After covering the catcher position last week, we break down the position that usually has the most power each season. First base was a very busy position in 2017. We saw powerful debuts from Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins, and Matt Olson, breakout seasons from Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak, and the worst season of Miguel Cabrera’s career.
All of this played a huge part in how these rankings were constructed. Most of the names in the top-10 are household fantasy names, but a couple of youngsters join them after spectacular rookie seasons. Below the rankings are analysis on all 40 players ranked.
2018 First Base Rankings
#1 Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Over the last several seasons, Paul Goldschmidt has been the gold standard at first base. Okay, now that I got my stupid pun out of the way, let’s dig into his stats a little bit. Goldschmidt hit .297 for the second straight season in 2017 and tied his career high with 36 home runs. On top of that, he scored 117 runs, drove in 120, and swiped 18 bags.
You could look all day for his offensive weakness and not find anything. Goldy is one of the best hitters in the game and the gem of the first base position. He shouldn’t fall out of the top-five in drafts next spring. His current ADP is behind only Mike Trout and Jose Altuve.
#2 Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
When talking about the best pure hitters in the game, Joey Votto’s name needs to be in the discussion. What held him back a tad in fantasy was his tendency to draw an insane number of walks each season. That’s great in real life, but it limits fantasy value. He still led the majors in walks last season with 134, but Votto was more aggressive at the plate and smashed 36 home runs, topping 30 dingers for the first time since 2010.
You don’t have to worry about the batting average with Votto, as he’s hit north of .300 every season since 2009, with the exception of his injury-plagued 2014 season. If his power approach continues in 2018, he’ll certainly justify being a top-20 selection in drafts.
#3 Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
All it took was 480 at-bats. That’s all. But what a spectacular 480 at-bats it was. Bellinger mashed 39 home runs to go along with 97 RBI, 87 runs, 10 steals, and a .267/.352/.581/.933 slash line. Also, don’t forget that he just turned 22 in July. Bellinger is going to be hitting in the heart of a potent Dodgers lineup in 2018 with players like Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Yasiel Puig hitting around him. Pencil in 40+ home runs and 100 RBI for the young slugger with the potential for much more. Don’t let him slip too far into the 3rd round.
Nominated for Best Rookie: @Cody_Bellinger
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) November 18, 2017
#4 Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Behind Goldschmidt, you could make the argument that Rizzo has been the second-best fantasy first baseman over the past few seasons. Just look at his consistently good stats below in the five main hitting categories.
The only stat that fluctuates a little is the stolen bases. Everything else has been remarkably consistent. Entering his prime, with a loaded Cubs lineup around him, there’s no reason not to expect another top-25 season from Rizzo.
#5 Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
This ranking shows how many elite players are at the first base position. A fractured left wrist promptly put a halt on a promising season for Freeman and limited him to only 440 at-bats. It’s a shame, too, because when you look at per-game averages, Freeman was the third-best fantasy first baseman last year, barely behind Goldschmidt and Rhys Hoskins.
If you extrapolate Freeman’s numbers out over 589 at-bats, which is his 2016 total, you’d have 113 runs, 38 home runs, 47 doubles, 95 RBI, and 11 steals to go along with his .307 average and .989 OPS, which ranked second amongst all first baseman with over 300 at-bats. All of those, expect the RBIs and batting average, would’ve been career highs. As long as he keeps up this power surge from the last two seasons, Freeman should once again be a top-five option at first-base in 2018.
#6 Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
This ranking could be considered a tad aggressive since Hoskins has only 212 plate appearances at the major league level, but that’s all it took for me to get a big ol’ cup of the Hoskins Kool-Aid. In 170 at-bats in 2017, Hoskins hit .259 and mashed 18 home runs with 48 RBI and 37 runs scored. That’s one home run every 9.44 at-bats. Not bad, Rhys, not bad at all. First base is his for the foreseeable future, and 550-600 at-bats could yield 40+ home runs for the young slugger.
A look back at Rhys Hoskins who reached 17 homers faster than anyone in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/VmPzyBCCJr
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 1, 2017
#7 Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
That was one of the quietest top-20 seasons I can remember. With Bellinger and Hoskins bursting onto the scene, Abreu’s strong season flew under the radar. He finished with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs, and a .304/.354/.552/.906 slash line. During his four major league seasons, Abreu has been a model of consistency. Each season he’s right around a .300 average with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Barring injury, that should be where he ends up in 2018, too. He’s a strong pick in the third or fourth rounds and a surefire starting fantasy first baseman.
#8 Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Do we really think Miguel Cabrera is done? I know his 2017 season was rough, but has everyone forgotten that he hit .316 with 38 home runs, 108 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 2016? A troublesome back seems to be the culprit for some of his 2017 struggles. If he’s fully healthy next season, I’m betting on a big bounce-back season from this future Hall of Famer. His ADP is currently just outside the top-100, so anyone that drafts him could be getting one of the biggest draft day steals of 2018. There’s still top-25 upside in his bat, so don’t hesitate to draft him as your starter at first base.
