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Updated First Base Rankings (May) - 2018 Fantasy Baseball

With a quarter of the regular season complete, it seems only appropriate to canvas things to update our perspective of how things have changed since the start of the season. Thus far, we have covered starting pitchers and relief pitchers. Today, let’s take time to look at the first baseman rankings.

As a whole, first base has been a bit underwhelming at the top end. If you are resilient enough, there is plenty of value to be had at the upper echelon of first base talent. It might be possible that you can get players that should be in this category at a fraction of the cost, even if its only 80 cents on the dollar. Surprisingly, it is an unsuspecting lot that is leading the position in homers. There is something to be said when Rhys Hoskins, Paul Goldschmidt, and Cody Bellinger are tied for 20th in homers looking up at the likes of Matt Davidson, C.J. Cron, and Matt Adams tied for second. Hopefully, you rode the hot hand at times to stay in contention in your leagues.

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2018 Fantasy Baseball Tiered Rankings: First Base (May)

Ranking Tier Player Position
10 1 Freddie Freeman 1B/3B
19 2 Joey Votto 1B
22 2 Paul Goldschmidt 1B
27 3 Anthony Rizzo 1B/2B
30 3 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF
32 3 Jose Abreu 1B
42 4 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF
47 5 Edwin Encarnacion 1B
61 5 Eric Hosmer 1B
74 6 Miguel Cabrera 1B
76 7 Wil Myers 1B
93 7 Buster Posey C/1B
100 8 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF
101 8 Carlos Santana 1B
109 8 Justin Smoak 1B
119 9 Josh Bell 1B
120 9 Matt Olson OF/1B
121 9 Hanley Ramirez 1B
124 9 Jose Martinez OF/1B
131 9 Justin Bour 1B
147 10 Ryan Zimmerman 1B
152 10 Yonder Alonso 1B
161 11 Jay Bruce OF/1B
166 11 Brandon Belt 1B/OF
169 11 Greg Bird 1B
171 11 Trey Mancini 1B/OF
179 11 Ryon Healy 3B/1B
204 12 Yulieski Gurriel 1B
234 13 Mitch Moreland 1B
243 13 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B
239 13 Eric Thames 1B/OF
240 13 Ian Desmond OF/1B
241 13 Logan Morrison 1B
242 13 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B
247 13 Albert Pujols 1B
258 14 Matt Adams 1B
267 14 Jedd Gyorko 1B/3B
279 15 C.J. Cron 1B
284 15 Chris Davis 1B
320 17 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF
349 17 Colin Moran 3B/1B
352 17 Kendrys Morales 1B
374 18 Adrian Gonzalez 1B
378 18 Lucas Duda 1B
386 18 Mark Canha 1B
391 18 Joe Mauer 1B
402 19 Victor Martinez 1B
480 19 Steve Pearce 1B/2B/OF
438 19 Dan Vogelbach 1B
457 20 Luis Valbuena 1B/3B
515 20 Wilmer Flores 1B/3B

Tier 1

Freddie Freeman has been the best at the position and nearly the best of all players with corner-infield eligibility.  He has unseated Paul Goldschmidt as the stand-alone elite first baseman. An injection of dynamic youth in the Braves lineup has given Freeman an opportunity for rejuvenation and also gives him a fast-pass ticket to finish at the top of the position in RBI, currently sitting at 35. He also throws in five stolen bases, which is tied for the lead among first baseman.

Tier 2

Joey Votto always seems to toy with the pitching community for the first month. He plays the long game and uses those at-bats to figure out how they’re pitching him this year or at least how he wants them to pitch him. In the last 30 days, he has a slash line of .296/.430/.541. He continues to be the best first baseman in OBP leagues. In leagues where interviews and trolling fans are categories, Votto is without equal.

