Fantasy Baseball

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview: Grab ’em Early


Welcome back to baseball! It’s been a long offseason and I can’t wait to get back to the ballpark.

We’re not even halfway through February and the boys at Fantasy Six Pack are dishing out the advice to help you dominate your league. If you haven’t already, check out the first installment of our position preview series. The Catcher preview can be found here. In the second installment, I will be examining what’s in store at First Base.

Outside of pitching, first base was historically the position where owners could sit and wait for solid production. The position seemed to produce an endless amount of 20 HR, 75+ RBI players. This season is different, as most late round options come with serious question marks in one or more facets of the game.

For the first time in years, first base may not be the deepest position in Fantasy.

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

Should I be worried about Paul Goldschmidt’s down year?

Absolutely not. Goldschmidt had a “down year” in the eyes of any Fantasy owners, but at the end of the day he still finished with 24 HR, 95 RBI and 32 stolen bases. His five category production provides an incredible floor and upside to be the top overall player in Fantasy. His power shortage was a product of a career high infield fly-ball rate (14.3%), fewer fly balls and a spike in ground balls. The IFFB% was more than double Goldschmidt’s previous career high. Similarly, his GB% and FB% were a career high and low respectively. None of these metrics show any multi-year trends and are likely a one year aberration. In fact, the return of a healthy A.J. Pollock and David Peralta should provide a boost to Goldy’s counting stats.

While it’s unlikely that he steals 32 bases again, Goldschmidt is almost a lock for 20 or more steals, which still outpaces the rest of the position by a large margin. Expect Goldschmidt’s final line to look something like this: .300/105/30/110/23. He also receives a boost in OBP leagues as he’ll find himself above .400 for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Goldy is one of the safest picks in 2017 and should not be allowed to fall outside the top five.

Is Eric Thames going to be a baseball God in his second MLB stint?

By this point in the offseason, most owners have probably heard some rumblings of the Eric Thames hype train. For owners out of the loop, you may be wondering why a player whose last MLB season culminated in 12 home runs in 96 games, is garnering so much attention. Over the last three years, Thames has played for the NC Dinos of the Korean baseball league, averaging over 40 home runs per season, while slashing a ridiculous .348/.450/.720. Just for good measure, Thames threw in 40 steals in 2015, to go along with his 47 home runs.

As we’ve seen (most recently with Byung Ho Park), being a star power hitter in Korea doesn’t necessarily translate to production in the MLB. However, Thames’ Streamer projections paint a very optimistic picture of the year to come. Projecting 30 home runs and a .272/.313/.515 slash line. His projected .243 ISO, sits at seventh in the league, ahead of MVP candidates Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant. All projections on Thames believe that the power he displayed in Korea will carry over. What remains to be seen is how his plate discipline has improved. Streamer has projected Thames for a near 10% walk rate, almost double the rate he carried in 2012.

With a FantasyPros ADP of 239.5, Thames draft spot leaves a lot of room for profit. At the moment hes being drafted behind prospects Nick Senzel and Tyler O’Neil, as well as free agent Matt Wieters. He will start the season as the Brewers opening day 1B and could be the steal of the season if he comes close to his preseason projections.

Can I wait to draft my starting 1B and still end up with a solid starter?

I remember the days when you could wait eons to draft your first baseman and still end up with a 20 HR contributor. 2017 will be the first season where I feel the depth at first is somewhat questionable. Obviously you have your elite options in the early rounds with Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Cabrera etc. Moving into the middle tier, most options have serious questions surrounding their production.

If you’re drafting Wil Myers, you’re praying that he plays a full season for just the second time in his career. Hitting in the middle of the awful Padres lineup, he will also need to steal another 20-plus bases to maintain his value amidst lower counting stats. If you draft Chris Davis, the hope is that he has another one of his “on” years. He’ll provide around 35 home runs, but represents on of the biggest drags on average in the league. Bonus (negative) points for those in points leagues that counts strikeouts.

In the next tier, you have Eric Hosmer, who sold out his ratios to hit for more power in 2016. I’m thinking 25 HR is his ceiling this season and he’s being over-drafted a tad. In this tier, you have other guys with lower HR ceilings like Brandon Belt and Adrian Gonzalez.

