2020 Fantasy Baseball First base preview: Top-12 ranking, sleepers, breakouts, busts, and top prospects

We're in the midst of a changing of the guard at first base, with a youth movement taking over the top of the position last season. Cody Bellinger emerged as one of the top hitters in Fantasy, Pete Alonso set a rookie record for homers and Josh Bell broke out as a massive power threat, while we seemingly said goodbye to the era of Paul Goldschmidt and especially Joey Votto and Matt Carpenter as elite Fantasy options. The question now is how much of what we saw last year was for real?

Bellinger put himself in the conversation for the top pick in Fantasy by cutting his strikeout rate and emerging as an elite five-category contributor, but he was also a major disappointment in 2018 and couldn't quite keep up his elite play in the second half of the 2019 season. Alonso and Bell both followed similar trends, putting up huge first halves before stumbling just a bit after the All-Star break, leading to questions about whether they were just flashes in the pan. If this trio can prove it is up to their first half standards, the top tier of first base will look as strong as ever — and both Bell and Alonso could prove pretty nice values for Fantasy, to boot.

On the other side of the coin, if those formerly elite bats find a way to bounce back in 2020, the position could look even stronger. There isn't much optimism around Votto or Carpenter, whose prices have fallen through the floor, making both nice values as cheap lottery tickets, even if they are unlikely to figure it out. Goldschmidt is in a bit of a better position, coming off an .886 OPS after the All-Star break, but with a lack of stolen bases, his appeal just isn't what it once was.

The good news is, if you take a risk on either side, first base is deep enough to find production even on waivers if you need it. This time last year, for instance, Alonso was a mid-round pick, Bell was a late-rounder, and guys like Trey Mancini, Yuli Gurriel and Miguel Sano weren't on most Fantasy radars. Chances are you'll pull at least two starters from the first base player pool in a H2H points league with shallower rosters, and possibly as much as four in Roto (counting players with multiple eligibility). Even if first base isn't what it once was, it's still going to be a big part of your Fantasy lineup. 

