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The Primer:
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.

First base is a position that keeps trending downwards in dynasty formats, and makes for an interesting reboot of our conceived notions about the sluggers that are supposed to reside here. It seems like every time we make gains at the position, i.e. Paul Goldschmidt’s breakout and Jose Abreu’s appearance, we take steps back with the decline of Albert Pujols, and injury issues of Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. It was only two years ago that those three were the no brainer top three of the group—and this year, none slot into the top five.

Of course, the position isn’t helped by the fact that the first base pipeline has been dried up lately. Whether it’s guys like Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt who have not lived up to their lofty potential, or Jonathan Singleton falling on his face in his rookie season, the major league talent has not gotten any younger. And it likely won’t any time soon. There are no first base prospects in the top 50 of the Dynasty 101, or the top 25 of this list. Though, maybe things are on the verge of changing slightly, as the 2014 draft saw a number of first base prospects with real fantasy potential entering the minors.

And now, your top 50 first basemen (and designated hitters—they don’t get their own list) in dynasty league formats:

1) Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Without the health issues surrounding Miggy, he would likely slide ahead of Goldschmidt, though these two are as close as can be. The slugger in the desert contributes in all five categories, which is a rarity for a first baseman—and while a fully healthy Cabrera trumps Goldschmidt in all four other categories, it’s not something we can bank on at the moment. Goldschmidt may not have the major injury concern that Miggy has, but his finger injury is one that could linger and affect his power during the beginning of the 2015 season—though it’s not an issue long-term. If you own one of these two, you’re in great shape. If you own both, well, you can probably stop reading this column right about now.

3) Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
4) Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
5) Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

The step down to the next three names isn’t enormous, but it is noticeable. Abreu was fantastic in his debut season, but it’s hard to tell if he can continue hitting for both power and average until he repeats the feat. Encarnacion is the elder statesman of the tier, but he’s been money in the bank over the last three seasons. With his low strikeout rates, he could continue to hit for power and not hurt your batting average (possibly even helping it if he can slide his BABIP up a little). Rizzo is the youngest of the group, and he may have the most to prove in his 2015 campaign. He turned around his performance against left-handers and took the next step in tapping into his power.

6) Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
7) Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
8) Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
9) Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
10) Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

When you think about it, it’s really incredible that this is the 6-10 group these days. This tier is filled with players you built offenses around as recently as last off-season. Freeman is the boring guy in this tier—as even his relative youth doesn’t give him more upside than the other names on this list in the near-term. The trick is that he’ll likely outlast them all. Votto and Fielder are the big injury guys to watch here. Both could reasonably be top-three options at first base this year, but both could also slide outside the top-20. Fielder’s neck injury is a larger concern as far as returning to his previous form, but Votto’s continued maladies may be a larger concern as far as staying on the field. Gonzalez is incredibly consistent, but he’s getting older and his high-end is outside the top-five. Pujols is the low man here, as he has both performance slippage and injury concerns—but goddamn if The Machine doesn’t still live inside him.

11) David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox*
12) Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

The oldest of the old guys on this list, Ortiz and Martinez still carry immense 2015 value, which drives them up this list. Ortiz does not age, and it’s perfectly reasonable to continue to expect 30-35 homers and a pretty good average for another year or two. Martinez is unlikely to ever have a season again like his 2014 campaign, but the combination of low strikeout rate and power is a force to be reckoned with, and makes him a stalwart on a contending dynasty team.

13) Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
14) Matt Adams, St Louis Cardinals
15) Lucas Duda, New York Mets
16) Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants

No, I’m not throwing in the towel on Eric Hosmer. People will be quick to point out his strong line over the last three months of the 2014 season, but this isn’t about second half performances or playoff glory. Hosmer still has the skills to hit for average, decent power and steal bases—he just needs to tap into it consistently. Adams and Duda are both sluggers who struggle against same-side pitching, but Adams gets the nod because he can hit for a higher average (even though it comes with slightly less power than the Met first baseman). Belt is a tease who toggles between being terrible and being injured more than he hints at any potential greatness. He has upside, but this is a reflection of the age and question marks of the names behind him, rather than a statement about his talent.

