Continuing on in my primer series, we travel to the first base position, an absolutely loaded position, with excellent options up-and-down the pool. This is a position that can be waited on, as the values have a very gradual decrease, with a cliff towards the end, but it takes a long time to get there.

My Strategy:

With so many enticing options at the position, it makes a ton of sense to wait on filling the 1B slot. Sure, Freddie Freeman or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are absolute star-level players, but waiting on the middle-class options will allow you to invest early picks in hitters with big stolen base upside, ace-caliber pitchers, or elite closers early on, a resource that is extremely scarce at the moment. Ideally, I can get one of Josh Bell, Joey Votto, or Rhys Hoskins at a good price, post pick 150. If that doesn’t take place, there are many other choices that are still worthy of being a starting 1B, such as Anthony Rizzo, Trey Mancini, or even old but reliable guys like Yuli Gurriel or Jonathan Schoop. 

The Cliff:

Be careful about waiting too long, as the cliff of this position is Brandon Belt, as he’s tapping into a new level (Belt posted an elite .323 ISO in 2021, however, durability is a question.) Belt is the last 1B I am comfortable with as a starter, but I’d back him up quickly in case he gets hurt for an extended stretch. Following Belt, some of the more appealing options carry BA risk or PT risk, such as LaMonte Wade Jr., Miguel Sano, or Rowdy Tellez. These players have a purpose and some skill, but it’s wise to buy into 1B earlier and not rely on these guys as a true starting 1B, but a CI rather. 

The Flawless Elites

1Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2Freddie Freeman

Following a historically elite Minor League career, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. didn’t meet unrealistic expectations placed upon him to immediately become a superstar, but he was still an above-average bat at an insanely young age. Last year, Guerrero got into much better shape, and he raised the launch angle in order to tap into his video game power. The results were a 48 home run, 166 wRC+ year that surpassed everyone’s wildest expectations. 2022 could bring a similar year, perhaps a few fewer homers, but with an NFBC ADP of 7, I would prefer to spend on a player with more steals, or pitching, considering just how deep the 1B position is!

Freddie Freeman has an elite approach, plenty of power, an incredible BA floor (.306 BA since 2017), and a smattering of chip-in steals with his premium athleticism for the position. Freeman is a truly bankable floor play, something that does appeal to me, but investing early in 1B just won’t be my M.O. in 2022. Similar to previous versions of Anthony Rizzo, Freeman does provide those sneaky steals, but with the opportunity cost of locking up 1B so early, and missing out on the more scarce resources (steals, elite starters) isn’t something I’d do, however, I would be happy to take on Freeman closer to the end of the 2nd round when there is a little bit of a drop-off in talent. Taking Freeman is rarely a bad pick, it’s just one that you must have a plan for how it affects drafting steals and/or pitching in the draft!

Still Star Caliber

3Matt Olson
4Paul Goldschmidt
5Pete Alonso

After investing roughly $100 in a cheap high-speed pitching machine from Dick’s Sporting Goods last off-season, Matt Olson was able to improve his swing, and cut down the K Rate from a career mark of 26% previously, down to a Freeman-esque 16.8% K Rate. His power came back as well, walloping 39 HR’s, and he posted a 146 wRC+, but the question is what will he do in 2022? Steamer has him with a palatable .258 BA with 39 homers and 100+ RBI, a number that could increase with a trade to a better team and a better offensive environment. As elite as Olson just was, I think there is a case to be made if he slips in BA that he isn’t eons better than guys much lower on this list. Still, Olson’s floor is so high, I don’t blame anyone selecting him early on, just not a build I would recommend. 

Paul Goldschmidt has long been a favorite of mine, as his floor is sky-high, and he’s long been one of the better NL hitters – a true Steady Eddie that I crave! 2021 was a favorable year to Goldy, as he provided an elite .294 BA, 31 homers, gobs of counting stats, and somehow he ripped off 12 steals. Expecting a repeat of that line would be optimistic, however, he’s proven he can provide 6+ steals fairly comfortably. With an ADP just outside the top 50 though, Goldy is priced higher than I’d like to buy at such a deep position. 

A player I’ve long viewed very similarly to Matt Olson, Pete Alonso had a very interesting 2021 campaign, as he kept his elite power (.519 slugging percentage in 2021), but he trimmed his K rate down to a great rate for a power bat, only striking out 19.9% of the time. That alone is a huge cause for optimism, and he is a player I’d consider if he slipped past pick 70, as there is a 45+ HR potential in that bat. 

