After going over keeper relievers, keeper starters and keeper catchers the past month, it is time to turn our attention to the top infield keepers. The trip around the infield will start with the first basemen.
I really thought it was going to be easy to find 30 first basemen and another 10 who can play the position well. But what I thought and what I learned were two different things.
The top half of this group solid, especially the top 10 players with the next 10 being very safe keepers. If you have anyone in Tier 3 or better, be happy. But the bottom tier players are just that – bottom tier players. Some may surprise and have a good season in 2024, but others will likely do exactly what you and I expect from them.
With that said, it’s on to the 2024 Top Keepers – First Basemen
*Age is as of April 1, 2024
Vinnie Pasquantino may be ranked too low here, or it may be just right – I really have no idea what to do with him. I was bullish on Pasquantino after the 2022 season after he slashed .295/.383/.450 with 10 homers in 72 games. But 2023 was not kind to the Royals first baseman. Through his first 61 games he was slashing .247/.324/.437 – a big drop from 2022. But he did have nine homers, matching his pace from the previous season before landing on the 60-day IL and missing the rest of the season.
He is probably a 20 to 25 homer player. However, is he a .300 hitter or a .250 hitter? That is the difference between being ranked in this tier or Tier 4 or moving up to Tier 3.
Swiss Army Knife
The real value when it comes to Gabriel Arias is the fact he can play all over the place. He started 11 or more games at third base, first base, shortstop and right field. He has decent power but is going to likely drag down your slash line. But in really deep leagues where positional versatility is a huge plus, then Arias is a player to look at as a possible keeper.
There for the Taking
No player has exactly nailed down the first base job for the Colorado Rockies, which is why Elehuris Montero is a player who can shoot up these rankings. In 85 games he hit 11 homers while driving in 39 runs. His 162-game average is 20 homers and 69 RBI. However, his slash line is .239/.283/.428, he does not walk (23 walks in 492 career plate appearances), and he strikes out too much (201 career Ks). But the power potential is there, thus so is his keeper potential.
|30||LaMonte Wade Jr.||SF||30|
This tier is full of question marks. Those who answer them correctly next season will be under ranked. Those who don’t should then be Tier 5 players are completely off the board.
What to do with Abreu, France, Meneses and Turner?
Which Jose Abreu are we going to get in 2024? The one who slashed .234/.291/.343 with 10 homers and 56 RBI through his first 110 games? Or do we get the Abreu who slashed .248/.315/.530 with eight homers and 34 RBI over his final 31 games after being on the IL with back issues. That is a 162-game pace of 42 homers and 177 RBI.
He’s not going to have that kind of season next year, but I think the back issues severely affected his output the first 110 games of this season. I think he is good for 25 homers and 90 RBI. He is a keeper, but how good of one is the mystery.
As Ty France has moved into the prime of his career, his numbers have decreased. In 2021 he slashed .291/.368/.445. Those numbers fell to .274/.338/.436 in 2022 and then .250/.337/.366 this past season. That is not a good sign. Neither were the 12 homers and 58 RBI. If there is good news, he did lead the league with 34 HBP!
Joey Meneses in 2022 – .324/.367/.563 with 13 homers and 34 RBI in 56 games. Meneses in 2023 – .275/.321/.401 with 13 dingers and 89 RBI. I think the 2023 version is who Meneses is, especially enter his age 32 season.
Meanwhile, Justin Turner had a solid season with 23 homers and 96 RBI while slashing .276/.345/.455. But he will be 39 next year. The cliff is coming, I’m just not sure when it will arrive.
The Most Upside
The player I like the most in this tier is Ryan Mountcastle. The Oriole was limited to 115 games this year, depressing his power numbers to 18 homers and 68 RBI. The deep left field dimensions at Camden Yards will likely prevent Mountcastle from reaching the 33 dingers he hit in 2021, but he’s a solid 25-85 hitter who is entering the prime of his career.
|16||Alec Bohm/Rhys Hoskins||Phi||27/31|
The Three Wise Men
If this tier were being graded for dynasty leagues, Josh Bell, Yandy Diaz and Christian Walker would likely be downgraded to Tier 4 due to their age. But in a straight keeper league in which you are probably only concerned about next year, the trio all land in this tier
Bell has always seemed to run hot and cold. He was having a great season with Washington in 2021 until he got traded to San Diego and fell off the face of the Earth. This past season he was treading water in Cleveland (.233/.318/.383 with 11 homers and 48 RBI in 97 games) until he was traded to Miami. In 53 games with the Marlins, he hit 11 homers and drove in 26 while slashing .270/.338/.480. He isn’t spectacular, but he somehow seems to produce decent numbers by the end of a season.
Diaz was outstanding this season, slashing .330/.410/.522 with 22 homers and 78 RBI for the Rays. The power numbers were career highs and I’m not counting on him to duplicate those next year. But Diaz will still produce a decent number of homers and he has always been solid in the slash categories.
After producing 36 homers and 94 RBI in 2022, Walker came through with 33 dingers and 103 RBI this past season, proving 2022 wasn’t a career year. But at 33 on Opening Day next year, he is leaving his prime years behind.
Two Part-Timers and a Real First Baseman
Luis Arraez is really not a first baseman as he started only 11 games there this year. But in some leagues that is enough to maintain eligibility, so here he is. No, he is not going to deliver a lot of home runs and RBI as a fulltime first baseman on your team. But what he will do is greatly help your batting average and OBP. This past year he hit .354 to lead the league while posting a .393 OBP. For his career he is a .326 hitter with a .806 OPS.
Like Arraez, Alec Bohm is not a fulltime first baseman. With Rhys Hoskins missing all of this past season, Bohm filled in at first until Bryce Harper took over at the position when he could finally take the field. So I cheated here and put them Bohm and Hoskins together.
