It’s time to chat about first base, a position that should once again provide owners with a multitude of rewarding fantasy options in 2024. I’ve got several first base options I’m comfortable with throughout a draft or auction; as with all spots on my rosters, I want the best player available as often as possible, rather than the best player available at a specific position. Let’s take a look at Grey’s first base rankings, as well as NFBC ADP (for the month of January in this case) to see who I’m willing to grab earlier than most and who I’m fading completely. As always, would love to hear from you in the comments with any thoughts or questions!

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve already done one 15-team mixed 5×5 draft where I was picking 15th and doubled up on first basemen, grabbing both Matt Olson and Bryce Harper. I’ve also drafted Freddie Freeman in round one already this season, so I have several eggs in the upper-tier first base basket. I realize that Olson and Freeman are both likely to disappoint compared to their monster 2023 seasons, and Freeman’s 21 steals last year don’t seem repeatable. But even with some production dropoff and average regression, they feel like solid-floor foundations of a fantasy lineup. Two first basemen whom I haven’t drafted yet finish out the top five by ADP: Pete Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero. I like Alonso to bounce back a bit in the average department this year and might have drafted him on the team where I picked first overall if he’d made it back to me for my second and third picks. I don’t think I’ll roster Vlad this year as an overall ADP of 31 is way too high for my interest level right now; I’m gonna need to see him making some adjustments that involve a lot less pounding the ball into the ground than I witnessed last season. His recent numbers are much closer than guys being taking rounds and rounds later than Alonso, who had twenty – twenty! – more homers than Vlad did last year. 

Moving down the first base list, we find a group of guys who should be able to provide exactly what we’re looking for out of the position: solid power and counting stats with a possibly questionable average. A few may even chip in double-digit steals, which makes the players in this group all the more interesting. The still-unsigned Cody Bellinger may be one of the more polarizing; he’s ranked as the 6th first baseman by ADP but has been drafted as early as pick 27 and as late as pick 84 over the last month. I already have a share which I’m mildly nervous about, as I think every projection system out there is telling us that Belli is likely to come crashing down to earth after putting up MVP-esque numbers last year. Bellinger has as wide a range of outcomes as any player in baseball, but I’m intrigued enough by the healthy productive version that I’m willing to buy in at least once. The 1B/OF dual eligibility is particularly appealing to me in the draft and hold format, and a potential 5-category stud at the beginning of round five in a 15-teamer was too much for me to resist. 

Let’s move on to what I consider the next 1B tier (again, by ADP): Paul Goldschmidt, Christian Walker, Triston Casas, and Spencer Steer. I had Goldy on one team last year, and did not enjoy the experience for several long stretches of the season, and yet somehow I’ve already drafted him again. I wanted one of the guys in this group and was drafting on the end so I figured none would back it back to me, and just decided to close my eyes and hope that Goldschmidt has one more season of decent floor in him. I’d rather have Walker a little later, and perhaps should have just taken him over Goldschmidt; I feel like either or both of these guys could be huge disappointments this year but they both still have a high enough ceiling for me to consider them over cheaper alternatives.  

Moving on to Casas and Steer, I’m buying in on the Casas breakout, yet haven’t drafted him yet simply because of timing/roster construction; on most of my teams, I’ve been looking for a first baseman that has at least the potential to help me in average or chip in a few steals. I’ve already drafted Steer but don’t have as many shares as I thought I would as his price has been higher than I hoped it would be. I am all in on him at his current ADP though (103, with another high variance: high pick 52, low is 151!) The 1B/3B/OF eligibility is lovely, and I’m just not worried about playing time the way the projection models seem to be. The Reds confused the hell out of all of us when they signed Jeimer Candelario, and they really confused Steamer and the other projection systems. Fangraphs basically hates every Reds infielder, but I think this is a situation where we need to take a step back and remember that we are human and can analyze things differently than a computer does. Then again, maybe the bots have an ability that I somehow haven’t learned yet, namely to recognize just how limitless the idiotic decision-making from David Bell will be in 2024. Anyhow, if Steer gets off to a bad start this season and never gets hitting like he did last year, sure, he probably will lose playing time, but then he’ll be a fantasy bust whether he’s starting regularly or not. 

