What up Razzball Nation?  I’m back for year two on the corner infield beat.  Grey said that my writing wasn’t quite up to snuff, so he sent me to a sherpa, who imbued upon me much knowledge.  He also tried to make me sit still and like meditate or something, which clearly is not a good idea.  My back was stiff, my knees struggled to unbend, but I did reach a new level of knowledge.  Actually, that’s not true.  The sherpa was just asking me if Anthony Rizzo’s concussion last year will make him a value play and if Tristan Casas’ second half breakthrough was supported by the underlying numbers.

So this is how it’s gonna work.  If you want an exhaustive list of all the first basemen, Grey wrote one here.  And if you click on it, he actually puts down every first baseman mentioned in any tweet or blog, so that’s much more detailed than me.  I’m just ranking the top 20.  I don’t care if you want more, I’m making 20 my arbitrary cutoff line.  No participation trophies here, this stuff gotta mean something!

My sherpa this year told me not to do vanity rankings, like when I had Andrew Vaughn at number 6 last year, even though I thought it had some solid reasoning.  Some of my picks will click.  Some will not.  The good news is, it’s the internet and there’s a giant glob of baseball content in the ether, which means you won’t remember this or hold me accountable.  Yes, that means you, random internet troll!

So once a week, through September (what have I done?) which seems like a long time, I’ll highlight some guys who are performing, not performing, and try to figure out what it means if anything.  I’ll do the work if Yandy Diaz has a power spike to tell you that he’s done that before, and likely won’t continue that through the season despite his biceps’ size.  Things like that will hopefully make for entertaining reads.

So, to make a short story long, here’s my initial top 20 for first base.  All opinions are my own and based on a solid amount of podcast listening while exercising and article reading while I’m supposed to be working.

(Editor’s Note: We have a few spots left in Razzball Commenter Leagues drafting this month, including some money leagues, like this one for $10 against Truss drafting this Friday, March 15th at 10 PM ET – Click to join!)

Tier 1

1 . Bryce Harper:  I know Gray ranked him first too.  This, I promise, is not a solidarity post.  Harper is coming off of a really good second half (.296/.413/.583) which came on the heels of a slightly less impressive first half (.291/.386/.400).  My theory is that the second half is more accurate given the fact that Bryce came back early from a Tommy John surgery and had to adjust.  That’s a solid theory, there.  Then give him the fact that he’s moving to a far less demanding position (that’s a long jog out to right field!) and his team context, and I see no reason for Harper not to cement his Hall of Fame case.  If I were a betting man, I’d wager some jelly beans on Harper for MVP.  Harper is the most likely guy on this list to perform in the top five and be drafted much later.  Man, pair him with Juan Soto and win that thang

2.  Freddie Freeman:  The only thing that worries me about ol’ Fred is that he’s now aged 34.  Guy has been so steady though that you might want to ignore me and take him over Harper.  That’s okay, just don’t tell me.  I totally see the appeal in a guy who hits over .300 with a good OBP.  The only nit I picked was the power potential for Harper over Freeman.  Both these guys are great first round picks.

Tier 2

3.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr:  Hear me out, I know he’s been underwhelming the past two years.  I want to take you on a little trip to 2021.  That was the last time Vladito got in really good shape, and he was MVP level that year.  He’s in that kind of shape again, and really wasn’t bad the past two years.  I’m in on Vladdy again if you can’t tell.

4.  Matt Olson:  He won’t have that high of a batting average again, but the HR, R, RBI, SLG, and all the other abbreviations should be fine.  Just keep in mind that his AVG was a career high last year at age 29, and he’s as likely as not to hit in the .250 range, so that’s why he’s fourth.

Tier 3

5.  Cody Bellinger:  So projections are low on him and I’m gonna try to explain why.

A.  He was downright bad for three years, and wasn’t really great except for one half back in 2019.

B.  He’s one of the rare players who adjusts their approach with two strikes, makes contact but it isn’t as loud of contact.  So the metrics aren’t as good, but they don’t tell the full story.  So I’m thinking last year, like .280 with around 30 HR and 20 steals, is possible.  I really liked his approach last year.  So to summarize, I’m in on the talent and buying in on another year of health.

6.  Pete Alonso:  I have a principle (yes I spelled that right, the leader of a school is spelled Principal because he’s your pal, which is true unless you’re in trouble) about guys like Alonso.  When you are a high strikeout guy with power, your average can crater from season to season.  Last year was Pete’s.  I don’t think he’ll hit under .220 again, and the HR are safe, but the risk exists.  At his current cost I’d pass for someone with more upside, wait a round or two, and go for the next tier.

7.  Triston Casas:  There are those who question Casas’ underlying numbers and not buying into a second half surge.  Don’t be one of those people.  This is a high level prospect who’s figuring it out.  Power bats at first base are gold.  Four category production forthcoming.  Get him cheap for the last time.

8. Yandy Diaz:  Batting average to me is a very underrated statistic.  With the average average in the league being an average of .248, a steady bat who you can count on to hit over .300 is much more valuable than you would think.  Runs and average play here, maybe a smattering of power but not much.  If you find yourself with an average drain early, or just want to shore up a rare category, Yandy is candy for your fantasy mouth.  You thought I was gonna right dandy, didn’t you?  Nope.  Pure creativity here.