2020 Draft Prep
First Base Preview
Scott White's Top 12
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #35 • Age: 24
2019 Stats
AVG
0.305
HR
47
R
121
RBI
115
SB
15
SO
108
Bellinger's second half saw him hit .263/.371/.546, which would still be a fine outcome, but it wouldn't be nearly worth what you're going to have to pay for him.
ATL Atlanta • #5 • Age: 30
2019 Stats
AVG
0.295
HR
38
R
113
RBI
121
SB
6
SO
127
The lineup around Freeman has improved so much that his 234 combined runs and RBI in 2019 look pretty replicable. The question, as always, comes down to the power — his 38 homers were a career-high, and 15 more than 2018.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #20 • Age: 25
2019 Stats
AVG
0.260
HR
53
R
103
RBI
120
SB
1
SO
183
The power comes easy for Alonso, who hit at least eight homers in five of six months as a rookie. His season is going to come down to whether he hits closer to his .280 pre-All-Star break average or his .235 mark after the break.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #44 • Age: 30
2019 Stats
AVG
0.293
HR
27
R
89
RBI
94
SB
5
SO
86
At 30, Rizzo has settled in as the sub-elite first baseman you settle for in the early-to-mid rounds. He is no longer a sneaky source of steals, but his solid all-around skill set means you'll never have to worry about him, even if other guys have more upside.
PIT Pittsburgh • #55 • Age: 27
2019 Stats
AVG
0.277
HR
37
R
94
RBI
116
SB
0
SO
118
Bell saw a massive decline in production after the break, with his OPS tumbling from 1.024 to .780. That's alarming, but was mostly the result of a .241 BABIP and a midseason power slump — he had a .927 OPS in August. His swoon may not be as much of a red flag as it seems.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #26 • Age: 31
2019 Stats
AVG
0.327
HR
26
R
109
RBI
102
SB
5
SO
90
The rare hitter who actually got better away from Coors Field, LeMahieu's 26 homers represented the combined sum of his previous two best seasons.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #13 • Age: 29
2019 Stats
AVG
0.251
HR
35
R
101
RBI
98
SB
4
SO
149
Muncy proved 2018 was no fluke, and he once again proved he can more than hold his own against left-handed pitching. With triple eligibility for 2020, Muncy is one of the more versatile assets in Fantasy, and the Dodgers gave him a contract extension, a bet that he is a core player for one of baseball's best teams.
CLE Cleveland • #41 • Age: 33
2019 Stats
AVG
0.281
HR
34
R
110
RBI
93
SB
4
SO
108
Long more of a H2H or OBP-league specialist, Santana started hitting the ball on the ground a bit more in 2019 and became a more complete hitter as a result. Not only did he post a career-high .293 BABIP and .281 average, but he also had his best barrel rate since 2016 and his highest average exit velocity since Statcast tracking began. It may not have been a fluke.
OAK Oakland • #28 • Age: 25
2019 Stats
AVG
0.267
HR
36
R
73
RBI
91
SB
0
SO
138
Olson had two things working against him in 2019: His home park and a broken hand suffered just before the start of the season. Neither was enough to slow him down, and his pull-heavy, flyball-oriented swing is perfectly suited to play anywhere.
STL St. Louis • #46 • Age: 32
2019 Stats
AVG
0.260
HR
34
R
97
RBI
97
SB
3
SO
166
That's two years in a row where Goldschmidt needed a strong second half to salvage his season, and he's at the age where it's fair to wonder if the next slow start might not get turned around.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #24 • Age: 31
2019 Stats
AVG
0.246
HR
28
R
79
RBI
77
SB
5
SO
139
Grandal is eligible at first base, but there's almost no way you're playing him there unless you get really lucky with a No. 2 catcher.
PHI Philadelphia • #17 • Age: 26
2019 Stats
AVG
0.226
HR
29
R
86
RBI
85
SB
2
SO
173
We're a long way from Hoskins' debut, when he looked like a potential superstar. He took a step back across the board in 2019, but he still hits the ball hard and still walks plenty, so there's room for better days ahead if he can stop hitting so many popups. He debuted a re-worked swing early in the spring that makes him a promising candidate for a bounce back.
2020 Draft Prep
Don't forget about ...
BAL Baltimore • #16 • Age: 27
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
77
Roto
112
Roto (OF)
26
H2H
115
H2H (OF)
25
2019 Stats
AVG
0.291
HR
35
R
106
RBI
97
SB
1
SO
143
Mancini's career has been a bit of a roller coaster, but we've now got two solid seasons out of three at the major-league level. He plays in a good home park, too, which only helps.
ARI Arizona • #53 • Age: 28
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
ADP
397
Roto
208
Roto (1B)
21
H2H
240
H2H (1B)
20
2019 Stats
AVG
0.259
HR
29
R
86
RBI
73
SB
8
SO
155
Walker came out of nowhere for his breakout, but the underlying numbers suggest he might have even been a bit better than the surface numbers: He had close to elite hard-hit rates, exit velocity, and expected wOBA marks.
STL St. Louis • #13 • Age: 34
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
NR
Roto
NR
Roto (3B)
32
H2H
NR
H2H (3B)
32
2019 Stats
AVG
0.226
HR
15
R
59
RBI
46
SB
6
SO
129
Fittingly, Carpenter followed up his long-awaited career season with an abysmal 2019. The batted-ball metrics mostly back up his struggles, but there could be value in betting on a bounce back, given how good he was in 2018.
2020 Draft Prep
First Base Sleeper, Breakout, & Bust
Sleeper
Projections powered by Sportsline
MIL Milwaukee • #8 • Age: 36
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
147
Roto
NR
Roto (OF)
91
H2H
NR
H2H (OF)
93
2019 Stats
AVG
0.285
HR
22
R
70
RBI
75
SB
11
SO
105
I initially had Justin Smoak listed here as a sleeper at first base, but the signing of Avisail Garcia likely means we'll see Braun move to first base on something like a full-time basis. That's OK, because Braun makes for a perfectly suitable sleeper, too. You won't be able to slot him into first base on Draft Day, but he'll have first base eligibility by the end of the first week of the season, and Braun just continues to age like fine wine. He's no longer a full-time player, but actually stayed healthy enough to appear in 144 games last season, hitting .285 with 22 homers and 11 stolen bases. He'll see plenty of early exits to keep him fresh, but still finished as a top-100 hitter in Roto in 2019 thanks to his well-rounded skill set, and he won't cost anything like that. As a fifth outfielder or corner infield option, Braun is a sneaky value.
Breakout
Projections powered by Sportsline
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #59 • Age: 29
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
362
Roto
183
Roto (1B)
18
H2H
191
H2H (1B)
17
2019 Stats
AVG
0.263
HR
21
R
72
RBI
62
SB
0
SO
142
Ultimately, Voit's 2019 will go down as something of a disappointment, but if you look back, he was better than you probably remember. A hernia injury suffered at the end of July derailed his season, but before that he was hitting .278/.392/.493 and was on pace for a 30-homer season with nearly 200 combined runs and RBI. Playing time is always a concern on a team like the Yankees, but Voit was essentially an everyday player before the injury, and the hope here is he'll hit well enough to keep that kind of role after undergoing offseason hernia surgery. If he does, he could provide similar production to Josh Bell at a 10-round discount.
Bust
Projections powered by Sportsline
CHW Chi. White Sox • #79 • Age: 33
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
79
Roto
100
Roto (1B)
13
H2H
106
H2H (1B)
13
2019 Stats
AVG
0.284
HR
33
R
85
RBI
123
SB
2
SO
152
There are plenty of options at first base, given all of the players mentioned in the intro coming off breakout seasons with some warning signs in their profiles, but I'll go with Abreu here, who is going off the board just ahead of Bell in early ADP. Abreu did manage to drive in 123 runs to lead the AL in 2019, but finished just eighth at first base, a sign of how pedestrian his production was overall. He finished 12th at the position in OPS, and while his average bounced back a bit, it was still the second-lowest of his career. Abreu is a decent first base option, but paying for him coming off a career outlier in RBI — a notoriously difficult stat to predict — is just bad process. You're paying a premium for production you can get elsewhere cheaper, and you're paying for it from a 33-year-old.
2020 Draft Prep
First Base Top Prospects

