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Late-Round Fantasy Baseball First Base Targets - NFBC Draft and Hold Leagues

miguel cabrera fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB DFS picks

Welcome RotoBallers to my new series about NFBC late-round targets - today we kick things off and take a look at first base. We have entered January, and that means Fantasy Baseball draft season is ramping up. Sure, we do not know if or when the MLB season will start, but that will not stop us die-hard fantasy players. Some players have been researching for a few months, while some players are just now getting their first looks at what the 2022 landscape may look like. 

In previous years, many players would participate in mock drafts to get their feel for the player pool; in recent years, that has changed with Best Ball and Draft and Hold drafts (DnH). Things have also changed quite a bit with the growth of the NFBC platform. The NFBC runs some of the best contests for fantasy baseball players and has different price points for your average fans and higher stake players.

The beauty of the best ball and DnH drafts is no weekly FAAB/waiver wire process. The main difference between the two formats is that the best ball is just drafting and walking away while DnH is still drafting but still setting your weekly lineups. They are similar to mock drafts; there is not much left to do after the draft, but a little skin in the game keeps the players drafting focused and on the up and up.

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NFBC Draft and Hold Strategy

Now that all the prerequisites are out of the way let’s get to some fantasy baseball goodness. Kicking off the positional values, I will start with the first base position. I will be using ADP since December 1st, but feel free to adjust to whatever timeframe works for your research.

For the next few weeks leading up to the season, I will be writing a series of articles looking for draft values. For this time of the year, I will be focusing on DnH leagues, and I will go over some later-round targets at each position. In the NFBC, there are NFBC 50’s which are 12-team leagues, and Draft Champions (DC) which are 15-team leagues. The ADP used in these articles will be for the DC’s. You can find the ADP for all formats on the NFBC website.

The first base position is deep but also dries up quickly. There are 20-25 solid first base options, but they are also drafted by pick 250. There are other decent options to follow, but the late-round depth tries up very quickly. With that thought in mind, grabbing your first base targets may be of more importance earlier in your drafts, while maybe taking chances on some of these players once you are comfortable at the position. Treat these values as “extra” first base options. Not players you want to play, but players that could become solid if a few things break the right way. 

Some of these later-round values are boring veterans that will play nearly every day. At-bats are kind and are harder and harder to find later in drafts. Some of these targets are players looking to bounce back or strong side platoon players that should get you the stats you need as a deep value. Some values will also be young players who do not have a role with the team yet but could be an excellent late-season addition to your team by the season’s end. Let’s look at some of the late-round first base values I am targeting in DnH drafts. 

 

Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks

NFBC ADP: 394

The Diamondbacks’ first baseman is only a couple of years removed from a monster 2019 season. A season that saw Walker hit .251 with 29 home runs and even threw in eight steals. Since then, the power has disappeared from Walker, but the overall profile has not changed a ton, leaving optimism for a bounceback in 2022.

In 2021, Walker hit .244 with only ten home runs in 115 games. He was on the IL twice early in the season due to an oblique strain, and I would be willing to guess that oblique strain hampered Walker all season. Even with the oblique injury, Walker had a nice 111.1 mph maxEV, but it was supported with a 6.4% barrel rate and 41.1% hard-hit rate. The latter two were two of his lower career marks. The loss in barrels and hard-hit rate correlated with his career-low 8.7% HR/FB even though his FB rate increased while his groundball rate decreased. 

Walker’s contact quality was down, but the overall contact did not struggle much from his career norms. Walker was more aggressive by swinging more while carrying similar career contact rates. His SwStr%, CStr%, and even CSW% were better than in previous years. Walker was more aggressive in 2021 and was putting the ball in play, similar to 2021, if not more. 

I am willing to write off a lot of the poor production in 2021 to the oblique injury and plan for a bounceback in 2022. The beautiful thing is his draft-day price is not expensive either. He can be your CI or even a bench bat. This makes Walker so intriguing for a DC format as he can be your second or third first baseman. If he struggles, you may not need to use him this season, but you have a great value pick if he starts hitting as he did in 2019. The only concern I have is Seth Beer is waiting in the wings. The universal DH should solve that problem, but keep that in mind as a potential roadblock for Walker. 

 

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

NFBC ADP: 452

Boring is sometimes good when it comes to late-round targets in DC formats. When it comes to the veteran Cabrera, he is boring since he is not that Triple Crown candidate he once was, but he is a player that should be in the lineup nearly every day at 1B or DH, and that is very valuable in this format. When your starter goes down with an unexpected injury, Cabrera can fill in and give those beneficial everyday bats that many late-round picks can not.

Cabrera is not just an at-bat asset; he can still hit. He is coming off a 2021 season that saw him hit .256 with 15 home runs in 130 games. He may not be hitting as many home runs like he used to, but he is still crushing the baseball. Last year Miggy had a 112.6 mph maxEV to go with an excellent 8.3% barrel rate and 49% hard-hit rate. All numbers are similar to years past and are not showing any significant decline. 

The biggest flaw for Miggy this past season was a massive drop in flyball rate from 26.5% to 19.6% and a correlating spike in groundball rate from 41.9% to 48.2%. If Miggy continues that outstanding quality of contact and elevates the ball a bit more like he is used to doing, then we could see 20 home runs yet again. At worst, you will get a productive bat that will play nearly every day, and that is insanely valuable after pick 400 in DC formats. 

 

Nick Pratto, Kansas City Royals

NFBC ADP: 468

I prefer the Miggy types for starters, so I have a more confident idea of playing time. However, many like to use later-round picks to take chances on prospects. If you are one of those drafters, Pratto should be of significant interest.

One of the Royals’ top prospects not named Bobby Witt Jr., Pratto has been mashing his way through the minors, and his time may come sooner than later in 2022 to get some serious MLB run. He has showcased power and speed throughout the minors to go with a decent batting average. In 2021 he spent time in Double-A and Triple-A, where Pratto combined for 36 home runs and 12 stolen bases. 

There’s always the chance Pratto does not see any playing time with the Royals in 2022, and that is the primary risk with the pick. However, there is also a chance he gets the call up at some point and never relinquishes the job. Steamer projects Pratto to play in 53 games and hit 11 home runs while stealing four bases. Pratto could make for an excellent second-half boost to your team, if you believe, so it all depends on your level of risk versus reward in drafting.

 

Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays

NFBC ADP: 530

Yep, we are getting in the deep layers of the draft. Choi brings some attractive value at this point in the draft. Well, at least he does while he is healthy. Choi only played in 83 games last season and 127 back in 2019. When healthy, he is the strong side of a platoon at first base while getting occasional starts first left-handed pitchers.

Choi is not a world-beater at the plate but will bring double-digit home run power and great OBP skills to help in the runs scored department. Before 2020, Choi hit a decent .260 average, but that has decreased recently. Remember, this is an end-game draft pick. Do not count on Choi for the entire season, but an option in weeks with good matchups or even a short-term injury replacement is not a bad thing.

 

Matt Thaiss, Los Angeles Angels

NFBC ADP: 712

If looking for a late-round dart throw at first base, then Thaiss could be your guy. In recent years, Thaiss has hit double-digit home runs in the minors while adding an occasional steal and hitting over .270. The real value may be his ability to gain catcher eligibility as well. He has played first base and catcher in the minors. He is currently projected as the backup catcher to Max Stassi.

If Thaiss gains catcher eligibility, he could bring great late-round value. He could lock into some excellent playing time if an injury were to occur to Stassi, which has been a thing in the past. Thaiss is not a bad gamble for some catcher/corner infield depth as one of your late picks. 



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