First base and catcher could not be any more different, but one of the commonalities in fantasy sports is the concept of replacement value. In other words, how much better is one player than the next available player at that position. Both catchers and first basemen have minimal replacement value, so sometimes it is best to let the top rated guys go by. So, the rankings are one thing, but absolute rankings are not always in context.
What we are doing here is taking various projection systems and combining them into one aggregate number for each player. We haven’t included every projection system out there, but we have included most of the bigger ones. These numbers are spit out of an algorithm anyway, so they are usually pretty similar. So, take it for what’s worth.
Freddie Freeman–Atlanta Braves
Projection: .295/33 HR/100 Runs/104 RBI/7 SB
One of the problems with projection rankings is that each category is treated equally. However, what’s the appreciable difference between seven steals and say three steals? Well, that would be four stolen bases. In terms of rankings it makes a pretty big difference. Still, Freeman is the only first sacker that is projected to reach 100 or more runs and RBI.
Anthony Rizzo–Chicago Cubs
Projection: .283/30/96 Runs/97 RBI/6 SB
This is a perfect example of replacement value. Rizzo is just a shade under Freeman in every category. The question is how many picks you would have to wait to add him in lieu of Freeman. If you can pick a player and then select Rizzo then you might be better off.
Peter Alonso–New York Mets
Projection: .253/43 HR/97 Runs/106 RBI/2 SB
The game went with a different ball in the postseason and home runs were limited. They may go with that ball this season which means no 50 home run seasons for anyone. Power is Alonso’s main asset, so if you eliminate ten dingers from total then he doesn’t remain on top of the first base heap.
Paul Goldschmidt–St. Louis Cardinals
Projection: .272/31 HR/92 Runs/93 RBI/6 SB
Goldy was the top guy on the board for most of the last several seasons and people naturally believed that would continue in St. Louis. Mind you, a part of that is built on his patience and that isn’t counted here. Still, you slip a little at this position and you can tumble down the board. He went from a borderline first or second round pick to a middle round selection in one year.
Josh Bell–Pittsburgh Pirates
Projection: .274/30 HR/86 Runs/97 RBI/3 SB
The Pirates are destined to come in last in the NL Central even though they aren’t nearly as bad as other teams. They just don’t have enough punch to put a scare into teams. Bell may see his walk totals shoot up and that will enhance his overall value as a player, but in fantasy baseball that means little.
Matt Olson–Oakland Athletics
Projection: .253/38 HR/88 Runs/101 RBI/1 SB
Replacement value personified. He is the sixth rated first baseman here, but other than batting average, he is just about as good as anyone. If you prorated his numbers last year over the course of 150 games played he would have wound up here. He might be a good sleeper pick.
Rhys Hoskins–Philadelphia Phillies
Projection: .241/35 HR/91 Runs/95 RBI/4 SB
I know we are supposed to care about batting average. If you play in a six category league then Hoskins plays up considerably. The Phillies seem to have more talent than what they actually produce. If Joe Giradi can work some magic then all of them might be sleeper picks.
Jose Abreu–Chicago White Sox
Projections: .277/30 HR/84 Runs/97 RBI/3 SB
In six big league seasons, Abreu has averaged over 100 RBI. Then you add Edwin Encarnacion, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert to the everyday lineup and you’d think that would explode. Of course, some of those guys may get his RBI. He doesn’t walk much, but that hasn’t stopped him yet.
Carlos Santana–Cleveland Indians
Projection: .256/28 HR/91 Runs/91 RBI/3 SB
Santana is projected to lead the position in walks. We don’t count walks here, so he tumbles down the list. In terms of the value most stat guys look at, he is considerably better than this. Of course, the Indians are on the decline so that could play a part in his diminished projections.
Yuli Gurriel–Houston Astros
Projection: .286/23 HR/81 Runs/90 RBI/5 SB
Let’s go with what we know. Gurriel makes a ton of contact and when that happens you will usually have a respectable average. I think we can all agree the power numbers were a mirage, but he is usually good for 15 to 20 home runs with the requisite runs and RBI. Adjust accordingly.
Max Muncy–Los Angeles Dodgers
Projection: .246/31 HR/86 Runs/85 RBI/4 SB
Some fans get caught up in what I would call magical thinking. It goes something like this. The Dodgers added Mookie Betts and A.J. Pollock and Corey Seager will be healthy so how many more RBI will someone like Muncy produce? The answer is probably not as many as you think.
Joey Votto–Cincinnati Reds
Projections: .269/20 HR/86 Runs/71 RBI/4 SB
They called Kevin Youkilis the Greek God of walks. I suppose they might call Votto the Canadian minister of walks. Even with Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas added to the lineup that likely will not change. The power just isn’t there anymore, so even in six category leagues he is no better than second or third tier.
Miguel Sano–Minnesota Twins
Projections: .242/36 HR/83 Runs/94 RBI/1 SB
Sano moves across the diamond with the addition of Josh Donaldson. If everything holds, the Twins could have the most potent offense baseball has seen this century. Sano will have third base eligibility in most formats which makes him somewhat more valuable, but third is a deep position itself.
Edwin Encarnacion–Chicago White Sox
Projections: .245/34 HR/79 Runs/90 RBI/2 SB
Encarnacion is nearing the end of the line. He has had quite a second half of his career, but he will likely come up just short for Cooperstown. If he produces another 30/100/100 season he will likely get some votes when his name is called.
Eric Hosmer–San Diego Padres
Projections: .262/22 HR/73 Runs/80 RBI/3 SB
With the number of analytical guys the Padres have in their organization it is amazing they gave that contract to this guy. It was a stupid contract the minute the ink dried. Still, Hosmer is good for 150 games a season, so he will at least put up decent counting numbers.
Author’s Note: Keep your eye out for The Hall of Fame Index Part II. It will be available shortly through Amazon digitally with some limited available in paperback.