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Early 2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Welcome back to the series that further proves that the itch of fantasy baseball never goes away.

We're gathered here to look at my thoughts on the top players at each position. Assume a standard 5x5 redraft league with the rankings.

First was catchers, and now we head 90 feet to first base. Please note that 2016 was a wild year for homers all around, with its 5,610 homers being the second-most all time (2000: 5,692), so my soft advisory is to take the gains with a grain of salt.

Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.

 

Early 2017 Rankings: Top-10 First Basemen

1. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI – If you ask anyone who didn’t own Goldschmidt in 2016 what his stat line was, they’d probably all underestimate it. Yes, he hit .247 and only stole one base in April, but he still had a beastly 106-24-95-32-.297 campaign. Take away that poor April and he was the same first-round talent as ever.

2. Anthony Rizzo, CHC – The 27-year-old tied his career-high mark in runs (94) and homers (32), and set new highs in RBIs (109) and batting average (.292). Yes, his three steals were a huge step back from 2015’s 17 swipes, but even without those you’ve got a player in his prime on an offense that is as potent as they come.

3. Joey Votto, CIN – His season-long line looks normal, pretty much what folks were paying for in 2016 drafts. Of course, we know that he had a putrid first half and then a historic second half to bring it back. The bat he swung in the second half is much closer to “true Votto” than the first half, making him a nice bet for 2017.

4. Miguel Cabrera, DET – I hope everyone bought into Cabrera being a first-round caliber hitter in 2016, because his 38-homer, 108-RBI campaign really delivered alongside a healthy .316 average. He’ll turn 34 next April, and he’s the kind of hitter that should be able to age rather gracefully like Albert Pujols and have several strong seasons ahead of him.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR* – Yes, he DHed a lot but still started 74 games at first. E5’s 127 RBIs were tied for tops in the AL with David Ortiz, and second only to Nolan Arenado in the Majors. While his prospects will be affected by where he plays in 2017 (he's a free agent after the postseason ends), his kind of power should be able to play everywhere a la Nelson Cruz. The counting stats are what we’ll need to keep an eye on.

6. Daniel Murphy, WAS - At 31 years old, Murph-dog came within inches of winning the Major-League batting title (.347, still prettay, prettay good), while hitting 25 dingers and 104 RBIs in his first year as a National. In 2015, he had a 31% hard-hit rate. That rose to 38.2% in 2016 alongside a 5.9% increase in fly balls. This explains the power, and his line-drive rate even crept forward a tick to help his average too. This is what sustainable growth and a changed swing looks like.

7. Freddie Freeman, ATL – Freddie may have turned in baseball’s quietest 30-game hitting streak toward the end of the season, which helped him finish 2016 with a .302 average after failing to top .300 in his previous two seasons. Oh, and his 34 homers greatly exceeded his career-high of 23. Atlanta’s lineup is trending up, making the 27-year-old a solid pick.

8. Wil Myers, SD – Myers had a downright astounding first half to the season, posting a 61-19-60-15-.286 line before the Midsummer Classic. His 38-9-34-13-.223 second-half line was much more pedestrian, but a talent as highly regarded as Myers finally putting it together for a solid stretch of the season means we perk up. He’s only 25.

9. Jose Abreu, CWS – For as horrible as Abreu’s first two months of the 2016 season were, he still finished as one of only 22 players with 100 or more RBIs. His .293 average was actually better than his .290 mark from 2015. Of course, his 67 runs were horribly disappointing and the 25 homers didn’t salvage anything. You’re buying the first baseman that hit 14 homers with a .319 average in the second half though.

10. Hanley Ramirez, BOS – HanRam really found his groove again, but he also logged more than 600 PAs in a season for the first time since 2012. Being on the field and not on the shelf goes a long way towards being productive. He was on pace for roughly 30 homers in 2015 as well, though his 111 RBIs this season were obviously huge for his value compared to the 75-80 RBI pace of ’15. Rib-eyes aren’t predictive of course, but he has a clear spot in the middle of Boston’s stacked lineup so the deck is stacked in his favor. If he stays healthy, he should have top-10 value.

 

First Basemen #11-20

11. Matt Carpenter, STL - Mr. Wrench showed that his 28-homer 2015 was no fluke by hitting 21 dingers in 566 PAs, though missing a month due to an oblique injury really took the top off. I should probably bump Ramirez and put Carp at #10, but I'll stick with this for now.

12. Chris Davis, BAL - He hit 38 homers despite playing through some real discomfort, and actually didn't clear the fence in the final two weeks of the season. Should flirt with 40 homers again in 2017.

13. Carlos Santana, CLE – In his age-30 season, Cleveland’s walk-machine actually turned in the lowest walk rate (14.4%) of his career, but it came with an identical 14.4% strikeout rate (also a career-low mark). That’s not really what you’re here for of course, as his 34 homers greatly exceeded his 19 from 2015 and his previous career high of 27.

14. Albert Pujols, LAA - He only made 28 starts at 1B in '16, but that'll do in most leagues. The Machine's 119 RBIs were the most since his 2009, and he's logged 650+ PAs in each of his last three seasons. The Angels do well to not push him, leaving him able to produce.

15. Eric Hosmer, KC - Over 22 RBIs in three months (May, Aug., Sept.), and under 13 RBIs in the other three (April, June, July). Batted .299 in the first half before a poor .225 second-half average. Still, career-high marks in HRs (25) and RBIs (104) will earn you a spot here.

16. Mike Napoli, CLE - Don't want to bank on his career-high 34 homers or first ever 100+ RBI season to seamlessly roll over into 2017, but this is one strong dude.

17. Chris Carter, MIL - Yeah his .222 average stinks, but the ability to hit 40+ homers that plays in a homer-friendly park as an established power commodity will get you some traction.

18. Brad Miller, TB - Miller's July and August were insanely fun, as he hit a combined 15 homers with a .276 average in those sweet summer months. Out of that though, he was pretty much just a guy. Two months is a lot to discount though, so do keep him in mind.

19. Brandon Belt, SF - Belt laced a career-high 41 doubles and topped 600 PAs for the first time, but he is reading more like that doubles guy rather than a 25-homer threat. His .394 OBP is notable for those who utilize that.

20. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD - The good: his 90 RBIs held steady from 2015. The bad: his fly-ball rate dropped by 9.2% and all of those additional outcomes turned into grounders, leading to the paltry 18 homers.

Honorable Mention: C.J. Cron, LAA - Cron has hit 16 homers in each of the past two seasons now, but has only logged 113 and 116 games in each of them, respectively. If he stays on the field for 150 games and continues to make adjustments, he could flirt with 25 homers and a .280 average.




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