keyboard_arrow_uptop
The BP Merch Store is now open! BP360 is back, plus tons of apparel options!

Welcome back to our fantasy positional ratings series at Baseball Prospectus. Things can only get better from here on out, as we move from the not-so-fun duties of ranking catchers to the much more fun assignment of ranking first basemen. Once again, I rated the players at the position and then received the feedback of our crack team of fantasy writers in order to bring you a mix of my ratings at the position along with a reality check from the rest of our staff if I was too low or high on a specific player. Let’s get right to it.

Five-star players are the studs at their position. In general, they are the players who will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and will fetch mixed-league auction bids over $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year's values but rather offer insight into what we expect will happen in 2017.

Positional eligibility for the series is determined by 20 games or more at a position in the majors, with priority determined using the following order: catcher, shortstop, second base, third base, outfield, and first base, and designated hitter. Designated hitters are ranked with first basemen. Players who played fewer than 20 games at a position in the majors are ranked at the position they played most frequently. Players who did not play in the majors in 2016 are ranked at the position they played most in the minors. Chris Davis played three games in the outfield in 2016. He is not eligible at that position this year.

Dollar values come from last year's PFM using a 12-team, standard 5×5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players' dollar values.

FIVE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Paul Goldschmidt

ARZ

$31.59

$36.53

705

106

24

95

32

.297

Joey Votto

CIN

$25.03

$30.00

677

101

29

97

8

.326

Miguel Cabrera

DET

$24.49

$28.12

679

92

38

108

0

.316

Anthony Rizzo

CHC

$21.68

$27.32

676

94

32

109

3

.292

Goldschmidt, Rizzo, and Cabrera triumphantly return to the five-star tier after putting up another year of elite numbers across four categories and – in Goldschmidt’s case – five. Cabrera rebounded in power as my former colleague J.P. Breen suggested he would in last year’s star ranking article. Miggy’s 38 home run season was his highest total in the category since his 2013 MVP season. Miggy’s career resume has Hall of Fame written all over it, and while you don’t want to go overboard for 34-year-old players, Miggy is that rare example of a player without stolen bases who you can feel comfortable paying $30 or more for or taking late in the first round or early in the second round of your draft.

Five-Star Value Pick: Joey Votto
It’s difficult to find “value” in any elite tier of players, but Votto is slightly penalized every year for the perception that a bad Reds’ lineup hurts his RBI and run totals. As the table above shows, Votto held his own with the big boys in those categories and also put up the second best batting average of his career. Votto offers comparable production to Cabrera and Rizzo but about a round later on average in most drafts.

FOUR STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Freddie Freeman

ATL

$23.35

$29.00

693

102

34

91

6

.302

Edwin Encarnacion

CLE

$25.66

$28.72

702

99

42

127

2

.263

Jose Abreu

CHW

$12.59

$20.00

695

67

25

100

0

.293

Hanley Ramirez

BOS

$21.96

$26.62

620

81

30

111

9

.286

Wil Myers

SD

$27.64

$33.23

676

99

28

94

28

.259

Freeman was the best first baseman in the majors by TAv in 2016. If you believe his breakout was real, move him up a tier. Encarnacion is a three-category monster who will always have trouble pushing his earnings into the $30s because of a mediocre batting average. Myers deserves a five-star ranking based on last year’s stats, but healthy cynicism about the sustainability of those steals – and perhaps his wrist – is warranted.

I’d be comfortable with any of these players anchoring my corner infield. They just don’t quite match up with the top dogs, and there’s certainly no shame in that.

Four-Star Value Pick: Hanley Ramirez
After a rough introduction to Boston in 2015, Hanley bounced back in a big way. His swing looks like it is tailor-made for Fenway, where Ramirez swatted 19 of his 30 home runs with a .303 batting average. Ramirez understandably gets dinged in drafts for his inconsistency and injury history, but with David Ortiz out of the picture, Ramirez will be a full-time DH, which will allow him to concentrate completely on hitting and eliminate the risk of an on-the-field injury.

