After each week of positional coverage, we will wrap things up here on Sunday with our 2016 dynasty/keeper rankings.
Players are ranked with the next five years of production in mind, so when you see Jose Abreu ranked ahead of a player like Albert Pujols – that does not mean that we believe Abreu will be the superior short-term option.
Also, we ranked players at what we believe will be their primary position moving forward, so you will not see Kris Bryant or Daniel Murphy here despite their eligibility. Those players will be included at first base when we roll out the 2017 rankings in January.
Taking part in our dynasty rankings will be Paul Hartman, Kevin Jebens, Jim Finch, Ron Vackar, Josh Coleman and Mike Sheehan. 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.
The order can be debated until you’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that the top-6 players were almost unanimously ranked in one of those six top spots. Goldschmidt, Rizzo and Freeman represent the under 30 club. Miggy, Votto and E.E. are on the wrong side of 30, but until we see a significant decline in production you won’t find many (if any) that can match their offensive output. If you are in a dynasty league and own one of these players, consider yourself fortunate.
As for the remaining players, our panel shares their thoughts on each below.
7. Jose Abreu – White Sox
- Jim: He finished with an average above .290 with 100 RBIs for the third straight year. In what was a down year he still managed to hit 25 home runs. Impressive numbers considering the production of his surrounding cast. Abreu will only be 30 in January and has a high floor – I’ll take that at an aging position.
- Ron: It seems like he had such a horrible 2016 season, when in reality Abreu’s production level is about what you should hope for from your first baseman in the near future. He will be 30 in January and just came off of three consecutive 100 RBI seasons. A reasonable shot at a .290 average, 30 HR, and 100 RBI works for me.
8. Wil Myers – Padres
- Kevin: Speed really determines his future value. Without 20+ SB, he’s just another .260, 20 HR bat. Read more on why I’m down on Myers in my Stock up/Stock down article.
- Josh: Second half struggles and a career riddled by injuries aren’t exactly building blocks for a Dynasty format. Despite that I’m all in on Myers. At 25 he’s established himself as a face of the franchise. His pedigree is that of a top prospect, and injuries, more so than poor play, has led to his career been a disappointment prior to last season. I buy the power and feel that youth and the offensive makeup of the Padres bode well for a SB repeat. The 20/20 skill set is unique to the position and 30/20 upside is present.
9. Eric Hosmer – Royals
- Paul: You see warning signs: lower AVG, walk rate and LD%, higher K rate and GB%. I see someone who added 25 feet to their average fly ball distance. He actually had the 11th highest average fly ball distance in the majors last year. KC might be a horrible place for left-handed hitting power to play, but Hosmer managed 17 homers on the road this year. It’s time to stop talking about his poor power potential, especially as he heads into his age 27 season.
- Mike: It seems like the monster breakout probably isn’t coming. Hosmer did enjoy a career high of 25 homers, though, which corresponded with a dip in his average. Still, maybe he can show some more incremental growth and come closer to pairing the two skills. He’s a fine option if you don’t get one of the elite first basemen and should be a solid asset for years to come. He’s a low-end 1B or a high-end CI.
10. Chris Davis – Orioles
- Josh: I don’t know if Davis has another 50 HR season in the tank, but I could sign on for another 40 HR year with a respectable AVG. Over the next 5 years I can also see 3 repeats of last season. If 111 players continue to hit 20 homers, Davis’s batting average risk just isn’t worth the price you’ve come accustomed to paying for him.
- Mike: Power, power, power. That’s the story here. He came up just shy of 40 homers in a bit of a down year. The insane amount of strikeouts lead to a lot of volatility, but he does hit the ball very hard, and often very far, when he connects. He is one of only a handful of guys in the league who can challenge 50 bombs in any given year which gives him tremendous value. Throw in a great park and a good lineup and he’s definitely someone you want on your roto team. He’s also younger than you probably think having just finished his 30-year-old season.
11. Hanley Ramirez – Red Sox
- Kevin: Health is his key. With it, he could come near a repeat, and he’s not a 1st round pick anymore, so his value is better. Read more on why I like Hanley more than most for keeper leagues in my Stock up/Stock down article.
- Jim: The numbers were terrific in 2016, but it doesn’t erase the inconsistencies from 2009 to 2015. During that seven-year span he failed to reach 20 home runs five times, only totaled more than 60 RBIs twice, and had four years with under 60 runs and 100 games played. Sell him now.
