2021 Fantasy Baseball Primer: First Base
When looking at the first base position for 2021, two words come to mind immediately:
There are many aging stars atop the position, which isn’t necessarily bad for re-draft leagues. Old, boring, and productive can win you leagues. But it’s tough to know when the downturn will start for these veterans and whether or not it’ll be a gradual decline.
Unlike recent years, the pool isn’t the deepest. You can get stuck hating your first baseman if you wait too long to take one. Like in past years, we’ll rank them in tiers using NFBC ADP, breaking down the categories where they can help.
The hardest thing for any fantasy analyst, projection model, or fan to do when preparing for upcoming drafts is to know how much stock to put into the shortened 2020 season. Normally, if a player were red-hot or cold for part of a 60-game stretch, we’d preach not to overreact too much. That’s the approach I’m taking, as it’s such a small sample to go off, and each player needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
A few of the biggest standouts from last season were Luke Voit and Dominic Smith. Voit eclipsed his 2019 home run total in fewer than half the plate appearances last season. The power is legit, and the stadium only helps him. He is about to turn 30, though, so there is room to be wary. Smith finally got everyday at-bats for the Mets, and he lived up to the prospect pedigree. It looks like he’ll spend most of his time in the outfield since MLB can’t decide on the universal DH.
On the flip side, we saw struggles from Josh Bell, who looked like a player who happened to enjoy a small stretch of excellence in 2019. His strikeout percentage went back up, and his power dipped back down. He leaves Pittsburgh, which is great, but be careful to assume a rebound given his spotty track record.
If looking at the out-of-nowhere guys who became fantasy producers in 2020, all eyes are on Alec Bohm in Philadelphia. He got the call last year, and he was simply phenomenal. He’s going outside the top 100 in NFBC drafts, which is weird for a rookie who performed so well. There’s value at that pick, as nothing about his profile and pedigree says that the shortened season was a fluke.
Then there’s Jared Walsh. If not for Randy Arozarena‘s insane stretch to close the season, Walsh would be receiving more hype for the swing changes and late-season home run barrage. He’s old (27) for a potential breakout player, but he’s an intriguing late target if you want to play the streaming game at first.
2021 at a Glance
We have no first-round first basemen in 12-team leagues, but two in 15-team leagues in Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger. Speed is being pushed up, causing Freeman to fall. Bellinger was a consensus top-five pick in 2020 drafts, so there’s value there.
With speed and starting pitching both prioritized early, you’ll see quality hitters — especially first basemen — fall further than usual. If you pass on Freeman or Bellinger, you can nab your starting first baseman in the fourth-to-sixth-round range in a standard league and be happy with your results.
We always want to identify potential breakout players at a position. First base, while filled with boring veterans, also has upside plays. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. leads the way for potential breakout superstars, but Bohm, Ryan Mountcastle, Nate Lowe, Andrew Vaughn, Evan White, Lewin Díaz, and Seth Brown all have avenues to fantasy value, depending on the league size.
- A: A no-doubt stud capable of winning you a category
- B: A solid, consistent contributor
- C: Won’t lose you the category, but won’t win it, either
- D: You can do better here
- F: You’re getting NOTHING
(*Grades listed are relative to the position and consider positional depth.)
Players who just missed in ADP who I’d take above everyone after Dozier in the tier above:
- Nate Lowe (TEX)
- Andrew Vaughn (CHW)
- Jesús Aguilar (MIA)
- C.J. Cron (FA)
- Evan White (SEA)
Beyond our fantasy baseball content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Baseball Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy baseball draft season.