THREE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Chris Davis

BAL

$14.63

$19.68

665

99

38

84

1

.221

Eric Hosmer

KC

$14.59

$21.82

667

80

25

104

5

.266

Victor Martinez

DET

$9.47

$17.68

610

65

27

86

0

.289

Carlos Santana

CLE

$15.57

$22.52

688

89

34

87

5

.260

These are all solid options to stick at first, or in Martinez’s case DH, but you can see some of the warts on display in the three-star tier. Davis has as much raw power as anyone at the position, but a high strikeout rate limits his batting average and lowers his ceiling. He’s currently being drafted 77th overall in NFBC drafts, which is slightly higher than his 2016 final ranking of 88th. Some will ignore the average and stretch for Davis, but given the plethora of options in standard mixed leagues, that would be a mistake.

Hosmer is not likely to live up to the top billing he had as a prospect, but as a consistent source of 15-20 home run power who has been healthy for four of the last five seasons, he gets another look in the three-star tier. Santana had the best power year of his major league career and also managed to post a batting average that wasn’t a detriment. It is not a good idea to bet on a repeat, and if he slips back to his 2015 levels without the steals he’ll be overpriced in this tier.

Three-Star Value Pick: Victor Martinez
In some seasons, there is a “designated hitter discount” because several players are DH-only, which leads to one or more bargains in the draft or auction as teams get locked out at the position as the draft or auction progresses. This isn’t the case in 2016, as Martinez and Kendrys Morales are the only two significant mixed league players who have DH-only status. Martinez is getting dinged in part because of his lack of a position and in part because of his age (he’s 38) but if he continues hitting he’s worth betting on until he proves he cannot do it anymore. Martinez is still getting the “DH discount” despite the fact that it isn’t warranted in this market.

TWO STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Albert Pujols

LAA

$16.77

$23.27

650

71

31

119

4

.268

Adrian Gonzalez

LAD

$7.96

$17.60

633

59

18

90

0

.285

Eric Thames

MLW

PLAYED IN KOREA

Chris Carter

FA

$13.50

$22.22

644

84

41

94

3

.222

Tommy Joseph

PHI

($3.21)

$9.10

347

47

21

47

1

.257

Justin Bour

MIA

($6.43)

$6.56

321

35

15

51

0

.264

Brandon Belt

SF

$6.78

$16.46

655

77

17

82

0

.275

Lucas Duda

NYM

($17.41)

$0.34

172

20

7

23

0

.229

C.J. Cron

LAA

$0.29

$10.69

445

51

16

69

2

.278

Kendrys Morales

TOR

$

$17.30

618

65

30

93

0

.263

There is a great deal of power potential in the two-star tier, but it comes with a good deal of injury, playing time, and/or performance risk. Bour and Duda could find themselves as part of a platoon on their respective teams, although the Marlins have hinted that Bour could face lefties this year. Adrian Gonzalez isn’t seen as a platoon bat, but since 2014 he has a .659 OPS against lefties. The combination of Gonzalez’s advancing age and drop off against left-handed pitching make him a poor bet to bounce back.

Previously an afterthought due to lingering concussion issues, Joseph put himself back on the map last year with a .248 ISO that indicated his power is legitimate. Even more encouraging were Joseph’s numbers against right-handers. Fourteen of his 21 home runs came versus righties, and his overall numbers against them were slightly above league average. A platoon with Ryan Howard masks some of Joseph’s value; he was on pace to hit 37 home runs over the course of 550 at bats.

Two-Star Value Pick: Lucas Duda
It all comes down to Duda’s back and how healthy it is. If he is 100 percent, Duda could hit 25-30 home runs. He quietly improved against lefties in 2015 and will have the benefit of a Mets lineup that is markedly better than it was the last time Duda played a full season.

