Last week, we began our positional rankings with the backstops, the catchers. Through the next 7 weeks until opening day, I’ll rank the top players at each position. Working through the positional numbers on a lineup card, the next position up is 3 on a scorecard, the first basemen.
5. Cody Bellinger—The young and promising first baseman with the Dodgers had a breakout rookie campaign last season, winning the NL Rookie of the Year easily. In keeper leagues, if you have your hands on this guy, don’t let him go. He has the ability to play multiple positions in your lineup, which is a huge plus. His 39 homers and 10 stolen bases (outstanding from 1st base) aren’t bad either. The only reason Bellinger brings up the rear on this list is his age and relative lack of experience.
4. Freddie Freeman—Freeman has huge upside. He hasn’t had the most injury-free career, but he has the potential to top this list if he can remain healthy. He batted .307 for Atlanta last year, while hitting 28 home runs in only 440 at bats to go along with a noticeably high walk rate. Freeman may be a fairly cheap pickup, so don’t be afraid to jump the gun.
3. Eric Hosmer—Whoever signs this free agent first baseman will be adding a huge boost to their team. Hosmer batted .318 last year for Kansas City; his next team should see similar production. His extra base hits and RBI don’t exactly jump off the page, but that was just a result of the team around him. Hosmer will likely go to a team that is more of a contender than the Royals were in 2017, so expect his power numbers to increase. Hosmer may also be a cheap buy at the beginning of the season.
2. Paul Goldschmidt—Goldschmidt is the epitome of a 5-tool player. He has a tool that a lot of first basemen don’t have: speed. For Arizona in 2017, Goldy hit 3 ticks under .300 at .297, stole 18 bases, and hit 36 home runs. In keeper leagues, Goldschmidt might be really hard to get control of, but the opportunity presents itself in the draft. Under no circumstances do I see Goldschmidt falling below the 15th overall pick.
1. Joey Votto—Very close call between #1 and #2 here—Votto and Goldschmidt are almost interchangeable. The Reds’ first basemen came up just a couple points shy of winning the NL MVP last season, and probably should have won it. He led all first basemen with a .320 batting average and had power numbers very similar to Goldschmidt. What really separates Votto is his strikeouts, or lack-there-of. The ability to avoid strikeouts is a huge benefit in fantasy. His very low strikeout rate combined with a high batting average lead to an OBP of .454 and an OPS of 1.032. Votto should be the top first basemen taken in a fantasy draft.