Waiting Game: Comparing First Base Tiers

Method

This series goes position by position, comparing the average production you get out of the top 5 ranked, the next 5 players, and so on. We’re looking for where the value of players starts to drop, so that you can see how long you can wait on a position and what kind of hit in production you’ll take if you do. One thing to note is that I’m not restricting players to only one position for the stat information. If a guy qualifies at 2B, SS, and OF, his numbers are going to appear in all three sets.

There’s a lot of discussion about tiers in ranking players. Some fantasy managers live by it, because they like to make cut-off points where they feel the talent is noticeably different between one group of players and the next group. Other managers don’t like it and prefer a simple straight ranking. I’ve always enjoyed tiers, and depending on the format of your league, there really can be obvious gaps in talent level at a certain number of players.

I’ve done two things here. First I use CBS’s ranking info for 5×5 roto leagues, and I show the average numbers for the top 5 players at a position compared to players 6-10, and then 11-15. Next I’ll take data from a private CBS points league and show the averages for the same breakdowns (1-5, 6-10, 11-15). Although it’s a custom scoring league, there aren’t major differences from CBS’s public points system, and anyway, a lot of times the points rankings are very close to the 5×5. The nice thing is that it boils down production to a common denominator (points) regardless of whether a player was more speed or power.

The 5×5 Roto Comparisons

Here are your 5×5 averages of the top 5 first basemen, followed by 6-10 and 11-15. I’ve rounded to whole numbers. As with catcher, I didn’t bother with stolen bases. Of the top 20 qualifying 1B, only one (Frazier) had more than 10 SB, and after that Goldschmidt had 9 and five guys had 5 or 6. There may be slight value in snagging a first baseman who can run — a full season of Goldy and 15 SB is certainly better than the usual 1-2 SB — but you’re primarily looking at power production here.

  • #1-5: 91R, 31 HR, 100 RBI, .304 BA in 576 AB
  • #6-10: 82 R, 29 HR, 97 RBI, .282 BA in 554 AB
  • #11-15: 77 R, 26 HR, 84 RBI, .265 BA in 506 AB

Well, you’re certainly going to get your power from any top-15 first baseman: every grouping had two guys who hit 30 HR, with #1-5 having three. Of the top 20, only four hit under 20 HR, and one of those (Lucroy) is primarily a catcher anyway. In terms of runs and RBI, the gaps between any two consecutive tiers is under 10, except for the RBI gap between #6-10 and #11-15. Where the biggest value lied in terms of the top tier was batting average, with a 22-point drop to #6-10 and a steep 39-point drop to #11-15. Three hitters in the top-5 hit over .300, but there was only one batter apiece in the other two tiers.

Because first base is deeper than catcher, I also opted to look at the breakdown between the top-10 and the next 10.

  • #1-10: 87 R, 30 HR, 99 RBI, .295 BA in 562 AB
  • #11-20: 72 R, 23 HR, 83 RBI, .263 BA in 523 AB

Gaps appear in every category between top-10 and next-10, but what’s noteworthy is that the stat lines for #1-10 and #6-10 have minimal differences except for BA.

The Points Comparison

Here’s the breakdown.

  • Range, 1-5: 638.5 – 741.5, avg. 688.3 points
  • Range, 6-10: 574.5 – 634.5, avg. 593 points
  • Range, 11-15: 521.5 – 573, avg. 548.2 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-10 = 95 points = 16.1% more
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 11-15 = 140.1points = 25.6% more
  • Difference between avg. of 6-10 and 11-15 = 44.8 points = 8.2% more

.

  • Range, 1-5: 638.5 – 741.5, avg. 688.3 points
  • Range, 6-15: 521.5 – 634.5, avg. 570.6 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-5 and 6-15 = 117.7 points = 20.6% more

 .

  • Range, 1-10: 574.5 – 741.5, avg. 640.7 points
  • Range, 11-20: 468 – 573, avg. 519.9 points
  • Difference between avg. of 1-10 and 11-20 = 120.8 points = 23.2% more

In points leagues, HR are your best friend because they provide points for the HR itself, the run, and then 1-4 RBI. Because power is so deep at first, you can find great options outside of the top-5 at the position. The gap between 1-5 and 6-10 isn’t that much smaller than the gap between 1-5 and 6-15, and the gap between 6-10 and 11-15 is even less noticeable. This means when you can ignore BA as a stat category, raw production is available well outside the top-5.

The Bottom Line: In roto leagues you really should target a high-BA first baseman with power, because there was little else to distinguish hitters at the position. However, in general if you miss out on a top-5 1B, there’s still a lot of talent in the 6-15 range, and they’re practically interchangeable. When you pick a top-5 1B and then compare him to someone in the next 10, there’s usually only one category that varies by a large amount. Like most years, you can afford to wait on first base.

Compare tiers for the rest of the positions

CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird Base ShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelievers

Kevin Jebens

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Fantasy baseball player since 2000; winning leagues ranging from 12-team H2H to 18-team experts 5x5. Has written for various baseball blogs, including the 2013 Bleed Cubbie Blue Annual.