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First basemen to target in 2021 fantasy baseball

First base sleepers and breakouts.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

We continue First Base Week here at Fake Teams with a look at some draft day targets. First base is a bit of a shallow position this year. There is tons of upside late, but it comes from guys who have little to no track record. Even the top tier at the position has question marks. How will Jose Abreu follow up his MVP season? Can Anthony Rizzo and Matt Olson bounce back? Will Dominic Smith get enough playing time? And will Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally break out? All of these players are still being drafted in the top 100 overall. A bit risky, huh? There are, however, players outside the top 100 worth the risk because of the low investment cost. Let's take a look at who those first basemen are.

Here are some of my favorite targets at first base in 2021.

Josh Bell, Washington Nationals

My Rank: 12
Expert Consensus Rank: 13
NFBC ADP: 172.49

2020 was a dreadful season for Josh Bell. He had, by far, the worst year of his professional career. But let's not act like the 28-year-old is projecting downwards. Let's not forget, in 2019, he hit 37 home runs with 116 RBI and a .936 OPS. If anything, 2020 can be wiped away. Not only was it an abnormal season, but Bell was playing for the Pirates who had nothing to play for. Bell has since been traded to the Nationals. He could see a career resurgence with his new team. He's projected to bat third for the Nationals, between Juan Soto and Kyle Schwarber. That's a huge upgrade over the lineup in Pittsburgh. The Statcast numbers for Bell have remained top tier, even in 2020. Bell was in the top 5% in exit velocity in 2019, and he still put up a top 15% mark in exit velocity during his rough 2020. Expect a bounce-back season from Bell this coming season.

Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals

My Rank: 16
Expert Consensus Rank: 21
NFBC ADP: 287.83

Need another bounce-back candidate? Look no further than points league specialist, Carlos Santana. In 2019, Santana put up a .281/.397/.515 slash line with 34 home runs, 93 RBI, and 110 runs scored. This made him relevant regardless of league format. 2020 was admittedly bad. He posted a career low .199 AVG and .350 SLG. His xStats say he should have been a .253 hitter with a .450 SLG. His xwOBA of .360 was top 40 in the league. Santana should return to form in 2021. Expect his usual 30-homer season with a .250 batting average. And you know he'll draw more walks than strikeouts. That's great value going outside the top 250!

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Angels Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks

My Rank: 17
Expert Consensus Rank: 20
NFBC ADP: 192.88

Christian Walker is a name I wasn't expecting to be writing about this time a year ago. Sure, he had a solid 2019 but it seemed a bit out of nowhere. Walker was never a touted prospect. If anything he was more of a "defensive" specialist. Then 2020 happened. Walker improved on his breakout 2019. He had a higher batting average, maintained his elite hard hit percentage, and lowered his strikeout rate. Speaking of his hard hit percentage, he was in the 94th percentile with a 48.8% rate in 2019 and in the 89th percentile with a 48.5% rate during 2020. The one downward trend for Walker in 2020 was his barrel percentage. He had a barrel rate of 13.1% in 2019 (top 10% in baseball) but it fell to just 6.4% in 2020. If anything, this could be a sign of bad luck for Walker last season. I see untapped upside in Walker's bat and I'm buying in for 2021.

Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels

My Rank: 18
Expert Consensus Rank: 23
NFBC ADP: 193.55

Jared Walsh had a pretty solid 2020. He hit nine homers, drove in 26 runs, and hit near .300 with a .293 batting average. Oh, did I mention it was over the course of just 32 games? Of which he only started 24? His power is legit. Walsh hit 65 home runs in the minors over the past two seasons prior to 2020. Then he put up a 40+ home run pace during the short season. It's obviously a small sample size but even then his xSLG of .527 would have been sixth at the position last year. He's worth at shot at his current ADP.

Nate Lowe, Texas Rangers

My Rank: 23
Expert Consensus Rank: 33
NFBC ADP: 337.22

Here's a fun stat. Nate Lowe hit a ball with an exit velocity of 114.8 MPH last season. That ties him with the 18th highest max EV in baseball—a tie shared with Ronald Acuña Jr. Lowe was traded from the Rays to the Rangers this offseason. That should mean more stable playing time for the former top 100 prospect. He's been a beast in the minors, posting a .568 SLG in 2018 and a .508 SLG in 2019. His ADP will rise over the course of the spring now that he's with a new team, but he's still worth taking a shot on as a corner infielder or bench bat with top 12 first baseman upside.