17) Brandon Moss, Cleveland Indians
18) Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
19) Adam LaRoche, Chicago White Sox
20) Mark Trumbo, Arizona Diamondbacks
21) Chris Carter, Houston Astros*

Moss, on talent alone, would rank prominently in the tier above, but hip surgery on a 31-year-old power hitter isn’t ideal. Morneau and LaRoche are two more elder statesmen, and although they carry far less upside than the Ortiz/Martinez group a half-dozen spots higher, they are both good bets to be strong corner infield options for the next couple of seasons (barring a drastic change of scenery for Morneau). Trumbo is better than Carter at the plate, and by more than one spot, but his injury risk while attempting to play the outfield in Arizona knocks him down slightly. Of course, Carter has already lost his 1B eligibility, but 37 homers will gloss over a lot of issues.

22) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
23) Adam Lind, Milwaukee Brewers
24) Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins*
25) Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros
26) Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

I’ve made it a point of discussion in many places this off-season, but I’ll reiterate here: I’m going to be owning Mauer in plenty of leagues this year and targeting him in deeper mixed dynasty formats this off-season. I like him to bounce back into the .300 average range again and sneak double digits in homers—which would make him awfully valuable in this down period of first basemen. The other Twin here is Vargas, who has the talent and minor league track record to turn around an ugly BB:K rate and build into the raw stats he put up in 2014. I’m not about to give up on Jonathan Singleton, but his drop on this list is warranted, both for on-field and off-field reasons.

27) Dan Vogelbach, Chicago Cubs

And after 26 names, we finally get to the first prospect on the list. My prospect crush continued to hit in the Florida State League this year, and although he’s incredibly blocked in Chicago, he will hit enough to force the issue.

28) Steve Pearce, Baltimore Orioles
29) Dominic Smith, New York Mets
30) Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
31) James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays
32) Michael Morse, Miami Marlins
33) Allen Craig, Boston Red Sox
34) C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels
35) Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
36) Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
37) A.J. Reed, Houston Astros
38) Bobby Bradley, Cleveland Indians

There’s continued depth at the position, but it becomes a real crapshoot at this point. Pearce was fantastic in 2014, but how real was his performance and will the Orioles even give him a full dose of at bats to prove it? Smith hit for zero power in Savannah, but it wouldn’t be the first time a left-handed prospect did that and bounced back the following season. Butler and Loney are boring in mixed leagues and Morse is a sizable risk, both in the health and performance departments. Maybe it was the foot injury, but Craig completely fell off the map in 2014, and although the talent is there to get it back, he’s not in a great position to solidify any value at the moment. The prospects all have their flaws, but don’t sleep on A.J. Reed—one of the picks the Astros actually did sign this year. He got off to a hot start in pro ball this summer and could hit for power and average in time.

39) Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals
40) Garrett Jones, New York Yankees
41) Greg Bird, New York Yankees
42) Ike Davis, Oakland Athletics
43) Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
44) Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
45) Logan Morrison, Seattle Mariners
46) Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians
47) Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers
48) Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners
49) Christian Walker, Baltimore Orioles
50) Corey Hart, Pittsburgh Pirates

There are a whole lot of has-beens in this group. Morales, Davis, Howard, Swisher and Hart all used to be valuable fantasy commodities before they either got old or bad. Any member of this group could have a dead cat bounce season in 2015 (though Swisher is unlikely to do so with the double knee injury), it’s that guessing which one will is almost certainly a fruitless exercise. Bird and Walker are closer to the majors than some of the first base prospects mentioned earlier, but lack the same upside. Jesus Montero has apparently lost 35-40 pounds this off-season, and just as I think I’m coming close to pulling away, he sucks me right back in again. Though it’s still more likely that he just sucks.

