The fantasy baseball draft season is in full swing and it’s as good a time as any to continue previewing each position on the baseball diamond from a fantasy perspective. Here, we preview the best first basemen heading into 2022.
|Points Rankings||Roto Rankings|
|Tier 1||Tier 1|
|1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.|
|2. Freddie Freeman||2. Freddie Freeman|
|3. Matt Olson||3. Matt Olson|
|4. Paul Goldschmidt||4. Paul Goldschmidt|
|5. Pete Alonso||5. Pete Alonso|
|Tier 2||Tier 2|
|6. José Abreu||6. José Abreu|
|7. Josh Bell||7. Rhys Hoskins|
|8. Rhys Hoskins||8. Josh Bell|
|9. Joey Votto||9. C.J. Cron|
|10. Jake Cronenworth||10. Joey Votto|
|11. Anthony Rizzo||11. Jared Walsh|
|12. C.J. Cron||Tier 3|
|Tier 3||12. Trey Mancini|
|13. Max Muncy||13. Ryan Mountcastle|
|14. DJ LeMahieu||14. Max Muncy|
|15. Yuli Gurriel||15. Jake Cronenworth|
|16. Frank Schwindel||16. Anthony Rizzo|
|17. Jared Walsh||17. Alex Kiriloff|
|18. Ty France||18. Frank Schwindel|
|19. Trey Mancini||19. Brandon Belt|
|20. Ryan Mountcastle||20. Miguel Sanó|
|Tier 4||21. Nathaniel Lowe|
|21. Alex Kiriloff||Tier 4|
|22. Brandon Belt||22. Bobby Dalbec|
|23. Carlos Santana||23. Yuli Gurriel|
|24. Jonathan Schoop||24. Jonathan Schoop|
|25. Nathaniel Lowe||25. DJ LeMahieu|
Breakout: Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
Hoskins has been an effective slugger since he burst onto the Major League scene with 18 homers in his 50-game 2017 debut. Since then, however, he’s failed to build off that incredible start, dealing with injuries across the last two seasons. It may seem odd to anoint him as a breakout candidate considering his early-career pedigree and his regard as a prominent power hitter, but I believe he can take another step forward in 2022, helping him to make his first All-Star team and become a first-tier first baseman in the process. The Sacramento State product has always exhibited an advanced plate approach (career 14.3% BB%) and altered his swing during the 2020 season after a down 2019 (112 wRC+). That swing change helped him get back to impacting the ball like he did early in his career. Even with that down season, Hoskins maintains a 37-homer 162-game pace for his career, revealing the immense pop in his bat. The main reason I think he breaks out in 2022 is that we haven’t seen what effect he can have on a squad for a full season since that down 2019 campaign. If he remains healthy next season, the sky is the limit. He showcased a career-high, 94th percentile, 17% barrel rate last year indicating that we could see him reach 40 bombs in the near future. Additionally, he will easily surpass 100 RBI with fortunate health in one of the most dangerous National League lineups that recently added sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Jump at the chance to draft Hoskins in OBP/points leagues and keep him at the top of your mind in roto leagues for his elite power production.
Bust: Ty France, Seattle Mariners
I’m not too confident in France’s ability heading into his second full season as a member of the Seattle Mariners. At 26 years old, the infielder put together a wonderful 2021 campaign in which he batted .291 with 18 dingers and a 129 wRC+ after showing similar production in a limited 2020 sample. His underlying metrics, however, paint a completely different picture, forcing me to label him as my bust pick at first base. The right-handed hitter outperformed many of his Statcast metrics last year, posting some concerning batted ball results in the process. He’s well below average in the power department, possessing just a 33rd percentile, 6.8% barrel rate that, paired with his 21.2% Statcast-measured fly ball rate, will limit his power ceiling going forward. I’m also not too keen on his capacity to maintain the high batting average he showed in 2021. France outperformed his xBA by more than 20 points thanks to a .327 BABIP and an all-fields, contact-oriented approach. Although his low strikeout rate (16.3%) and above-average contact rate (82.6%) are appealing, I don’t think he can keep up last year’s pace while calling a BABIP-suppressing ballpark such as T-Mobile Park home and maintaining such an unappealing, 36th percentile, 38.9% hard-hit rate with unimpressive wheels (21st percentile sprint speed). Avoid France in your drafts going forward because it will be tough for him to sustain last season’s pace and because his ceiling is ultimately limited by his underwhelming batted ball metrics.