Bohm hit 20 homers and drove in 97 runs while slashing .274/.327/.437 – very solid numbers for a player who is just now entering his prime. But Hoskins is set to return next season and will easily match and more than likely exceed what Bohm did at first base. His career 162-game average is 36 homers and 98 RBI. And in the four seasons in which he has had 389 at-bats or more, he has yet to hit fewer than 27 homers.
Knocking on the Door
It is only a matter of time before Christian Encarnacion-Strand (ECS) and Andrew Vaughn are regular Top 10 first basemen. ECS played in only 63 games for the Reds but managed to hit 13 homers and drive in 37 runs. That is a 33-95 162-game pace. He also slashed .270/.328/.477, proving he is more than just a power hitter.
Meanwhile, I expected Vaughn to have a good season for the White Sox and he came through with 21 homers and 80 RBI. For me, that is not even his floor going forward as I expect the power numbers to only get better.
This tier is almost more about the players’ long-term dynasty potential as much as straight keeper value.
Paul Goldschmidt is listed here based strictly on his keeper value for next year and perhaps 2025. He had a decent season with the Cardinals, but he is no longer the threat he used to be. But I don’t think he falls below what he did this past year, so he is very safe keeper.
The Future Tier 1 Players
The other four players in this tier are dudes I love for next year and the next five-plus years.
Spencer Torkelson has had a tough time living up to the hype that has surrounded him. But this past season he finally showed why he had that hype as he slugged 31 homers and drove in 94 runs in a park that is not easy to hit homers in and in a lineup that is not conducive to high RBI totals. His slash line wasn’t great, but I think it will get better.
Josh Naylor had a great season but hardly anyone knows he did. He slashed .308/.354/.489 leading to an .842 OPS (10th among first basemen) and an OPS+ of 133, which was ninth among his position peers.
But Are They First Basemen?
All Spencer Steer did this year was slash .271/.356/.464 with 23 homers, 86 RBI and 15 steals. Playing in a hitter’s park, those power numbers are likely to only increase. The only reason Steer may not be a future Tier 1 first baseman is because he may not be eligible to play there.
Is he a first baseman (53 games started), second baseman (13 games started), third baseman (42 games started) or left fielder (36 games started)? As long as he gets enough starts at first to be eligible there, who cares? And then there is Nolan Jones, who is a stretch to include in the first base rankings as he appeared in 10 games at first base out of the 106 he appeared in.
But the Rockies are not set at first base, and if Montero can’t hold down the fort there, then Jones will likely get enough playing time at the spot to maintain eligibility at first base. If he does, that is great news for fantasy players as he has power (20 homers in 367 ABs), speed (20 steals) and can hit (.297/.389/.542). His xwOBA, xSLG, Barrell% and BB% were at 84% or higher this year.
|5||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||Tor||25|
The players in this tier are the players that no matter what type of league you are in – re-draft, keeper, dynasty – you want on your team. It doesn’t matter what their age is, you know they are going to produce and will do so for the next four to five years – even Freddie Freeman.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just completed his fifth season in the majors – and he will only be 25 on Opening Day next season. That is mind boggling. His 2021 season in which he hit 48 homers, drove in 111 runs and slashed .311/.401/.601 may be a bar that he never reaches again. Few players will have that kind of season. But he still hit 26 homers and drove in 94 this season. And again, he is only entering his age 25 season. There is still a lot of great years ahead for Guerrero.
Pete Alonso does one thing very, very well: he hits lots of home runs. He hit 53 his rookie season in 2019, then 37 in 2021, 40 in 2022 and 46 this past year. His RBI totals (excluding 2020) have been 120, 94, 131 and 118. Who wouldn’t want those numbers on their team. The only knock is a slash line of .217/.318/.504 this past season. A minor ding against an otherwise great producer at the plate.
Is Bryce Harper a real first baseman? No. He’s a right fielder who played at first in order to help his team. Will he remain at first base next year? No. Not with Hoskins coming back. But Harper played enough games at first to be one on your team next year, and because of that, here he is at No. 3.
I will admit, I have a man-crush on Harper. I’m not a Phillies fan, but I love to watch Harper play baseball. And he plays the game as well as anyone. He can basically do it all. His career 162-game average is 33 homers, 96 RBI and 14 steals with a .281/.391/.521 slash line. I will take that production every day of the week.
The Final Two
Freddie Freeman is simply a professional hitter. He hits for average, smashes homers, drives in runs and steals bases. Matt Olson is a slugger who may or may not help you in the batting average and OBP department.
Someone had to be ranked No. 1 and the other No. 2, so Olson comes in second in this race. I love his power. Since 2018 (and excluding 2020) he has hit 29, 36, 39, 34, and 54 homers. He has driven in 84, 91, 111, 103 and 139 runs. When it comes to production, he has done an amazing job of replacing Freeman in Atlanta.
However, where he falls short is his batting average and OBP. Twice he has hit below .250 since 2018 (and .195 in 2020, which I’m not counting) and only once has he hit above .280, and that was this season with a .283 average. Meanwhile, his career OBP is .351 with this season’s .389 coming out of nowhere.
Meanwhile, Freeman just keeps producing. His homers since 2018 are 23, 38, 31, 21, 29 and his RBI totals have been 98, 121, 83, 100, and 102 (2020 not included). Over the last two years he has stolen 13 and 23 bases.
But what pulls him away from Olson is the fact Freeman is also going to help your slash line. For his career, it is .310/.388/.514. Olson’s is .256/.351/.522. Freeman’s worst batting average since 2016 is a .295 mark in 2019. I’m a fan of Olson, but the steady production Freeman provides puts him at No. 1.
Come Back Next Week
Thanks for reading this week and come back next week when the 2024 Top Keepers will move to second base.