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First basemen: The elite, the middle and the bargain

Three first basemen targets for three fantasy tiers.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

First base is the one position you don’t want to skimp on this draft season. As Brian Creagh pointed out in his State of the Position piece, first basemen on average accounted for more home runs, RBIs and runs than every other position. In other words, don’t wait too long to make a pick from this litter.

What follows are three targets depending on how you want to tackle the position and how much you want to spend. I advise you snag someone from the early rounds and then stock up on someone else later on for your utility or corner infield spots.

The Elite

Anthony Rizzo (NFBC ADP: 25)

MLB: NLDS-Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

How does a pairing Giancarlo Stanton with Anthony Rizzo sound? What about Carlos Correa with Rizzo? At his current ADP, Rizzo is a damn good complement to virtually any Round 1 pick. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, he has averaged a .283/.388/.523 slash line to go with 32 HRs, 99 RBIs and 94 runs. The most perplexing thing is by many accounts, he had a better season in 2017 than 2016 and yet his ADP dropped 12 spots. Why? He walked more than he struck out, stole more bases and maintained similar counting stats. Yeah, he only hit 12 home runs in the second half but is that the reason for the drop? He still had a .290/.400/.506 slash. Has he become so consistent that he is just boring now?

Take advantage of Rizzo’s drop. if you are picking in the back half of the first round, count on him being there for you with your second pick to form one hell of a duo to start a draft.

The Middle

Carlos Santana (NFBC ADP: 173)

MLB: ALDS-New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Were you paying attention to Carlos Santana’s second half? It was the one where he went .287/.392/.514 with 13 home runs. In other words, he was Anthony Rizzo for half the season. The big changes were taking pitches the other way. His Oppo% jumped along with his O-Contact%. I won’t get too worked up though, he is after all a career .249 hitter. But he is also a career .365 OBP player and that translates to runs and more plate appearances over the course of a season.

A move to Citizen’s Bank Park is good for his value, though Progressive Field was already pretty friendly for lefties. He might lose a tick or two in counting stats thanks to his new lineup, but at the price of a Round 14 pick in a 12-team league, Santana makes for an excellent addition to your utility or corner infield slot thanks to his consistent production. And for those in OBP leagues, he becomes a borderline Top 10 option so draft accordingly.

The Bargain

Jose Martinez (NFBC ADP: 277)

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Apologies to the guy on Twitter who called me out for listing all NL players in my catcher tier post. I can’t help it if the players I like are all in one league. Jose Martinez was a stud when he was on the field last season. In just 307 plate appearances he slashed .309/.379/.518 with a .210 ISO (14 HR). He not only hit righties well, but he obliterated lefties (1.340 OPS in 59 AB).

The playing time of Martinez might be the closest spring training story I’ll watch. Right now, Roster Resources lists Martinez as the first baseman with Matt Carpenter playing third base and Jedd Gyorko as the platoon partner of Kolten Wong at second. Martinez was able to get plenty of playing time late last season thanks to Gyorko’s injured hamstring. Outside of yet another St. Louis trade or a big injury, a best-case scenario for Martinez could be 500 PA by way of playing five to six times a week while other infielders rotate days off. If that happens, we could be looking at the cheapest 25 home run, 80 RBI, .800 OPS on draft day. For now, he remains a flier with good upside.