ONE STAR

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Mike Napoli

FA

$16.20

$22.60

645

92

34

101

5

.239

Steve Pearce

TOR

($6.74)

$3.70

302

35

13

35

0

.288

Ryan Zimmermann

WAS

($3.47)

$8.76

467

60

15

46

4

.218

Josh Bell

PIT

($18.77)

($0.28)

152

18

3

19

0

.273

Greg Bird

NYY

INJURED – DID NOT PLAY

Mitch Moreland

BOS

($1.74)

$8.61

503

49

22

60

1

.233

Joe Mauer

MIN

($0.93)

$9.49

576

68

11

49

2

.261

If your primary first baseman comes from this tier, you are going to have a bad time unless you are in an only-league. Moreland stands in for the reliable and the boring who don’t appear in this article. This includes players like Yonder Alonso, who will get almost definitely get a full season of at bats but offers no upside. In shallow leagues, don’t bother with players like this on your reserve list. Roll the dice on Dan Vogelbach or A.J. Reed instead.

Napoli is your best bet in the one-star tier, but this assumes that he will land a full-time role somewhere. Zimmerman probably doesn’t even belong in the one-star tier, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut him out completely. He had one healthy/productive month in 2016, when he hit seven home runs with a 262/316/546 slash in May. Beyond that, he was flat out awful.

I wouldn’t touch Bird or Bell in a standard mixed redraft league, but in deeper mixed there is enough upside with both to consider adding either one as a corner infielder. Bell’s lack of a traditional corner infield power profile isn’t encouraging, but he could make up for that with his batting average. Bird hit the cover off the ball before getting hurt; the hope is that he picks up where he left off in 2015.

One-Star Value Pick: Steve Pearce
The reported signing of Jose Bautista muddies the waters somewhat for Pearce, but given that his competition at left field and first base are Justin Smoak, Melvin Upton, and Ezequiel Carrera, I’m confident that Pearce will get close to a full season’s worth of playing time, He has never had an opportunity as an everyday player, but he has been very productive over the last few seasons as a part timer and could hit 25 home runs in a mostly full time role. Pearce’s lefty/righty splits were negligible last year. If he holds up under the rigors of playing almost every day, he could be a late blooming gem.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Punchoutpappy
1/17
I understand that there's a slippery slope when it comes to considering players with 1B eligibility, but it may not be their primary position. That being said, Yuli Gurriel? All I've read has him getting bulk reps as a first baseman. Also, how many negative stars does Billy Butler have? Last, does Danny Valencia's platoon split not provide enough to warrant consideration?
wilymo
1/17
currently it sounds like valencia is going to be on the short side of a platoon with vogelbach in seattle, so that's not really enough to get him on a list like this. personally i do think his improvements vs RHP the past couple years are real and he'd be a decent option if he got full-time at-bats, but, as it stands, he probably won't, so

MikeGianella
1/17
Gurriel is only 3B eligible based on his 2016 games played.

Butler is AL-only all the way for me, assuming he even gets a job somewhere.

Valencia is 3B/OF eligible using the positional eligibility requirements outlined above. Both he and Gurriel would have been included in this article if they were 1B eligible only
Punchoutpappy
1/17
First, I want to say thank you for taking the time to write an in depth article. These are very helpful. I really enjoy your work. It's easy to chirp from the peanut gallery and nitpick your hard work. I will readily acknowledge I missed the preface regarding your ranking of players that did not play a position.

I guess my constructive feedback would be this...You seem to contradict your point about eligibility based on 2016 games when you run the exercise for Victor Martinez and Kendrys Morales. Two players you acknowledge as DH only. The former likely to remain there for the rest of his career. Then, you undercut your statement of offering incite of what to expect in 2017 when omitting players like Gurriel and Valencia. Players we know will receive 1B eligibility in short order. Again, just some constructive feedback. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
wilymo
1/17
just ask where chris davis is and be done with it
sjgmoney
1/17
Ian Desmond is going to be at 1b this year. What tier does he call under?
MikeGianella
1/17
Four-star for me.
JoshC77
1/17
I don't know if it is me, but Wil Myers feels like a definite bust candidate. He had one massive month HR-wise and two good months BA-wise. Steals/runs were relatively consistent throughout the season.

But all things be equal, he feels like maybe a 15-20 HR guy with a similar number of steals (which are admittedly very useful from 1b) with the hope that he accrues ~.250 BA.