9.  Paul Goldschmidt:  I won’t draft him.  He’s over 35.  You can, and expect about what he did last year.  But the over 35 cliff is real and I’m out on the Cardinals offense.  I’ve kinda ranked him to make sure I won’t get him, if that makes sense.  If it doesn’t make sense, that makes sense too.

10.  Christian Walker:  Solid power bat with 30 HR and a decent average.  I’m probably passing on him for someone with more upside much like Alonso.  Well, that depends.  If you find yourself with a lot of risk in the early rounds, Walker and Goldie are great picks to boost your floor.  If you have a lot of safe guys early, these guys then don’t help raise the ceiling as much.

Tier 4:  I Love Me Some Tier 4

11.  Vinnie Pasquantino:  I know about shoulder injuries and all that.  He’s probably going to struggle for a month or two, but then get back to a high average hitter with doubles power and 20 HR pace.  Royals lineup is improving too which was my main concern last year with him.  I’m looking for this year to be what we thought was going to happen last year.

12.  Andrew Vaughn:  I know, I know, this did not age well last year.  I just can’t quit the guy.  He did tally 8 bombs in  August and September of last year, a pace for over 30.  I see really no reason why we shouldn’t think he can be like Christian Walker but at a huge discount.

13.  Spencer Torkelson:  Tork was no dork last year when his power finally broke through. I’m always in when a top prospect starts to show signs of fulfilling potential.  Batting average is a risk, but that’s a function of a bloated K rate.  If he can get that under control we have a league average BA with good power.  Make or break year for Torky.

Tier 5:  Boring Producers

14.  Rhys Hoskins:  If you want to count on 30 HR, 90 RBI, and nothing else, I have few concerns about the knee a year after that brutal injury.  Hoskins found a good landing spot in Milwaukee and is a good late round CI pick at worst.

15.  Spencer Steer:  I don’t really want Steer because I am worried about his playing time.  Did you know he was in the bottom 10 defensive players in the league?  That doesn’t affect fantasy except for PT.  Which, if you’ve paid attention to the Reds offseason, is no sure thing because they have a lot of guys at the corners.  Steer could have under 500 at bats.  Positional eligibility is a plus but be aware that there’s a big playing time downside with him, and all Reds to be honest.  I’ve ranked them all lower than consensus.  (NOTE: Marte’s suspension opens up some of this PT concern and potentially bumps Steer up a tier)

16.  Nate Lowe:  Yup.  You got Nate Lowe here.  Let’s move on.

17.  Alec Bohm:  No, I’m not coming on here looking at Statcast data and all that looking for power.  You’ll draft Bohm for some average and counting stats and you’ll like it.

18.  Josh Naylor:  I go back and forth with guys like Naylor.  He has a lot of power, and a good average, but lower plate appearances than you would like.  Problem is, see, with guys like Naylor, his team doesn’t think he can hit lefties even though the stats say differently (.299 average).  Maybe it’s his Fielder-eque physique (Listed at 5-11, 250.  I’m 5-11 and that much weight would necessitate many days off if it were on me).  He could get 600 at bats though and do well.  I wouldn’t reach for Naylor but I wouldn’t recoil either.

Tier 6:  Head Cases

19 and 20:  Anthony Rizzo and Ryan Mountcastle:  If you had spliced together Rizzo’s first half with Mountcastle’s second, you have like a first round bat.  As has been documented, Rizzo had a concussion issue and was hitting over .300 before it.  I had him pegged as a guy who the shift ban would really help out and it was holding true.  Last I checked, the shift ban is still in effect so I’m still in.

Mountcastle had vertigo which I imagine made it hard to hit baseballs coming at you at a high velocity.  When the vertigo went away, he raked.  By raked, he it .322 with an OBP over .400 and 7 HR.  Wait, that’s Freddie Freeman music!  If you weren’t paying attention, he looks like a guy who was injured and just kinda meh.  I had him, though, as a key pickup in a league that I won, so I can vouch for his effectiveness.

That’s it.  I told you you get 20, and that’s all I’m blurbing about.  The rest of my articles, except for new ranks which I plan to do in June and August, won’t be as long.  Which is good or bad depending on perspective.  My perspective is that it’s good because that’s less work!

Kids to watch:

Christian Encarnacion-Strand:  CES as he’s affectionately known by those of us who don’t know how to spell it all out could be good.  I’m holding back on ranking him until I get more info on the Reds PT situation

Nolan Schanuel:  Any time a guy goes from the draft to starting you gotta pay attention

Michael Busch:  Has the runway to start in Chicago, just needs to produce

Kyle Manzardo:  Probably starts in AAA but big bat profile.  Don’t sweat his struggles last year, he had family health issues to worry about.

First Base Drafted by Round in a Mock

Round 1:  1

Round 2:  3

Round 3:  1

Round 4: 0

Round 5:  1

Round 6:  3

Round 7:  2

Round 8 and 9:  1 each

Round 10:  0

Round 11-13:  6

Should give you an idea of when you have to draft some of these bad boys.