upside. He should drive in another 70+ runs. There’s a ton to like about Cron as he’s coming into his 2nd season with regular playing time and you can grab him in the middle of Round 16 in 15 team leagues.
Brandon Belt (32nd 1B, 317.75 overall) –
No, this is not a homer pick. Brandon Belt is actually a steal at this draft spot…..if you are willing to accept the risk. Belt is super risky as he’s coming off another scary concussion and besides that he seems to get some fluky injury more often than not. But when Belt plays he’s very very good. Sure he gets AT&T’d far too often, but still puts up numbers that aren’t bad for a 21st round draft pick in a 15 team league. Belt had 14 home runs last season in only 112 games, but had 17 or 18 in each season from 2015. Belt is usually good for a .250+ batting average and in OBP league he’s a monster as he usually have at least a .350+ OBP. His statcast data also jumps off the page with a barret rate over 10% for 4 straight seasons, a launch angle over 21 in each of the last 3 seasons and hard hit rate over 31% in each of the last 4 seasons. Belt is a sneaky really good hitter that comes with crazy health risks. If he stays on the field and plays 140+ games you will get extreme value at this point in your fantasy baseball drafts.
Ryan Zimmerman (33rd 1B, 324.94 overall) –
Similar to Belt, Zimmerman is a major health risk. Zimmerman played in only 85 games last season after playing in 144 games in 2017. We know Zimm is risky, only playing 144 games in 3 seasons since 2012. It’s a risk many won’t take but his barrel rates, exit velocities and hard hit rates are out of this world. When looking at a 13.6 % barrel rate, and EV of 92.6 and a HH rate of 52.8% are just jumping off the paper. He puts up numbers similar to this each season. If you don’t want to take the risk on Zimmerman I totally get it, but at worse make sure to ride the healthy waves off the waiver wire where you can and then cut bait when that inevitable injury comes along.
Justin Bour (38th 1B, 366.63 overall) –
Similar to the last 2 fliers, Bour comes with some risk as well. Now a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Bour may have to platoon some at 1B with Albert Pujols when Shohei Ohtani comes back to DH. The good news is Ohtani likely won’t be available for the first month or 2 of the season and Pujols just keeps getting older and may need an extra day off. In the last 2 seasons we’ve finally seen Bour get some regular playing time and he’s done some solid work. He’s hit 20+ home runs, been a quality run/RBI producer and in OBP leagues he’s been a monster. As expected from a man of Bour’s power his barrell rates and hard hit rates jump off the paper year after year. Even with a chance of only playing 100 or so games, Bour is still projected to hit at least 20 home runs and brings some nice late round power upside in the 24th round of 15 team leagues.
As we said earlier, 1B is deeper than most think if you are willing to take some risks. There are many others not even mentioned here, but these are the ones I wouldn’t mind having on my fantasy baseball teams or at worse have on the waiver wire watch list as they will have some very productive stretches throughout the season.