I’m dubbing first base the power position, because when you look at the single seasons with the most home runs and highest ISO (among qualified batters) you mostly see outfielders and first basemen. Let’s see if the position can live up to it’s new nickname this year.
Here are five BOLD predictions for first base in 2021 fantasy baseball.
1. Pete Alonso hits 40 home runs and over 110 RBI
Sophomore slump, home run derby hangover, whatever you want to call it, I’m convinced Pete was hit hard by it last year as he saw his 54 HR, 120 RBI rookie year come crashing down. Alonso’s batting average dropped from .260 to .231, his homer total dropped to 16, his barrel rate dropped from 14.6% to 12.8%, and his hard hit rate went from 42% to 31.8%. To some degree pitchers figured out his struggles with breaking pitches (where he has never been above a .210 BA) and to some degree he struggled considerably vs. fastballs year over year. I think Alonso comes in with additional weapons in 2021 and produces a 2019-esque figure.
2. Dominic Smith will be outside the top 30 this year
I am all in on one Mets player and out on the other. There is obviously a scenario where Smith takes the full-time gig, DH is removed and Alonso was a one-year wonder. But I’m inclined to think the opposite. Smith can play left field while Alonso can pretty much only play first base, but I think Alonso’s bat is too enticing to pass up. Smith also has a more storied injury history than Alonso, and I’m inclined to see him spend more time on the IL. One final note – Dominic Smith’s BABIP in 2020 was .368, BY FAR the highest of his career.
3. Max Muncy hits over 35 homers and bats above .265 for the first time in his career
I was big on Max Muncy last year and got burnt, so I’m doing the logical thing and doubling down. For starters, Max’s BABIP was .203, which is a decrease of 1/3 from the previous two years. Second, he is very patient at the plate (top 10% in walk rate three years running) and his biggest issue was he missed the sweet spot last year (down almost 30% from previous seasons). Like a bunch of other guys, fastballs became a slow point as he wasn’t getting the historic success off those that he is used to. I’m also wondering if the fractured finger from summer camp lingered throughout most of the year.
4. Ryan Mountcastle is top 10 among first basemen in home runs AND stolen bases
While he hit five home runs across 35 games last year, he didn’t steal any bases. At Triple-A he stole a few bases, and I think he can nab four steals, which should be enough to land him among the top 10. He has age on his side, being 24 years old when this season begins—and Baltimore has no reason to hold him back. I think Austin Hays and Mountcastle will have some ups and downs, but will have opportunities aplenty to do both.
Curve sprints today with @Orioles Ryan Mountcastle & @Rangers @carlchester9 Building acceleration and top speed today! This was after bounding and some fly-in sprints. #teamoptc #builtbyoptc pic.twitter.com/4nKYlnsjdn— Optimal Performance Training Center (@OPTCFLA) January 16, 2021
5. Christian Walker has over 100 runs this year for the first time in his career
Christian has (smartly) decided to zig while the rest of the league is zagging. Over the last three seasons, his batting average has gone from .163 to .259 to .271, while his ISO went from .224 to .217 to .188 last year. Doing this has put him on base more, he’s striking out less (down from 41.5% in 2018 to 20.6% last year) and hitting the ball harder, but lowering his launch angle such that he’s moved away from chasing home runs to getting on base. That’s step one. Step two will be getting Carson Kelly, Daulton Varsho, Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta to drive him home once he gets there.
What’s your boldest first base prediction for fantasy baseball this year? Drop it in the comments!