2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

by Connor Thomure
2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

The 2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview is here! The first base position this season is heavily toploaded. Seven first basemen are certified as top 50 players in 2024, including Bryce Harper, heading into his first season as a full-time first baseman. Six of these seven first basemen in the top 50 played at least 154 games.

Be sure to check out the rest of the position previews here at Fantasy Six Pack too.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Previews

I recommend drafting a first baseman within the first four rounds because these players are dependable sources of power, run production, and can carry a Fantasy Baseball team. Four of these top first basemen also finished in the top six for stolen bases for the position in 2023. If you don't get one of the top options, get a first baseman as soon as it makes sense. Do not overpay, but be sure to get your guy.

There isn't much depth after the top seven go off the board. The next safest options are Spencer Torkelson, Triston Casas, and Yandy Diaz. Cody Bellinger, Nolan Jones, and Spencer Steer are also great options with first-base eligibility despite not playing the position full-time.

Check out Joe Bond's Top 10 First Base Rankings, or for Dynasty Baseball, read Alex Welch's Top 10 First Base Prospects.

2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview

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Where Does Bryce Harper Stand Amongst the Usual Suspects?

Harper steps into a battle for the top spot among first basemen. Here, he's up against the usual suspects: Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson, and Pete Alonso. These four make up the top tier at the position, but does Harper stand a chance at being the top first baseman in 2024?

Freddie Freeman161.331.410.56729131102239.9%16.6%163
Matt Olson162.283.389.60454127139114.4%23.2%160
Pete Alonso154.217.318.504469211849.9%22.9%121
Paul Goldschmidt 154.268.363.4472589801112.7%23.4%122
Christian Walker157.258.333.4973386103119.4%19.2%120
Bryce Harper126.293.401.4992184721114.7%21.8%142
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.156.264.345.44426789459.8%14.7%118

The answer to the question is a resounding yes. Harper is ranked as a top-four first baseman because he is one of the best bats in baseball. Among this group of four, Harper and Freeman are tied with the best career wRC+ at 142. Alonso and Olson come in at 133 and 135, respectively.

I currently have Harper ranked 25th overall and fourth among first basemen, but I wouldn't be opposed to moving him up closer to 20th overall and third at the position. The biggest thing holding him back at this point is health. Harper has played in 150 games three times in 11 seasons (12 including the shortened 2020 season) and hasn't done so since 2019. Alonso, Freeman, and Olson have played at least 150 games in the last three seasons.

However, I would say Harper has the best value as his ADP, courtesy of FantasyPros, is currently 28.3. This is fifth among first basemen. I'm snagging Harper everywhere at this price unless I get one of the first basemen above him.

Is Paul Goldschmidt Still a Top First Baseman?

Paul Goldschmidt is coming off a season that was arguably his worst, and he's only getting older. He's the second-oldest starting first baseman in the league. Fantasy managers might wonder if the decline will continue or if Goldschmidt will remain a top first baseman in Fantasy Baseball.

I believe that he very well does have enough to remain a top first baseman. However, he must hit the fastball better than he did in 2023. Last season, he swung and missed on a career-high 24.6% of fastballs. This led to his strikeout rate on fastballs being the second-highest mark of his career (2019). More specifically, pitches in the 95 to 100 MPH range are where Goldschmidt struggled the most. His batting average in this range was a sluggish .216 off 138 batted balls.

Goldschmidt's path to return to stardom is there with the fastball. If he changes his approach to fix this problem, he will be a worthy first baseman to roster in 2023.

How Do You Like Rhys Hoskins in Milwaukee?

The most significant change of scenery at the position this offseason was Rhys Hoskins signing with the Milwaukee Brewers. This is also the player I am most excited to talk about in the entire 2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview. Hoskins spent six seasons with the Phillies before missing the 2023 season with a torn ACL.

While the lineup in Milwaukee isn't as strong as the one in Philadelphia, I believe Hoskins is in for a career year for a couple of reasons.

  1. American Family Field is regarded as one of the friendliest parks for batters.
  2. Hoskins has an opt-out after the 2024 season, giving him an incentive to earn more money if he performs well.

Hoskins has consistently hit for power during his career, and it will only improve in Milwaukee. In his career, his slugging percentage has never fallen below .454. From 2020 to 2022, he was ranked within the top ten first basemen in slugging percentage. On top of the slugging, his on-base percentage consistently sits above .330, and his wRC+ has never fallen below 112.

Hoskins is a highly talented hitter headed to a competitive team that could bring out the best in him. This year, he is underrated in Fantasy Baseball because he did not play in 2023. This leaves the door open for you to snag him in drafts at a reasonable price.

Players on the Rise

Spencer Torkelson, Detroit Tigers

A lot of hype surrounds Triston Casas this offseason as the next best thing at first base, but I'd rather have Torkelson, who is going 40 picks after Casas. The hype around Casas is valid, but let's not forget the big step up Torkelson took from 2022 to 2023.