Consolation Prizes

6Jose Abreu
7Jared Walsh
8Joey Votto
9Josh Bell
10DJ LeMahieu
11Rhys Hoskins
12C.J. Cron
13Ryan Mountcastle

The benefit of waiting on the top-dogs at 1B, is the fact that this group of players is very rich, and a marginal drop-off relative to the boppers atop the position. They are worse, no doubt, but spending up on the top 1B options doesn’t provide you a significant amount of steals, and outside of Guerrero Jr., Freeman, and Goldschmidt, none are projected to provide an elite BA. 

Jose Abreu is between the Tier 2 borderline-elite guys and the rich crop of useful Tier 3 bats. Heading into his age 35-year, Abreu is as steady as they come and should be another candidate to pop his 30 homers, with a respectable BA, and gobs of runs/RBI. A safe but boring selection, as there hasn’t been much skills erosion to note. Similar profiles can be found cheaper than Abreu, so I won’t be paying this price unless he slips significantly

Coming along recently as a pop-up prospect, Jared Walsh is certainly much more than a hot streak over the past 2 years, as he mashed RHP with a .994 OPS, and he flailed vs southpaws. This could certainly lead to him being platooned, however that may increase his rate stats and barely affect his counting stats. This is an exciting power-bat with a great lineup spot and plenty of power to continue tapping into without selling out as his BA is manageable. Solidly inside my top-10 at 1B!

2021 was an unbelievable year for future HoFer, Joey Votto as he set a career-high in ISO (.297) at age 37, while lifting the ball in the air far more often, at the cost of his BA. It sounds easier said than done, but Votto amped up his LD and FB mix with an approach shift, and his homer total skyrocketed when it appeared his power was gone. Banking on a repeat of the power breakout isn’t a bad idea, as I believe he can sustain this, and he’s very cost-effective, with an ADP outside of the top 150. 

One of my favorite targets on this list is Josh Bell, who screams boring or iffy to some fantasy managers, but he has a ton going for him when you look under the hood. Let’s pair a sub 20% K rate with a double-digit BB rate, for starters, in addition to a very respectable 77% contact rate in 2021 – he should hit for a good BA as well. Bell has solid power in his bat on top of the good plate skills, as he is projected for a .226 ISO, which would put him north of 30 HR. This is a profile that could look a bit like Jose Abreu, at a much cheaper price. 

DJ LeMahieu is one of the trickier hitters to evaluate in all of fantasy baseball for 2022. Fully willing to admit that, as he broke out into top 30 fantasy pick status in 2019 and 2020, but he absolutely bottomed out in 2021, with a brutal 10 HR and a paltry .268 BA. An ugly outcome for a guy picked in round 2 of 2021, as there weren’t steals in that profile to buoy him. Flashforward towards 2022 draft season and LeMahieu is discounted over 100 picks based on what turned out to be an injury-riddled 2022, as he battled a hernia for some portion of time that is unknown. With the safety of the leadoff role for the Yankees, elite BA and 100+ runs potential with the chance at 15+ HR’s and triple eligibility, I am willing to take the plunge for DJ at this price. 

It may surprise some folks that Rhys Hoskins only strikes out 23.6% of the time for his career, as he’s often labeled as an all-or-nothing sloppy power-bat. However, there is a good approach here, with BA’s that haven’t killed fantasy owners. Hoskins has posted BA’s inside the .240’s repeatedly. Injuries have affected Hoskins over the past few years, with a groin injury knocking him out towards the end of a ho-hum 2021 campaign for the Phillies, but Hoskins still managed to produce with a 127 wRC+ and loud home run power. With a full season of health, Hoskins could tap into similar power to Pete Alonso if he can run pure, something that isn’t out of the question. 

A player I can be talked into ranking a bit higher, CJ Cron won’t draw any ooh’s or ahh’s at the draft table, but he could be a very profitable buy in 2022. Coors helped Cron provide an incredible .281 BA in 2021, with 28 homers. Now that will play. Cron has only surpassed 550 PA’s once in his career, so a full season will be a little challenging, but Colorado extended him to play at their 1B for 2 more years, and he could deliver a plus BA with 30+ HR if the cards fall right for him. 

A power-focused prospect with a poor plate approach, Mountcastle made his bones in the 2020 shortened season, with a solid debut year (139 wRC+). He then followed that up with a powerful 2021 year with 33 homers and an OK .255 BA, something that is repeatable. Be wary of Mountcastle’s plate approach, as it’s very poor, but he hits enough HR for it to work, and his barrel rates and hard-hit rates support that he has tons of thump in the bat. Additionally, 1B/OF duel eligibility and playing many games in AL East parks do help improve his future outlook.

