Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings – Roto

Anthony Rizzo

Last week I started my fantasy baseball roto rankings with a look at the catcher position. This week, we’re moving on to first base. Personally, I routinely find this to be one of the most intriguing positions to preview. There is a small group of elite players at the top, but after that things start to get interesting. Having a good understanding of the first base landscape is critical in roto formats as it’s one of the primary sources of power. Other positions may only have a handful of players who are going to hit 25 home runs, whereas here you can often find that production 10 or 12 rounds into your draft. And with that, here’s the outlook for 2016 (Note: my rankings are based on Yahoo positional eligibility, however I excluded catchers and other players who would typically be started at other positions).

C    1B    2B    SS    3B    OF    SP    RP

Tier 1 (The Elite)

  1. Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ)
  2. Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
  3. Miguel Cabrera (DET)

Goldschmidt is the clear number one option here and a top three player overall. Having said that, Both Rizzo and Cabrera have the potential to produce similar value. Rizzo’s 17 steals last year were a major surprise and while I would only project him for 8-12 this season, that’s still a substantial advantage given that his other counting stats are likely to be elite again. Cabrera’s decline in power the last two years is a concern, but he doesn’t necessarily need to hit 35 home runs to justify this ranking. Assuming he stays healthy, a .320 average with 100-plus RBI’s is a safe bet and that combination alone should place him among the top tier at the position.

Tier 2 (The Near-Elite)

  1. Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)
  2. Jose Abreu (CWS)
  3. Joey Votto (CIN)
  4. Chris Davis (BAL)

Encarnacion and Abreu are both very close to being included in the above group, and I would actually prefer either if you can get them 10 or 15 spots after Rizzo and Cabrera. Cincinnati’s weak lineup has me a bit worried about Votto, and his power is also the least bankable in this group. Similarly, his great OBP holds significantly less value in traditional roto leagues than in points formats. Davis’ production is almost entirely dependent on his home runs and he’s probably going to have to hit close to 40 to have any shot of finishing near the top of the position. This is certainly doable, but it also makes him the riskiest option in this tier.

Tier 3 (The Dependable)

  1. Prince Fielder (TEX)
  2. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)
  3. Freddie Freeman (ATL)
  4. Eric Hosmer (KC)

This group here lacks the upside of the higher tiers, but it has a very solid floor. Prince bounced back nicely from his neck injury last season and although I don’t project him as a .300 hitter, I can easily see 25-30 home runs. Gonzalez has been a model of consistency the past few years and the Dodgers strong lineup should provide him with plenty of opportunities to produce counting stats. Freeman may actually be the most talented hitter in this group, but unlike Gonzalez the lineup around him is a complete disaster. This will limit his upside in terms of scoring and driving in runs, but he’s a good enough player to still likely produce a top 10 season. Hosmer is perhaps the most intriguing player at this position. He’s never as good as we want him to be; yet he’s also usually better than we think. Ideally, he will finally put together a 25/10 season but regardless he’s the only guy in this range who can contribute something in every category.

Tier 4 (The Borderline Starters)

  1. David Ortiz (BOS)
  2. Albert Pujols (LAA)
  3. Brandon Belt (SF)
  4. Kendrys Morales (KC)
  5. Carlos Santana (CLE)
  6. Mark Teixeira (NYY)
  7. Lucas Duda (NYM)

While the previous tier was characterized by balanced production and consistency, this group is led by aging stars with immense power. Ortiz, Pujols and Teixeira all finished in the top six at the position in homers last year, and although I don’t expect any of them to reach those totals again, 25-30 long balls is a reasonable projection. Injuries are a concern for most of these players, but given where they’re being drafted it’s worth the risk. Belt and Santana are two guys that I like especially if they fall, as their value is not entirely dependent on home runs. Further, each has the potential to steal 10 bases, which is a rarity at this position.

Tier 5 (The Corner Infielders)

  1. Daniel Murphy (WAS)
  2. Byung-Ho Park (MIN)
  3. Mitch Moreland (TEX)
  4. Logan Forsythe (TB)
  5. Mark Trumbo (BAL)
  6. Adam Lind (SEA)
  7. Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)
  8. Victor Martinez (DET)
  9. Justin Turner (LAD)

At this point we’re on to guys who are mainly corner infield options. Murphy, Forsythe and Turner stand out here for me as each has multi position eligibility, a high batting average floor and the ability to steal a few bases. Park, Moreland and Trumbo are the primary power options in this tier, but they all have obvious concerns. I view Moreland as the safest bet for 20-25 homers while Park offers the most potential upside. Zimmerman and Martinez have the strongest name recognition among this group and will likely be among the first to be drafted yet I don’t have much confidence in either player regaining their form from a few years ago.

Tier 6 (The Backups)

  1. Justin Bour (MIA)
  2. Ben Paulsen (COL)
  3. C.J. Cron (LAA)
  4. Wil Myers (SD)
  5. Mark Canha (OAK)
  6. Pedro Alvarez (FA)
  7. Trevor Plouffe (MIN)

This tier includes a few potential sleepers, but is mainly comprised of players who will go undrafted in many leagues. If Paulsen can win the first base job in Colorado, he’s going to be one of my primary targets in the late rounds. He played well in a limited role last season and anyone getting everyday at bats in Coors is at least worth a look. Cron and Myers are two other names I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on. Lack of opportunity and injuries respectively have been an issue, but both are still very young and could return great value if they play 120+ games. Bour is a decent power option and he’s safer in average then guys like Alvarez and Plouffe. Canha would be an intriguing option if he were to get regular playing time, but unfortunately that doesn’t look like it’s going to be the case.

Tier 7 (The Leftovers)

  1. Chris Carter (MIL)
  2. Chris Colabello (TOR)
  3. Joe Mauer (MIN)
  4. Adam LaRoche (CWS)
  5. Matt Adams (STL)
  6. Ryan Howard (PHI)

Honestly the main factor that really separates this group from the previous one is age. The guys you see here are mostly older players without much potential for growth or improvement. Yet although they shouldn’t be starting for your team, there’s reason to at least keep them on your radar. Carter, Colabello and Howard are all extremely streaky hitters and thus could provide significant value on a short-term basis. Basically look to stream these guys for a week or so if you see they’re starting to get hot and have a series of favorable match-ups upcoming.

And if you’re looking for points rankings, you can find those here

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