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First Base Ranking Tiers (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 4, 2021

 
First base is an interesting position this year. There are two standout options early on, but to take either of them, you’re passing on the steals and starting pitching that you need to compete.

After them, though, it gets tricky. There are options you can take late, sure, but they’re anything but a sure thing.

As always, when it comes to rankings, tiers are the best way to go about them, as it allows you to group a set of players together so that you know when you need to take a specific player at a position before that tier runs out.

We’ll take a look at first base ADP based on FantasyPros composite ADP and break them down into tiers for you, so you know when to grab the guy who you like.

We should note that these tiers are based on a 12-team standard roto league, so adjust accordingly for your league scoring.

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Tier 1: The top guys

It’s pretty simple here. If you don’t like the late options going at the position or even the mid-round ones, you can take Freeman or Bellinger and feel good about the start of your draft.

They won’t give you the speed that you need to compete, but they provide elite value in the rest of the categories – Freeman especially if you use batting average.

You’ll need to really nail your next few picks and reach for someone like an Adalberto Mondesi, Starling Marte, or Randy Arozarena in order to address your stolen bases.

Tier 2: The vets

This is a small tier, but a solid tier, as you know what you’re going to get with both LeMahieu and Abreu here.

If you get LeMahieu, whose value is still elite after resigning with the Yankees, you’re getting a near MVP-level player who can offer across-the-board production. The problem is – well, it’s actually really valuable – that you’ll likely use him at second base. That flexibility to have him fit wherever you need him to on the diamond is important.

Ho, hum. Another season where Abreu absolutely raked. He’s at the point where his age has to concern you a bit, but that lineup is loaded, so Abreu should continue to rack up the RBIs with solid power and average.

Tier 3: The bashers

Would it surprise anyone if Alonso led baseball in home runs and was the top first baseman in fantasy? It shouldn’t, really. He’s elite at what he does, and you can never have enough power. The only issue is that his profile can be found throughout the draft.

This is the year for Guerrero. He looks great. He hits the ball hard. He has the pedigree. He just has to make one tweak for the MVP-level to happen. Place your future bets at +2,000 on him to take home the trophy.

Voit proved that 2019 wasn’t a fluke with his 2020 performance, albeit in a tiny sample. You’re drafting him for power and for his run production. Lock it in again for 2021.

Tier 4: Things that make you go, hmm?

Lowe’s 2020 is exactly what you should expect from him. It’s a rollercoaster ride along the way, but the end-of-season numbers will be there. Like LeMahieu, you’ll be using him at second base, most likely.

Goldschmidt may actually be underrated this year. Sure, he doesn’t run anymore, but the rest of the production is still there. Having Arenado in that lineup will help him.

I wish Olson played in a better ballpark. You’re drafting him for his homers, but is there another level for him to reach? It seems like fringe top 10 may be his ceiling, which is fine.

Both Muncy and Rizzo had forgettable 2020 seasons, but nothing under the hood really should concern you for 2021 with them. Both are great bounceback targets in your drafts.

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Tier 5: 2020 was real

If you believe in 2020 production, then you should be excited to draft from this tier, which is filled mostly with high achievers from the shortened season.

Bohm came up and immediately made an impact with his 139 wRC+. It’s actually kinda shocking that his ADP isn’t higher considering, but he’s a solid value here. Will he produce those kind of numbers over the course of a full season? Unlikely, at least yet. But .270 with 20 homers doesn’t seem out of reach.

Smith finally got a chance to play in 2020, and the results were positive. The Mets have a ton of depth, so his ADP is slightly suppressed due to the uncertainty of his role and regular playing time. The bat is too good to leave out of the lineup, but most of his playing time will come in left field.

We’ll include Grandal and d’Arnaud here, but you’re playing them at catcher, not first. 

Moustakas is a lock for 30 homers in Cincinnati. Underrated value this year.

Myers and Hosmer had nice bounce-back seasons for the Padres, with the latter actually buying into analytics a bit with his change in his swing. The Padres have a ton of options, so there’s a chance Hosmer platoons and sits against lefties.

Like Bohm, Mountcastle made his long-awaited debut last year and was an immediate hit. He had a 141 wRC+ in 140 plate appearances. He’ll play regularly for the Orioles, and 23 homers should come pretty easily in that ballpark.

Tier 6: Bounceback candidates

Bell, aside from a two-month stretch, has been a pretty average baseball player for his career. In 2020, we saw the average Bell show up again. Now, he’s in Washington, which can help him since it’s a better lineup, but he’s essentially James Loney. It’s fine, but not exciting. Don’t think you’re drafting 2019 Bell again.

Hoskins didn’t have the big Year 3 breakout many were hoping for last year, and he actually ended up undergoing offseason surgery. He gets an obvious boost in OBP leagues, but the question is how much patience the Phillies will have with him if he once again underachieves. 

There isn’t a lot to care about from Spring Training. One thing, though, that I cared a ton about from Day 1 was Mancini back on the field and being healthy. Forget fantasy. That was great to see. He’s been forgotten, but he could easily top 30 homers this year.

Tier 7: The rest

With Sanó, you know you’re going to get the power, but you have to live with the terrible average and terrible strikeout rate. Build a buffer for batting average if he’s a target of yours.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Padres use Cronenworth, as the reigning Rookie of the Year could be battling for playing time with the signings of Ha-seong Kim and Jurickson Profar. If he can get 500 plate appearances, he’s a solid late-round flyer at MI or CI.

If Arozarena didn’t happen in September, we’d be talking more about the hot stretch that Walsh had in the final few weeks of the season. The only issue is that Albert Pujols is still around, and Shohei Ohtani needs to get his at-bats, too, which could cut into playing time for Walsh. If he’s guaranteed 550 plate appearances, he’s a nice late-round option.

The Royals did some great things this offseason, and they quietly have a team that can pretend to contend for most of the season. One of those additions is Santana. Look, Santana’s .281 average from 2019 was never going to stick, but he’s not a .199 guy, either. You’re looking closer to .245 with a great OBP, as usual. 

Key Takeaways

  • If you want to stand out at the position, you have to be willing to take Freeman or Bellinger early on. It puts you in a hole at steals and starting pitching, but if you trust your process to make up for those categories throughout the draft, either is a great building block.
  • I live in tier 3 or 4 in most drafts, as I’m fully in on Rizzo and Muncy rebounding, and Guerrero taking that next leap. 
  • Tier 5 is enticing because there are a lot of young, shiny toys there. Bohm has a safe profile, so he’s not much of a risk, but Smith and Mountcastle have a little more risk to their games. If you take one of them, be sure to grab a first baseman as your corner infielder so that you can play it safe with some insurance.
  • If you are in a deeper league or just want to wait as long as you can at the position, there are some guys outside the top 30 who are great values this year. C.J. Cron, for one, is a guy I want in every draft. He’s a 35-homer bat in Coors Field. Sign me the heck up. Hunter Dozier (new contract, battled COVID last year), Mark Canha (maybe leading off),  Ryan McMahon (if not now then when?), and Andrew Vaughn (should be their DH starting in May) all are attractive options to grab late.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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