Fantasy Baseball

2021 Fantasy Baseball: Top Ten First Basemen

There are any number of formats we could evaluate, but my personal favorite has always been total points. It has a number of advantages. First, it is a growing format in that daily fantasy sites use it exclusively (although they may have different formulas). Secondly, it apportions an appropriate weight per event. In other words, it doesn’t overemphasize any event over another based on perceived scarcity. That won’t have as much an effect at first base as other positions where stolen bases are given way too much weight.

The third and final advantage is that it allows you to compare players from different positions because it tells how much better one player is than another. This can help not only with positional rankings, but overall rankings as well. It helps to know the relative depth of a position when making those rankings. Knowing the difference between say the second and third best first baseman is dreadfully important

We will look at the top ten first basemen for the coming year according to two metrics. The first is total points over the past five seasons and the second is points per game. Generally speaking, the more data you have the better off you are and that is particularly true given the abbreviated nature of the 2020 season. We will also include a projection from baseball-reference for the 2021 season.

Total Points= TB + Runs + RBI + BB + SB + HBP – SO – CS- GIDP

Freddie Freeman–Atlanta Braves

Games: 655

Total Points: 2046 (1st)

PPG: 3.12 (1st)

Projection: .292/27 HR/96 Runs/100 RBI/7 SB

The Nationals won the World Series in 2019 and the Mets appear to be the team de jour, but the Braves have been the class of the division the past three years. They just haven’t been able to get over the hump in the playoffs. They lost Marcell Ozuna and haven’t yet replaced him. Even still, Freeman has been the best on the team throughout that time.

Anthony Rizzo–Chicago Cubs

Games: 669

Total Points: 2016 (2nd)

PPG: 3.01 (2nd)

Projection: .263/24 HR/73 Runs/81 RBI/6 SB

Sports run in cycles and some last longer than others. The Astros and Cubs used scorcher earth to build dynasties and those dynasties appear to be coming to an end. The Cubs have already lost some key pieces and will likely lose more following the 2021 season. Rizzo has been a constant force for the past five seasons, but his skills have been eroding. The second spot might be too high, but it is where has performed over the past five seasons.

Peter Alonso–New York Mets

Games: 218

Points: 603 (25th)

PPG: 2.77 (3rd)

Projection: .250/39 HR/84 Runs/93 RBI/3 SB

2020 was a disappointing season, but maybe we can just write that off as an aberration. Adding Francisco Lindor to a lineup that features Alonso, McNeil, and Conforto is a big deal. James McCann will also be a decent complimentary player, If they add George Springer it could be a huge offensive upgrade overall and all of that gets spread out to those left behind.

Paul Goldschmidt–St. Louis Cardinals

Games: 688

Points: 1898 (4th)

PPG: 2.76 (6th)

Projection: .264/25 HR/79 Runs/71 RBI/4 SB

Goldschmidt’s value plays up when you include the sixth category. He’s averaged 95 walks a season over a per 162 game basis. The other advantage he used to bring was extra stolen bases you normally don’t count on. Those are slowly going away as well. Like in Arizona, the big question is who you will surround him with.

Carlos Santana–Kansas City Royals

Games: 691

Points: 1910 (3rd)

PPG: 2.76 (5th)

Projection: .239/24 HR/84 Runs/77 RBI/3 SB

Like with Goldschmidt, the key is that sixth category. He is projected to draw 95 walks and has surpassed 100 walks in four of his last six full seasons. He has had 90 or more in five of those seasons. It would seem like going to Royals is a bad move, but they are actually better offensively than what you might think. Their pitching sucks, but they have Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, and Jorge Soler in tow. If Hunter Dozier produces like he did in 2019 then they could be surprisingly potent.

Joey Votto–Cincinnati Reds

Games: 661

Points: 1828 (5th)

PPG: 2.77 (4th)

Projection: .249/16 HR/69 Runs/54 RBI/3 SB

Goldschmidt and Santana walk a lot. Votto is the king of on base percentage. The only real hole in his game has been a lack of power in recent seasons. Still, he is likely a Hall of Famer eventually and the Reds are loaded offensively. He would have produced 25+ home runs if you project his 2020 numbers out, so maybe he continues to produce those numbers with these guys in the lineup.

Rhys Hoskins–Philadelphia Phillies

Games: 404

Points: 1086 (15th)

PPG: 2.69 (8th)

Projection: .236/24 HR/71 Runs/69 RBI/3 SB

I begin to sound like a broken record, but I like what I like and total points tends to support guys that walk a lot. He’s averaged 100 walks in both of his first two complete seasons in the league. The key for the Phillies is to get production from somewhere else in the lineup. They have Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and a few other decent players. One more star would raise his profile some.

Jose Abreu–Chicago White Sox

Games: 662

Points: 1748 (6th)

PPG: 2.64 (10th)

Projection: .272/30 HR/81 Runs/104 RBI/3 SB 

Maybe he would be more highly regarded if 2020 had not been an abbreviated season. If you project those numbers out to 162 games he would have produced .312/51 HR/116 Runs/162 RBI. Those numbers fly off the page. The White Sox are pointed up, but Abreu’s profile will always be limited by a lack of patience at the plate. Yes, he drives in runs and hits for power, but there a lot of guys that do that.

Josh Bell–Washington Nationals

Games: 552

Points: 1276 (13th)

PPG: 2.31 (13th)

Projection: .255/23 HR/75 Runs/79 RBI/2 SB

You’ll notice we skip a few slots as we go to Bell. Most of the guys in between are aging and just don’t look draftable at this point. Plus, Bell’s profile changed somewhat when he was dealt to the Nationals. The Nationals have considerably more talent than the Bucs and things in Pittsburgh seem to be deteriorating. So, here is guessing that Bell comes closer to his 2019 form than his 2020 form.

Matt Olson–Oakland Athletics

Games: 419

Points: 962 (16th)

PPG: 2.30 (14th)

Projection: .244/31 HR/76 Runs/88 RBI/2 SB

Again, we are going with someone who the needle is at least pointed sideways over players who are clearly on their way down. The problem with Olson is that the Athletics appear to be losing at least Marcus Semien if not some additional talent in the outfield. They still have Matt Chapman and Ramon Lauraeno in tow, so they shouldn’t be terrible, but he will likely will be middle of the road.

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