After each week of positional coverage, we will wrap things up here with our 2016 dynasty/keeper rankings. Players are ranked with the next five years of production in mind, so when you see Freddie Freeman ranked ahead of players like Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez – that does not mean we believe Freeman will be the superior short-term option.
First base is where you look for power (other than the outfield). In 2015 there were 20 players with 30 or more home runs; ten of those were first basemen or first base-eligible players (Joey Votto just missed the cut with 29). There were 24 players that hit between 25 and 29 home runs so power isn’t exclusive to first base (and outfield), but elite power is. In 2014 there were 11 players with 30 or more home runs and 8 of them qualified for first. It’s the same story in 2013 with 9 of the 14 players with 30 or more home runs being a corner man. You can find power later for first base if you decide to look for home runs in the outfield early on; regardless of your strategy, don’t ignore the power potential of the corner spot. Now on to what you came here for:
Taking part in our dynasty rankings will be Paul Hartman, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Will Emerson, Ron Vackar and Michael Zakhar. Our six experts each ranked their top 25 first basemen. Players marked N/R were not ranked inside the top 25 by that particular person, Here are the results along with last year’s ranking.
The top 4 players really need no commentary. Goldschmidt was unanimously ranked number one by our panel for obvious reasons; he’s the total package and only 28 years old. Rizzo was almost the unanimous choice for number two due to his age (26), new-found speed (under Joe Maddon) and ability to hit both lefties & righties equally well. Miguel Cabrera was third, just edging out Jose Abreu who finished fourth. Despite a down year, Cabrera is a professional hitter with a healthy track record who held down the top spot for years. Abreu put up his second 30/100 season and could be potentially better with a little talent around him in Chicago.
In keeper/dynasty leagues, these are the top dogs to own; I don’t think anyone would question that. As for the remaining players, our panel shares their thoughts on each below.
5. Joey Votto – Reds
- Will: It’s amazing to see what a full season of healthy Joey Votto can do, right? Yeah, he’s 32, but he has a great eye and plate discipline, and was able to prove in 2015 that the power is still there.
- Ron: This is a safe pick. I am certain at least a couple of players I have ranked below Votto will perform better than him, but figuring out which ones will outperform him in any given year is a roll of the dice. What we know is Votto calls home to a good ballpark for hitters and contributes something across all categories which helps to keep his value consistent. As a side note, Votto is especially nice for leagues that use OBP.
6. Edwin Encarnacion – Blue Jays
- Zak: He is getting older, sure, but he has built quite a track record. You might deal with an injury here or there, but a .900 OPS every year will help you deal. If an owner is betting against him and you are close to winning, I’d pounce.
- Ron: The stat line double-E produces is pretty ideal for what you would like your fantasy 1B to produce. Can he keep it going another five years? His name etched in the DH spot most nights certainly helps to believe he will continue to be highly productive. Hopefully he sticks in Toronto when it comes time to decide where he will call home for his next contract set to expire after the 2016 season.
7. Chris Davis – f/a
- Paul: Over the past 3 years, Davis leads all first basemen in HR, RBI and ISO. As much as some still can’t buy into him because of the strikeouts, we’re not in new territory any more. Davis is an offensive monster, and at 29 years old – if his best years are behind him, they’re only slightly behind him.
- Will: I probably have Crush a bit lower than some, but something about me doesn’t trust how he will age. Regardless, he should be a 30 homer guy for the next few seasons at least. The average may sap ya, but hey, what are ya gonna do?
8. Freddie Freeman – Braves
- Kevin: He’s fine, but he’s not reaching top-5 levels yet, and he may never do it. Freeman has 5 full seasons now, and we’re still hoping for more. Strong LD% and hard hit rate supports a high BABIP, yet his BA has fallen 3 straight years. Maybe he reaches 25 HR, but don’t expect a repeat/improvement on 2013.
- Will: I understand that his ranking has dropped each of the last couple years, but last year was marred a bit by injuries. In his last two full seasons prior to 2015, he was ranked four and six respectively at first base by FanGraphs offensive algorithms and such. Plus he is still only 26!
9. Eric Hosmer – Royals
- Zak: I am always wanting power out of the corners and Hosmer hasn’t cracked 20 home runs yet, but he offers a unique all-around package at first base and more growth is likely. He could crack the top five in a year or two and that’s not an easy thing to do in this crowd.
- Jim: He doesn’t have prototypical 1B power, but you’ll get above average run and RBI production with close to a .300 average most years. A solid steady option once the big guns are gone.
10. Adrian Gonzalez – Dodgers
- Paul: In the second half, there were 26 first basemen that put up a better wOBA than Adrian Gonzalez. That may be a blip on the radar for a hitter who has been as consistent as Gonzalez has been, but at 33 years old, how many 27 HR/.275 AVG seasons are left in the tank? I’d give him 3 maybe, which slides him just below some players that either have higher ceilings or more longevity.
