Why do I feel like my first base rankings are deep and shallow at the same time? I mean there are a ton of good power bats to choose from, but I don’t really consider any of them elite outside of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Freddie Freeman, and even Vladdy carries some risk. But then again, I’ve always been a ‘glass is half empty’ kind of guy. I guess it was growing up as a Cubs fan that jaded me.
Draft Strategy at First Base
I’ve already hinted at my love/hate relationship with the first base position. I don’t deny there’s a deep supply of power here and you can get solid bats even in the lower end of my first base rankings. Other than Vladimir Guerrero, though, I don’t see any of the other options as truly elite.
Even Freddie Freeman has only topped 100 RBIs twice in his career and he’s generally a 30-HR type who has only challenged 40 homers in one season. I love Freddie Freeman, but I I see him as a very safe and very good bat as opposed to truly elite. A lot of people disagree with me and I get it, but I certainly don’t reach before his current NFBC ADP of 19.97.
So my strategy here is pretty basic. If I can get Vlad Jr. at No. 7 or 8 in the first round I might do that (probably won’t happen), but in most cases, I’m gonna try and get a multi-category hitter who offers some speed in the first round. I’d much rather target power bats like Pete Alonso or Jose Abreu in the fifth round and then grab another power bat like Kyle Schwarber or Rhys Hoskins later on.
First Base Sleepers
I’m not sure there’s a traditional sleeper at first base. Instead, it’s all about several players I believe have the potential to greatly out-produce their draft cost, and much of that has to do with health. There are four hitters I think fit this mold and will likely be higher on my list than most other first base rankings. Rhys Hoskins and Brandon Belt just need health. Hoskins’ NFBC ADP is 129 and Belt is going off the board as the 24th first baseman at 220.
Both have had health issues, yet still put up good power numbers when they played. Extrapolate Hoskins’ 2021 numbers out to 650 plate appearances and you get 40 HRs and 104 RBIs. Belt comes in with 49 HRs and 101 RBIs. Can we count on those rates? Can we count on their health? Maybe not, but there is definitely the potential for huge profits.
Schwarber is going in the same neighborhood as Hoskins. That’s a fair ADP as we look at things now. BUT, rumors have it that Colorado is very interested in his services. You think that this air might help his average a bit? You know it. If your league is drafting right now I take him at that ADP and hope for the Coors effect. You’re in solid shape no matter where he signs, but if he ends up in Colorado you’re golden. FYI, Schwarber played 10 games at first base last year, so he may or may not be eligible in your league.
I haven’t even got to my favorite first base sleeper yet. Why is nobody talking about Bobby Dalbec? He’s being drafted right before Belt and I see plenty of reason for optimism. Why? Did you check out his second-half stats? Yeah, I know, when looking at the macro-level second-half stats aren’t any more predictive than any other time period. But, can’t we zero in on a specific hitter and see if there’s a reason to buy into a strong second half? I think we can.
In 58 games after the break, Dalbec hit .269 with 15 HRs and 42 RBIs in 195 PAs. He cut down on the strikeout rate (still wasn’t pretty) and his average wasn’t boosted by a fluky BABIP (.323 vs. .312 in first half). Right now Dalbec has first base all to himself and will have runners on base more than just about any hitter in baseball. Strikeouts will still limit his average, but I think 30+ HRs and 90+ RBIs is almost a given. Sign me up.
First Base Busts
I’m not sure I see one player I can really classify as a bust, but I can tell you that Vlad Jr. will not likely be on any of my rosters. He obviously had an incredible 2021 season and has the pedigree, but I still remember 2019 and 2020 when he was quite the disappointment. He certainly made some changes and I’m not expecting him to fall back to those levels, but I always question a breakout year a bit, until a player proves they can repeat similar production.
Did he train as hard this offseason? What if his groundball rate creeps back up. Again, it’s hard to knock him as a hitter and I’m by no means down on him. He’s still sitting comfortably atop my first base rankings. The problem is that if you want him, you have to grab him in the top seven or eight picks at the latest. I also feel like I have to get some type of speed in the first round or else I’ll be chasing SBs the rest of the draft.
Don’t drop comments about how I’m hatin’ on the guy. I expect another great year from him. He just doesn’t fit what I think you have to do in the first round.
2022 First Base Rankings
The following rankings are based on a 15-team 5×5 mixed league format. There are players with first base eligibility that I don’t include here (Lemahieu, Cronenworth) because I’ll be ranking them at the position you are most likely to slot them at on draft day. After you digest my first base rankings, make sure to check out my 2022 Catcher Rankings.
|1||1||Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - TOR|
|2||1||Freddie Freeman - FA|
|3||2||Pete Alonso - NYM|
|4||2||Matt Olson - OAK|
|5||2||Jose Abreu - CWS|
|6||2||Paul Goldschmidt - STL|
|7||3||Jared Walsh - LAA|
|8||3||Joey Votto - CIN|
|9||3||Kyle Schwarber - FA|
|10||3||Josh Bell - WSH|
|11||3||Ryan Mountcastle - BAL|
|12||3||Rhys Hoskins - PHI|
|13||3||Max Muncy - LAD|
|14||4||Bobby Dalbec - BOS|
|15||4||C.J. Cron - COL|
|16||4||Brandon Belt - SF|
|17||4||Miguel Sano - MIN|
|18||4||Trey Mancini - BAL|
|19||4||Spencer Torkelson - DET|
|20||4||Yuli Gurriel - HOU|
|21||4||Jesus Aguilar - MIA|
|22||5||Anthony Rizzo - FA|
|23||5||Ty France - SEA|
|24||5||Frank Schwindel - CHC|
|25||5||Rowdy Tellez - MIL|
|26||5||Nathaniel Lowe - TEX|
|27||5||Christian Walker - ARI|
|28||6||Miguel Cabrera - DET|
|29||6||Eric Hosmer - SD|
|30||6||Keston Hiura - MIL|