There’s a lot of power to like at the first base position this year in fantasy baseball, and there’s plenty of value to be had late in your drafts. Here are my top sleepers for the first base position in 2021.
Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
NFBC ADP: 189.40 (1B22)
2021 Projection: .271 AVG, 32 HR, 7 SB, 86 R, 87 RBI
Walker has quietly been one of the better fantasy options at first base over the past two seasons as he has slashed .262/.344/.471 with 36 home runs and nine stolen bases. He has tons of raw power, and his peripherals are actually very similar to Luke Voit’s, who is currently going off the board as the seventh first baseman and 127 picks earlier.
STAT) C. Walker/L. Voit (Career #'s)— Joe Gentile (@JoeGentileFT) January 11, 2021
I see a lot of similarities between the two with Voit having the better home park and Walker having more SB potential.
With a tremendous amount of raw power, Walker has the ability to be a 35-homer threat this season. His ability to drive the ball with power should help his BABIP, which should help his batting average stay above .260.
While Walker’s bat alone should make him a profitable pick at his current ADP, his ability to steal a couple of bags really helps push him up into the next tier at the position. In a 15-team NFBC league, each hitter in the starting lineup is only projected for an average of 8.09 stolen bases per player, so Walker is currently projected just below the league average based on my projections. That becomes even more valuable when you factor in the average starting first baseman is only projected for 2.54 stolen bases. Getting Walker late in your draft will help you focus on building a more balanced team, and not have to pay up for steals as long as you follow this method throughout the draft.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
NFBC ADP: 276.0
2021 Projection: .286 AVG, 29 HR, 3 SB, 80 R, 92 RBI
Gurriel is coming off an awful 2020 season in which he slashed .232/.274/.384 with six home runs and zero stolen bases, but there is still a lot of room for optimism in 2021. Last season, Gurriel’s wRC+ dropped an astronomical 53 total points from the season prior, but his exit velocities, barrel rate, contact rate, and chase rate were still all around his career averages. This could mean that his 2020 may have just been a fluke. With him being on the wrong side of 30, and a decrease in efficiency against breaking balls, there are still some warning signs that his lack of production wasn’t all just bad luck. With his current ADP, however, I may be willing to buy into a bounce-back from the 36-year-old first baseman in 2021.
Nate Lowe, Texas Rangers
NFBC ADP: 345.7
2021 Projection: .274 AVG, 30 HR, 1 SB, 84 R, 82 RBI
With the Rangers’ acquisition of Lowe this offseason, it finally looks like the 25-year-old first baseman will finally have a clear path to playing time this season. This has made Lowe one of the top sleeper picks among the fantasy community, and there’s a lot to be excited about here. With a tremendous amount of raw power and an ability to barrel the ball, there is the potential for a high BABIP and 30 home runs. The question surrounding Lowe is his contact ability.
Over his 245 plate appearances as a major leaguer, Lowe sports a 31.8% strikeout rate, which is actually worse than Aaron Judge’s career mark. Luckily, there is some hope for the Rangers’ first baseman as his 75.8% contact rate and minor league contact numbers would suggest a strikeout rate in the mid-twenties. If he can bring that strikeout rate down in 2021, Lowe could finish in the top 15 at the position.
Evan White, Seattle Mariners
NFBC ADP: 386.1
2021 Projection: .255 AVG, 29 HR, 4 SB, 78 R, 77 RBI
After signing a multi-year deal last offseason, White struggled over his first 202 plate appearances as he slashed .176/.252/.346 with a 41.6% strikeout rate. Although his rookie campaign was a disappointment, there is still a lot of room for optimism. With an ability to put the ball in the air and 52.5% hard hit rate, there is legitimate 30+ home run ability here.
The one question surrounding White is his contact ability. Coming up through the minor leagues, his highest seasonal strikeout rate was 23.0% in 2019 when he was at Double-A. There were some warning signs, however, as that strikeout rate also came with a 12.4% swinging strike rate. He did struggle against all pitch types last season, but if he can make some adjustments this offseason, he could post a mid-twenties strikeout rate. If that’s the case, White should be an absolute steal at his current ADP.