#9 Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians
Do you want a lot of power from your first baseman? Well, you can’t do much better than Encarnacion. Since his breakout six seasons ago, his yearly home run totals have been 42, 36, 34, 39, 42, and 38 last season. His RBI totals during that stretch have ranged from 98 to 127, which led the majors in 2016. You know what you’re getting with Encarnacion when you draft him. He’ll give you an average around .260-.270 with 35+ home runs, 100+ RBI, and 90+ runs scored. With guys like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez hitting in front of him, he should be one of the top RBI threats in the game once again in 2018.
#10 Eric Hosmer, Free Agent
Meet the biggest wild card each season at first base. Hosmer is either really good for long stretches or downright horrible. There’s no in between with him. His fantasy owners last season had to have been happy that 2017 was one of his good seasons. Hosmer had 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 98 runs with a .318/.385/.498/.882 slash line. The batting average was a career-high and the runs and home runs both tied his career-highs. His 2018 value will be clearer once he signs with a new team. He’s not a big mashing first baseman, so if he lands in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark, that could vastly hinder his value.
#11 Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
Early ADP data has Myers being drafted as the 9th first baseman off the board. I’m not buying it. If there were more establish options below him, he’d be a spot or two lower in these rankings. Myers is a career .254 hitter and has never had an OPS north of .800 over a full season. His 30 home runs, 74 RBI, and 80 runs last season were decent, but what really helped his value was his 20 stolen bases. Owners that draft him in 2018 better hope he approaches 20 steals again because if that dips closer to 10 or so, he’s not close to a top-10 option at first base.
#12 Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays
Hey, Justin Smoak finally lived up to the hype surrounding him as a prospect. It took him eight seasons to do it, but who’s counting? Smoak set career-highs in home runs (38), RBI (90), runs scored (85), and every percentage in his slash line. Is it sustainable? Yes, to a degree. His ISO jumped from .174 to .259 and his HR/FB ratio was nearly 5% above his career mark. If you project about 80-85% of his 2017 stats for 2018, you won’t be disappointed.
#13 Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
After three tough seasons in 2014-2016, Zimmerman showed in 2017 that he still has some thunder in his bat. He set career-highs in home runs and RBI and hit over .300 for the first time since 2010. This Nationals lineup is stacked, so Zimmerman should have no issue topping 100 RBI again in 2018. He’s a borderline starting first baseman in standard leagues.
#14 Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
In his career, Gallo has amassed around a full season’s worth of at-bats (582). In those at-bats, he has slugged 48 home runs with 96 RBI, 103 runs, and 11 steals. Great looking stats, right? Well, those stats have come with an unsightly .201 average and 272 strikeouts. Not as excited anymore, are you? First base is all his in 2018, so expect 500+ at-bats and likely another 40+ homer season. Just don’t expect an average higher than .220 or so.
#15 Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
With all the other elite rookies, Matt Olson’s powerful debut got overshadowed a bit. The hulking, 6-foot-5 first baseman swatted 24 home runs in just 189 at-bats. That’s one home run every 7.9 at-bats, which is 1.5 lower than Hoskins for those keeping score at home. The average will likely remain around .250, and the Oakland lineup won’t don him any favors when it comes to RBIs or runs, but 40+ home runs are definitely possible for Olson in 2018.
#16 Carlos Santana, Free Agent
After a productive eight seasons in Cleveland, Santana finds himself as a free agent for the first time in his career. He’s topped 20 home runs in five of his seven full seasons and had 18 and 19 the two years he didn’t. His RBI totals always fall in the 70s or 80s, and his runs have crept upwards in each of the last four seasons. Santana is just an all-around solid fantasy player that would make for a strong starter in your corner infield or utility slots.
#17 Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays
Like Smoak above, Morrison broke out several years later than expected. The average was a tad low at .246, but fantasy owners had to have been happy with his 38 homers and 85 RBI. His ISO skyrocketed nearly 100 points from .176 to .270, but some of that can be attributed to his 11.5% (34.7 to 46.2) rise in fly ball percentage. Some regression in 2018 is likely, but Morrison is still worth drafting in the early part of the late rounds as a utility player or bench first baseman.
#18 Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates
The power surge was unexpected, yet very welcomed by his fantasy owners. In 549 at-bats, Bell hit 26 home runs and drove in 90 runs. He always had the raw power to hit 25+ home runs, but he hadn’t shown that power in games consistently. Some modest improvements could vault him over 30 homers and 100 RBI in 2018 as Pittsburgh’s full-time starting first baseman.
