January 16, 2017
Early ADP Analysis
Welcome to first base week, where we’ll have everything you need to know about the position over the next five days. In this space, you can find the second edition of this year’s average ADP analysis series. As I explained in last week’s catcher edition, these ADP numbers come from the NFBC data, and the average round is assuming a 15-team league. Now, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
The (Very) Early Rounds
If you want a top first baseman, you better be willing to pull the trigger early.
Goldschmidt is being drafted in the top five among all players and first among first baseman, and yet he’s still getting the down arrow here. When you get to the tippity top of the draft, one spot (or, in this case, two spots) of movement can be a huge difference. At this time last year, he was being included in conversations with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper with respect to who should be drafted number one overall. His average ADP was 2.42, but he was selected as high as 1-1 in plenty of drafts. His power dropped a little bit last season, as did his average, but he’s still a 30-30 threat who is more than capable of topping a .300 AVG. Despite playing in a lineup that may not be a boon to his contextual numbers, he’s more than worthy of a top-five pick. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him back in the 1-1 conversation at this time next winter.
Freddie Freeman, Braves
At this time last year, Freeman’s stock was heading towards an all-time low. He was being drafted around 80th overall, and there was negativity surrounding his fantasy value. (Full disclosure: I had him as a 1B to avoid last year, so…yeah.) His power wasn’t developing at all, and the supporting cast in Atlanta looked horrendous. The first baseman, who’s now squarely in his prime coming off his age-26 season, countered those feelings by demolishing his career-high in home runs. He smacked 36 dingers in 2016 to go along with a .302 AVG and solid contextual numbers despite the supporting cast. Even if all the power doesn’t come back, Atlanta’s lineup should be better to help make up for the regression. His current ADP is a little early for my taste, but it’s certainly not crazy.
The (Mildly Less) Early Rounds
These aren’t the elites, but there is legitimate star power throughout this group. Also, Eric Hosmer.
One of the biggest movers at the entire positions (in fact, he even moved positions!), Myers finally started to show some of his potential in 2016. After being drafted 209th overall last season, the former top prospect was finally able to stay on the field all year and put up solid numbers in the process. Playing in San Diego will always hinder his fantasy value somewhat—and his new extension will ensure that stays the case for the foreseeable future—but he did manage 28 home runs last year despite his suboptimal home park. The most surprising part of his season, though, were the 28 stolen bases, which catapulted him to fourth among 1B on the ESPN Player Rater. It’s hard to see him keeping up that pace next year, but a 25-15 season with an AVG that won’t kill you is certainly within reason. There’s risk in taking someone in such a poor lineup, of course, but Freeman taught us not to be too scared of that.
Jose Abreu, White Sox
While Myers was one of the biggest risers at the position, Abreu was one of the biggest fallers. After being drafted 22nd overall prior to last season, he put up a disappointing campaign that included career-lows in home runs, runs and RBI. On the one hand, the power decline continues a trend that started in 2015. On the other hand, most of those woes came in the first half of 2016, as his second-half home run total would be 31 pro-rated over a 162-game pace. Chicago is still a hitter-friendly park, and the power clearly still exists in the bat, so another season with at least 30 home runs should be expected. However, like Myers, Abreu is on a rebuilding team and is in serious jeopardy of falling short of the 100-RBI plateau for the first time in his career. Unlike Myers, he doesn’t have the stolen-base crutch to lean on. Although he’s a solid bounce-back candidate, Abreu’s ceiling is limited by his lack of speed and lack of supporting cast.
Chris Davis, Orioles
Let’s be honest: We all know what we’re getting when we draft Davis. You’re drafting for the enormous power—no one is a better bet for 50 home runs in any given season—and taking the lumps in batting average. His 38 home runs were only a slight disappointment, but it was made to look much worse by the power jump from the rest of the league. His .221 AVG was definitely worse than one would want, but also not his complete floor. He also suffered from a severe lack of RBI, tallying a paltry 84 despite his big power. All of this was enough to push him from 27th overall in drafts last year to his current 76th spot. The good news for this year is that the power is a good bet to stick around, and possibly improve, despite the question marks around the league-wide power spike. Additionally, his RBI total was hampered by an oddly low AVG with runners in scoring position, something that doesn’t track with the rest of his career and that should come back to normal this year. Drafting Davis is always a risk, but he could be good value in 2017.
Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox
Coming off an injury-riddled, supremely disappointing 2015, Ramirez’s ADP fell all the way to 134 last spring. With a healthy shoulder and regained confidence from moving back to the infield, he regained something close to his peak form with his first 30 home run season since 2008 and a career-high 111 RBI. Surely, hitting in Boston’s dominant lineup helped matters, but it should only be a little worse this year and Ramirez will be able to spend much of his time in the DH slot. He won’t be quite as good as he was during his torrid second half in which he put up a .947 OPS, but 25+ home runs with a .275+ AVG and strong contextual numbers is well within reach and puts him at a solid value at the end of the sixth round.
The Middle Rounds
If you’re looking for the solid veterans with whom you mostly know what you’re going to get, we’ve hit your part of the draft.
Pujols’ decline from his days as the best player in baseball is well covered, and it’s reflective in his fantasy value from year-to-year. He was falling last year as well, though he still entered the season as a top-100 player. The strange thing is, he’s still managed to stay on the field every year besides 2013 and is still a perennial 30-home runs threat. You can head over to the Players To Target article to get more in-depth thoughts, but I believe Pujols is being undervalued here even if there’s little upside.
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
Gonzalez shares more in common with Pujols than a hometown, as he’s another former star who’s in a decline phase that’s being felt in fantasy circles. It was a more precipitous drop for Gonzalez, who fell almost 100 spots from 71 last year. While his AVG remained solid, he failed to hit 20 home runs for just the second time in his career while also tying a career-worst in RBI and setting a new career-low in runs scored. Entering his age-35 season, it’s hard to see him increasing his power enough to compete at this position, and he could have Cody Bellinger breathing down his neck at some point in the summer. Gonzalez is not the aging first baseman I’d draft in this range.
Mike Napoli/Chris Carter, Free Agent
We’ll pair these two free agents together, as they both bring a similar skill set to the table, will likely move up or down depending on where they sign and bounced back from killer 2015s. Both players were being selected after the 400th pick at this time last season, and looked like they could be out of the league sooner rather than later. Napoli launched 34 home runs, 101 RBI, and 92 R as a big part of Cleveland’s resurgent lineup. Carter, meanwhile, smacked a whopping 41 dingers, though his contextual numbers suffered a bit due to Milwaukee’s lackluster lineup. They are two of the best remaining free agents, and should be signing their new deals relatively soon Whereever they end up, they’ll both be boom-or-bust candidates with big time power and big time swing and miss.
The Late Rounds
And just like that, first base becomes a scary position.
The only thing more boring than C.J. Cron’s ascent from the bottom of the top-300 to the middle is C.J. Cron as a fantasy player. He’s not a bad player, per se, as he can add some value as a corner infielder in deep-ish leagues. However, he doesn’t add much in the power department—he’s hit 16 home runs in each of the last two years—and not even hitting behind Mike Trout can get him over the 70-RBI hump. He’s mostly going to just help you in AVG while being “meh” everywhere else, though the stability he adds is likely worth something. Still, you might as well target some upside in someone like Bird at that spot. You can always find something close to Cron’s talent on the waiver wire if it comes to that.
Lucas Duda, Mets
Here we have the most extreme dip from last year’s ADP, with Duda falling all the way from 154 overall prior to the 2016 season. The first baseman missed the majority of the season with a stress fracture in his back, keeping him out from late-May to mid-September. Even before he was hurt, though, he wasn’t quite his normal self. While he’s never been a high-AVG hitter, his .231 mark was even lower than normal. On top of that, he hit for merely good power rather than great, with a 29-home run pace pro-rated over 162 games. Over the previous two seasons he’d been averaging 33 home runs per 162 games. With that being said, a healthy Duda should be able to outproduce this draft slot with the chance to blow it out of the water.
If you suffer a spring training injury, these guys could still be available on the waiver wire.
As for the young players, I like Reed as a guy to keep an eye on in the early going. He won’t have a role on the Astros right away, but he’s pushing on the majors and has the potential to make an impact whenever he does get the call for an everyday role despite his lackluster debut in 2016. Houston is counting on Yulieski Gurriel as their everyday first man to start the year. Although the former Cuban star certainly has a chance to stick at the position all year, he didn’t hit at any level in 2016 and is entering his age-33 season. As a draft-and-stash in the last round or so, Reed could play huge dividends down the road.