- Ron: Last year I took a stance on A-Gon, telling readers he needed to be drafted ahead of the more popular Freddie Freeman. This year, I have them closely ranked, but I think Gonzalez’s poor second half of 2015 might be a sign of him beginning to fade, and I see him continuing to slide down the rankings moving forward.
11. Albert Pujols – Angels
- Zak: There’s no doubt he is on the decline, but there aren’t many players around him in the rankings that will put up a year like he just had. Who can say when he will lose his value for good; he was supposed to be done once or twice already. When we are dealing with the all-time greats, I’d rather not jump ship at all than give them away too soon.
- Will: I don’t know that there are many (or any) 40 dinger seasons left for Albert, but the swing is still there and that should get you another highly productive few years. I may be a bit more bullish than most, but I still think Pujols remains among the top 10 first basemen for a few more years.
12. Prince Fielder – Rangers
- Jim: With the diminished power he is basically an older version of Eric Hosmer with slightly more power and a lower batting average. He’ll David Ortiz himself into 1B eligibility each year, but is basically a full-time DH in Texas now (18 games at first in 2015).
- Paul: Fielder bounced back nicely after back surgery in 2014, but the big-time power looks like it’s a thing of the past. Fielder provides a solid average with good BB and K rates; the DH position should keep him healthy and fantasy-relevant for at least 3-4 more years.
13. Brandon Belt – Giants
- Kevin: Reminds me of Freeman: solid, but people keep expecting a new, elite level that he simply doesn’t reach. Injuries also a factor for him. I want 25+ HR from my 1B, and Belt doesn’t deliver.
- Ron: I still see the value in Brandon Belt, but worry about his head injuries turning him into a clone of Justin Morneau. When healthy, Belt performs like a poor man’s Eric Hosmer. If winter reports are strong that Belt has recovered from his recent head trauma I will give him another shot on my rosters.
14. Lucas Duda – Mets
- Kevin: He proved the power was legit, and his metrics support this level. BA not great, but with a little luck and full health, he could reach .260 with 30+ HR.
- Paul: Duda’s slash line in 2015 was almost identical to his coming out party in 2014. The problem is that he’s already 30 years old, with just two relevant fantasy seasons to his name. A .245-.250 AVG compounds the problem, making Duda a decent option as CI, but I wouldn’t be happy with him as my primary 1B in a dynasty league.
15. Hanley Ramirez – Red Sox
- Jim: David Ortiz has 2 club options, but he will be 40 so it remains to be seen if Boston retains him. Ramirez is not going back to the OF or moving back to SS (Bogaerts) or 3B (Sandoval). 1B is somewhat open (Travis Shaw), but if he can’t cut it there they may use him as their full-time DH post-Ortiz. The lack of a position coupled with diminishing numbers and age make him an unwelcome risk. No thanks.
- Will: I think Hanley still has some good baseball left in him, but he hasn’t topped 71 RBIs in his last three seasons and did not top 60 in two of the last three. I feel like Hanley will bounce back and have a few good seasons, maybe scattered around due to injuries and his general lackadaisical play.
16. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
- Kevin: Bear in mind I’m focused on standard 5×5, so OBP isn’t in play. For 1B, .260 and 20 HR is tolerable, and .230 and 27 HR is tolerable for most. In 2015 it was the worst of both worlds, .231 with 19 HR. If you don’t count OBP, he is not worth even a CI slot.
- Zak: This is the toughest guy to rank for me. I’m tempted to throw up my hands, but if the other owner is a positional eligibility guy, losing patience, . . . let’s face it, there’s plenty of reasons to lose faith, but you might find yourself a bargain. I wouldn’t make him a cornerstone of my team, but I’d see if I could steal him.
17. Pedro Alvarez – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Jim: The power returned which was a bonus, but the Pirates are sitting him vs lefties. If that continues you can expect lower than average numbers for runs and RBIs – plus a bad batting average. He may make a good CI option, but not someone you want to own as your primary first baseman.
- Ron: I have a feeling most people hate Pedro Alvarez, but I am a fool and still kind of dig the guy. There is no telling what his role is going to be going forward or if he even sticks in Pittsburgh. What I do know is that there is still thunder in his bat, and maybe it just needs a change of scenery to wake it up and get him back to being a 30+ HR producer who can make a run at 90-100 RBI.
18. Mitch Moreland – Rangers
- Zak: On the one hand, he has always had power potential and it’s nice to see a good year like the one he just had. On the other hand, I think we’ve seen his peak and it is not exciting to me. These mid-level first basemen can be a bit of a danger zone; a step forward seems unlikely and I don’t know if Moreland would solve any problems in the long run.
- Paul: Mitch Moreland is 30 years old and the best ranking he ever had was as the 20th best first baseman in 2013. He’s got a miserable BB/K rate, and I can’t justify including him in a top 25 ranking for the next five years.
19. Greg Bird – New York Yankees
- Kevin: He certainly has power, but I worry about his position. Teixeira blocks him at 1B for one more year, and A-Rod is at DH. Horrible contact rate scares me away, despite decent BB% to help make up for it. There are a lot of guys who can hit 25 HR with an awful BA, and short-term playing time issues hurt his value to me.