Still Very Serviceable

14Jake Cronenworth
15Anthony Rizzo
16Yuli Gurriel
17Ty France
18Alex Kirilloff
19Trey Mancini
20Brandon Belt

Jake Cronenworth is a very solid (but unspectacular) Swiss-Army Knife type of player given his strong contact ability, tiny K rates, and the fact he puts tons of balls into play. His BA isn’t elite, his power is below league-average, he doesn’t quite project for double-digit steals, but his runs scored have been very nice atop the Padres’ order. His position flexibility, high runs scored totals, and high contact rates are his best selling points making him a safe but not exciting option. 

One of my favorite players of the last decade, Rizzo has had a very natural and gradual decline off of first-round caliber bat, into a serviceable 25 home run, 5+ steal player with a BA that won’t hurt you. Rizzo’s best selling points to me are the double-digit walk rates and the 15% K rates. A very safe player with profit potential at pick 165. 

Another boring but Steady Eddie, Yuli Gurriel was a fantastic target for shrewd high-stakes players last year, and he represents another value, as is elite in BA, with 15+ HR pop that won’t set you back. Add in hitting in the heart of the Houston order and this is just a premium value opportunity. The only con is that Yuli will turn 38 mid-summer next year, but that is more than baked into the price. 

After having a tremendous Minor League career, France needed a trade from San Diego to Seattle to force their hand into playing him every day. He’s an intriguing option with his BA upside and ability to provide league-average power with a good strikeout rate. The issue is the ADP, as he’s going inside the top 150, a price that is far too rich for my blood, as I don’t see much in terms of barrel rate or hard-hit rate to get overly excited for. 

Alex Kirilloff has long been a hyped prospect in dynasty circles and has flashed at times — wrist injuries have been his bugga-boo and have me scared off of him for obvious reasons, but there is serious upside here. Ideally, he’d be a low strikeout, good walk rate guy that pairs tons of contact with power. The plate discipline in 2021 isn’t amazing, but his 12.8% barrel rate and 44% hard-hit rate are signs of optimism and potential for sudden growth. 

In 15 team leagues, where floor players can be king, Trey Mancini can be reasonably selected over Alex Kirilloff given the fact Mancini has demonstrated very solid BA’s that won’t hurt you and 25+ home run power given his home venue and his opportunity to hit in AL East parks. 

Brandon Belt is the last in the tier of 1B I feel good about starting in a 15-teamer, Belt absolutely balled out in 2021, cranking 29 homers in less than 400 PA’s. Even if Belt sits vs southpaws, his value can be made up for given his per-PA-production, something that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially considering he can be had after pick 225 in drafts. Belt fits better for me as a CI or UTIL option, given the fact he is injury prone, but that’s more than baked into this price. 

Plan B Options

21Jonathan Schoop
22Nathaniel Lowe
23Jesus Aguilar
24Miguel Sano

On the cusp of putting it together, Lowe is basically fine everywhere. An adequate BA, not too many K’s (25% K Rate), with a pinch of speed and a good lineup spot. In order to reach a higher potential, Lowe needs to lift the ball, his 54.5% GB rate is among the league leaders (bad). This is more of a compiler profile than someone I have excitement for, still, Lowe has a purpose for teams that want a decent floor at a reasonable price. 

Always underrated, Schoop is a favorite of mine as he provides enough BA to be happy about, and enough power to satisfy a 1B slot in 15-teamers. He isn’t flashy, but he has 1B/2B duel eligibility, strikes out less than 20% of the time, and will continue to receive everyday playing time, making him an appealing target!

Jesus Aguilar is like Schoop, another underrated compiler type with solid enough skills to keep his everyday gig, he surprisingly rarely K’s, with just an 18.3% K rate in Miami and 20+ HR pop, this is a fine CI option who won’t hurt your batting average, something that will become rarer as we go further down this list.

Simply put, Sano has become the Joey Gallo-lite of this position. Sano projects for a .225 BA and 30+ HR’s, not a very attractive statline, but if you are very light on power he could do in a pinch. Avoid Sano in an overall contest though, because his BA is unrecoverable if you start him for a majority of the season, similar to Gallo.

The Question Marks

25Max Muncy
26Spencer Torkelson
27LaMonte Wade
28Rowdy Tellez
29Bobby Bradley
30Frank Schwindel

Muncy is one of the better bats in the NL, if not all of the MLB with his combination of elite approach, more contact than some realize, and loud power, but he currently has a torn UCL that he is recovering. The recovery process is not going how he and the Dodgers would like, therefore Muncy carries extreme risk and I will not be drafting him unless he slipped extremely far down draft boards.