Just missed: Tommy Medica, Darin Ruf, Justin Smoak, Jesus Aguilar, Ronald Guzman

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wse120372
1/15
Chris. Davis?
swarmee
1/15
Considered a 3B for this fantasy year in these write-ups.
Ballparkjack22
1/15
If you included Josh Bell where would he rank?
bretsayre
1/15
He'd be the top 1B prospect, if we were eligible. Likely right after Mark Trumbo.
ingulund
1/15
I know he's the number 1 catcher, but Posey will be eligible at first for the rest of his career. Where would he rank as a dynasty 1B?
bretsayre
1/15
Friends don't let friends play Buster Posey at first base. This will not be an issue any time soon.
Muboshgu
1/15
I think the better question is: why would you deploy Posey as a 1B in a fantasy league?
ingulund
1/15
Just making sure there's no way I drop Posey for a 4th round pick in the dynasty redraft (can keep up to 25). A nice 1B ranking would talk me off the edge
sbnbaseball
1/15
I have Posey ranked as my #9 fantasy first baseman. Not many first baseman, or catchers, hit .300 with 20+ HRs and 80+ RBI. The more Bochy plays him at first base, especially with Susac ready, the better for the Giants and his fantasy owners. FWIW - I have Freeman and Votto ranked below Posey.
lewist
1/15
Great article. Thank you for the AJ Reed enthusiasm. In all seriousness, I wonder about the lack of enthusiasm in prospect circles for A.J. Reed. In a power starved fantasy market, even a declining 1B market, why wouldn't you buy a guy who can hit, walk, and hit for power? Those qualities lead me to rank AJ as the #1 1B prospect today, followed by Matt Olson of the A's. I have fatigue with Vogelbach and Domonic needs to prove it.
bretsayre
1/15
Thanks! Don't let the Vogelbach fatigue get you down. Stay strong.
mbeemsterboer
1/15
What about Carlos Santana? Are you guys considering him a C or 3B for now? He's no longer eligible at C in my league, but is eligible at 3B and 1B.
TheArtfulDodger
1/15
He's eligible at 3B, and will be ranked there.
bobbygrace
1/15
This appears to be the first time Bobby Bradley has been mentioned at Baseball Prospectus. The 1996 birthday and .369 TAv in rookie ball certainly catch the eye. Any other thoughts on him?
bretsayre
1/15
I mentioned him myself last week as a top-30 pick in dynasty drafts this off-season and he was a top-10 prospect in the Indians system, but he's an exciting fantasy prospect who really had an impressive debut and projects to hit for average and power (but not enormous power). Definitely a name that could be a big riser in 2015.
bobbygrace
1/15
Thank you! You're right, of course: Bradley is discussed in the article on Cleveland's top 10 prospects. For some reason his player card doesn't link back to that article yet, so my desultory/lazy search didn't turn up the other information. Appreciate your reply!
cannoncruz
1/15
i couldn't move Vogelbach right now if I wanted to. Great buy low right now. While dissapointed a bit that Sam Travis didn't make the list it just means that my window is still open to getting him cheap.
BCermak
1/15
To what extent should owners be concerned over Miggy's injuries? Do they really affect his long term value?
bretsayre
1/16
Slightly for 2015 only, close to none for long-term. He's been one of the most consistent players in all of baseball from a playing time standpoint throughout his career, and I'm not particularly concerned about anything lingering.
BCermak
1/15
You guys seem to be a little low on Bird-- he's a left handed hitter in Yankee Stadium with 6 potential power according to the prospect team. If he gets traded, the value takes a hit, but in OBP/OPS leagues it seems like his plate discipline could be a real asset
bretsayre
1/16
He's at the bottom of a very close group between 28 and 41, even though it's difficult to tell from the raw numbering. That said, he's a power-only fantasy bat, and there are question as to how much of the power he taps into--so while Yankee Stadium would help, the Yankees also haven't developed a home-grown hitter in almost a decade.
lipsgardner
1/15
Isn't the Carlos Santana at 3B experiment over? And if so, and this is a dynasty ranking, shouldn't he be ranked as a 1B since that's where all of his future eligibility lies?
BobbyMcNeill
1/16
Agree!
bretsayre
1/16
Predicting future eligibility is pointless, so we rank where they play. How do we know his eligibility lies there? He may be DH-only if Moss is healthy and plays 1B. He may be C eligible if Gomes gets hurt and he's forced into action there. Anything is possible, but for 2015, you're playing him at 3B barring a strange situation on your roster.