Over the 60-game season last season, three players (Jose Abreu – .317/43/19/60, Freddie Freeman – .341/51/13/53, and Luke Voit – .277/41/22/52) were on pace for impactful years.
In 2019, 16 players with a first base qualification hit 30 home runs or more. Seven players scored over 100 runs, and seven players had over 100 RBI.
In 2018, no first basemen scored over 100 runs, and only three players had over 100 RBI. Only six players had 30 home runs or more.
Here’s a grid showing the final stats for 2019 for the top 12 players at each position and their value ranked by SIscore (I didn’t use 2020 stats due to a small sample size):
In 2019, the average of the top 12 first basemen hit .280 with 97 runs, 36 home runs, 102 RBI, and six stolen bases over 557 at-bats. The first base position ranked second in overall hitter value.
For comparison, here are the projections (3/15) for the top 12 first basemen at Sports Illustrated ranked by SIscore:
The stats highlighted by the yellow line show the average projections (.282 with 97 runs, 34 home runs, 110 RBI, and four steals over 569 at-bats) for the top 12 projected first basemen in 2021.
Note: Players with multiple position eligibility will impact the top 12 ratings for each position. D.J. LeMahieu (5th) ranked higher at second base. Also, I listed a couple of DH options (Yordan Alvarez and Miguel Cabrera) at first base. I removed any player that I thought had more value at another position due to multiple position eligibility.
Here’s a look at the top 12 first basemen by 2021 ADPs (From March 8th through March 15th):
Freddie Freeman sits in a great situation in the Braves’ lineup. He has talent and speed at the top of the order, giving him an elite RBI opportunity. Freeman takes walks, with protection behind in the batting order, setting up a strong foundation player. He’ll even chip in with some steals.
Cody Bellinger has a five-tool skill set with an improving approach. He had surgery in the offseason to repair a dislocated right shoulder. The Dodgers had him in the starting lineup in mid-March, which puts him on track to be ready for opening day. I heard a mention that Bellinger has been working on a swing change. Hopefully, he doesn’t increase his strikeout rate. Shoulder issues can lead to a drop in power the following season.
The breakout tag at first base goes to Vladimir Guerrero. His swing path has been delivering a higher launch angle in March, pointing to a massive uptick in power. He came into camp in better shape. When Guerrero hits his stride in the majors, he will offer an edge in batting average with 30/100 foundation in home runs and RBIs.
The White Sox have a developing offense, creating an excellent opportunity for Jose Abreu. His bat was exceptional in 2020 over 60 games, but he still tends to be a value in drafts.
Most view Pete Alonso as a plus power hitter with some batting average risk. He fell on his face last year, which creates a buying opportunity in 2021. His bat offers top-shelf power and an edge in batting average. I expect an improved strikeout rate, leading to an uptick in batting average.
Paul Goldschmidt has lost some luster in his perceived value after being traded to the Cardinals. Speed is no longer part of his equation, but he may chip in with a handful of stolen bases. St. Louis added a top bat to their lineup, which should be a win for Goldschmidt.
I ranked Yordan Alvarez with the first baseman as I expect him to qualify there this season. He also profiles a middle-of-the-order bat, which fits perfectly with the top option at first base. Alvarez has plus power while offering an explosive batting average when he puts the ball in play. I view him as a stud and a steal based on his 2021 draft value.
With no DH expected in the National League, Dominic Smith has lost some draft value. Ideally, he should be an anchor option at first base, but Peter Alonso blocks him from the opportunity. Smith has a high-average skill set. His power is on the rise, which moves him to the stud arena.
In his career, Eric Hosmer hasn’t been able to have a breakthrough season in power due to a high number of ground balls. The Padres surrounded him with some elite players, which bodes well for his success in his runs and RBI. Hosmer showed improvement in his swing path in 2020, which could signal a career-high in home runs this season.
Both Josh Bell and Rhys Hoskins hit behind an elite player who gets on base a high percentage of the time.
Bell broke through in 2019, but he lost his way over the Covid season. His approach grades well, and he should bat clean up this year, making him a value in the 2021 draft season.
Rhys Hoskins hits a ton of fly balls while also having a walk rate. Many of his fly balls end up being outs, which can hurt his upside in batting average. Hoskins started slowly in 2020, and his second ended with an injury. In between, he flashed a premium power bat. I see more than most in Hoskins.
Despite success in 2019 at AAA (.312 with 81 runs, 25 home runs, and 83 RBI over 520 at-bats), the Orioles didn’t give Mountcastle an entire season of playing time in the majors last year. Over his 35 games, his bat looked more than major league ready. Mountcastle will hit a favorable part of the batting average while offering a steady four-category skill set.
Andrew Vaughn isn’t a lock to earn a full time with the White Sox, but he is being drafted as if he was. Chicago would love for him to see time at DH, but Vaughn hasn’t played above High A in the minors. His approach grades well with the talent to be a productive power hitter.
Jared Walsh is a late bloomer with a short sample of success in the majors. His ADP has been falling due to not a clear path to a starting job. The Angels have the DH position clogged between Albert Pujols and Shohei Ohtani, which gives Walsh limited playing time at first base. Walsh should be a value based on his sliding price point if he can handle a corner outfield position.
Bobby Dalbec has massive upside in home runs while taking plenty of walks. The trade-off comes down to his batting average risk and possible fade in playing time if he struggles. Dalbec has a Mark Reynolds in his prime feel without the speed.
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