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State of the Position: First Base

A look at how fantasy GMs should attack the position in 2018

MLB: NL Wildcard-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

The Cadillac of fantasy baseball positions, first base is the most fun position to dive into. Most players have the same offensive profile, so comparing players is far more straightforward than say, outfield (where the comparison of a 20 stolen base player to a 30 home run profile is team and league-dependent). First base is more about underlying skill, the offensive situation each player is in, and how quickly a player will develop. This year there is value to be had all over the draft board at this position. Throughout the week our Fake Teams crew will give you the information you need to navigate the position and set yourself up for year-long success.

Statistical Comparison

The following images show how first base production in 2017 stacked up against the other fantasy positions. Position eligibility is determined by FanGraphs leaderboards and only players with greater than 300 PAs are considered.

Runs

Home Runs

Runs Batted In

Stolen Bases

Batting Average

My takeaway from these charts is that the top-end production at first base is still superior to any other position. Note the black line on the top of the light grey box for each position—that represents the 75th percentile and it is highest at first base for every statistic except stolen bases. The Top 25% of production at first base is better than the Top 25% of production for other positions.

I’ll cover this a little more in the draft strategy section, but my interpretation of the charts above is that I need to hop on first basemen early in my drafts. The best players in this position offer elite production for any position, and you need to make sure you are getting one on your roster to capture an advantage.

Projections

The table below ranks the Top 30 first basemen by Steamer projections for 2018 along with their current ADP (per FanGraphs).

Six players are projected to go in the first four rounds before the next few picks become quite risky. Once you are beyond Jose Abreu, the next best options are Rhys Hoskins (who has two polarizing, small sample sizes to his name), an aging Edwin Encarnacion who showed signs of slowing down last year, Eric Hosmer who has never topped 25 home runs, and Wil Myers and his anchor of a batting average.

Draft Strategy

I am targeting first basemen early and often. If I am in the 2-5 range I want Paul Goldschmidt, if I hold a 6-10 spot I’ll go with Freddie Freeman in Round 2. Otherwise, I won’t let Anthony Rizzo, Cody Bellinger, or Jose Abreu slip past Round 4. There is a steep drop after the top six guys, and I feel I need one of those six players to have a chance to compete.

If miss out on the top six, I am hanging way back and hoping to strike gold with Miguel Cabrera, Josh Bell, or Joey Gallo. There is veteran talent coming off a bad year like Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, or Matt Carpenter (who you likely aren’t using at first base). There is also young talent that could pay dividends with a big step forward in Joey Gallo, Josh Bell, Trey Mancini, or Greg Bird.

Many of the mid-round picks are unattractive because I am either paying up for a better than expected 2017 season (Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Justin Smoak) or an obvious flaw in the profile—Wil Myers (average), Ian Desmond/Eric Hosmer (home runs). So go early at first base or hang around and go late.

What’s Next This Week

We have plenty of coverage coming later this week:

Later Today: Consensus Rankings Part 1

Tuesday: Eddy’s Value Picks, Consensus Rankings Part 2

Wednesday: Punk’s First Basemen to Target, Brian’s Tiers Analysis

Thursday: Fake Teams Top 100 Prospects, Ghoji’s Top 10 First Base Prospects, Joe’s First Base Sleepers

Friday: Staff Targets, Staff Avoids, Joe’s Batting Average Projections

Saturday: Heath’s MLB DFS strategy for first base

Sunday: Who knows?!?

And stay tuned for some player profiles. Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter are on tap. Who else would you like to hear about?