Torkelson notably improved his average exit velocity (90.5 to 91.7 MPH), barrel rate (8.4 to 14.1%), and hard-hit rate (41.8 to 50.7%). This led Torkelson to 31 home runs, 34 doubles, 88 runs, 94 RBIs, and a .233/.313/.446 slash line. This is precisely what we wanted to see out of the former number-one overall pick in just his second season.

I'm boarding the Torkelson train in 2024. His ADP is currently 144, but I'm ok with him going closer to pick 120.

Vinnie Pasquatino, Kansas City Royals

2023 was supposed to be the season of the Italian Breakfast Vinnie Pasquantino. Unfortunately, his season ended early after he tore his labrum 61 games into the season. He finished the 2023 season with a .247/.324/.437 slash line and a 103 wRC+. While it was a small sample size, it's not the season we wanted from the former top-100 prospect.

While we can't chalk the season up to being a fluke yet, I think it's ok to put this one behind and predict that he will be much closer to his 2022 slash line (.298/.383/.450) than his 2023 slash line. Everything that everybody predicted would happen in 2023 will now occur in 2024.

Players on the Decline

Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies

Kris Bryant still has some good years left in him.... right? I don't think so. The four-time All-Star, 2015 Rookie of the Year, 2016 MVP, and 2016 World Series champion has already passed his peak and is on the decline. Since joining the Colorado Rockies in 2022, Bryant has faced an onslaught of injuries, including multiple back and foot injuries. Back and feet are necessary tools for anybody, let alone a ballplayer. If these problems persist, Bryant will continue to be a shell of his former self.

We saw the worst of Bryant in 2023 as he slashed .233/.313/.367 with a 73 wRC+ in 80 games. I expect Bryant to have a better season than this, but I do not expect to see him be an above-average player moving forward.

Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres

Cronenworth was seemingly on the rise heading into 2023 after posting 88 runs and 88 RBIs in 2022. However, he hit a brick wall last year and finished with ten home runs, 54 runs, and 48 RBI across 127 games. He was a mid-to-late-round pick last season, but he may go undrafted this year in many leagues.

Players on the Horizon

Kyle Manzardo, Cleveland Guardians

The number two first base prospect, according to MLB.com, Manzardo is fighting for an opening day roster spot with his new team. The Guardians acquired Manzardo in the trade that sent Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The first baseman is a hit-over-power style of batter who gets on base at a solid clip. He spent the entire 2023 season in Triple-A, slashing .236/.337/.464 with a 97 wRC+. His ISO (Isolated Power) was an impressive .228, showing he can also hit for power.

It will be an adjustment for Manzardo in the bigs, but fans and Fantasy managers should always get excited for these top prospects to show their talent.

Michael Busch, Chicago Cubs

Micahel Busch is the newest member of the Chicago Cubs and is the likely starting first baseman. If Busch fully reaches his potential, he'll be a top-tier asset in Fantasy Baseball. When that will happen is still up in the air. He slashed .167/.247/.292 with two home runs and a 49 wRC+ over 81 MLB plate appearances with the Dodgers.

At 26 years old, Busch is still maturing, but if he plays every day in Chicago, Fantasy managers should expect well over 20 home runs with 60+ runs and 75+ RBI. His ADP stands at 345 as of January 30.

Players to Avoid

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Cincinnati Reds

The talented rookie out of Cincinnati is a player to avoid in 2024, and it's not due to a lack of talent. Christian Encarnacion-Strand is a player to avoid because he will likely be on the short side of a timeshare. The Reds have a crowded infield full of talented players. They recently added to this when they acquired Jeimer Candelario via free agency. FanGraphs Roster Resource projects Candelario as the full-time first baseman to start the season.

As of January 29, Strand is a player to avoid, but  Fantasy managers need to watch him in Spring Training. He could force his way into the starting lineup, making him a worthy draftee. His ADP is currently 121.3 above Pasquantino, Torkelson, and Diaz. I'm taking all three of these players over Strand unless the Reds announce Strand as an everyday starter.

Josh Naylor, Cleveland Guardians

Josh Naylor is one player I can't get on board with drafting in 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts. That is why he finds himself in the avoid section of the 2024 Fantasy Baseball First Base Preview. He had an impressive 2023 as he hit 17 home runs, drove in 97 RBIs, and slashed .308/.354/.489 across 121 games.

Despite this, I'm still avoiding Naylor because I don't see him having the same success in 2024. His .326 BABIP shows that some regression could come.

Other first basemen I prefer over Naylor for about the same cost are Andrew Vaughn, Hoskins, Nathaniel Lowe, and Torkelson.

Check out the rest of the Fantasy Baseball content from all of the F6P writers.

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