matt-olson.jpg

One of the side effects of the juiced ball era, when 20-plus homers became the expectation for everybody, was how it equalized the positions. First base, long regarded as the deepest, no longer held such a distinction. The concept of position scarcity was effectively defunct.

But that era is over. A combination of deadened balls and increased humidor use has returned the game to a more traditional home run distribution, making first base once again a position of excess.

Among those who missed the cut in this initial top 20 are Ryan Mountcastle, Luis Arraez, DJ LeMahieu, and Jake Cronenworth. You could make a case for any of them, and all have more name value than some of the players I actually included. But the fact I could exclude them gives you some idea just how much talent the position has to offer.

Note that the focus here is standard 5x5 scoring (such as Rotisserie leagues), but scroll a little further and you'll see my rankings for points leagues.  

Top 20 first basemen for 2023
1
Freddie Freeman Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
You could fixate on the modest home run total, but nothing in the underlying data suggests it's the new normal and Freeman was a top-five Roto player regardless. You won't find a safer bet for a .300 batting average, and playing for the Dodgers pretty much guarantees him a high number of runs and RBI.
2
Paul Goldschmidt St. Louis Cardinals 1B
I'd call Goldschmidt's MVP-caliber 2022 a bounce-back season, except the bounce-back actually happened in 2021. Are we going to discredit it again because he's 35? This seems like discount enough for the No. 2 overall Roto player, outdone only by Aaron Judge.
3
Vladimir Guerrero Toronto Blue Jays 1B
We all know how good Guerrero can be at his best, contending for a Triple Crown and placing first among all Roto players in 2021, and we shouldn't rule out a rebound performance in what will be only his age-24 season. His 2022 was still pretty great, even as he struggled to put the ball in the air, which is a testament to his hitting prowess.
4
Pete Alonso New York Mets 1B
He was better than Guerrero in 2022 and, along with Judge, became the first 40-homer, 130-RBI guy in four years. But that second number might be difficult to repeat, in which case Alonso goes back to being the same guy we saw in 2021 ... when none of us doubted Guerrero was better.
5
Matt Olson Atlanta Braves 1B
Players often get a pass for their first year with a new team, and that goes double for Olson, whose presence for Braves fans mostly served as a reminder of who wasn't there. His upside is comparable to Alonso's, but he may have trouble repeating the strikeout rate from his career-best 2021.
6
Anthony Rizzo New York Yankees 1B
My presumption is that Rizzo will decline his option with the Yankees and test the free agent market again after exceeding the 30-homer threshold for the first time in five years. He clearly tailored his swing for Yankee Stadium, selling out for fly balls, but not all is lost if he leaves. A return to his old swing could make him one of the biggest beneficiaries of the so-called shift ban.
7
Jose Abreu Chicago White Sox 1B
Even though he hit about half as many homers, Abreu actually had a better xSLG in 2022 than in 2021, according to Statcast. It's tempting to write him off as a victim of the deadened ball or his 35 years of age (36 next year), but the data suggests that the lack of power was simply a fluke. He was still pretty good considering.
8
Rhys Hoskins Philadelphia Phillies 1B
Hoskins is no longer the on-base outlier he was earlier his career, putting his value in 5x5 leagues and points leagues about on equal footing. He's a reliable power hitter in a pretty good lineup. Just don't expect top-tier production.
9
Christian Walker Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
Though most had written off Walker as a major Fantasy contributor prior to 2022, the data backs up his transformation into a top slugger and even suggests there's room to improve in batting average. The 31-year-old keeps his strikeouts in check and was one of the most shifted-upon right-handed hitters in 2022, so there may be something to it.
10
C.J. Cron Colorado Rockies 1B
A miserable second half really took the wind out of Cron's sails and may see him plummet more in the rankings as a result. But he's under contract to be the Rockies' first baseman again and has thrived at Coors Field. He was probably just playing over his head early on, and the final numbers are more in line with expectations.
