Dynasty Lookout: First Base
Baseball America composes a team by team breakdown of top prospects and projected lineups for a few years down the road. This year they break down the projected lineups for 2016.
For fantasy purposes, it can be useful to have this broken down by position. Today we’ll look first base.
|Team||2016 First Baseman|
|Baltimore Orioles||Nick Delmonico|
|Boston Red Sox||Jerry Sands|
|New York Yankees||Tyler Austin|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Richie Shaffer|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Edwin Encarnacion|
|Chicago White Sox||Andy Wilkins|
|Cleveland Indians||Lonnie Chisenhall|
|Detroit Tigers||Prince Fielder|
|Kansas City Royals||Eric Hosmer|
|Minnesota Twins||Chris Parmelee|
|Houston Astros||Jonathan Singleton|
|Los Angeles Angels||Albert Pujols|
|Oakland Athletics||Miles Head|
|Seattle Mariners||Justin Smoak|
|Texas Rangers||Mike Olt|
|Atlanta Braves||Freddie Freeman|
|Miami Marlins||Logan Morrison|
|New York Mets||Ike Davis|
|Philladelphia Phillies||Ryan Howard|
|Washinton Nationals||Ryan Zimmerman|
|Chicago Cubs||Anthony Rizzo|
|Cincinatti Reds||Joey Votto|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Corey Hart|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Alex Dickerson|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Allen Craig|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Paul Goldschmidt|
|Colorado Rockies||Nolan Arenado|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Adrian Gonzalez|
|San Diego Padres||Yonder Alonso|
|San Fransisco Giants||Brandon Belt|
Players on this list ranking among the mlb.com top 100 prospects are Mike Olt (#22), Jonathan Singleton (#27), Nolan Arenado (#62), and Tyler Austin (#75.)
One thing that stands out about the list from the MLB top 100 is that all but Singleton have been playing at other positions in the minor leagues. Primarily a third baseman in the minors, Olt has seen time at first, third, and right field. Arenado has played exclusively at the hot corner in his minor league experience. Austin began his minor league career as an infielder, at first and third, but spent most of his time in right in 2012. Regardless, BA projects them all to have taken over at 1st with their major league clubs by 2016. Much of this likely has to do with 1st base being a last resort, as it is probably the least demanding defensive position. It could also simply be each players clearest path to the majors, and their teams want to get their respective bats into the lineup.
Similarly Lonnie Chisenhall and Ryan Zimmerman are both presently at third, with the expectation that they will shift from third to first by 2016. Chisenhall to make room for Dorssys Paulino, and Zimmerman for Anthony Rendon. Following Zimmerman’s extension, I had heard Rendon would move to second, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Mike Olt heads the prospect list, and brings the home run & high strikeout profile. He bypassed AAA entirely and earned a late season callup last season after belting 28 HR in only 354 at bats at AA Frisco. His performance with the Rangers was not good, but the sample was too small to be concerned with. He features a good enough glove to stick at 3B and his projection at 1B has more to do with Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland than it does with anything else. I would assume he starts the season in the minors to get more playing time, but its possible he breaks camp with the team.
Jonathan Singleton is another interesting case. Entering the offseason you could have argued he had a shot to win the 1st base job in spring training. However, a few things have happened that make that moot. One: the Astros traded for former Athletics prospect Chris Carter, also a first baseman. Two: the Astros signed Carlos Pena, who could reasonably see some time at first base. Three: really the only point that matters, Singleton was suspended 50 games for violating a minor league drug policy. The violation was for marijuana rather than PEDs, which given the circumstances, I would view as a positive thing. It’s simply a sign of immaturity rather than looking for an edge to be more competitive. Regardless of the suspension, Houston brass still sees Singleton as having a path to the big leagues this season, and when he gets there, look for him to continue to be a home run hitting, high on base guy.
Nolan Arenado was a prospect darling entering the 2012 season after hitting .298 with 20 HR in A+ ball, and being named the Arizona Fall League MVP. He was promoted to AA last year and had a good season, but his HR production was cut to 12 and his prospect status took a significant hit. He had been considered the 3B of the future in Colorado, but this list suggests that Troy Tulowitzki will slide over to third to make room for shortstop Trevor Story, which has the domino effect of sending Arenado over to 1B where he becomes a less valuable fantasy commodity.
Perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols shows only minor signs of any decrease in production, and even that might be attributable to switching leagues and switching ballparks. However he is on the wrong side of 30, and decline is inevitable. Its never sexy to draft an aging star in dynasty leagues, which may be the very reason you can get The Machine at a relative discount. He’s a good play if you’re trying to “win now” and you should be. Its much easier to predict this season than the next, or the next, or the next…
Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, and Adrian Gonzalez are 28,29, and 30 years old, respectively. All are arguably top 5 first baseman in 2013 with #1 overall 1B capabilities. Fielder and Votto would both make solid cornerstones for your dynasty team with enough relative youth and top tier production right now. Both, however, are going to likely cost you a 1st round pick, or close to it. Gonzalez’s slip in power production last year has caused his perceived value to drop into 2nd or 3rd round territory, or perhaps even a bit lower in a dynasty format. I’m not confident he will get the power stroke back, but if he does, he jumps right back up into the top tier of first baseman.
Paul Goldschmidt is getting a lot of love in early drafts this year, going around the 20th pick overall. I think there is a lot to like about Goldschmidt, and at 25 years old, there is reasonable expectation that he can improve. He is also one of a few guys who really stands out as a true masher profile at first base. Still, if he continues to go as early in drafts as he has been, I think there is a risk of overpaying for a guy without a history of elite performance at the major league level. Many scouts were worried that his long swing wouldn’t play in the majors… so far he has proven them wrong, but I still think there is reason to be cautious. You may find better value going after 23 year old Freddie Freeman, among others.
There are several opportunities for value in the first base pool. Eric Hosmer was a previous can’t miss prospect who under performed in 2012. He wont be cheap, but his price will have dropped a ton vs a dynasty draft last year. Brandon Belt was a monster in the minor leagues, and really looked to have turned a corner in the 2nd half of last season. Ike Davis delivered a ton of power last year, but the average was awful. He was another tale of two halves, though, as his average was acceptable in the 2nd half, and the first half could be attributed to recovering from Valley Fever.
However you approach it… established star, reliable veteran, upside rookie, or hyped prospect, first base is an exciting position in dynasty fantasy leagues this year.