#19 Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
This ranking might seem a tad low, but I’ve never been excited about Matt Carpenter. Outside of runs, everything about his fantasy profile screams “okay.” Not good, just okay. He usually settles in around .270 with 20-25 home runs and 65-85 RBIs Again. Those are okay stats, but not worth using as much more than a utility starter or bench piece.
#20 Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers
Well, he wasn’t quite Chris Shelton, but Thames’ production dropped significantly as the season progressed. After launching 11 home runs in 84 April at-bats with an insane 1.276 OPS, he managed only 19 more in 385 at-bats the rest of the season with a .789 OPS. You think pitchers figured out his weaknesses? Sure looks like it. He’s not worth more than a late-round pick in 2018 drafts.
Quick Notes on Players 21-40
#21 Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox – He gets listed at first base, but we all know Hanley is a DH through and through. A motivated, healthy Ramirez can be a near top-10 first baseman. I don’t think I need to tell you the other side of him, though.
#22 Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros – He’s a fine hitter, but Gurriel just doesn’t rack up enough counting stats to be a fantasy asset. He’s a fine utility or bench option, but not more than that.
#23 Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels – Ranking Pujols this low just doesn’t feel right. However, outside of home runs and RBIs, he doesn’t help your team much anymore. Hitting behind Mike Trout will keep his RBIs high and he still has the power to hit 25+ home runs. Give him a late-round flier as a bench first baseman.
#24 Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners – Going from one pitcher’s park in Oakland to another in Seattle isn’t going to change his value much. However, a much better lineup around him will. After hitting 25 home runs and 78 RBI in 2017, 30 and 100 are within reach in 2018 hitting in a better lineup.
- For more on Healy’s move to Seattle, check out Jeff Zimmerman’s breakdown of the trade.
#25 Justin Bour, Miami Marlins – Bour has a career year in 2017 with 25 home runs, 83 RBI, and a .289 average, all of which were career highs. Unfortunately, that came with only 52 runs scored. With Stanton’s departure inevitable, Bour’s 2018 value is going to take a big hit.
#26 Dominic Smith, New York Mets – The average was pathetic, but Smith displayed solid power in his late-season debut. He hit nine home runs in 167 at-bats, which is a 30 home run pace. First base is all his in Queens, so a 30-homer season is well within reach.
#27 Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants – Expectations for Belt always seem to outweigh the results he provides. That ridiculous 2010 minor league campaign is now eight years removed. Don’t expect more than what he’s shown the last several seasons.
#28 Mark Reynolds, Free Agent – A 30 home run season with 97 RBI should land him a starting job on a bad team and put him in late-round flier territory. If not, he slides off draft boards completely.
#29 Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles – A .220-.250 average looks a lot better with 35-40 home runs than it does with 26 home runs. That’s Davis’ problem. If he can get back to nearly 40 homers, that will put him back in the top-20 fantasy first basemen.
#30 Kendrys Morales, Toronto Blue Jays – Over the last two seasons, Morales has averaged 29 home runs and 89 RBI, but only 66 runs scored. At least he keeps his average respectable enough to be a late-round pick in 2018 drafts.
#31 C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels – With Pujols spending most of his time at DH, Cron should see the lion’s share of starts at first base. He’s incredibly streaky, but one of these days he’s going to bop 30+ home runs.
#32 Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals – A 29-year-old rookie, Martinez hit .309 with 14 homers, 46 RBI and 47 runs in just 272 at-bats. His ability to play both first base and the outfield should give him around 400 at-bats in 2018. He’s worth a flier.
#33 Greg Bird, New York Yankees – As of now, Bird is penciled in to start at first for the Yankees in 2018. However, this is the Yankees we’re talking about. They could very easily fill that spot via free agency. If Bird has the gig on opening day, he could easily slug 30+ home runs with that short right-field porch.
#34 Yonder Alonso, Free Agent – Alsonso posted career highs in home runs, RBI, and runs in 2017, but he will likely struggle to find a starting gig this winter.
#35 Matt Adams, Free Agent – A late-May trade from the Cardinals to the Braves rejuvenated Adams season, as he mashed 19 home runs in just 291 at-bats. However, the Braves non-tendered him last week. Adams figures to find himself in a platoon or bench role wherever he lands.
#36 Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers – His contract, plus Bellinger’s ability to play the outfield, will likely still get Gonzalez 300-400 at-bats, but his best days are very much behind him.
#37 Mitch Moreland, Free Agent – His 2018 value depends on where he signs. Regardless, he’s not worth drafting.
#38 Mike Napoli, Free Agent – See Moreland above.
#39 Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins – He usually posts a solid batting average, but that’s it.
#40 Matt Holliday, Free Agent – See Moreland above.
I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.