Paul Goldschmidt has sadly dropped from the elite Tier 1 ranking. While many argued the validity the humidor would have on Goldschmidt’s power, no one considered a potentially unrelated drop-off. His performance has been a continuation of last September’s slump where he hit .175 in 80 at-bats. Goldschmidt is also missing out on opportunities as he is batting .094 with men in scoring position, unlike his career average of 313. At 30, Goldschmidt is not over-the-hill and there is no reason for a sudden and drastic deterioration of talent. If there were a way to get any sort of discount, Goldschmidt would be a buy-low candidate.

Tier 3

Anthony Rizzo has historically gotten off to slow starts. Once the calendar turns to June and the weather warms up at Wrigley, Rizzo will do the same. He is one of the safest at the position to get at least 30 HR/100 RBI. When he does heat up, you’ll likely be giddy that he does have that second base eligibility. Things could get even better for Rizzo if rumors of trade-deadline acquisitions for the Cubs come to fruition.

Cody Bellinger is another stud struggling to find his way in 2018. Pitchers seemed to have identified a pitching strategy against Bellinger, stemming from his 17 strikeouts during the World Series. As a result, he has a swinging strike rate of 14.9%. Getting a discount on Bellinger might be difficult. His owners still have 39 home runs (2017) on their mind and are willing to wait in hopes of Bellinger’s high ceiling. If there is a superstitious owner in your league convince the sophomore slump is a concern, send an offer out. If denied, pull out the voodoo doll.

Jose Abreu continues to be the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball. No Respect! He has exceeded 30 HR in three of last four years but was routinely drafted in the fourth round or later. Be thankful you were smart enough to acquire him. Abreu has rewarded you thus far with eight homers, 27 RBI and .309 average. It is true he does not play for the most offensively talented team; however, Abreu is one of the last quality chips the White Sox have to flip for more young talent. So, a trade remains a possibility, but wherever he plays, Abreu will provide you power and average.

Tier 4

Rhys Hoskins gets his own tier. Expectations were high based on the 18 HR in only 212 plate appearances at the end of last season. While 2018 has been slow, there is room for a brighter outlook. Despite a 28.4% strikeout rate, Hoskins still is getting his walks (16.8%). He increased his fly ball rate to 51.4%, but only has a 36.2% hard hit rate compared to 46% in 2017. Also, his contact rate (74.8%) is down as well. So, once Hoskins starts reducing strikeouts to his normal level and hits the ball harder at a better rate of contact, you will start seeing the production increase. If you had any intent on acquiring Hoskins’ services, now might be the opportunity to wedge him from someone’s grip.

Tier 5

Edwin Encarnacion and Eric Hosmer sitting together but have polar opposite batting profiles. Encarnacion has no problem getting the ball in the air, a 47.7 fly ball percentage. You have to wonder if the age (35) has finally caught up to him though. Some of his underlying stats aren’t helping. He isn’t walking (7.9%) and is striking out too much (28.7%). He has a .232 BABIP that contributes to a lowly .206 average. While its possible age is setting in, let’s wait until we see if he can true a few of his categories. Batting cleanup, Encarnacion is poised to rectify some fantasy category positions if he can fix things.

Hosmer, unlike Encarnacion, seemingly can’t help but pound the ball in the ground 56.4% of the time, ranking him sixth overall in ground ball rate. That isn’t a statistic you want in a fantasy player, let alone a first baseman. Despite that, Hosmer is able to get 16 doubles (tied for fourth) and his walk rate (13.1%) will help fill up the statistics. He isn't the most optimal first baseman to own but he gets enough contributions across the board for you to be content.

Tier 6

Miguel Cabrera has left us wanting. We've seen it other times when aging players have a drop-off season but bounces back the following year; we expected that from him. While Cabrera's 2017 was marred with injuries, 2018 started off well with a slash line of .323/.407/516 until, you guessed it, a hamstring slowed him down. Cabrera has finally put his foot down, saying that he will no longer play injured, since it isn't appreciated. Many managers have probably given up on him. If that's true, and Cabrera comes back healthy, he might finally provide a tremendous profit at discounted pricing.