After this top 10, I’ve basically been grouping the next 10 or 12 first basemen into one huge tier, starting with Spencer Torkelson at ADP #118 and ending with Brandon Drury at ADP #217. Torkelson may end up hitting more homers than anyone else in this group, but there’s not enough of a power advantage for my money to take him 100 picks ahead of Drury (or even a round or two ahead of some of the others in this tier, since he’s pretty much guaranteed to have a bad average and contribute zero in steals). I’ve loved Yandy Diaz for as long as I can remember, and as wonderful as it was to see him break out last year, I feel he’s often being overdrafted. Last year was probably his ceiling when it comes to average + power, though that doesn’t mean I won’t have him on a team if the timing/price is right. I’ve missed on Josh Naylor so far but would like a share or two as I think he should have a solid year and could build upon last year (and he had a sneaky-helpful 10 steals last year, which could vault him over some other names in this group).

Alec Bohm and Nate Lowe are both as boring as it gets at this point, and you’d certainly like more guaranteed power from the position, but I think Bohm has a strong enough floor to consider on the right roster. Lowe I’ve been a fan of in the past, but will probably avoid completely this year at his current price as I don’t think he has the job security to warrant a pick this high after a truly meh 2023. Vinnie Pasquantino and Rhys Hoskins are the tier’s resident injury bounceback candidates; Steamer projects Hoskins for 30 homers and Pasquantino for 24 (but with a helpful .276 average/.362 OBP). Both would be huge values at their current prices if they can deliver on that promise; I’m personally higher on Pasquantino just because he’s several years younger and, perhaps, because I have a small emotional attachment to him as he’s on my AL-only keeper roster. And even if he regresses some, I love Isaac Paredes at his current price (he, too, is on my AL-only keeper team); let’s remember power isn’t as cheap or plentiful as it was back in the bouncy ball era. While we are talking about this tier and thinking about whose praises Grey has been singing this offseason, you should read his sleeper posts on Paredes and Josh Naylor if you haven’t already (or maybe read them again even if you have; what better do you have to do the first week of February?!)

Now, a few guys I’ll consider in deeper leagues/as mixed-league 15-team corners: Ryan Mountcastle (ADP #238), Justin Turner (254), and Luke Raley (338). Mountcastle’s draft cost is low with decent reason; post-dimension-changes Camden Yards has been a horrible fit for him, he’s always had injury/health issues (vertigo and a shoulder issue last year alone), and with all of their young talent, he may be fighting for a job let alone every day at-bats. BUT… he still managed to hit .270 last year and hit 18 homers in 115 games. At this price, I’ve grabbed a couple shares, but only in leagues where I have or can get corner infield back up. Now that Turner has landed in Toronto, he’s as boring as it gets for fantasy, not to mention ancient — but maybe, just maybe, he can knock out at least one more year of a solid average and a decent but not impressive number of counting stats as a Blue Jay. I drafted Raley before he was traded to Seattle, so we’ll see how he too fares in a new situation, but I’m in on the potential power/speed combo (with the added OF eligibility bonus) at this price. I’ll also mention Kyle Manzardo (383) here; he’s a guy whose value could go way up or down by the end of spring training. I’m buying some shares at this price as I think there’s a decent chance it goes way up later this year, even if he’s in the minors on opening day. 

Dropping out of the top 500, time for a shout-out to 21-year old Angel Nolan Schanuel (#510). No one in fantasy seems too excited about him which isn’t surprising since he basically hasn’t shown a lick of power in his play or underlying metrics both before and after being aggressively promoted to the show. I do like him as a late bench stash or deep AL-only play as a guy who could be sneaky helpful in average or OBP though. If he gets everyday playing time and can keep his head above water, maybe he’ll chip in with some counting stats as well. 

Finally, we’ll sink all the way to #700 on the ol’ ADP list, in the form of Nick Loftin. The Royals, in my opinion, have made some fairly subtle but shrewd moves this offseason; I think they could be better than people expect this year. Loftin had a good-looking, if tiny, cup of coffee to close out 2023, including playing first, second, and third in just 19 games. His minor league numbers show a good average/good eye player with a bit of pop and speed, so if he can manage to make the team as a utility guy I’ll happily park him on a deep-league bench at this point in a draft.

Happy February, and happy drafting!