2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Four No. 1 contenders for first base, including Luke Voit, Eric Hosmer
Bargain first basemen who could become No. 1 at the position for 2021? Here are four candidates.
This week on CBS Fantasy, I'm searching for players ranked outside the top 12 at each position with the potential to finish 2020 as an elite option at the position, and in the past this exercise would've been easy at first base. After all, that's where the biggest bats historically have tended to cluster, so finding a player with the potential to go .300 with 35-plus homers shouldn't be too hard, right?
Well, things are changing. First base is a deep position, to be sure. You can probably go 30 spots deep in ADP and still find players you can feel reasonably confident will be contributors for your team. Star potential, however? That's a bit harder to come by these days, surprisingly.
That is why there are only four names featured here. It's the only position I really struggled to find players to fit this profile, and one isn't even first-base eligible to start the season, though it won't be long until he is.
No matter: The depth of the position is a good reason why you may not need to take as many big swings to find a star. If you want to, however, here are four names to consider:
Miguel Sano 3B
MIN Minnesota • #22 • Age: 26
Scott White's recent exercise of ranking and tiering players based on skills produced three players with an "A+" rating for home runs: Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano. While I might quibble with some of the exclusions — whither Mike Trout, Scott? — there's no denying Sano has top-of-the-shelf power. He ranked in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, per StatCast, and had the highest rate of barrels per batted-ball — he rates slightly lower in per-plate appearance only because he strikes out so much. That's a concern, as are injuries, but Sano has nearly unparalleled power potential. He's playing first base now, which will hopefully help keep him healthier than he has been in the past. The strikeouts will always be there, but Sano isn't as big of a batting average drag as you would think, because he has consistently run up elite batting averages on balls in play. Sano won't have first base eligibility on Draft Day, but he'll have it by the end of the first week, and will be a difference maker at either spot, and if he hits 50 homers, he'll rank among the elite options at the position.
Luke Voit 1B
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #59 • Age: 29
In about one full season's worth of at-bats since joining the Yankees, Voit is hitting .280/.385/.517 with 35 homers, 95 RBI and 100 runs; that gets you most of the way there because Voit would have been the No. 6 first baseman in Roto with those numbers. However, he has been even better than healthy, and the sports hernia injury he played through over the last month of the season in 2019 drags those overall numbers down. Remove them, and he jumps to a .297/.400/.547 line, which would have been the 11th-best OPS in baseball last season among qualifiers. If you believe the injury is the reason Voit struggled down the stretch in 2019, there's a lot to like about his chances of being an elite option.
Eric Hosmer 1B
SD San Diego • #30 • Age: 30
OK stay with me here. Hosmer is, more often than not, a total afterthought for Fantasy, and for good reason: At a position and in an era when everyone hits for power, he has topped out at 22 homers the past two seasons. In spite of his middling power, Hosmer is typically a pretty good source of RBI because he is legitimately more productive with men on base — his OPS is 64 points higher in nearly 3,000 plate appearances for his career. He hits the ball hard (46.0% hard-hit rate in 2019, an 87th percentile mark) but too often hits the ball on the ground. He has talked about reversing that trend this offseason, acknowledging for the first time that a change in approach is needed. He told The Athletic recently, "I hit the ball really hard. It just goes on the ground." It's extremely early in spring training, but through his first 20 at-bats, he has eight groundball outs and 11 fly ball outs; for his career, Hosmer has 1.8 groundball outs for every fly ball out. The talent is here. If Hosmer really is hitting a lot of balls in the air, he's going to be a significant value, and could provide the kind of average and counting stats to be a top-five option at the position if he hits 30 homers.
ARI Arizona • #53 • Age: 29
If you buy into the advanced stats the folks over at BaseballSavant have cooked up with StatCast data, Walker was already pretty close to an elite bat last season. He ranked in the 85th percentile in average exit-velocity and the 94th percentile in hard-hit rate; his 13.1% barrel rate was in the 90th percentile. Add it all up, and he was expected to have a .263 average and .516 slugging percentage, making him one of the more unfortunate hitters in baseball compared to actual results. There's some swing-and-miss in his game, but not enough that you should be worried the bottom will fall out for Walker, and he'll be hitting in the heart of what should be one of the best lineups in baseball, so just a bit more consistency could go a long way for Walker.
So which sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued first baseman can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Kenta Maeda's huge breakout last season, and find out.
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