This time around we are going to combine a couple of different features into one article. We had started a variation of the three to keep, add, and drop when I shifted gears to fun with PECOTA. So, we will combine those here. We are taking a look at three first basemen that typically went undrafted (drafted by less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues), but are somehow rated highly by PECOTA. We will add in the Steamer and Rotowire projections to offer a basis of comparison.
PECOTA comes from Baseball Prospectus and is one of the few things I look forward to every Spring. Unfortunately, supply chains and delivery delays brought this series a little later than I normally would like. Fortunately, we have plenty of time until the season actually begins. All projections are based on a 162 game schedule. As we know, that is highly unlikely. The current estimates are a 100 game season. Numbers can be adjsted there, but we will keep to 162 game projections to keep things easier to comprehend.
Rankings for first basemen for Baseball Prospectus are based on two points. First, we use Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). That compares all first basemen with the typical AAA first basemen. Secondly, we took the top 25 first basemen that will primarily play first base. There will be players that are eligible at first base than will be used elsewhere because that is where they will play most of the time.
Three to Add
Daniel Vogelbach–Seattle Mariners
VORP: 23.9 (11th)
Yahoo Owned: 5%
Yahoo 5: 21st
Yahoo 6: 20th
PECOTA: .237/31 HR/82 Runs/88 RBI/1 SB/95 BB
Steamer: .232/19 HR/52 Runs/55 RBI/1 SB/64 BB
Rotowire: .235/27 HR/71 Runs/79 RBI/0 SB/91 BB
PECOTA is definitely more bullish on Vogelbach and that has to be taken into consideration. You also have to consider the format before making him an addition to your bench. He is pretty heavy on the swing and miss, but he has a couple of things going for him. Namely, the Mariners aren’t going anywhere this year, so they can afford to keep throwing him out there. These are the years when you see who will be a part of your core long-term. The Mariners will give him plenty of rope.
Ji-Man Choi–Tampa Bay Rays
VORP: 18.5 (14th)
Yahoo Owned: 3%
Yahoo 5: 18th
Yahoo 6: 18th
PECOTA: .247/22 HR/66 Runs/70 RBI/5 SB/66 BB
Steamer: .248/18 HR/58 Runs/59 RBI/3 SB/58 BB
Rotowire: .256/23 HR/63 Runs/76 RBI/3 SB/74 BB
None of the projection systems have Choi as a fantasy regular and PECOTA doesn’t have him rated there either. Most leagues employ a utility player and a number of them employ a corner infielder which could bounce him into the starting lineup. The one drawback for Choi is that the Rays live to mix and match their lineups because while they don’t have many frontline players, they have a fairly deep roster of guys capable of producing in certain circumstances.
Travis Shaw–Toronto Blue Jays
VORP: 14.9 (18th)
Yahoo Owned: 5%
Yahoo 5: 25th
Yahoo 6: 24th
PECOTA: .241/26 HR/62 Runs/71 RBI/4 SB/54 BB
Steamer: .232/20 HR/56 Runs/60 RBI/3 SB/53 BB
Rotowire: .223/17 HR/42 Runs/46 RBI/1 SB/46 BB
Building a fantasy bench is an art. You want to balance a number of different considerations. Players like Shaw don’t have a ton of upside, but he has multi-positional flexibility as he will qualify at first and third base. 2019 was an unmitigated disaster for Shaw, but he had been fairly stable for two or three seasons before that. PECOTA is more bullish on him than the other projection systems, so you have to ask yourself whether you trust the folks at Baseball Prospectus over Steamer or Rotowire.
Three to Avoid
Eric Hosmer–San Diego Padres
VORP: 6.1 (23rd)
Yahoo Owned: 62%
Yahoo 5: 14th
Yahoo 6: 16th
PECOTA: .254/20 HR/67 Runs/74 RBI/5 SB/48 BB
Steamer: .263/23 HR/73 Runs/79 RBI/3 SB/49 BB
Rotowire: .263/21 HR/75 Runs/90 RBI/3 SB/50 BB
When you consider the number of players eligible at first base that were not included in our top 25, you would see Hosmer actually tumble outside of the top 30 according to PECOTA. Essentially, this is a lesson in the difference between accumulation and value. It’s a harsh lesson when it comes to Hall of Fame talk. Hosmer will end up being at the forefront of that conversation when he retires. He will have numbers that might look tantalizing, but the value simply isn’t there. Even a fairly smart organization like the Padres were fooled into giving him a long-term contract. Think of it this way. How different are the above numbers in comparison to someone like Shaw that can fit at two positions?
Yuli Gurriel–Houston Astros
VORP: 12.5 (19th)
Yahoo Owned: 86%
Yahoo 5: 12th
Yahoo 6: 15th
PECOTA: .274/25 HR/69 Runs/82 RBI/4 SB/28 BB
Steamer: .289/23 HR/78 Runs/90 RBI/5 SB/32 BB
Rotowire: .295/23 HR/77 Runs/93 RBI/5 SB/30 BB
Let’s ignore the controversy for a moment and focus on more conventional wisdom. Gurriel has been a full-time performer since 2017. In July and August of last year he combined for 19 home runs and 60 RBI. That came with a .370+ batting average. For the rest of the season he combined for 12 home runs and 44 RBI. If you parlay that out to a full season he ends up producing a little more than 20 home runs and driving in somewhere around 80 runs. Funny, but that was his general production in 2017 and 2018. It’s his likely production in 2020 with or without trash cans.
Edwin Encarnacion–Chicago White Sox
VORP: 15.5 (16th)
Yahoo Owned: 81%
Yahoo 5: 11th
Yahoo 6: 12th
PECOTA: .241/34 HR/75 Runs/87 RBI/2 SB/60 BB
Steamer: .246/33 HR/78 Runs/89 RBI/1 SB/69 BB
Rotowire: .248/31 HR/81 Runs/96 RBI/1 SB/67 BB
Avoid might be a strong term for Encarnacion. He rates out as someone that should be rostered in most leagues. The difference is that Yahoo has him rated as a regular in five and six category leagues. Encarnacion might have one good year left. He also might not. He seems like a pretty significant risk at this point. If you have another potential regular at first you might be able to exchange him for someone that might not be as big a risk.
Author’s Note: The Hall of Fame Index Part II is now available in both paperback and digital formats at Amazon.com. Digital versions cost only #5.99 and you don’t have to wait for the delivery guy to come to your home. Paperback versions are $14.99. This is a great book for those interested in Hall of Fame debates and for those stuck waiting for baseball to finally arrive.