ADP Sleepers and Busts - First Basemen

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RotoBallers, it’s that time of year when we’re starting to really get into the grind of draft season. With that comes plenty of early ADP data that will either have you jumping for joy or scratching your head.

With this article, we aim to bring you a few first basemen who we believe are either overvalued, or undervalued, based on their current ADP. We need to stress the word “current” there though – not all draft platforms are in full swing, and this information could look different in a month when baseball season is about to start.

Players in this article were evaluated with 12-team leagues in mind. Now let’s get to it.

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Overvalued First Basemen

Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Let’s say this off the bat: if you’re drafting Buster Posey as a catcher, he is not overvalued here. But we’re not talking about catchers in this article now, are we? Currently being drafted in the sixth round, which makes him the ninth-ranked first basemen, you’re better off grabbing someone else later. In 2017, Posey again watched his home run, runs, and RBI totals drop despite his highest BABIP since 2012. Blame can be put on the San Francisco Giants’ roster last season for that, but the better hitters around him this year aren’t likely to boost his numbers enough to justify this draft price. The Buster Posey of a few years ago would be overdrafted as a first basemen here, so you certainly don’t want to draft a declining one.

Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies

Here’s another guy you’re probably drafting with another position in mind. At first base, though, Ian Desmond is not worth his ADP. Currently drafted in the late ninth round/13th first basemen, the price is tough to justify. Desmond’s injury-riddled 2017 injuries may have played a role in his struggles last year, but there were some alarming trends nonetheless.  Desmond’s hard contact rate and home run/fly ball ratio were at their lowest since 2010 (27.1% and 13.2%, respectively), while his fly balls went down and his ground balls went up – not ideal at all. Playing time could also be an issue with Ryan McMahon penciled in as the starting first baseman and David Dahl likely returning in the outfield.

Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros

Marwin Gonzalez is eligible at plenty of positions (first/second/third base/shortstop/outfield), and is likely worth his current ADP as an early 10th rounder at any of them except first. A 2017 .303/.377/.530 slash line with 23 homers and eight stolen bases is a line to get giddy over. But, he did all that with his highest career BABIP (.343) while making less hard contact (32.7%). His home run/fly ball ratio demolished his previous numbers (18.1% in 2017 vs. 12.3% career), and while his fly ball rate increased to 36.2%, the jump isn’t enough with his level of hard contact to say we’re getting the same production. The fact it happened at age 29 doesn’t help.

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

Ryan Zimmerman was insanely great in 2017. Nobody saw the .303/.358/.573 slash line with 36 home runs coming. If you did project that, it would have sounded like something coming from the mouth of LaVar Ball. As such, his current ADP is mid-11th round/16th first basemen off the board. That’s not happening again. Zimmerman played 144 games in 2017, his most since 2013. Odds are against him playing that much again. Plus, he wasn’t exactly good prior 2017: .242/.300/.420, and with his health issues, totaled only 36 longballs over the last three years. Even in his last season with 140+ games (2013), he slashed only .275/.344/.465 with 26 homers. Good numbers, but still not a justification to take him here.


Undervalued First Basemen

Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays

Justin Smoak experienced a massive breakout in 2017, slashing .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs, 85 runs scored, and 90 RBI. Currently being drafted in the 12th round as the 18th first basemen, this ADP is illogical. While we’ve knocked others for the ages of their breakout, Smoak’s emergence at 30 seems sustainable as he demonstrated previous signs where others didn’t. His .285 BABIP, with a career .267 career mark, was 10 points below his .295 number in 2016, with a nearly identical rate of hard contact the last two years (both well above his career rates). His slight increase in HR/FB rate is in line with his slight fly-ball rate increase as well. Finally, while this is tough to quantify, Smoak was vocal about his changes, consistently saying he’s changed his plate approach to not try to hit home runs every at-bat. His positive peripheral stat changes in 2016 turned into tremendous mainstream stat upgrades in 2017. Count me in as a believer.

Greg Bird, New York Yankees

Injuries and ineffectiveness completely derailed Greg Bird’s 2017, turning in a.190/.288/.422 slash line with nine homers across 48 games. (with a paltry .194 BABIP). While it may be tough to trust Bird, there should be a degree of confidence he’ll outperform his ADP of a mid-13th rounder. We don’t have a Major League sample size here, but his minor league statistics indicate he’s going to get on base a ton and hit for power.  In the two minor league seasons where Bird played 100+ games (2013 and 2014), he slashed .288/.428/.511 and .271/.376/.472, respectively.  This leads us to Bird’s big issue: health. But, would you rather draft Ryan Zimmerman two rounds earlier, or the 25-year old in arguably the best lineup in baseball in a ballpark that bleeds runs?

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera may not be as safe as an option as he once was, but the hit on his ADP is too much. An injury-riddled 2017 has Miggy coming off the board in round seven as the 12th first baseman. At age 35, it is possible Cabrera continues to be hampered, but we aren’t ready to label him as that guy yet. Sure, last year was bad. But, he’s been written off before only to bounce back; 2015 saw Miggy struggle to 18 home runs before hitting 38 in 2016. Cabrera’s 2017 averages weren’t where they were in 2015/2016, but he did hit the ball as hard as ever (42.5% hard hit rate) and consistently knocked in line drives with the injury issues. MVP-Miggy isn’t happening, but it doesn’t have to at his current ADP.

Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics

There’s no denying Matt Olson doesn’t do it all, but that doesn’t mean he can’t finish among the top-12 first basemen. Currently being drafted in the late 10th/early 11th round as the 15th first basemen taken, Olson seems to have the ability to return big value on that. We know what Olson did in 2017: an incredible 24 home runs in only 59 games played, coupled with a .259 batting average that outpaced his .238 BABIP. Perhaps most absurd is his 41.4% home run/fly ball ratio, which is undoubtedly going to fall. But, here’s the thing: Olson is going to hit for power, and he is likely to get on base at an above-average rate (in some years, extremely above-average).  Power hitters aren’t valued like they used to be. Still, 35-40 home run potential plus a high OBP gives Olson a chance to return top-12 value as a 10th rounder.


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