12. Carlos Santana – Indians
- Paul: If there was a winning formula for success, Santana may have discovered it this year. He swung at less pitches out of the zone, more inside, and hit the ball harder than he ever has before. At just 30 years of age, Santana should have no trouble putting up solid production for the next 5 years. He’s also the only first baseman with a 1.00 BB/K rate; only 2 others were above 0.75 and 10 others above 0.50!
- Ron: Santana cut his K-rate by 3.9% and started hitting the ball harder more frequently in 2016. It’s a rare upward trend for a 30-year-old player, but one that certainly makes Santana a little more appealing heading into 2017.
13. Albert Pujols – Angels
- Jim: I can see him being a top-12 option for the next year or so. Like David Ortiz, Pujols will get in enough games each year to qualify at first base so eligibility isn’t a question – only health. Even after a few years he’ll still be good for 20-25 home runs with decent RBI numbers; just don’t count on the batting average being there.
- Josh: His rise to super stardom was immediate, and his decline will be likewise. I suspect this Pujols we’ve become accustomed to will be followed by a player struggling to hit 20 HR with an AVG flirting with Mendoza.
14. Brandon Belt – Giants
- Kevin: Line drive approach doesn’t help his BA, and he lacks 20 HR power. Not worth the price he goes for. If you want to know more about why I didn’t rank him inside the top-20, check out my Stock up/Stock down article which covers keeper first basemen.
- Mike: The eternal tease. He made his first all-star team, but hit under 20 homers in a year where complete no-namers routinely blasted 25+. Unless he gets traded to a more favorable ballpark, he probably won’t ever reach the potential that many saw in him. Give him a bump in points and OBP leagues though as his OBP was just shy of .400 this year. Will likely be in the back-end of startable 1B for the next few years barring a venue change.
15. Brad Miller – Rays
- Paul: As awesome as Miller’s season was, he had just the 17th highest wOBA among qualified first baseman, and the 3rd worst BB/K rate. I’m not even going to really question the power; it’s the selling out of whatever plate discipline he had to get there. I like him, but I’m not looking for growth from 2016.
- Ron: Miller’s greatest appeal might be that he could continue to hold position flexibility. It’s hard to imagine he can continue to post an HR/FB rate above 20% as he did in 2016. That rate was nearly double his previous career high. Miller is likely more of an 18-20 HR guy with full-time at bats, but that should play well in most leagues if he qualifies at multiple positions.
16. Josh Bell – Pirates
- Kevin: He may grow into 20+ HR potential, but until then, his cap is more a Brandon Belt type with a potentially better BA. Deep leagues can use him, but I’m not yet sold he’ll be a star, and there are plenty of veterans you can safely rely on.
- Paul: Call me a sucker for guys who walk more than they strike out, but what Bell accomplished in 2016 was really quite remarkable. Others are going to point to the lack of power, but he played almost all year as a 23-year-old kid. He may not break into the top 10 in 2017, but it’ll be close and he should only get better, and stronger. The raw power is there; it just hasn’t really shown up in games yet.
17. Chris Carter – Brewers
- Jim: Carter is a poor man’s Chris Davis – tons of power potential, but little to no chance of seeing a batting average above .230. I’d rather have 25 home runs with similar counting stats and a higher average than have my batting average decimated on a weekly basis.
- Josh: Take everything I said about Chris Davis and apply it here. On the plus side, Carter has one year of age on the good side compared to Davis. On the down side, his contract outlook looks more year to year making the most important item for fantasy (playing time), less certain.
18. Adrian Gonzalez – Dodgers
- Ron: If you’ve ever used subway trains as a mode of transportation in a big city then you know that half the battle is knowing when to get off. Adrian Gonzalez is your train and your stop is here. Put another way, Adrian Gonzalez is closer to becoming James Loney than he is to reclaiming his production level of seasons long ago.
- Mike: Another year older and the power is way down. The end might not be here just yet, but it’s safe to say he’s firmly in the decline period of his career. Milk another year of .270-.280 and 80-90 RBIs if you must, but it’s time to start looking for a long-term replacement. The counting stats should still be there as long as he remains in the heart of the order though.
18. C.J. Cron – Angels
- Ron: If Cron wasn’t forced to miss time due to a broken hand we might be talking about how he nearly matched the production level of Jose Abreu. Keep that in mind as you drift into the late rounds of your 2017 drafts.
- Mike: Two straight years he’s shown promise, and injuries have curtailed the production. He has pretty good contact skills for a bopper and is a legit threat for 30 bombs if he can string together 145+ games. He also won’t kill your average like some of the other names on this list with a career .267 and .278 in 2016. He could be a nice cheap CI with upside.
