2016 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: First Base
In some ways, first base is the most predictable of all the positions this year. There are 12 elite first basemen, so make sure you grab one. All of the top seven (Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Abreu and Chris Davis) come with the expectation of first round production. Obviously, that’s not to say that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman or Eric Hosmer won’t outproduced several of them.
These 1B sleepers will be more useful for deeper leagues and those with corner infielder or multiple utility slots.
Mike Napoli – Indians
Over the last eight seasons, the Indians’ new first baseman has averaged over 22 home runs. Last year he had a .954 OPS vs LHP and the Indians see many more left-handers than most teams. Still recovering from the surgery he endured to combat sleep apnea, he started 2015 poorly, hitting just .192 AVG over the first 77 games. After the All-Star break, he improved to a .279 AVG, including an impressive stretch after his move to the Rangers, when the 34-year-old slugged .513 with five home runs in just 23 starts. Although he might sit against the toughest right-handed pitchers, you can expect Napoli to get most of the playing time at first base with Carlos Santana becoming the Indians’ primary DH. With the on-base skills of Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley ahead of him, Mike Napoli will see plenty of RBI opportunities.
Ryan Zimmerman – Nationals
The 31-year-old has missed 168 games over the last two years so his health is key to fantasy success. In the last two seasons when Ryan Zimmerman was healthy (2012 & 2013), he hit a total of 51 home runs with an .817 OPS. Last year he had a near-elite 38% hard hit rate (the same as Kris Bryant) and held a .333 AVG with nine home runs and a 1.086 OPS in his final 29 games. The Nationals shut him down in early September but the oblique issue is not expected to affect Zimmerman in the off-season. If he plays 150 games, he could be one of the steals of the draft.
C.J. Cron – Angels
With Albert Pujols expected to start the season on the DL, C.J. Cron will be the Angels’ first baseman. The 25-year-old had a disappointing start to 2015, hitting just .204 with one home run in 35 games before being sent down to the minors to regroup. When he returned, the right-hander hit 15 home runs with a much-improved .285 AVG and .833 OPS. There are not many players with an ADP around 300 who have 30 HR and 100 RBI potential.
Richie Shaffer – Rays
The Rays No. 11 prospect hit four home runs in 31 games during his cup of coffee in the big leagues last year. He led all players in the Rays organization with a total of 30 home runs split between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors. Expect the former first-round pick to push James Loney and Logan Morrison for playing time, and when he gets the chance, expect him to capitalize.
A.J. Reed – Astros
The Astros’ No. 4 prospect hit 34 home runs in the minors last year with a .340 AVG. The 22-year-old left-handed masher is expected to claim the first base position in Houston sooner rather than later. Jon Singleton will likely get the job out of Spring Training but he will have to dramatically improve upon his .171 AVG in 114 big league games if he is to stall Reed’s promotion.