Early Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings: Vinnie Pasquantino, Jose Abreu, Seth Brown (2022)
Does November still qualify as “early” fantasy baseball rankings? It’s sometimes tough to juggle real life with the pressure to hop back into the proverbial saddle. But yours truly is trying to do a pass through each position prior to jumping into a 2023 fantasy baseball draft. I assume that I will not make it to Christmas, so it’s time to scope out one of the infield corners for next season. As always, I’d love to connect. You can find my information below. Let’s check out first base. I have very loosely clustered players together. But that’s as much to chop up the reading as it is a representation of actual tiers.
In 2022, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ranked 16th in all of baseball with a 50.4% hard-hit rate, trailing only Jose Abreu and Matt Olson among first basemen. He also ranked sixth in the majors with a 98.2 MPH exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, tops among first basemen. Sure, his 2022 average launch angle of 4.3 degrees was a disappointment, especially after the 9.4-degree average in ’21. But the range of outcomes for the 23-year-old slugger is still something like what Aaron Judge gave us in 2022. A .300+ batting average and 50+ home runs are still a possibility. Freddie Freeman is arguably the safest player in fantasy baseball, which has a ton of value–hence the annual top 15 ADP. But me, I’m going for the league-breaking pick this early. I have Guerrero Jr. by a hair when considering this duo.
My knock on these guys is that you aren’t getting any impact speed. And this early in a draft–all are top 50 picks–I need either the hope of league-breaking power or some bankable steals. Sure, Alonso fits the power bill, but there are power guys at first base much later. A top-25 pick for Alonso feels steep.
These two are separated by seven picks per early NFBC ADP. Pasquantino could offer batting average and power, a rare combination.
Lowe isn’t a total zero in speed (44th percentile) and gave us eight swipes just one year ago. In fact, over the last two years, he is 10-for-10 on the basepaths. Lowe was quietly a top 5 asset at first base last season, and he has consistently hit for average as a professional. If the power sticks and he chips in with 5-7 swipes, that’s a Goldy-lite experience if there ever was one. I think it’s also not crazy to expect a better offensive team context.
This is an excellent duo, with Abreu looking like a draft-day gem with an early ADP of around 125. His home run count was down in 2022, sure. But his plate discipline was as excellent as ever, and he topped all first basemen with a 51.8% hard-hit rate. Another strong season of power and batting average would not surprise me. The only question is his landing spot, so stay tuned on that front. I’d settle for Abreu at Wrigley Field, just sayin’.
As for Hoskins, you know what you’re getting by season’s end–a .245 or so batting average and 30 dingers. But there’s always room for a little growth at just 29 years old and in a favorable team and park context. You’ll just have to weather the cold spells with this streaky, strikeout-prone hitter.
Cron theoretically offers a safe floor in Colorado, but his second-half no-show is concerning. After rapping out 21 homers and posting a .298 BA in the first half of 2022, he cratered to a .197 BA and eight homers in the second half. I’ll have to dig into that dip more before buying in much in 2023. Waiting on Walker feels like a safer play, given his draft slot some 40 picks later.
Mountcastle ranked seventh among first basemen with a 46.3% hard-hit rate. His 10.0% rate of barrel per plate appearance was first among his peers, however (and eighth in all of baseball). He underperformed in 2022, with his .316 wOBA trailing his .362 xwOBA significantly. His home run count at home (that was a mouthful) plummeted from 22 in 2021 to just 11 in 2022, so that fence movement seems to be the culprit with Mountcastle’s latest performance. However, Mountcastle’s road batting average is over 30 points lower than his home tally, and this trend continued last season despite the negative home environs. This is an area where he can improve and perhaps push for that 30-homer plateau again. Regardless, he’s just 25 years old and is one of the primary cogs for an improving Orioles lineup.
There are similar profiles here, but we will need to see Chicago’s intentions at first base and DH for 2023. In general, with these two, you have a pair of solid hitters with above-average power.
The new shift rules could benefit Bell. We need to see him get healthy and monitor his landing spot, though.
Is it possible to have a quiet 35-homer season? If so, Tellez fits the bill. The .219 batting average was ghastly, but he’s a 27-year-old lefty power hitter in Milwaukee. Last season’s .215 BABIP was well below his career average of .255, and his .252 xBA was more in line with what we’ve seen from Tellez. You’ll probably return a profit on him, given the 185 ADP.
Seth Brown had one of the quieter 25-homer, 11-steal campaigns of my fantasy baseball life. And it’s that annual idea about bad teams letting players run. Brown is one of the better Oakland hitters, as his second-half 147 wRC+ attests. He’s also affordable and still under contract. In other words, he’s cheap and productive, which makes him a perfect fit for Oakland. There’s a chance they flip him, of course…but until that happens, I’m assuming that Brown will continue to receive tons of volume in Oakland.
Meneses may startle you on this list, but he posted a 47.1% hard-hit rate and above average 9.9% barrel rate last season. He’s likely not duplicating the .324 batting average, as the .371 BABIP should drop significantly. But the quality of contact and the .267 xBA mean he’s firmly on my radar as a corner infielder.
Other names to consider are Ty France, Jake Cronenworth, Brandon Drury, Josh Naylor, and DJ LeMahieu (monitor his health). There are veterans in Luke Voit and Jared Walsh and youngsters like Triston Casas and Spencer Torkelson. What say you, gamers? Do you have thoughts on my top 20? Who is too high, too low? Who should I have included? Find me on Twitter @HeathCapps if you’d like to haggle!
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