We rolled out our final update on 2017 rankings this past weekend. While there haven’t been seismic shifts, some players have naturally seen their stocks rise or fall since our initial valuations were made in December. All week long, we’re looking at the biggest movers and shakers at each position. In this installment, we’ll present our updated first base rankings, tiers and auction values.
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2017 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Basemen (March Updates)
First Base Rankings Analysis: The Risers
Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays
Those of you who read the debate on Morales between yours truly and Bill Dubiel knew I’d be moving Morales up on my board, but I wasn’t the only ranker to do so. Nick Mariano bumped the veteran up from just outside the top 100 to inside the top 70. I’m not quite that bullish, but there’s a lot to like here. Morales will hit in the middle of a Jays lineup that should again be one of the better groups in the game. He’s a good bet for strong power and run production, and won’t kill you in batting average.
Matt Holliday, New York Yankees
Holliday didn’t budge in the consensus rankings, just my own. Given that I was the low man on the totem pole, though, that makes some sense. The batting average woes last season were almost certainly a mirage. Despite his contact quality, batted ball distribution and strikeout rate all being in line with his career averages, he suffered from a .253 BABIP, 80 points below his career mark. He’s also going to be playing half his games in Yankee Stadium, one of the most homer-friendly park in baseball. Finally, he’ll be able to DH, increasing his chances of staying healthy.
Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers
It was tough to know what to do with Thames in our initial rankings, hence the ultimately huge bump he got from me by the final update. The projection systems love him based on his Ruthian performance in the KBO, and he’s recovered from a slow start this spring with an .801 OPS through Saturday’s action. If MLB pitchers can’t find an exploitable weakness, Thames could conceivably parlay his swing and friendly park into a 40 HR season. Is that the most likely outcome? Probably not, but it’s worth gambling on at his current price.
First Base Rankings Analysis: The Fallers
Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians
Encarnacion remains in the top five in our consensus ranks, but a few members of the panel did bump him down slightly, including me. FanGraphs’ Andrew Perpetua wrote a great article a few weeks ago about Statcast data for some aging sluggers, Encarnacion among them. There are some real red flags here, especially with Encarnacion entering his age-34 season and moving to a less homer-friendly division.
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff was the only writer to move Carpenter down by an appreciable amount, but the margin is so thin between the top options at first base that it dropped him two spots in the consensus. The veteran followed up his power breakout in 2015 with an identical slugging percentage and a higher hard contact rate, while trimming strikeouts and adding to his already excellent walk rate. Only injury kept him from equaling his home run total or run production. In fact, injury may well have kept him from an even better season in 2016. When Carpenter strained his oblique just before the All-Star break, he was hitting .298/.420/.568. He was walking nearly as often as he struck out, had a .270 ISO, and was on pace for 30 homers, 110 runs, and 105 RBI. He missed the rest of the month and was clearly not the same player upon his return. Carpenter acknowledged in a recent interview that he never felt healthy and altered his swing because of the injury.
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jeff and Harris dropped AGon on their boards, and I’m not sure why. Maybe they took exception to his criticism of the World Baseball Classic? Whatever the case, Gonzalez’s first half struggles were attributable to a back injury. Once he recovered from that, he resumed the same steady production that has made him a reliable fantasy option for the last decade-plus. Cody Bellinger is the future, but Gonzalez still has the job locked down.