1B Draft Strategy: What To Look For At The First Base Position

RotoBaller's Joe Gallina talks about 2014 fantasy baseball draft strategy for first base (1B). These draft strategies can help you win your 2014 fantasy baseball leagues.

Joe Gallina - RotoBaller

Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy for First Base

Paul Goldschmidt Arizona DiamondbacksAs most Fantasy Baseball Owners are well aware, there is plenty of depth at the first base position. With Miguel Cabrera, arguably the best fantasy baseball player alive, moving over to first base after playing the hot corner for the past few seasons, the position has gotten even deeper. There is a new crop of elite fantasy first basemen dotting the landscape which include Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman and Chris Davis. Former superstars like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez are still viable options for you on draft day, they are no longer your best options.

Every seasoned fantasy baseball manager knows what Miguel Cabrera is capable of and unless you have the first or second position in your league’s draft, the only way to get Cabrera in your lineup is via a trade.  Other than Cabrera, when I think of the prototypical fantasy first baseman I think of Paul Goldschmidt. If you want to know what you should be looking for from your starting first baseman just look at his stats from last year. He hit for a .302 BA, smacked 36 HR, hit 36 doubles, drove in 125 RBI and scored 103 runs. He compiled a .551 SLG percentage and a .952 OPS. As an added bonus he did something that almost no other first baseman does and that is steal bases. That’s right, he stole 15 bases!


What to Look for When Drafting a First Baseman

What should you look for when you are drafting your first baseman? My rule of thumb is that he should have a lifetime batting average of at least .280. My ideal first baseman regularly hits between 20 and 30 HR per season. Unless I am playing in a 16 team league someone like a James Loney is not worthy of being my primary fantasy first baseman. I expect my starting first baseman to score at least 80 runs and drive in at least 90 runs. Remember, the first base position is one of the “meat and potato” portions of your fantasy lineup, and you need a power hitting slugger who can also hit for average. There are plenty of candidates from whom to choose, which just goes to show how much behind the 8-ball you'll be if you don't get at least one of the top 10 guys.

Typically you will see top tier first basemen like Goldschmidt, Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and even Freddie Freeman chosen within the first three rounds of your draft. Middle tier first basemen like Albert Pujols or Adrian Gonzalez will likely be drafted beginning in the fourth or fifth rounds and might be available through the 6th or 7th in shallow league. Keep in mind that draft strategies in rotisserie leagues tend to lean towards picking offensive players before pitchers. In head-to-head leagues pitchers are placed at a higher premium and drafted earlier than in roto leagues.

On draft day keep an eye out for Eric Hosmer. He had a great second half last season and has breakout potential. Like Goldschmidt, he will also steal a few bases which is unusual for a first baseman.  Players like Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana are valuable and eligible at first base, but they're much better off being used at your catcher spot. Allen Craig and Mark Trumbo also have multi-position eligibility and can play both first base and in the outfield and either would be a fine starting 1B if you miss out on the aforementioned players.

Even if all these players escape you, you can still find some value in the later rounds of your draft, but some of your choices may put your team at risk. For instance, can Mark Teixeira, coming back from a wrist injury that limited him to just 53 at bats last season,  regain the form and consisentency that allowed him to regularly hit 30 homeruns and drive in over 100 runs on a regular basis. How about Jose Abreu? The White Sox signed him to a lucrative contract this past offseason. Can he be as successful in the major leagues as he was in the Cuban baseball league? What type of numbers will Matt Adams put up now that he will likely be the Cardinals regular first baseman this upcoming season? Can Anthony Rizzo, who is still only 24 years old, truly breakout after a disappointing 2013 campaign? Judging from his spring stats he just might! Do Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard having anything left in the tank?  Our money is on Rizzo, Adams and Abreu having nice years where they take a big step forward.  Howerver relying on Teixeira, Howard or Morneau as your starting 1B is playing with fire.


The Corner Infielder Spot

For those of you who play in a fantasy league that features a corner infielder (CI) spot, you may want to think about filling that spot by utilizing the abundance of talent within the first base pool of players since there is such a lack of depth at the third base position. On draft day it might be best for you to pick up a third baseman in the early rounds of your draft and then take advantage of the abundance of talent at first base to fill you CI spot later in the draft. Cabrera and Encarnacion are fantastic options because they can fill either 1B or 3B and give you some nice flexibility.


First Base Options & Tiers for 2014

With all that said, here’s a brief synopsis of your fantasy first base candidates:

  • Fantasy studsMiggy, Goldschmidt, Encarncion, Davis, Votto, Freeman, Fielder
  • Former fantasy studs who still have something to offer:  Pujols, AGonz
  • Just about there: Hosmer, Craig
  • Breakout candidates that everyone already knows about: Adams, Rizzo, Belt
  • The great unknown with massive upside: Jose Abreu
  • 1B potential comeback players: Teixeira, Howard
  • They won’t kill your team but you can do better: Moss, Trumbo, Swisher, Napoli
  • You really, really could do better: Mourneau, Carter, Lind
  • They qualify at 1B but there's no way you should start them there: Posey, Mauer, Santana
  • You’re kidding me right? James Loney, Adam LaRoche, Ike Davis,  Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso, Mark Reynolds, Garret Jones, Gaby Sanchez