First Base, First?

Draft day is about finding value, wherever it may be. Hiding in plain sight, in a final round sleeper, in the bounce back candidate, etc. I think one of the most effective strategies in drafts, whether auction or snake formats, is to zig when others zag. Sometimes that requires reexamining the fantasy baseball draft adages the industry has adhered to in the past.

When it comes to First Base in 2019, it’s just not very deep. In year’s past, the first few rounds of the draft were reserved for the young phenom at shortstop or the outfielder who will push 30/30. I think there is something to be said for shifting that view this year. Traditionally weak positions in fantasy, such as second and shortstop, are arguably the deepest areas to find value. Ten years ago, you were content to wait on first base almost in the same way you wait on a Quarterback in Fantasy Football. I think those days are over.

Now, before the alarm bells sound too loudly, as with any other strategy on draft day; price points are everything. Upon closer examination of First Base rankings, I implore you to think of this article as “Tie goes to first base”. If you have similar valuations, auction dollars especially, for a middle infielder versus a first basemen, this might be the first time in recent memory where I’d recommend locking down the First Base stud and waiting for the depth at the other positions to show itself. Let’s look at the state of the position.

The chart below show the 2018 First Base Rankings compiled from Fantasy Assembly contributors.

Rank Player Team Jim Josh Kevin Mike S Kenny Dan Mike L
1 Paul Goldschmidt Diamondbacks 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2 Anthony Rizzo Cubs 2 2 3 2 2 2 3
3 Joey Votto Reds 3 3 2 3 3 3 2
4 Freddie Freeman Braves 4 4 6 4 6 4 4
5 Jose Abreu White Sox 5 5 5 8 4 5 5
6 Cody Bellinger Dodgers 7 7 4 5 7 7 6
7 Edwin Encarnacion Indians 6 6 7 6 5 8 8
8 Eric Hosmer Royals 9 8 9 12 8 9 7
9 Miguel Cabrera Tigers 8 9 12 9 10 10 10
10 Wil Myers Padres 10 10 8 13 16 6 11
11 Rhys Hoskins Phillies 17 16 14 7 17 11 9
12 Matt Carpenter Cardinals 22 11 10 10 14 12 18

Certainly preferences will be a bit different this year, but there aren’t any groundbreaking newcomers to the position outside of Peter Alonso’s potential. So, if this is generally what we’re working with this year, you need to be prepared for where the drop-off point is.

Based on fantasy points scored in 2018, only 3 of the top 20 point scorers among hitters were First Basemen. Keep in mind, points is also the better format for Rizzo, Carpenter, Hoskins, Santana, and Votto. The table below outlines the relative totals of each position’s representatives in points formats as a barometer for relative positional value.

Rank 1B 2B SS 3B OF
1-5 (avg pts)
(Top 12 avg) 544.08
6th 445 437 531 485 (18th) 445
12th 415 377 427 434 (36th) 387

You are reading that correctly; your 6th ranked 2B and 1B were essentially the same player last year. For 2019, that’s equating Daniel Murphy with Votto. Give me Murphy and the 1-2 round discount. Second base, however, is the most favorable comparison to First Base, as the chart show. The relative value of other positions was significantly deeper last year, and I do not see much evidence of this trend reversing for 2019.

These numbers are meaningful, but even more so when considering ADP. We don’t have a voluminous set thus far in 2019, but NFBC drafts have been picking up of late. Here is the breakdown of the top 40 thus far

First Base Second Base Shortstop Third Base Outfield Starting Pitcher
4 3 4 4 12 13

Considering the 4th First Basemen in ADP is Hoskins at 40, whose value is best in points, OBP, and or dynasty leagues, it seems very apparent that this should be a year where you strongly consider targeting Freeman or Goldschmidt in the middle of Round 2 or Rizzo in the middle of Round 3.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you are unable to snag one of the trusted top 3, and you plan to wait, wait a really long time. I know Bellinger and Hoskins have upside and I’m fine with Hoskins in late Round 4 over guys like Carrasco and Rendon for example, but taking a first basemen in the tier of Olson, Muncy, Encarnacion, Cabrera, Votto, etc.., inside or just outside the top 100 seems unnecessary. They may have name value, but even at that price, they carry more risk than you might think.

My Advice:

Be aware of the way your league thinks. The old school fantasy managers, especially the ones that use the industry’s draft rankings exclusively, might be susceptible to overvaluing positional scarcity in the wrong areas. First Base is thin in the middle and outpaces only Catcher and Second Base in overall depth. Therefore, if you are choosing between Freeman and Stanton or Goldy and Harper for example, I think the tie goes to first base in 2019.

Furthermore, if you have issues with Rizzo’s back or Bellinger’s K rate, that’s fine. But, don’t settle with an aging First Basemen when you would’ve used that 8th or 9th round pick on a reliable closer or a steals source. Pay attention to your league’s position eligibility. Maybe you combine Murphy and Cano (could both be 1B and 2B eligible) with middle round picks. Points league? Draft Carpenter or Profar, even a buyback on Carlos Santana. Figure out who your guy is, and if you don’t get him, don’t be afraid to cover First Base by committee this year. It’s not 2005 anymore, but don’t worry; zig when they zag!


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Colin Dinsmore

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Avid Fantasy Baseball player, Yankees fan, amateur gambler, dog-lover. @AssemblyColin