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2018 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: First Base

Who will be 2018’s Yonder Alonso or Justin Smoak?

Milwaukee Brewers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Welcome to back to First Base Week here at Fake Teams, were we will try to offer you our best input on the position. You can find everything else for this week here. Now let’s get into some first base sleepers for the 2018 season.

Dominic Smith, New York Mets

If you like players who hit the ball hard and keep their fly balls out of the infield, then Smith is your guy. At Triple-A he had an impressive 7.3% infield fly ball rate, but after getting promoted he hit zero infield fly balls. He joined only Rio Ruiz and Freddie Freeman as the only other players with at least 150 plate appearances to have zero infield fly balls while also having a hard contact rate above 30%.

The thing that makes Smith even more enticing are his low strikeout rates throughout the minor leagues. Now he did post a 26.8% strikeout rate in his 183 major league plate appearances, but Steamer projects him to have a strikeout rate of 21.0% in 2018. With his ability to make quality contact, this should allow him to hit for a .260-.270 batting average.

With the acquisitions of Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce it looks like Smith’s playing time in the majors will be at a minimum, but if some of these players start to struggle or suffer injuries he should become an everyday starter for the rebuilding Mets.

Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers

Among batters with at least 300 plate appearances, Aguilar ranked fifth in hard contact. The four batters ahead of him were J.D. Martinez, Aaron Judge, Alex Avila and Joey Gallo. This amount of power in Miller Park could lead to him averaging a home run every 20th plate appearance.

Not only could Aguilar hit for power, but there is a good chance he also puts up a decent batting average. With a 30.2% strikeout rate that sounds crazy, but in the past three seasons he has yet to have a line drive rate under 20%. It seems like he made some changes in 2015 in order to hit more line drives, but by doing so he started to hit less fly balls. This lack of fly balls could hurt his overall home run total but is a necessity for Aguilar to put up a batting average that doesn’t resemble something like Joey Gallo’s.

With a great hard contact rate, a hitter friendly park and a decent line drive rate, Aguilar is a deep sleeper to keep an eye on in case Eric Thames goes down with an injury.

Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

Martinez’s biggest concern going into 2018 is his how many plate appearances he will accumulate. At the end of 2017, the Cardinals had Martinez playing a lot of first base while Matt Carpenter was seeing more time at third base. It is also worth noting that in the winter league this year, Martinez spent most of his time at first. This could be foreshadowing a move for Matt Carpenter so that the Cardinals can put this underrated bat in the lineup more often.

On a per game basis, he is one of the safest picks to contribute for your fantasy team. With a 26.6% line drive rate, 37.2% hard contact rate and a 8.0% swinging strike rate in 2017, he is a serious threat to have a batting average in the .300’s.

Not only can Martinez hit for a good batting average, but he can also hit for power. Last season he hit 41.9% of his batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Among batters with at least 100 batted ball events, 41.9% was good enough for 38th on the Statcast’s leaderboard. This ranked him right behind players like Tommy Pham and George Springer. This ability to make hard contact could make Martinez a 20-25 home run threat in 2018.

Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies

McMahon absolutely raked in the minors last year hitting .326/.390/.536 at Double-A and then hitting a more impressive .374/.411/.612 at Triple-A. A lot this success is not surprising when you look at his impressive line drive rates, low infield fly ball rates and strikeout rates . This ability to make to make a consistent amount of quality contact should help him become an asset in batting average for fantasy teams this season.

McMahon did hit 20 home runs in the minors last year, but I wouldn’t expect much more than that. For a comparison, his ceiling will most likely be a D.J. LeMahieu type player except with 20 home run potential.

With the Rockies moving Ian Desmond back to the outfield, it seems like the Rockies are going to be giving McMahon the majority of starts at first. The Rockies have had a lot of breakout stars in recent years, and McMahon may just join the that group in 2018.

Poll

Which first baseman do you think will have the best season?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Dominic Smith, New York Mets
    (23 votes)
  • 8%
    Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers
    (35 votes)
  • 39%
    Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
    (155 votes)
  • 46%
    Ryan McMahon, Colorado Rockies
    (184 votes)
397 votes total Vote Now