One of my mistakes last year was honing in on rookies like Jarred Kelenic, and this year I will not be succumbing to the same fate. Torkelson is a very different player, but we have seen time and time again how challenging it is for a rookie to take off out of the gates, despite Tork having a 60-grade hit tool and a 70-grade power. In a more shallow 12 team league he’s more attractive, as there is far better replacement value in case he does scuffle. 

Platoon risk will scare many off of LaMonte Wade Jr. and understandably so, however, he has really solid plate discipline, makes good contact, and has a good GB/FB mix that could portend to good success. Wade Jr. is on the good side of the platoon, has valuable duel-eligibility and helps plug up multiple holes for fantasy teams and the Giants. His chip-in steals showed up last year with 6 steals in under 400 PA’s, so banking on those is unwise, but there is a smidge of upside that those could come back since he did show he could steal bases in the Minors.

Rowdy Tellez fits in more as a CI option than a 1B option for me in fantasy, but he should get full run as the starting 1B in Milwaukee. He is projected for above league average power by Steamer with a decent BA and he doesn’t strike out too much. His 11.6% barrel rate is a sign for optimism as well, so this is a target to highly consider in 15 teamers and is a streamer in 12 teamers, like Wade Jr.

Bobby Bradley has been in-and-out of prospect evaluators’ minds for a half-decade it feels like, and he had a good showing in 2021, despite the fact it was a small sample. Bradley’s calling card is his 70-grade power, as he could pop 35 HR’s in a Miguel Sano type of way with a poor BA, but he is riskier since he hasn’t proven that he can do that. He’s a decent dart throw towards the end of your draft if you are light on power but beware of the empty power guys as they can destroy BA in a hurry. 

A career Minor Leaguer who got a chance on a rebuilding Cubs team in 2021 and did well, Frank Schwindle is not a guy I have much belief in. As a 29-year-old pop-up prospect, he did catch fire for the Cubbies, but the fact he never forced a teams’ hand to play him before is concerning to me, whether that’s fair or not. His selling points are the low GB rates (39.3%) and the small K rates (15%), but I think the league will adjust to him, and 2021 will appear as a career outlier. Simply put, it’s a risk to me to rely on Schwindle as a starting 1B or as a CI, as he could get papered over on the Cubs depth chart in FA or he could just struggle and lose his job given the huge lack of track record. 

The Leftovers

31Yoshi Tsutsugo
32Luke Voit
33Pavin Smith
34Bobby Dalbec
35Miguel Cabrera

This is a very odd group of talent, some guys are pure journeymen at this stage, others with a very capped ceiling like Pavin Smith or Miguel Cabrera, but they do project for everyday at-bat’s, something that is hugely valuable in Draft & Hold formats! 

Yoshi Tsutsugo will get all the opportunity he can handle in Pittsburgh, as a cheap Pittsburgh team paid him 4-million-dollars in FA, so he should be penciled into the top of the order. He is an unknown, but there’s enough hitting feel and power for a surprise .250 BA, 23+ HR season to be in store with 1B/OF duel eligibility like LaMonte Wade Jr. 

Luke Voit is a player I am just avoiding at the cost, given the injury history that has robbed him of playing time, and the fact the Yankees order is so RH heavy, they may look to solve that by bringing in a LH 1B to balance the order. If he is traded, there is a chance for him to bump up 10 spots or so on my 1B ranks, but the Yankees could hoard him as a depth option if the trade market is cool for Voit. They did this by holding onto Clint Frazier even though he might have had some trade value. Drafting a player and hoping for a trade or that he won’t get papered over in FA isn’t a risk I am willing to take, simply put. 

Ah, Bobby Dalbec, a player phenotype I largely despise, as he could lose his job in a hurry given the fact he rarely takes a walk, and he strikes out 35.8% of the time for his career, a mark that could land him in AAA Worcester faster than your head can spin. Boston is a competing team, and stud 1B prospect Triston Casas is right around the corner, so Dalbec represents an immense risk in my book. 

Recap

The 1B position is absolutely loaded, from top to bottom really, and there is a very gradual smoothing out from the top guys down to even Trey Mancini or Jonathan Schoop. Waiting on this position is strongly advised since it is so loaded to the gills. In a 15-team draft, you can wait til pick 175 or so and potentially land an Anthony Rizzo, Trey Mancini, or Yuli Gurriel, while addressing other roto needs! I strongly advise to fill CI with a good hitting 1B option, though filling CI with a 3B provides more depth to that position since 3B is the weakest of the positions outside of C. All told, find your targets and which price points make sense for your league, whether it’s 12 teamer or 15 teamer, and do not overspend on said options because this position is overflowing with capable options!