2015 Fantasy Baseball: Real Offensive Value — First Basemen
You can’t get any more different in fantasy circles than catchers and first basemen. Still, there are some things that are similar at all of the positions. Some players have surprised and outperformed expectations and some players have not met expectations. With one third of the season done, it is high time we went back and looked at the first base pool. Unlike catchers, we are only looking at players that currently qualify for the batting title (on pace to have 502 plate appearances).
In fantasy circles, most teams employ two first basemen. One of them often takes the utility role or the 1B/3B role on the team. If you have both then you might have as many as three 1Bs. There are certainly enough to go around if you know what you are looking for. We will try to evenly distribute these players into three categories: elite starters, fringe starters, and look away.
We are using an adapted statistic called real offensive value (ROV) to evaluate these players. The general idea is to combine everything the player does into one number that looks like batting average. We do that by averaging their batting average with the primary components of Bill James’ secondary average. Those would include isolated power (slugging percentage – batting average) and isolated patience (on base percentage – batting average). Like with batting average, .250 tends to be the dividing line between solid performers and subpar performers. A ROV over .300 tends to point towards all-star performance.
Numbers are accurate as of June 6th, 2015
Most of these players are household names and were taken amongst the top ten first basemen that went off the board. Yet, there are some notable names missing from this list and a few names that are destined to surprise us. The biggest surprise on the board is probably Mark Teixeira. Even most Yankees fans probably assumed that he was done being a productive player after spending the past two seasons lost on the disabled list wasteland. The combination of his production and Alex Rodriguez’s production has kept that team afloat while others have floundered.
However, we would be burying the lead if we didn’t mention both Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo. They are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition and just might be real MVP candidates by season’s end. Rizzo has added ten steals to this point while Goldschmidt has nine. Base running is included in James’ secondary average, but not in the ISO2 that you see above.
Lucas Duda and Brandon Belt aren’t quite on the same level of surprise. For one, they aren’t on the same level of production. They are on the border between being merely solid and being an all-star level performer. The next month will tell the tale either way on both of them (as well as Freddie Freeman). Chances are, none of these players is available in your league on the waiver wire, but if they are undervalued in a trade, now might be the time to take a look.
All boats usually find their level on the water. Many fantasy owners picked Carlos Santana, Jose Abreu, and Edwin Encarnacion very early. A few picked Chris Davis there as well. Santana and Davis have some positional flexibility in some leagues, so that can explain their ranking. However, it doesn’t explain it all away. Even when you go to those positions, the two fall pretty far in the rankings.
That being said, considering all of these guys are above average in ROV, they all should owned in your league. If you find one of the your first basemen underperforming, it would be a good idea to scour the waiver wire looking for an upgrade. Mind you, you aren’t going to get all-star performance overall (although Encarnacion, Abreu, and Santana are certainly capable of producing that from here on out), but you will get solid performances across the board.
By look away standards, this is all pretty tame. The top four guys are officially better than the league average in real offensive value and two of these players (Mauer and Gattis) are on pace to drive in more than 100 runs. So, really we aren’t looking at the dregs of baseball society necessarily. What we are looking at are guys that rank outside of the top twenty amongst first basemen and designated hitters.
In fact, some fantasy titles are won by taking a chance on players like this. David Ortiz in particular has too much of a pedigree to end up on a list like this. He could be had now for a relative song in the hopes that he will produce career norms for the last four months of the season. You make that move now and you could come out a hero.
Logan Morrison and Billy Butler are the only two players here that would represent true look away status. I’m not exactly sure why Billy Beane was so hot to trot to sign Butler. The move really doesn’t make sense when you compare the move with his other moves this past offseason. If your goal was to tie down your designated hitter spot with a below average player then I guess you can say mission accomplished.