Sleeper: Frank Schwindel, Chicago Cubs
In my article breaking down last season’s offensive breakouts, I labeled Schwindel as a breakout to buy because of his ability to impact the ball with the best power hitters while maintaining an appealingly low strikeout rate. Now that he is going so late in drafts, I believe that he is being slept on by most drafters and will provide solid production that is difficult to find after pick 200. In his 2021 rookie season, Schwindel batted .326 with 14 long balls and a 152 wRC+, putting his name on the map as a top-notch hitter that arrived out of nowhere. Obviously he won’t be maintaining last year’s pace, but I don’t think he’ll fall off that much. A .270 AVG with 20+ homers is definitely in the realm of possibilities as he has a stranglehold on the first base job in Chicago and had a history of solid minor league production prior to his first full season in the bigs. As I previously mentioned, the most appealing part of his profile is his sub-16% strikeout rate and his raw power, seen in the 112.4 mph max exit velocity he displayed last year. Very few players can combine that level of bat control with that kind of power. Keep an eye on Schwindel in your draft, because if he falls outside of the top 200 picks, he will provide incredible value if he performs at even a fraction of the level of his debut season.
Best Value: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
As a 34-year old in 2018, Votto managed just 12 long balls across a full campaign. It seemed as though his career was coming to an end, as he was still able to continue walking at an elite rate, but his power was obviously falling off. When those struggles persisted for the next season and a half, Votto made a noticeable adjustment to his approach in the second half of the 2020 campaign. The long-time Cincinnati Red was attempting to reintroduce the power to his game that made him one of the premier first basemen for the first decade of his career. We only just began to see what the veteran was capable of in the second half of the COVID-shortened season, and he was able to completely reveal his new-look approach with a full rebound in 2021. At 37 years old in 2021, Votto exhibited the power that he claimed as a spry 27-year old thanks to an emphasis on hitting homers at the cost of some swing and miss. The left-handed hitter sported career-high, eye-popping marks in slugging metrics such as barrel rate (95th percentile, 17.2%), hard-hit rate (96th percentile, 53.2%), and expected slugging percentage (97th percentile, .592). That led to a massive 36 home run season that paired nicely with a 140 wRC+, his best mark since 2017. Everyone should be buying back in to the former MVP as he made an obvious change in his plate approach that paid massive dividends. He’s a great value in drafts, going off the board as the 16th first baseman in NFBC drafts since March 13th. He will continue to provide elite power production and on-base skills that will make him a steal at his draft price, even at the advanced age of 38.
Tier to Target: Two
I love the first tier of first baseman, but it’s difficult to pass on other players available at their draft range knowing the level of talent that is waiting for you after pick 100 at this position. My strategy heading into 2022 drafts will be to wait on first base until the second tier starts to come off the board. I believe that their level of production will be more than serviceable and will leave drafters feeling content knowing that they grabbed third baseman, starting pitchers, and outfielders early rather than spending valuable draft slots on a position that has a wealth of mid-tier talents. With players like Hoskins, C.J. Cron, Josh Bell, and Votto going off the board after pick 100, it is advisable to wait just a little to snag these talents while filling out the rest of your squad early in drafts. A .250 average with 30+ home runs is a solid floor to shoot for, and many of the first baseman in this tier will provide that value, and then some. Wait to grab a first baseman, but not too long!