First base is where you’ll find the power for your team. Eleven players hit 30 or more home runs in 2014 and seven of them qualify for first base, eight if David Ortiz qualifies in your league. Another eight first base eligible players hit between 25 and 29 home runs. I say eligible for first because over half of those players qualify for another position so while there is power to be had at first, It could get scooped up for another position so pay attention during the draft and have a backup plan.
There were a few address changes this off-season to be aware of. Adam LaRoche is the new first basemen for the White Sox. Billy Butler was signed by Oakland allowing them to trade Brandon Moss to Cleveland. Michael Morse is now a Marlin. Finally Ryan Howard is still in Philly, but not for a lack of trying by management. There are also some new names thanks to position changes by Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Zimmerman who will shift across the diamond from the hot corner. All of the moves should result in positive results fantasy wise.
Below are our top 30 first basemen for the 2015 season. We used a 10 games played minimum requirement for eligibility so you will not see David Ortiz in these rankings. We also ranked some players based upon expectations of their primary position for the 2015 season (example: Ryan Zimmerman will appear on our 1B list despite not qualifying yet). If you feel we overlooked someone or would like to debate a players ranking, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
There is very little question who the top 6 first basemen in the league are. Other than a rogue vote or two the players ranked 6-12 are safe options and the next best thing if you miss out on one of the big boppers. After that things get a little dicey. There are some good players to be found after the top 12 are off the board, but each of them comes with some sort of warning tag whether it’s age, regression, injury risk or inexperience. Ryan Zimmerman at #24 was the first player to be left off someone’s ranking list, and faith starts to waiver the further down the list you go. Brain McCann (who should be used at the catcher position) and Ryan Howard were lucky to make the cut.
There were 9 other first base eligible players ranked inside the top 30 that did not receive enough votes to make the list. None of them received a ranking above 27 and were not ranked by more than 2 members of our panel. Those players are Joe Mauer, Steve Pearce, Billy Butler, Kennys Vargas, Michael Cuddyer, Allen Craig, Mark Teixeira, Adam Lind and Jonathan Singleton. Some of these players may be considered late round picks or worthy ads in deeper leagues, but those in standard leagues can probably do better.
Players that you would reach for in the draft
Tommy: I will spend an early pick on a power hitting first baseman in every league I am in this year. Albert Pujols and Victor Martinez are two vets who I think could make great values in the third round if I miss on an elite option.
Kevin: I want a top-5 first baseman on my team. Paul Goldschmidt has the potential to break out in Miggy style, as long as he’s healthy.
Will: Freddie Freeman – Might not be the flashiest choice out there, but he gets on base consistently and if I miss on the top five, I am taking good ol’ F-squared!
Ron: In a 15 team format where I land a draft pick near the end of the first round I would be thrilled to land Anthony Rizzo as my first or second pick. Victor Martinez is going to be written off as too old to come anywhere close to repeating his 2014 performance. One thing Martinez does is hit for average. He hits lefties, righties, at home, on the road, during the day, at night, and in his sleep. The DH role will keep him preserved and he’s in the middle of a stacked Detroit lineup with solid bats all around him. The 2014 power is not likely to be repeated but his batting average contribution will free you up to select whoever you want later in the draft. Adrian Gonzalez is already the player everyone hopes Freddie Freeman becomes. So why does Freddie Freeman get picked ahead of him in most drafts? I’ll take AGonz.
Jim: Adrian Gonzalez – If I don’t get one of the top 6 first basemen I’ll reach for him. I know Gonzalez isn’t going to hit another 27 home runs, but 20 homers with 90 runs and RBIs with a .300 average pays the bills and there is little risk involved as far as decline and injuries are concerned. Gonzalez is always underappreciated, but I would take him any year. I’d also reach for Freddie Freeman who had a down year in 2014, but his run production, RBI totals and average are consistent enough that 20 home runs is enough.
Players you will avoid drafting
Tommy: Posey, Lucroy and Frazier are all ranked on this list, but if you use them at 1B, you are not playing the game the right way and you may need to reevaluate your approach. Joe Mauer is another player I will not own. He simply does not have enough power to play as a CI option.
Kevin: Freddie Freeman hasn’t shown big power yet. Though he’s still valuable, I want 30 HR potential. I also don’t trust guys who miss entire seasons, so Prince Fielder isn’t worth the risk in redraft leagues if he’s your primary 1B.
Will: Chris Davis – Crush is too high risk/ high reward for my liking, especially at such a prime fantasy position. Also I think Todd Frazier is wildly overrated and headed for a regression that I want no part of, thank you very much.
Ron: I am likely to avoid Prince Fielder as players coming off major surgery never appeal to me. Finally, if I have a top five overall pick, Miguel Cabrera will not make it onto my roster. His ankle surgery revealed more damage than anyone thought going in and he could see a fall off ala Albert Pujols sooner than later.
Jim: Chris Davis. He could bounce back, but the strikeouts and decline resembles more of Mark Reynolds than it does Adam Dunn. I can’t condemn anyone for taking the chance on him, but he won’t be on my team. Add Justin Morneau to the list. He has hit .267 or lower since 2011 so I don’t expect anything close to .300, and 17 home runs with 60 runs isn’t enough without that .300. Finally we have Victor Martinez who had a career year in the power department after hitting only 14 in 600 at bats in 2013. He will go off the board way earlier than he should, and I am not paying a premium for his 2014 totals. Finally Brandon Belt – Fool me once – shame on me.
Average Joe, the players that you would wait on and settle for.