Sure, there is always that hope that he consolidates and has that breakout season which we had hoped for in his prospect days....but is the draft-day payout worth it?
JoshC77
1/17
(...just acknowledging that the team addressed this issue already). As someone who reaped Myers' benefits last year, that second-half was really frustrating...
MikeGianella
1/18
Hi Josh

Myers did come up in our internal discussions as a potential bust candidate. The concerns - as I noted above - revolved more around his potential for injury and the boost in steals.

I can see some regression coming across the board as well. However, Myers is one of those players who failed to realize his ceiling for years and in terms of talent is a legitimate player. We did push him down to the bottom of the four-star tier (after having him ranked a little higher) but based on the 20/20 potential (and considering how valuable steals are in the current context), I was reluctant to push him down further.
TeamPineTar
1/18
I recommend that fantasy owners solve the problem of position changes. We have a rule that passed 15-0 when ARod shifted to 3B, because we knew it would happen again. "Art III.1 - ..."Rule of Common Sense": When it is common knowledge that a player will shift positions for the coming season, he will be eligible at the new position on Auction Day and in Week 1." The rule is inclusive, flexible, promotes free management in prep and at auction, preserves player value at auction, and keeps your league (and BP) from getting stuck in the Pleistocene Era just because the people who gathered at the Rotisserie restaurant in 1978 didn't get everything right. Desmond? No one can honestly say he's convinced at this point. Gurriel? Common knowledge, common sense. Desmond's eligibility in our league will surely be determined by the time we auction.
MikeGianella
1/18
I'm a proponent of individual leagues using rules that make sense for them and make their members happy. But it is difficult to justify making a change to our series when ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo all still use last year's positional eligibility as the standard option for their leagues. My suspicion is that if we switched the series up and used your league's (and a handful of others') rules that the vast majority of our readers would be upset in the other direction.

Additionally, we do offer overall draft rankings and bid limits later this year (but long enough before draft day) that you will be able to see Desmond and Gurriel and all of your other favorites ranked alongside the first basemen to give you some specific context about where we see these guys falling out.
Robotey
1/18
Isn't 32 SB's for Goldschmidt a little high? Not that I don't think he can do it, but he only hit that mark once, last year, and his totals the three years previous were 21, 9 , and 15. That seems like an awful lot of volatility, which is not unusual with SB's, a stat that is often a function of choice by the player. If Goldy is locked in at 32 SB's then he is easily worth top dollar among 1b's in my league, which is big on steals. But, if he steals 'only' 15, then he's closer to the pack. Wouldn't you say his over/under is closer to 25?
MikeGianella
1/18
The stats in the tables are the players' 2016 lines, and not their PECOTA/PFM predictions for 2017. My rough guess for Goldy is 20 steals. I have him ahead of the rest of the pack because 1) that still puts him ahead of everyone else besides Myers by a fair margin and 2) I anticipate that the power will bounce back to his 2013-2015 levels and that 2016's drop in ISO was an anomaly, not a trend.
Robotey
1/18
Mike, thanks for clarifying, apologies for mis-reading the numbers.
billduke
2/23
Head to head leage. Categories are Runs, Hits, avg, HR, RBI, BB, SB, and OPS. I can keep three of the following, no penalty: Arenado, Freeman, Cano, Posey, Lindor.

Arenado is a lock, but I'm not sure what to do re the other two spots. Freeman and Cano project to have the best seasons in 2017, but Posey and Lindor are more amiable given the shallow pools at catcher and SS. Can I count on Freeman to be a top 5 first basemen for at least a couple seasons?
billduke
2/23
Amiable = valuable. Apologies for the autocorrect.
MikeGianella
3/03
Arenado and Freeman in one catcher leagues. In a two catcher format, you have to go Arenado/Posey.

Freeman will be top 5 or on the periphery of that for the next few seasons.
billduke
3/04
One catcher league. Who should my third keeper be? Cano? Lindor? It's a head to head categories league so Lindor isn't that exciting. But he's young, has a high ceiling and will contribute across the board.
MikeGianella
3/07
I'd keep Lindor because it is a keeper.
billduke
3/04
I realize this has deviated from a question about first basemen. My apologies.