First base is like the free space on the Bingo card. There are always bats to be found there. Defense holds little sway, certainly when the level of play is as high as it is in the majors, so any team that doesn't slot in a slugger is needlessly handcuffing itself.

Still, in an era when power is prevalent across the diamond, first base stands out most for its lack of upside. It being the position with the lowest skills threshold, there's nowhere else to go (save DH) when a player's skills begin to diminish. Anyone who started out there tends to stay there, and anyone who loses a step elsewhere tends to move there.

Position Strategy: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP     

So it's a repository for power but also for old guys, which all but guarantees you'll find more fallers than risers at the position. Then again, there was no bigger riser last year than the top dog here, Vladimir Guerrero, who turned out to be the No. 1 hitter in both points and 5x5 scoring and is in the mix to go first overall this year as well.

Even he fits the profile, though, being so limited defensively that he's already had to move off third base at age 22. It's unusual that someone so young and so talented could already fall so short in that area, but then again, we shouldn't complain about fresh blood at a position that's increasingly stale.

The long and short of it is that it's not a bad idea to invest early at first base. The true differentiators at the position are few and do make for a clear advantage over your competition, particularly in points leagues where plate discipline also comes into play. If the goal is merely to keep your head above water, though, this position makes it particularly easy.

The Studs

2022 ADP2021 PPG2021 BA2021 HR

I'm ahead of the consensus on Guerrero, who I rank second in both points and 5x5 scoring, so if I'm drafting second, third or fourth in either format, chances are he's my fulcrum. It's not a bad way to start a team, obviously -- the guy was competing for a Triple Crown deep into September -- but in category-based formats, it does put you behind the eight ball for stolen bases. I'm intent not to let stolen bases drive my decision-making, though, recognizing that it doesn't take all that many to place in the middle of the league, and am happy to accept the easy home run and batting average advantages that Guerrero provides.

Freddie Freeman offers a similar profile, albeit with a lower ceiling, and has been a fixture at the Round 1-2 turn for years now. Whether or not you take him is mostly tied to turn order (as with Guerrero, I lean toward picking Freeman whenever it's in question).

The Matt Olson, Paul Goldschmidt and Pete Alonso trio typically goes off the board in Rounds 3 through 5, when I tend to have other priorities. The most worrisome of them is Goldschmidt, whose underlying numbers back up his resurgence, but it's still weird for a player in obvious decline to turn things around at age 34. Of the three, Alonso is the one I'm most likely to draft, if only because because he tends to go later than Olson. The two are basically mirror images.

Other Deserving Starters

2022 ADP2021 PPG2021 BA2021 HR
Ty France SEA 1B

If you hear someone describe first base as "deep," they're likely referring to this stretch of players. Four here stand out from the others: Josh BellRhys HoskinsC.J. Cron and Joey Votto. Together, they form what colleague Frank Stampfl has labeled the "profit pocket," and if I don't get a true stud at the position, I'm almost certainly drafting one of them. In fact, I'm tempted to slot Votto with the studs and actually prefer him to Jose Abreu in points leagues, but I'll restrain myself given that he's so far back in ADP. Clearly, few are giving the 38-year-old the benefit of the doubt for his resurgent season, but he deliberately set out to hit more home runs and, by golly, he did.

Cron I think only scratched the surface of his potential at Coors Field last year, and Hoskins is sort of a poor man's Matt Olson if he can only stay healthy. Bell may still have another gear in him and was a perfectly suitable starter last year from May 1 on. Ty France and Yuli Gurriel specialize more in batting average, with the latter being something of a points league standout thanks to his superlative bat-to-ball skills.

The ones I don't care for here are Ryan Mountcastle and Jared Walsh, whose fates are tied completely to the number of home runs they hit even though neither is particularly suited for home runs. Both delivered middling exit velocities last year, with Walsh also having a suboptimal launch angle. Max Muncy is another avoid for me given the concerns about his elbow. He'd rank among the studs otherwise.

The Sleepers

2022 ADP2021 PPG2021 BA2021 OPS
Frank Schwindel CHC 1B

*minor-league stats

And here's where first base's lack of upside reveals itself. Most positions offer a deeper crop of potential sleepers than this one, though I will say a couple of the names here genuinely do get my motor running. Luke Voit led the majors in home runs two years ago and has a .901 OPS since joining the Yankees late in 2018. He lost his job to Anthony Rizzo because of injury last year, but Rizzo is gone and the Yankees so far haven't brought in anyone else.

Alex Kirilloff still has that top prospect shine, his numbers last year having been warped by his attempts to play through a torn ligament in his wrist. Spencer Torkelson actually is a top prospect and likely to debut within the first two months of 2022. And then there's Frank Schwindel, who hit .342 with a 1.002 OPS in a two-month audition to be the Cubs first baseman. He's a 29-year-old minor-league journeyman, but he's always hit well down there. Minimal on-base skills and a lack of defensive versatility have made his path to the majors a difficult one, but now that he's here, he could be a more powerful version of Yuli Gurriel.

The Base-Stealers

2022 ADP2021 SB2022 hopeAlso eligible

Considering the low athletic threshold for this position, it's no surprise that stolen bases aren't really in play here. Paul Goldschmidt averaged 23.7 during a three-year stretch with the Diamondbacks once upon a time but had almost completely stopped running prior to last year's 12-for-12 showing. If he's of any help in that category moving forward, consider it a bonus.