I’ll try not to get into an ADP analysis here so I’ll come to a conclusion. Yes, you can still wait to draft your 1B and end up with a decent starter but be aware that the positional depth thins out very quickly after the top five options are off the board.

Player(s) on the Rise

Tommy Joseph, Philadelphia Phillies

Joseph was a very solid player in his rookie season. In 314 plate appearances, he hit 21 home runs, and drove in 47 RBI. Just looking at his slash line (.257/.308/.505) you can see that Joseph profiles like an old time slugger. But at this point in the draft (FantasyPros ADP: 271.1) you’re drafting for the upside of a young player who hit at a 30 home run pace in his first season.

There’s room for improvement with Joseph, whose .267 BABIP leaves much to be desired. There should be some improvement there, but don’t expect too much from someone who hits 45% fly balls. Joseph is flying under the radar because he plays for one of the worst teams in the league, but if you need a shot of power late in the draft, don’t let him fly under yours.

Player(s) on the Decline

Chris Carter, New York Yankees

After a 41 HR season in 2016, there’s only room for decline for last season’s NL home run leader. After being non-tendered by the Brewers, Carter was signed by the Yankees to a one year contract. Normally a move to Yankee Stadium would be a huge boost for a slugger’s career. Unfortunately he’ll find himself in a platoon situation between 1B and DH with Matt Holliday, Greg Bird and Tyler Austin.

Carter will likely be limited to games against left handers, putting a ceiling on his overall production. When he does play, he’ll put up his usual power numbers along with the poor average. However, if Carter doesn’t have regular playing time, it would be tough for him to go on his patented power runs to balance out the dry-spells.

Player(s) on the Horizon

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the best prospects in the Pirates’ system, Bell is ready to break out in his first full season. He has excellent plate discipline, as he walked more than he struck out in his first 45 games. Despite hitting a home run in his second big league at-bat, Bell isn’t your prototypical power hitting first baseman. Owners drafting Bell (FantasyPros ADP, 271.3) shouldn’t expect more than 20 home runs, especially when he hits from the right side. His 28.6% fly ball rate needs to improve if Bell is ever going to develop more power.

His skill set makes him an intriguing late round option for owners who are looking for a boost in .AVG, RBI and runs. If he plays a full season he could be a poor man’s Hosmer at a bargain basement price.

Greg Bird, New York Yankees

Bird did not play a single game in 2016 after suffering a labrum tear in his right shoulder. After taking an entire season off, the Yankees will give Bird every chance to prove he’s healthy and win the everyday job at first base. Fantasy owners should be hoping for the same thing, as Bird showed huge potential in his 46 game debut.

Although he carried a 30% K rate, his 10% walk rate helped him maintain a very solid .343 OBP. He also flashed excellent power potential, smashing 11 home runs in his short debut. While he won’t maintain a near 40 HR pace, his left handed power will play well with the short porch at Yankee Stadium. It’s he’s able to come close to his 44.8% hard hit rate from 2015, more than a few of the many, many (51.4%) fly balls he hits will have a chance to find the seats.

While Bird knocks the rust off, Carter may garner a few starts. Health permitting, Bird should win the starting job as the Yankees keep an eye towards the future. His ADP of 293 provides a lot of upside with very little risk.

Player(s) to Avoid

Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

Napoli enjoyed the best season of his career in 2016, setting career highs in HR, RBI and runs scored. Early ADP numbers have him being drafted beyond pick 200. However, having recently signed with the Texans expect his ADP to soar by the time April rolls around. It’s tough to tell exactly where his ADP will settle, but I’m willing to bet we get a bit of a rubber band effect, and he’ll end up being a tad over valued.

Moving to the Rangers means Napoli has another great lineup around him, and now he can call Arlington home once again. I’m not saying he’s going to have a bad season, but I’m not going to pay a premium for his career year and change in scenery. Napoli will still kill his owners’ average (no, he’s not going to hit .320 in Texas again) and won’t see much improvement due to his strikeout rate.

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Napoli will likely regress in all major offensive categories, which won’t be reflected in his ADP. As a result, he’s not someone I’m looking to have on my team.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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