The first base position was one of the deepest groups in fantasy baseball last season, producing a quartet of top-25 players and a total of 15 players who ranked among the top 150 overall producers in standard Yahoo roto leagues. And 2023 should be more of the same, with first base expected to compete with shortstop as the deepest group among the offensive positions.
The impact of the MLB rule changes on first basemen will be interesting to follow. This is a position that will be only minimally impacted by the rule changes for base running, as many first basemen have only a passing interest in swiping bags. But the limitations on defensive shifts could help the slow-footed sluggers who were facing massive defensive shifts in recent seasons.
Those in roto formats should draft two or three quality first basemen, as the well-documented dearth of options at third base means that most corner infielders in fantasy leagues will have a first-base designation. However, managers in points leagues may want to wait on first base while first attacking shallower positional pools.
There are four first basemen who stand out from the pack. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Current ADP: 9) has the best combination of a high ceiling and high floor, which puts him in the top spot. The Blue Jays star was the No. 1 overall player in Yahoo leagues when he hit .311 with 48 homers in 2021. And his high floor comes from having missed just three games in the past three years. Guerrero rediscovered a bad habit of hitting too many ground balls when he went deep just 32 times last year, and raising his launch angle will be the key to rejoining the AL MVP discussion.
Freddie Freeman (Current ADP: 13) and Paul Goldschmidt (Current ADP: 19) can be lumped together as terrific second-round options. Both Freeman (age 33) and Goldy (age 35) are past their prime but still should have a few more excellent campaigns to add to their resume. Both are consistently batting-average stars while also chipping in a few steals and strong power numbers. Most drafters have a slight preference for Freeman, likely due to his two-year age gap over Goldschmidt.
Pete Alonso (Current ADP: 21) rounds out the first tier on the strength of annually ranking among the homer and RBI leaders. And although the career .261 hitter can’t provide a massive batting average boost, he won’t be a hindrance in that category while racking up 40 homers and 120+ RBIs. Those who start their draft with a high-average speedster in Round 1 may prefer to grab Alonso over the men who have preceded him in this article.
Matt Olson (Current ADP: 41) sits in a tier by himself. His power skills (73 HR, 214 RBIs across 2021-22) make him clearly preferable to every other option, but his career .250 average and complete lack of base-stealing ability keep him out of the top tier.
The third tier at first base is difficult to decipher, as a steady stream of players at this position go off the board from pick 110 to the conclusion of the draft. Jose Abreu (Current ADP: 73) belongs in this tier, even though he is consistently drafted much earlier than the other options. Abreu could be productive as part of a strong Astros lineup, but he is 36 years old and coming off a campaign in which he homered just 15 times despite playing half of his games in the White Sox's homer-happy stadium.
Vinnie Pasquantino (Current ADP: 104) and Nathaniel Lowe (Current ADP: 116) are two of the most exciting options in this tier. Pasquantino demonstrated terrific plate discipline (35:34 BB:K ratio) as a rookie, and after getting off to a slow start, he hit .346 with a .960 OPS after August 1. The plodding left-handed hitter was also heavily impacted by extreme defensive shifts, and he could be even more effective now that infielders must stay on their natural side of second base.
Meanwhile, Lowe broke out in a big way last season by hitting .302 with 27 home runs. The left-handed hitter was not heavily impacted by defensive shifts, but he still should experience positive regression on his modest runs scored (74) and RBI (76) totals.
Rowdy Tellez (Current ADP: 209) is by far my favorite first baseman to target late in drafts. The southpaw slugger went deep 35 times in his breakout 2022 season, and according to Statcast, his lowly .219 average should have been .252. Josh Bell (Current ADP: 187) goes off the board a bit earlier than Tellez but is also a fine late-round option. The 30-year-old was excellent for more than a season and a half with Washington before struggling down the stretch with San Diego. Now a member of the Guardians, Bell could drive in 90 runs from the cleanup spot.
Finally, those who want to target a high-upside rookie should consider Miguel Vargas (Current ADP: 241). The Dodgers have indicated in recent weeks that they will give Vargas a regular role in their productive lineup. The 23-year-old got his feet wet in the Majors last season and profiles as a high-average hitter who can accumulate 20 homers and 10 steals in his first full campaign.
Top 12 First Baseman Rankings (as of Feb. 17)
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Paul Goldschmidt
4. Pete Alonso
5. Matt Olson
6. Jose Abreu
7. Vinnie Pasquantino
8. Nathaniel Lowe
9. Rhys Hoskins
10. Ty France
11. Josh Bell
12. C.J. Cron