If you have not yet noticed in your early fantasy drafts or mocks this year, power is no longer a premium in fantasy baseball. Speed is the new currency, and if you want it, you have to be willing to pay big and early for it. With that being said, there is no longer quite a need to reach for the power in the early rounds.
Since first base is the staple of fantasy power production here are four youngsters that have the potential to break out at the position in 2017, and supply you with the same power as their counterparts, but at a much lesser cost.
2017 First Base Breakouts
Greg Bird, NYY (ADP: 251)
Many fantasy owners were already excited about Bird heading into the 2016 season after he hit 11 HR in only 46 games following a late season call-up in 2015. But fans received the disappointing news prior to spring training that Bird would miss the season after having shoulder surgery. Fast forward to 2017 and the excitement is back as Bird is now recovered and slated to be the primary first baseman for the Bronx Bombers.
Bird Dog combined across multiple levels to hit at least 20 HR in three straight seasons prior to missing 2016. In his short big-league exposure, he showed he hits a ton of flyballs (51.4 percent) and he hits them hard (44.8 Hard%). This will fit in perfectly to Yankee Stadium, which saw the highest park factor boost in HR in 2016, and has always been known to favor LHB.
Joe Girardi has already stated Bird is the Yankees starting first baseman, even after the signing of reigning NL HR king Chris Carter. If Bird can work his way into the heart of the lineup with the likes of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Gary Sanchez, and Matt Holliday, he will have a break-out campaign in 2017. We're looking at a potential 75-30-90 fantasy season from a 24-year-old, and you can grab him in the 21st round.
Justin Bour, MIA (ADP: 302)
Justin Bour was a popular low-end sleeper pick heading into the 2016 season, and he was certainly on his way to proving that to be true heading into July. In just three months he had racked up 15 HR, 46 RBI, and a .873 OPS. The excitement came to an immediate halt however, after a sprained ankle on July 2 led to a stint on the 60 day DL. Bour finally returned in September, but was noticeably not in his first half form, and failed to hit another HR in his remaining 20 games.
Bour has legit left handed power. His 21.4 PA/HR ratio was in the same neighborhood as Anthony Rizzo, who hit 32 bombs over the full season. After posting an ISO of .218 and .211 in consecutive seasons, I have no doubt Bour can immediately be a 30+ HR guy. He is aided by impressive plate discipline, which reaped a 0.68 BB:K ratio that ranked top 10 among first basemen (with min. 300 PA), and was once again right on par with Anthony Rizzo.
The main concern with Bour, as is with many left handed power hitters, is his inability to hit southpaws. He owns a career .562 OPS and .068 ISO against LHP, which can continue to limit his fantasy potential. But Don Mattingly has expressed his desire for Bour to continue to gain exposure to lefties this year, which means the PA will be there and hopefully will lead to an improvement in the split. Last season's injury helps lower Bour's draft stock in 2017, as he is currently going undrafted in standard leagues.
Tommy Joseph, PHI (ADP: 211)
Tojo exploded onto the fantasy baseball scene during his rookie season in 2016 by smacking 21 HR with a monstrous .248 ISO, both ranking third among rookies. If you think Bour has high power potential over a full season, then Joseph says "Hold my beer." In fact, Joseph's PA:HR ratio (16.5) was actually better than Edwin Encarnacion who led the position with 42 HR. The kid can rake. But unfortunately, that is all he has shown the ability to do thus far.
Joseph has never been known to hit for a high average consistently, and seems to despise drawing walks (6.3 BB%). The good news is we saw significant improvement from him down the stretch. After the All-Star break, Joseph increased his BB% by five points, and decreased his K% by six points. If this trend continues, Joseph's fantasy owners could receive the best of both Bour and Bird- but in a right handed version.
The Phillies haven't had a player reach 100 RBI since 2011, but they are certainly on the rise with youngsters like Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera plus the acquisitions of Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick (..baby steps) this offseason.
Cody Bellinger, LAD (ADP: 490)
A former fourth round pick in the 2013 draft, Bellinger has now become a top 10 prospect in the MLB. The 21 year old hit 29 HR with 8 SB across three levels of the minor leagues in 2016, after demolishing A+ ball (30 HR, 10 SB) the previous season. He has only played three games at the Triple A level, but in those three game he jacked three bombs.
The 6-foot-4 lefty is currently blocked by the great Adrian Gonzalez at first base, but the veteran is currently nursing elbow inflammation. Bellinger will also be seeing playing time at all three outfield spots this spring training. The Dodgers have been a carousel in the outfield for years now, so there is a real possibility Bellinger joins his big league teammates early this year and will force the Dodgers to keep him there. He will continue to strike out at above a 20 percent rate, but has also historically been a double digit BB% guy. Once the opportunity presents itself, Bellinger is breaking out in 2017, and we will be seeing much more of this; monster jacks off a southpaw that literally leave the ball park....
— ShitBallPlayersDo... (@ShtBalIPlayrsDo) February 28, 2017