Tier 7

Neither Wil Myers nor Buster Posey are playing first base for their respective teams. Posey's value still remains at catcher on fantasy rosters. But for rankings sake, Posey is one of those across-the-board guys. Two homers, culminating in low teens at season end, isn’t what fantasy owners expect from their first baseman. However, at catcher it is something to rejoice.

Myers has had an injury-plagued season that has resulted in only 40 at-bats thus far. The most recent injury, a strained oblique, will likely keep him out a couple more weeks. It was likely caused by the effort to sustain a 58.5% hard hit rate. Myers might not reach 30 homers and 20 stolen bases like he did in 2017, but any amount of power and speed is a welcomed addition to any roster.

Tier 8

Carlos Santana continues to play the rope-a-dope, year after year. He suckers you into thinking he is a terrible player the first month of the season. Once you’re ready to give up, he starts to go on the offensive. Santana has 15 runs, seven homers, and 22 RBI in the last 30 days, albeit with a .244 average; you’re not getting him for his batting average though. The Phillies have suddenly decided to tap into their youth and it is paying off. Santana is positioned to take advantage, batting fourth in that up-and coming lineup.

When I think of this Texas slugger, a little jingle comes into my head. "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have." Joey Gallo, Joey Gallo. It only seems fitting. Gallo is so good. When you need power, regardless of the cost, Joey Gallo is here for you. He has demonstrated this absolute with 28 runs, 14 HR, and 31 RBI. However, Gallo is also very bad. If you have a weak stomach, you'll want to skip ahead to Tier 9. Gallo brings to the table a .199 AVG, 63% contact rate and a 36% strikeout rate. Altogether, Gallo gives you headaches, but he is who he is. You didn't invest in him to be a good hitter. You just want him to keep depositing them over the wall. He will do that, but he will swing and miss at quite a few along the way.

Tier 9

*It should be pointed out that we acknowledge Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment. These rankings were published prior to the time this news was reported.

Among this group, the one most in flux is Ramirez.  If Ramirez reaches his promised 30/30, it will now be that much more impressive since we don't know where he'll play the rest of the season. He has been surprising good this year, albeit not at that pace. Ramirez has six homers with 25 runs, 29 RBI and four stolen bases to go with a .254 average, but it was not enough to convince the Red Sox to keep him. His value drops significantly as a result. It's possible he gets picked up by another team and maintains some amount of value in deep leagues.

The Cardinals keep finding these guys that don't come with a lot of hype but can produce. Jose Martinez is the recent reliable hitter and could easily have been found on most waiver wires to start the year. Thus far, he has been dependable with men on base, with 30 RBI, and a season average of .312. A 10.1% walk rate, 14.1% strikeout rate and 85.2% contact rate gives confidence this can continue.

Josh Bell, Justin Bour, and Matt Olson all seem to fall into the same category thus far, performance wise. They all provide power but hang out around the .250 batting average. All three also play for teams that lack a complete offensive package. Bell and Olson are both young sluggers that have plenty of years ahead of them with big power potential. Bour is 29 years old and playing for a team that demolished itself. It makes it tough to see an environment where he can make a complete rebound.

Brandon Belt looks like he does every year, a very good hitter to start the season. It will remain to be seen if he can derail tradition and avoid concussions. Belt's career high in HR is 18; he already has 11 in 197 at-bats. If he can keep this going, Belt could rise up the rankings a bit. If nothing else, a slash line of .317/.416/.593 is definitely something to write home about.

Mitch Moreland just got a significant upgrade based on news that occurred after these rankings were published. As mentioned above, Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment and the primary benefactor is none other than Moreland. Moreland has hit seven homers and 22 RBI and carries a slash line of .311/.390/.612 in a part-time role. He is not as good of a hitter against left-handed batters (.240), but consistent playing time could give him an opportunity to rectify that concern. The biggest benefit is you can get a guy off the waiver wire that now has consistent playing time in one of the most explosive lineups in baseball. Enjoy.

Here are a few other first baseman below Tier 9 to keep an eye on that have consistent playing time combined with periods of quality production: Ryon Healy, Yuli Gurriel, and C.J. Cron.


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