Happy New(ish) Year, Razzball friends! It’s time to stop worrying about what we haven’t quite gotten around to accomplishing so far this offseason, and time to start thinking about fantasy baseball in 2020 — or as I like to think of it, a slightly more official reason to go into procrastination mode when it comes to things like real-life commitments, chores, and duties. Since it’s still January and all, and since we’re all preparing for drafts and auctions of many different shapes and sizes, I’m going to try to cover things somewhat more generally for the time being. We’ll still lean towards the deep-league perspective to some degree, but what I’m most interested in for now is keeping on top of the overall baseball landscape – trades, free agent signings, rule changes, depth chart shake-ups, draft trends, recent statistics that I might have overlooked, MLB teams facing unprecedented punishments for cheating, etc. – and viewing it from a more generic lens for the moment, then tailoring all of that information to individual leagues, drafts, and auctions as they come.
I’m going to start off with some thoughts about first base, having noticed what I thought was an interesting trend while preparing for my first draft (a 15-team re-draft that took place last month), and perusing this year’s early NFBC ADP: the top four first basemen drafted (Bellinger, Freeman, Alonso, Rizzo), and seven of the top ten (Goldschmidt, Muncy, Bell), are National Leaguers. Yes, the three top AL first basemen based on NFBC ADP this year, are DJ LeMahieu (who also qualifies at 2B and 3B), Matt Olson, and Jose Abreu. Since I started putting these thoughts together, Fantrax has released their initial mixed league rankings, and they are even less bullish on the AL: with LeMaheiu ranked #11, a grand total of two of their top ten first baseman play in the junior circuit. Grey, obviously, is trying to buck this trend by ranking Matt Olson in his top 20 for 2020 fantasy baseball.
I’m still figuring out how I’m going to use this information when it comes to NL and AL-only leagues, but I think it’s worth knowing. My first thought is that, in AL-only, there doesn’t seem to be a need to reach for a top first baseman unless you’re a huge fan of Olson or LeMahieu this year (which I’m not on DJ, at least not now that I see where he’s being drafted). I like both Olson and Abreu at the right price, but will need to think about if either is worth reaching for over some of the names as we head down the AL list, many of whom qualify at other positions as well: Yasmani Grandal, Trey Mancini, Yuli Gurriel, Danny Santana, Carlos Santana, Luke Voit, and Edwin Encarnacion. There are some serious question marks with this group, so I can see making a case for grabbing Olson, say, earlier than I normally would. Then again, in the group above we do hit a large blob of first basemen that could all be valued relatively closely, so maybe it makes sense to wait and see what the draft/auction gives you. These are decisions I won’t necessarily be making for weeks or even months in some cases, but I do feel like the more information I have about the overall state of the position will ultimately help inform these decisions when the time comes.
As for the NL, I know that if I miss out on one of the elite first base studs, I need to decide what my top back-up plans are. The drop-off is sudden and the NL/AL statistical oddities continue, at least according to Fantrax: after a #9 Bell and their #10 Rhys Hoskins, we hit a whopping eight AL players in a row. Actually make that nine in a row, because we’re suddenly at their #19 Ryan McMahon — who doesn’t even qualify at 1B in most leagues since he played 19 games there last year. After that, the next NL names on the list are Christian Walker, Eric Hosmer, the in-the-NL-for-now-at-least Joc Pederson, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Travis d’Arnaud, Howie Kendrick, and Garrett Cooper. Grey did have nice things to say on Walker in his Christian Walker sleeper.
In mixed leagues, I suspect I’ll end up doing a lot of bargain shopping at the position… I really like Christian Walker this year, have no problem with Joc Peterson in the right situation, and I’ve already drafted Luke Voit (who felt like a decent grab at his current price, which at the moment is #192 overall in terms of NFBC ADP) in my first draft after Walker got sniped from me. I’d certainly be happy to have Bellinger (#5) on a standard mixed-league team, but probably won’t even have the opportunity to roster him in any of my leagues with his #5 overall ADP. Freeman (#16) won’t end up on many of my rosters simply because I try to focus on getting two five-category players with my first two picks, and I’m not quite confident enough in an Alonso repeat season to grab him at his current ADP of 29 (though I’ll be actively rooting for him to live up to such a lofty number since he’s the lynchpin of one of my keeper leagues).
While we’re on the subject, here’s a bit more mid-January general NFBC ADP info, with the disclaimer that I am not suggesting it be used as anything more than a somewhat interesting (in my opinion) reflection of super general draft trends:
-There are two players who qualified at first base being drafted in the top 15, but just one player who qualifies at first being drafted between #16 and #61.
-There are six first basemen being drafted between picks #64 and #76 alone, then six more being drafted between #89 and #143.
-There are currently zero being drafted between #144 and #191, and then four being drafted between picks #192 and #204.
And I don’t want to end this post without some random deep/deep-ish league first base thoughts, so here goes:
-Going in to the offseason, I really liked Yandy Diaz as a deep-league option for 2020, as he qualifies at 1B in most leagues due to the 22 games he played there in addition to his 50 at 3B. I suspect I’ll still own him in a couple deep leagues and think there could be some nice upside there, but I’m treading cautiously now since it’s hard to say how the playing time will shake out with a theoretically healthy Joey Wendle, Nate Lowe’s presence, and with the Rays’ signing of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo putting a big cloud in the middle of an already murky depth chart situation.
-I have no idea what Miguel Andujar’s future holds, but I can’t think of a reason not to take a flyer on him late just in case good things happen, in New York or elsewhere, for him in 2020. Might as well throw Dom Smith into that same category as I guy whose value may not – but could – take a decent jump up over the next couple of months.
-I own Evan White in a keeper league and was honestly quite floored when I first read that the Mariners had signed him to a long-term deal while he was still in double A. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I’m definitely now on board in hoping he can help my AL-only fantasy team much sooner than I’d imagined.
-I thought Mark Canha was going to be my favorite later-round emergency 1B option, until I realized he only played 15 games at the position last year and only qualifies at OF in most leagues. This is why we look things over ahead of time!
-I don’t think I’ve owned Joey Votto anywhere in about six years, but I’m wondering if 2020 might be the time for us to reunite. While I wouldn’t draft him in anything resembling a standard mixed league, I may not be able to resist him as a late CI bargain in deep-ish leagues where he’s cheap enough that I have nothing to lose and am not desperately relying on a bounce-back.
If you’ve read this far, kudos for being a fellow human who is interested in spending a (probably unnecessary and perhaps inappropriate) amount of time thinking about fantasy baseball in the middle of January! Please feel free to drop a comment or question about the state of the first base position, guys you like or are avoiding this year, or anything else even tangentially fantasy baseball related as we slog together in the slow winter’s trek towards Opening Day!