The First Base Plan: Two Is Better Than One

There is nothing better than playoff baseball, am I right? So much excitement, so much drama, so many hot takes on bat flipping and interpretations of rules. Well, I enjoy the excitement and the drama. I don’t love the hot takes, but there are so many of them that one can’t help but join in.

Here is my brief hot take on the interpretations of rules: MLB, please don’t make reactionary changes to the rulebook based solely on high-profile plays in the postseason. Look at the body of evidence and see if changes are really necessary. So we may want to do something about unprotected middle infielders, but we don’t need to hand out questionable suspensions in a haphazard fashion. The Russell Martin play feels like a “part of the game” that may introduce unintended consequences if we mess about with the rulebook. Now can we get going on robot umps?

As far as bat flips, I mean, I would never do it myself. Mainly because I’ve never hit a ball over an outfielder’s head, much less over a fence, even in a pick up game. If I had the power of Joey Bats, I would probably give it a nice flip too.

During the playoffs the press and the fans scrutinize every managerial move, every scenario: the way the Mets use Matt Harvey, Jeff Bannister’s bullpen choices, whether Carl Crawford should be in the lineup (Mattingly stuck with him so long it’s as if he is playing fantasy baseball during Crawford’s prime, right?). All of these things seem worthy of endless comment. Though the Internet and social media have added more voices to the conversation, this kind of intense attention to decisions come playoff time has gone on for a while.

Think about the 1996 Yankees. This is what I need to do to smile about baseball these days. When that team went into the World Series, they faced an interesting situation that the New York Media made a lot of hay with. They had a first baseman, Tino Martinez, who had done a pretty good job replacing Mattingly over the course of the year. They also acquired Cecil Fielder mid-season, and he had played well. Manager Joe Torre had to choose who was going to be in his lineup. Fielder played; Tino sat; the Yankees won, and I celebrated.

What does this have to do with your 2016 dynasty league? It’s a reminder that in reality, the Yankees had to make a choice of whom to play. In fantasy, with the CI spot (that more leagues are using now), you can play Paul Goldschmidt and Edwin Encarnacion. And my feeling is, since you can, why the hell wouldn’t you?

When I look at the rankings, there are about 12-15 players that I’d feel good having on my team as my starting first basemen. That works out perfectly as one per team in most leagues. Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Jose Abreu are the cream of the crop. You can feel set at the position for the future. After that I think we have two groups to consider: There are players in their 20s like Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman who have been somewhat inconsistent but whose best days are presumably ahead. Then there are players like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez who are in their early 30s but coming off of productive years.

Now, this being a dynasty column, you might feel set up for some standard stuff: See if you can move a guy like Votto or Gonzalez for a guy like Hosmer or Freeman because their value is similar so you can try to get younger. Well I’m not going to tell you to do that. That advice is a little tired and not too insightful. Writing off these guys that have been at or near the top of the position when they hit their thirties has proven to be foolish. You might have thought Albert Pujols was finished after his bout with plantar fasciitis, but if you held on you’ve been rewarded with two strong power years with the possibility for more. In 2014 it seemed Votto was slipping, but he came back strong in 2015. I suspect I’ll be writing something similar about Miguel Cabrera next year.

Instead, I’m going to tell you that I would target any one of the top 12 or so first basemen, and if you have one I’d try to add one more. I feel like if you trade similarly ranked players at other positions (say Brian Dozier or Jason Heyward) you are going to be getting a degree of certainty from the first baseman you acquire over the player you trade away.

Another reason to double down on first base: there is a serious drop-off at the position once you get past the Prince Fielder range. Players like Mitch Moreland and Lucas Duda are decent options on the surface, but I don’t know that they have the potential to help you as much as you’d hope. Instead they will help in two categories in a journeyman-type way. OK for a corner infielder, but why settle for that? And as far as prospects go, players like Greg Bird and Travis Shaw provided a nice boost this year, but their ceilings are not high enough for me. Power is plentiful at this position, always has been. Players like Justin Bour, Pedro Alvarez, and, yes, even Ryan Howard provided over 20 home runs. But don’t let that lure you into complacency. And please don’t go out of your way to acquire them.

You want the marquee production that a top first baseman provides. After that you may be tempted to slot in a replacement level player in your corner slot. I think if you do that you could find yourself falling to the back of the pack. Another proven top first baseman will give you a boost. Additionally, that extra first baseman will act as an insurance policy should your primary corner man go down with an injury.  Having a big bat to move up from your corner spot ensures you have at least one potent bat as opposed to fielding a first and corner spot of Mitch Moreland and say, Ryan Howard off waivers. As we move into other positions, you will find depth, value, and versatility there that is missing from the deep end of the first base talent pool.


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Michael Zakhar

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Michael lives in New Jersey with his beautiful wife Virginia and his adorable son Johnny. We enjoy going to see the Lakewood BlueClaws, who play 20 minutes from home. In addition to baseball, Mike loves reading, music and professional wrestling.