11
Nate Lowe Texas Rangers 1B
The full-season numbers are impressive enough, but if you reduce them to the point when he took off in early June, there's a case for Lowe to go even higher than this. The high BABIP suggests a .280 batting average is a more reasonable expectation, but we know how he at least has the capacity to hit .300.
12
Vinnie Pasquantino Kansas City Royals DH
Basically, I'm going to do whatever it takes to be the first to Pasquantino, so if that means ranking him a couple spots higher than this, then I ultimately will. His contact is both high quality and high quantity -- a rarer combination than you might think -- and his plate discipline sets him apart all the more in points leagues.
13
Rowdy Tellez Milwaukee Brewers 1B
There's a chance I may be shortchanging Tellez seeing as he was one of just a couple dozen 30-homer guys, but some platoon risk remains, particularly if he continues to bat in the .220 range. Statcast paints a rosier picture as far as that goes, though, and he may be one of those guys who benefits from the so-called shift ban.
14
Josh Bell San Diego Padres DH
It's getting harder to see the glass half full with Bell, who got off to a pretty nice start in 2022, albeit with some disappointing power production, before totally falling apart once he joined the Padres. He'll hit the open market this offseason, which is probably for the best, and is at least worth betting on in points leagues thanks to his stellar plate discipline.
15
Andrew Vaughn Chicago White Sox RF
There were times in 2022 when Vaughn looked like he was on the cusp of a breakout, particularly in the first half, but in the end, he still didn't elevate the ball enough to get the most out of his natural power. The strikeout rate alone is reason for optimism, though, and pretty rare for someone with his kind of slugging potential.
16
Brandon Drury San Diego Padres 1B
Basically, Drury was a stud at Great American Ball Park and rather ordinary everywhere else, which became most apparent after the trade that sent him to San Diego. He'll be on the move this offseason and offers enough pop to land another full-time gig, but it's mostly his versatility keeping him this high in the rankings.
17
headshot-image
Jose Miranda Minnesota Twins 3B
Likewise, Miranda's eligibility at third base is my main incentive for ranking him this high, though his rookie season was productive enough. His power is limited to his pull side, where he could stand to hit the ball more, but it's mainly his contact skills that give him a chance to be more than a fringe contributor in Fantasy.
18
Ty France Seattle Mariners 1B
France hit over .340 the first two months and under .240 the rest of the way, and it's not like he's a big source of home runs either. He's a serviceable enough hitter, but more like a fallback option at first base, which is the only place you'll be able to use him beginning in 2023.
19
Triston Casas Boston Red Sox 1B
If my enthusiasm seemed to be waning with the previous few picks, suffice it to say it's back for this one. Caution is warranted for any player with so little experience, but over the final couple weeks of the season, Casas began to demonstrate the plate discipline and opposite-field power that has at times invited Freddie Freeman comparisons.
20
Joey Meneses Washington Nationals 1B
The minor-league journeyman went on a two-month tear once he finally got his shot in the big leagues, and while betting against a 30-year-old rookie (well, sophomore now) is generally the right move, Meneses did generate premium exit velocities with a respectable strikeout rate. He'll also be outfield-eligible.

What changes in points leagues?

1. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
3. Vladimir Guerrero, Blue Jays
4. Pete Alonso, Mets
5. Matt Olson, Braves
6. Anthony Rizzo, Yankees (can opt out)
7. Jose Abreu, free agent
8. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
9. Christian Walker, Diamondbacks
10. C.J. Cron, Rockies
11. Vinnie Pasquantino, Royals
12. Josh Bell, free agent
13. Nate Lowe, Rangers
14. Rowdy Tellez, Brewers
15. Andrew Vaughn, White Sox
16. Brandon Drury, free agent
17. Jose Miranda, Twins
18. Ty France, Mariners
19. Triston Casas, Red Sox
20. Joey Meneses, Nationals