20. Justin Bour – Marlins
- Paul: If the Marlins can figure out how to only face right-handed pitching, Bour becomes a fantasy asset. As it is though, I have no interest in rostering a 1B or CI that only plays 2/3 of the time. He does well against RHP, but I’m leaving Bour to the DFS guys out there to have fun with. For dynasty leagues, there are just way too many better options.
- Jim: If you accept the fact the fact he will not play against lefties and just concentrate on his numbers against righties, Bour is a decent player. He will give you 20 plus home runs with 70 plus RBIs with an average close to .270. Those are pretty good totals for a guy that will get you only 400 at bats. You’ll need a suitable bench guy, though, for the days there is a lefty on the mound.
21. A.J. Reed – Astros
- Kevin: He profiles as a power bat who can walk, but strikes out a lot with a potentially low BA. That’s fine, but it’s nothing special. Struggles against lefties, even in minors, may make for a bumpy road early on in his MLB career.
- Josh: His body type gives me long-term concerns, but over the next 5 seasons I don’t expect that to surface. The Astros roster depth doesn’t give Reed the luxury of working through struggles, but his minor league profile suggest a very solid power source along with a respectable AVG.
22. Greg Bird – Yankees
- Paul: I hedged my bets here with Bird; he could be a top 10-15 option if given everyday at bats, or he could very well never get that opportunity in New York. Tyler Austin bats right-handed, and Bird is a lefty, so this could be a straight platoon next year until one pulls away. It’s just too hard too hard to know, but I do like the power potential here and would love nothing more than to see him succeed.
- Josh: You never know what the Yankees will do in the offseason. They could easily sign three bats and leave Bird shuffling for AB’s between the Bench and AAA. If he manages to earn a full-time role you’re looking at a LH power bat in Yankee Stadium. He’s a young player, like Reed, whose minor league profile is that of a solid AVG source and potential for 25-30 HR power.
23. Tommy Joseph – Phillies
- Kevin: He’s my sleeper pick for best 1B value. Big power and decent BA projection means you could do a lot worse for CI late in the draft. Check out my Stock up/Stock down article to see why I think he’s someone to target and future 30 home run hitter.
- Mike: Hopefully he’s not your starting first baseman, but he is definitely worth a late round pick in deeper leagues. He had some pedigree as a prospect and did manage to hit 21 home runs in just 347 ABs. With Howard gone, he should see lots of playing time and some power should follow. He also strikes out a ton so it’s possible the average will drop a bit more.
24. Lucas Duda – Mets
- Jim: Duda has only had two good healthy years, and the Mets have Dominic Smith waiting in the wings so this could be his last year in New York. I didn’t rank him as I can see him signing with an AL club – that would be good for him as a full-time DH, but bad for fantasy owners as he’ll lose that 1B tag.
- Ron: Duda is on the Brandon Moss career path. Any given year can offer you a nice power option or a total waste of a roster space. Don’t pay too much to find out what Duda will do next.
25. Dan Vogelbach – Mariners
- Paul: Quick! Name the last Mariners first baseman to have an OPS over .750 (which would be about 20th best among 1B generally speaking)? Times are tough in Seattle, and I’m not sure Vogelbach will be the one to carry the torch. What he does have though is power and the ability to draw a walk. Don’t be too concerned about his 6:1 K:BB ratio in last year’s cameo; this is more of a three outcomes type player who should put up a respectable OBP. I’m cheering for him, but less than optimistic. Oh, and the answer is Russell Branyan in 2009.
- Jim: There will be an adjustment period going from the PCL to playing half his games at Safeco. That said, the high walks, manageable strikeout rate and improving batting average and power numbers in the minors have me interested. Vogelbach is on my shortlist of minor league first basemen.
The players that missed the cut are a mix of veterans and prospect yet to make their major league debut. The one thing they all have in common is that they all appeared on just one of six rankings.
Rhys Hoskins, Dominic Smith, Cody Bellinger, Chris Shaw and Trey Mancini represent the potential new blood at first base along with what many consider to be a failed prospect, Joey Gallo. I’m sure you’ll all read more about them when prospect rankings come out in January.
Mike Napoli, Mitch Moreland and Joe Mauer are the grizzled veterans. Kennys Vargas is not a veteran per se, but he is no longer a rookie either. These players are primarily a band-aid for teams riddled with injuries to be plucked off waivers or low-end deep-league options.
That wraps up our first base rankings. Next week begins our second base coverage which will wrap up next Sunday with the top 20 second basemen.
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