Over here in the deep-league cubicle of Razzball, we’ve looked at late-round starting pitchers and outfielders, and now it’s time to move on to a group of gentlemen I like to call first basemen. We’ll look at guys who, according to current NFBC ADP, are ranked outside the top 15 first basemen drafted and outside the top 150 overall. What I’m going to begin with, though, is a quick public service announcement to anyone in an AL-only league: in case you hadn’t noticed (and I hadn’t, until I wrote this post), there is as ridiculously steep a drop off from the top few guys to the next group as I ever remember seeing. Based on NFBC ADP, your top 5 AL first basemen are D.J. LeMahieu, Jose Abreu, Vlad Guerrero, Luke Voit and Matt Olson (whose current ADP is #90). Looking at the 1B list after that, you get a slew of national leaguers, and do not hit another AL name other than the first two on this list (both of whom also qualify at OF, for what it’s worth) until Miguel Sano at #191. Yes, I said Miguel Sano at #191.
Bottom line is, I don’t want to draft any of the players listed below as a starting 1B in any size league — I’ve realized that I’m going to want a top 5 guy in an AL-only league, and a high-to mid-round option in NL-only or deeper mixed leagues. What follows, then, in a best-case scenario is a list of corner infield, utility, and depth options (and at worst, some escape hatches in case you’re halfway through a draft or auction and realize you’re in trouble at the position).
Ryan Mountcastle. As the 16th ranked first baseman (this includes anyone who has multi-position eligibility) based on ADP and at #151 overall, Mountcastle just squeaks by to make this list given our eligibility requirements. I wasn’t afraid to draft Orioles in my deeper leagues last year (it paid off nicely, at least in the form of several shares of Anthony Santander), and I won’t be again this year. I’m actually surprised that Mountcastle’s ADP is this high; you are probably paying more for quantity than for quality at this point since we’ll assume he’ll get plenty of playing time, and he also qualifies at outfield. You may also be paying for an excellent run in a mere 35 games in 2020, as he hit .333 with 5 homers last year. Looking at numbers like BABIP and xBA would lead one to expect some serious regression on that average, but if Mountcastle falls significantly below this price I’m willing to take a gamble.
Trey Mancini (#183 ADP). Also an Oriole, also qualifies at OF as well. Had a career year in 2019, missed 2020 due to colon cancer. It’s hard to even guess what to expect in 2021, but at anywhere near #200 overall I’m interested in finding out. I don’t think he has another year like 2019 in him regardless of his health, but any kind of a significant bounce back could make him a nice value.
Christian Walker (#195 ADP). Walker was a fairly popular sleeper with many people (myself included) last year, but his utterly mediocre 2020 (he hit .271 with 7 homers and a steal in 57 games) has him even further down in the rankings than I would have guessed. I was comfortable drafting him as a cheap starting 1B in NL-only last year, but don’t see him as more than a corner guy in any league heading into 2021. That being said, I already have one share and expect I’ll grab a few more before April, in case the Diamondbacks as a team choose to come out of the group offensive slumber that afflicted them in 2020.
Jared Walsh (#196 ADP). Walsh is the poster boy for how hard it is to judge the stats from a mini-season in the middle of a pandemic, as he had a bizarre couple of months. He started the year going 0 for 10, got demoted the the pretend minor leagues as they existed in 2020, and then came back and ended the season on such an insane tear that he finished the year hitting .293 and had 9 homers in just 99 total at bats. That average seems guaranteed to come down, and who knows if Walsh will be able to thrive at the major league level with an extended look. But he did show decent plate discipline at the end of the summer, and few have doubted his ability to hit for power. There’s also the seemingly never-ending presence of Albert Pujols in the mix, but when you roll all of that together I don’t mind Walsh as a low-risk flier.
Hunter Dozier (#235 ADP). Dozier is yet another player whose 2020 output is hard to decipher, given that he battled COVID early in the season and may have been dealing with lingering symptoms after he returned. We don’t know whether or not they were to blame for his horrid .228 average and unimpressive hard-hit rate — as it turns out, that average is only one point off what he hit in 102 games in 2018, so maybe we shouldn’t hold our breath for a big rebound. His more-valuable-to-fantasy-than-real-baseball counting stats (6 homers and 4 steals in 44 games) make me think he’s at least worth keeping an eye on, though, in case some version of that rebound materializes.
And now for a couple true deep-leaguers, outside the top 400 overall:
Garrett Cooper (#411). Cooper had a solid season last year, especially considering that he too got hit with COVID and only played in 34 games for the Marlins. He didn’t strike out a ton, he hit the ball hard, and showed great plate discipline, ending the year with a .283 average/.353 OBP and 6 homers in 120 at bats. He’s been linked to multiple teams over the off-season and could very well end up on the short side of a platoon, since most are assuming his days in Miami are numbered between the lack of a universal DH and the acquisition of Adam Duvall. It’s hard to envision a path to every day at bats in any scenario, but even limited playing time could be of some value in very deep leagues given his bargain price.
Colin Moran (#453). Coming back full circle to the whole quantity over quality thing, we find Moran, who seems to be about the only Pittsburgh Pirate that no other teams have even a passing interest in. His blistering hot start to 2020 made us all think for a moment that the Bucs might have uncovered a gem in the Gerritt Cole trade, as Moran hit 5 homers in the first week of the season. He ended the year with 10 in 52 games, to go along with an undesirable .247 average. He’ll likely play more than he should again this year given that the Pirates don’t exactly have a ton of options, which will likely lead to more trouble on the average front — but if he can manage a couple hot streaks he could provide better-than-nothing counting stats in a deep NL-only or Bestball style league.