Tommy: Don’t let Brandon Moss fall too far, he could see a power boost with the move to Cleveland. Adam LaRoche is another guy who always gets overlooked, but he was the 11th most valuable 1B in 2014 and has now moved to a great hitters park. He could again make a nice mid to late round value.
Kevin: Someone like Matt Adams is capable of producing as a top-10 first baseman if everything goes well, but he should cost less than most comparable 1B. I will also consider those players with lower BA but big power, like Mark Trumbo, Brandon Moss, and Lucas Duda.
Will: Joey Votto – If Votto’s legs are back and he is driving the ball like Joey Votto of old, well, lookout my friends! Admittedly I have always had a soft spot for Votto, but I still think he has another season chocked full of fantasy goodness left in him and he should be on the board for a while.
Ron: Adam LaRoche is old and boring but has been plopped into the middle of an up and coming lineup on Chicago’s South Side. He should be preserved by spending a decent amount of time in the DH role and should have plenty of RBI opportunity with Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Jose Abreu lined up ahead of him for the White Sox. LaRoche will make for a fine play as your corner infielder.
Jim: Joey Votto & Prince Fielder – Both men were injured last year so many are down on them. Many overlook the fact that they were both former staples in the top five for first base and they will both be 31 so there still should be something left. If for some reason their names still garner a high pick and they’re scooped up early, I’d settle for Matt Adams. He had a decent rookie season, can hit for average, should deliver around 20 homers and we should see an uptick in runs and RBIs. He has issues against lefties, but so do almost all rookies when they come up.
Late round picks that could make an impact
Tommy: Kennys Vargas is a young power hitter likely to bat somewhere near the middle of the Twins lineup. He has obvious flaws, but could be a cheap source of 25 HR power. Jim is urging you not to reach for Steve Pearce, but he is good enough to hit .270 with 15 to 20 HRs and decent counting stats. He is another value if he falls far enough.
Kevin: Adam Lind was in a platoon last year, but he figures to get more AB this year, and he has enough of a bat to be a good value. Also, Adam LaRoche is “old” enough that many managers will knock him down in the standings, but he can still produce.
Will: Jon Singleton – Singleton is still developing and fell just outside my top 30 at the first base position, but the kid can bop, so could be a late round 25 homer guy. Then there is Brandon Moss who will go in the 14th round or later, and while there are some questions marks here, much like Singleton, B-Moss can provide some late round pop.
Ron: I am sticking with Brandon Belt. His power is on the upswing and it feels like he is about to put it all together finally. Concussion issues derailed a large portion of his 2014 season but that issue seems to be behind him now. I cannot find any fault in going with a Colorado hitter later in a draft so Justin Morneau deserves a nod in his contract year as well.
Jim: Ryan Howard – I know, the average this year was (expletive deleted), but he still hit 23 home runs and knocked in 95. You can find better for a starting first baseman, but for a corner infielder or utility player Howard might not be a bad choice if he can bring that average up a few points; .250 isn’t out of the question. He did everything Brandon Moss did in 2014 and most of you loved Moss so cut Howard some slack. Honorable mentions to Allen Craig who had a Horrid season but was a .300 hitter the previous 3 year. If the average comes back another 90+ RBI season could be had.
Defend Your Rankings
Players ranked higher or lower than the rest of the group that need some explaining.
Tommy: Joey Votto – The latest reports say that Votto is expected to be 100% full go for the start of spring training. His 2014 season was ruined by a quad injury that caused him to miss more than half the season and play poorly when on the field. If Votto is healthy, he is one of the best hitters in baseball. Since reports say that he is, I think he makes an outstanding value pick where most are ranking him. Sign me up for .300 with 20 HRs and plenty of run production in the 4th or 5th round.
Kevin: Eric Hosmer – In the second half, Hosmer, regained his line drive stroke (22%), which matches his 2013 line when he hit .300. Also, though his ground ball rate is still higher than I’d like, he posted a career high FB%, and his second half HR/FB bounced back to 2013 levels as well. Average is getting a bit harder to find nowadays, and he still has 20 HR potential. He’s a poor man’s Freeman who will cost a lot less in 2015.
Will: Chris Carter – First base is always a deep position and outside the top 11, a lot of things can happen. In fantasy baseball, home runs are gold, and at the first base position, Carter is one of, I’d say, four guys who could conceivably sock 40 homers. Add that to the 2014 OBPs for the players most likely to hit in front of him: .377, .375, .336. That’s a lot of ducks on the pond for the big fella, therefore I foresee a very productive 2015 from Carter.
Ron: For all the reasons I mentioned in my Draft This, Not That write up earlier in the week, Freddie Freeman is overrated. That surrounding lineup in Atlanta keeps getting worse and worse with every bat they ship out of town. It was not that strong to begin with and now I want all my pitchers throwing against the Braves lineup in 2015. Do not pay the premium on youth when that youth is surrounded by crap.
Jim: Victor Martinez – While Martinez had a great season, I look at his 2 previous ones where he hit 12 & 14 homers with run totals in the 60’s and 70’s. You take away the power and runs and you’re left with a .300 average with 90 RBIs. Isn’t that what people saw in Allen Craig coming into the 2014 season? You can do much better at first than that. I ranked Ryan Zimmerman where I did for 1 simple reason. He is moving to first base which takes half the stress off of his shoulder. Over the past two seasons he has had at least 25 homers, 79 RBIs and 84 runs scored, plus he hasn’t batted below .275 since his rookie season. You take away the injury risk and he’s the same guy that was a top 5 at 3rd base for years. Don’t sleep on Zim.
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose will be compiling rankings for the 2015 season as well as prospect rankings and the best baseball links available this off-season.