We’re continuing our Positional Avoid series today with a look at first basemen. Earlier, we examined three potential busts at catcher.
As the days in March go by, we are getting closer and closer to the witching hour. The time in which you must determine who is fit for your team and who you don’t mind squaring off against each week.
Earlier this week we took a look at three catchers to avoid in your 2017 drafts. Today we will look at three first basemen to avoid at their current ADP prices.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Potential Overvalued First Base Candidates
Wil Myers (seventh in RotoBaller 1B ranks; ADP of 58 in NFBC)
Myers, similar to Wilson Contreras in our Catchers to Avoid post, has a lot to like on the surface. Myers was an elite prospect for several years and is coming off a season in which he hit 28 HR and had 28 SB. The only other player to reach 28 in both categories last season? Mike Trout. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Before Trout in 2016, no player had reached 28 HR and 28 SB in the same season since 2012.
So why are we avoiding Myers? A couple reasons. For one, despite the excellent numbers, 2016 was the first truly great season from Myers. Prior to last season, Myers didn’t have a single season in which he played at least 100 major league games. Most often this was due to injuries, although his .222/.294/.320 slash line in 2014 meant a brief stint in the minors was necessary. Myers also had never stolen more than 12 bases in a season in his career before 2016, and to even get to 12, we had to combine his major league and minor league steals in 2013. The Padres love to run, but most projection systems see Myers losing somewhere in the range of 10 SB this season - that can be a huge difference.
Then we get to the matter of Myer’s HR total from 2016. Again, prior to 2016, Myers’ career-high in HR came in a season where we have to combine his minor league and major league numbers. In 2013, Myers did hit a combined 27 HR, but those 14 minor league long balls obviously come with an asterisk. It a lot easier to take Joe Triple-A deep at some random stadium in Glendale then it is to take Clayton Kershaw deep at Petco Park. Myers’ increased HR total came in part to simply staying healthy but also thanks to a career-high HR/FB rate (18.7 percent compared to a 14.5 percent career rate). That jump came despite posting a hard hit ball rate (33.6 percent) lower than his career rate (34.5 percent).
I believe in Myers’ power more than his speed, but could still see a drop down to the 22-24 range in 2017 and that’s if he stays healthy. That’s the biggest catch for me. The unproven nature of Myers’ health, along with the fact that he’s due for some slight regression in terms of production, is enough to stay away in 2017.
Hanley Ramirez (11th in RotoBaller 1B ranks; ADP of 84 in NFBC)
The story is much the same with Ramirez. Han-Ram is coming off a monster season in which he posted 30 HR, 81 R, 111 RBI, 9 SB, and a .286 BA. All that production made him ninth-rated first baseman in 2016, according to the ESPN Player Rater. Despite that almost certainly being a high-water potential for 2017, the rankings have him ranked right around that tier of first basemen once again. Ramirez has played more than 130 games only once in the past four seasons, and even last year he missed 15 games. Ramirez managed to be mighty productive in those 147 games, but even that production has a few question marks behind it.
Ramirez posted his lowest line drive rate (18.8 percent) of the past four years in 2016, but had a higher BA than either 2015 or 2014. Ramirez also posted his highest HR/FB rate of his career, a rarity for a 32-year-old in the modern game. Now the increased HR/FB rate was backed up by an excellent 37.2 percent hard hit ball rate, but the question of whether Ramirez can maintain a high hard hit ball rate that lofty is just as relevant as whether the results were legitimate in 2016. Of the three first baseman listed here, Ramirez is the one I’m at closest to “not avoiding,” but the health issues just scare me too much. At a position like first base, where you need legitimate production, guys like Myers and Ramirez who have such health concerns are more worrisome than a Devon Travis-type at second base, where the dropoff in production will be less noticeable for your team. I’d much rather take Kendrys Morales six rounds later and get similar production with only slightly less flexibility.
Eric Hosmer (15th in RotoBaller 1B ranks; ADP of 103 in NFBC)
The folks at RotoBaller are cooler on Hosmer than the industry average and this is the correct idea. Hosmer is coming off a career-high in HR and RBI, but you can get a sense by now, that’s not the time you want to buy on these players. In an ideal world, you draft each player the season before their breakout instead of the season after.
Hosmer has all the markings of a player just after his breakout (and headed the other way). Taking a look at Hosmer’s batted ball profile from 2015-2016 shows a disturbing trend. Hosmer posted one of the lowest fly ball rates in baseball in 2015 a stat that actually had some in the industry saying Hosmer could provide some value if he simply focused on tweaking his launch angle to hit a few more fly balls (and thus a few more HR). Instead, Hosmer posted nearly the exact same fly ball rate (24.4 percent in 2015 and 24.7 percent in 2016) while trading in seven points of line drive rate (23.6 percent to 16.5 percent) directly into more ground balls (52.0 percent to 58.9 percent). That’s not the direction we all had hoped for.
Now Hosmer was able to tally a career-high 25 HR thanks to a 21.4 percent HR/FB rate, but given that his career HR/FB rate is 13.4 percent, that figure is due for some regression. If you draft Hosmer, you get the good feeling of a player who will almost certainly play the entire season and won’t kill you in BA. His BA is likely to bounceback around the .280 range if he cuts down on those grounders a bit and hitting every day in the middle of the Kansas City lineup will mean some decent R and RBI totals. There’s just no real ceiling on Hosmer. Given some of the names being taken in the same area (Miguel Sano, Carlos Santana), there’s a lot more production to be added to your team if you go a different route than the rather pedestrian Hosmer.