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!
Great stuff Laura!
Any idea about PT for McMahon this year? Colorado seems like a crapshoot but if McMahon could get 500+ AB at 1B/2B he could be a 25/5 guy with a decent OPS, no?
Thanks, thorbs! Yes, crapshoot is a good description when it comes to PT in Colorado… I think we’ve all been burned owning Rockies that inexplicably are in a weird time-share. I do like McMahon this year though, definitely a guy that should be solid in NL-only with a chance to make an impact in shallower leagues, if the playing time ends up being there and he can take advantage of it. Weirdly he qualifies at 3B in most leagues but not 1B (only 19 games last year) in addition to 2B — liking his current price (NFBC ADP is #182) for a guy you could plug into a corner or middle spot. At any rate, I’d certainly give him 500 + ABs if I were making out the lineup card, but I don’t know that we should count on more than the 480 he got last year because, well, Rockies.
I’m not buying in until he shows me he’s not a .230-.240 hitter for an extended period of time.. just too many guys I can get later/cheaper with the same profile
Cole and rendon
Or trade for?
(Rizzo or judge), snell and Correra
12 team h2h dynasty QS instead of wins
Current 1st is Carlos Santana, walker.
SS is Xander and Anderson
3rd jd Davis
OF acuna marte harper buxton Springer
SP degrom, flattery, kershaw, morton, giolito, gray, minor, Yu. And lance mcclure’s
I’d hold tight to Cole and Rendon!
One other late name to watch for 1B is the Twins Sano. Looking like he will have to play more at first now that Donaldson was signed.
Yep, Sano is kind of easy to forget about, but his numbers are always better than I remember them (35 HR in 380 ABs last year -not bad even for a juiced ball year…) and he’s still only 26
Thoughts on where Max Muncy would slot in here at 1B? He’s eligible at 1st/2nd/3rd this season.
I actually just drafted Muncy (and suspect I will end up playing him at first); I am higher on him than I realized after digging into his numbers a bit and I think he deserves a legit bump for that positional eligibility (even bigger in this league, which is a no-trade redraft). I kind of just glossed over him in that NFBC ADP list up there; he’s currently after Goldschmidt and Olson, and before Abreu and Bell. This feels about right to me; I’m still a little nervous about his relatively late breakout being legit; I’m not going to reach for him but I’m optimistic enough to grab him on another team or two if the price is right.
Could see Mike Ford having a big spring and winning the first basement job while Voit battles nagging oblique issues. Don’t trust voit to stay healthy / beat out competition.
Agreed that Voit is very far from a sure thing but I do think he has a shot to pay off nicely given where he’s currently being drafted — he’s a guy that could make a big leap up or down draft boards depending on how he looks during spring training and whether or not Boone is still saying all of the right things about him being an “impact player.” Agree Ford is a great name to keep an eye an though (and even more so for Voit owners)
What do you expect from CJ Cron this year? Is 30hr still realistic in Detroit? Also in TB between Choi/Lowe(s)and now Martinez is that a situation to avoid? Thanks Laura.
I’d be surprised if we get another 30 HR season out of Cron, but would take him in the right league if I was looking to settle for.250 with 23-25 HRs, & considering anything over that to be gravy. As for Tampa Bay, that feels like a situation that looks like a mess on paper for fantasy but will somehow work out brilliantly for them in real life. For me, the situation is one I’ll avoid in anything resembling a standard league, but will try to take advantage of in deep leagues — I’ll consider taking a flyer on anyone who has shown the ability to hit in the past and might get even a decent chunk of the action if the price is right. Will be interesting to see where Tsutsugo and Martinez are going as we get further into drafting season and whether they are looking like rip-offs or bargains from an ADP perspective…
My new years resolution is to not overdraft Gavin Lux.
If I can get Joey Votto for free, I’ll take a chance. He has a sneaky decent lineup around him if he hits. And he’s going to be a true 2 hole hitter, no more weird leading off lineups.
If we expect him to hit .270 and 20 HRs as a floor, I think his ceiling is still around .315/30 HRs. If you’re in an OBP or points league, he probably goes earlier, and I’m likely not interested. We often write guys like this off too soon, I’m not there yet, but I am hoping he’s a depth 1B and not my starter.
Ha, maybe all of us should make a short list every January 1st on guys we know we’ll be tempted to overdraft! That is a good point about Votto; not being forced into a leadoff or cleanup role that just really isn’t him could make a huge-difference, but I too just don’t see a high ceiling there… it’s hard for me to see him getting out of the early 20’s in terms of HRs. Could be sneaky valuable in runs if nothing else though… overall I feel like he’s the perfect example of a guy who will basically be useless in standard leagues but could really make a solid impact on a deep-league team if things break right
I’m with you on being excited for Voit again, even if he didn’t quite hit all the marks last year.
I was stoked about Canha as well until I read this, ugh, I think he’d have a good shot at at least top 15 by end of season if he started with 1b eligibility in most leagues.
Others I’m watching intently as late round steals are Michael Chavis and Jose Martinez.
Thanks for the great article and getting the wheels spinning about a position that’s easy to lose interest in until it’s too late.
Thanks Nick! I meant to touch on Martinez, who was traded after I started putting together this post and obviously affects the playing time picture in TB if nothing else, and then discovered that he only played OF last year, which surprised me… plus I really haven’t decided if I’m on board the Jose Martinez train yet — it will be really interesting to see what his ADP looks like as the off-season progresses. I am a little surprised Chavis isn’t getting more NFBC love (#230 ADP) — I guess many ‘experts’ are not buying in, but I’m definitely interested in taking a chance on him at that price!
Keep 3 with OBP instead of AVG and no picks lost:
Rendon, Bieber, and hmmm…
I mean, you could go with Glasnow or Rizzo here. I would leave off Chapman because you’d be keeping 2 3Bs, but all depends on positions started.
Glasnow was a top 10 pitcher last year before getting hurt.
Rizzo is a borderline top 5 1B.
Kind of a coin flip. Glasnow is riskier.
Yes. Forever keeper. 12 team league. I am also keeping G Cole and Bregman who I left out.
Agree with cmutimmah that Rendon and Bieber are locks regardless of league parameters… after that I think I’d have to go with Rizzo, which I am kind of surprised to hear myself say since I’m not his biggest fan overall as I tend to think he gets overdrafted. But, I do think he could be sneaky valuable in an OBP league and if nothing else he should have the highest floor among your other options. I love, love me some Tyler Glasnow by the way… if there isn’t going to be a ton of pitching available in your league for some reason I think he’s also a legit option, but if it were me I’d probably throw him back with the plan of hoping to re-draft him, preferably with a bit of an injury discount
Thank you Laura!
Great stuff all
Great post Laura. Thanks.
Lots to consider when drafting 1b for 2020. I like Dom and Votto to be surprise 1B this year, especially as Itch would say, “if Dom can just Kurt Russell NY” he could be a really good player. Dude can hit.
Thanks M.P.! Yeah, I hope Dom gets a change of scenery soon… it’ll be interesting to see what he can really do one way or another if and when he’s finally given the chance.