1. Andrew VaughnWhite Sox

Age (on opening day): 21
Where he played in 2019: Rookie, low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .278 (205 AB), 6 HR, 17 2B, .832 OPS, 30 BB, 38 K
When a true first baseman with a limited defensive profile gets drafted as high as Vaughn did, you know that bat has some waggle to it.

2. Ryan MountcastleOrioles

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Triple-A
Minor-league stats: .312 (520 AB), 25 HR, .871 OPS, 24 BB, 130 K
A team with something to play for probably would have called up Mountcastle already, but the rebuilding Orioles will have every incentive to play him when they finally do pull the cord.

3. Seth BeerDiamondbacks

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: high Class A, Double-A
Minor-league stats: .289 (450 AB), 26 HR, 103 RBI, .904 OPS, 46 BB, 113 K
The Astros seemingly struck gold again by snagging a bat with immediate payoff as late as Pick 28 two years ago, but their willingness to include Beer in the Zack Greinke trade is reason for pause.

4. Triston CasasRed Sox

Age (on opening day): 20
Where he played in 2019: low Class A, high Class A
Minor-league stats: .256 (429 AB), 20 HR, 26 2B, .830 OPS, 58 BB, 118 K
The scouting reports for Casas are sounding an awful lot like Cody Bellinger's at a similar stage of development, meaning he has a swing perfectly tailored for home runs even if the numbers aren't shouting it from the rooftops.

5. Evan WhiteMariners

Age (on opening day): 23
Where he played in 2019: Double-A
Minor-league stats: .293 (365 AB), 18 HR, 13 2B, .838 OPS, 29 BB, 92 K
White will show up on basically every top prospects list as a standout defender with a high-floor bat, but he's sort of J.T. Snow throwback in that he may never generate the sort of power needed to stand out at a position replete with it.

6. Bobby BradleyIndians
7. Lewin DiazMarlins
8. Kevin Cron, Diamondbacks
9. Jared WalshAngels
10. Chris Shaw, Giants

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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