- Paul: Bird hit 11 HR in just 157 AB, debuting as a 22-year-old for the Yankees. As a power-hitting LH hitter, he should have success with the short right-field porch in Yankee stadium. While his K rate was incredibly high, his hard hit rate was better than anyone in baseball. I’m buying, though with some tempered expectations in the crowded Yankees lineup for 2016.
20. Justin Bour – Marlins
- Jim: Bour had a fine rookie season and has the potential to be a top 12 option, but he doesn’t have that blue chip pedigree and his minor league years were spent playing in the PCL. I’m optimistic yet skeptical on this one. Adjust rankings based upon your own personal expectations.
- Will: I don’t really know a ton about Justin Bour other than he had a pretty strong finish to 2015, socking nine dingers in the last month of the season. I didn’t see him much on the prospect lists, so for now I am on the “wait and see” train with him.
21. Adam Lind – Brewers
- Kevin: We write him off, and he keeps coming back. Platoon keeps his BA higher, and a repeat of 2015 stats is doable. He beat Carlos Santana in 2015, yet Santana’s ranked five slots higher in our system.
- Paul: At 32-years-old, what you see is what you get with Adam Lind. He hits RHP very well, but his awful numbers against LHP means he’s simply a platoon bat. With 20 HR and a .275 AVG, Lind is useful for short spurts off of the waiver wire, but he’s never been (other than 2009) nor will he ever be at this point, a plug and play option at first base.
22. C.J. Cron – Angels
- Zak: I love the power potential but he needs to improve just about everything else to be worth owning. He’s going to run into 30 home runs one year, but it might be a painful ride to get there. Can you afford to be patient?
- Will: If you extend Cron’s 2015 numbers over a full season of plate appearances they’d be near the tops, but I am just not sold on him yet as a full-time player. I may be wrong, but I just need a bit more of a sample size.
James Krueger profiled C.J. Cron in an article earlier this week if you’d like further analysis.
23. Mark Teixeira – Yankees
- Jim: I don’t care what he did in 2015. Tex will be 36 in April, his numbers were on a downward spiral prior to this season, and he hasn’t played a full season since 2011. Tex swung the bat more in 2015 to maintain his contact rate (just like many aging players), but that won’t last long. Find a Yankees fan in your league and unload him.
- Ron: If you are in pursuit of Tex, just know you cannot bank on a 150 game season from him. He is kind of like the Tulowitzki of first base. Maybe curtailing expectations by only expecting 110 games of his services will help to more realistically value what he brings to the table.
24. Ryan Zimmerman – Nationals
- Jim: I have a hard time ranking Zimmerman this low, but with a bad foot, back and shoulder, he is too much of an injury risk for me. A healthy Zim can produce top 10 numbers over a season, but now that he’s primarily a first baseman his numbers won’t even rank in the top 25 should he have a down year.
- Zak: This guy! He is so frustrating to own and seems to put up all his stats over a six-week stretch. He was on a tear at the end of the year, but I’m done. High quality older guys in a dynasty league? Fine. Zimmerman? I’d dump him for almost any younger 1B bat.
25. Matt Adams – Cardinals
- Kevin: Adams is a gamble for 2016, but overall he has a decent profile. And let’s face it: the Cards have a way of getting value out of players. Age says he could be in prime with full health. Upside is 2014 with more HR and RBI. Makes for a good CI, but not your primary 1B.
- Ron: Adams ceiling is probably that of a 20 HR, 80 RBI producer. Whether or not he can stay on the field and/or be given enough opportunity to consistently produce that line or anything close to it remains to be seen. That said, I feel he is going to be a solid value pick for 2016 drafts and worth taking a shot on in deep formats.
Just like last week, there were several players who received a few votes for the top 25 that did not receive enough of them to make the cut. Travis Shaw appeared on four lists; unfortunately three of them had him at 25. With Hanley Ramirez slated to play first, Shaw may have to wait a little longer. A.J. Reed and Josh Bell were listed twice, and while they didn’t make the top 25, both are easily players to stash for the future. I’m sure all three of these players will be discussed during our prospect rankings in January. Several other new faces made it on to at least one list. Mark Canha made his debut and could appear in the top 25 in 2017 with a good showing (if he sticks at first base), and Tyler White is someone who could make his debut sometime in 2016.
The final two names belong to a veteran and a backup who has been biding his time. Adam LaRoche had a down year, but had 20 or more home runs in the previous three seasons. He’s 35 so not really someone who’s cut out for long-term use, but he could still have some value left. Daren Ruf received more at bats, spelling incumbent starter Ryan Howard at times. The 29-year-old could see increased time in 2016, but his value will depend upon how well he handles major league pitching on a full-time basis.
That wraps up our first base rankings. Tomorrow begins our second base coverage which will wrap up next Sunday with the top 20 second basemen.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2016 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.