Fantasy Baseball: Where Nate Lowe, Jesus Aguilar fit within a crowded first base pool
First base has turned out to be a loaded position, and Nate Lowe's arrival and Jesus Aguilar's resurgence only serve to crowd it further, as Scott White explains.
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It was about this time a year ago that Fantasy players began to notice just how pitiful first base was compared to years past. And while enough hitters eventually gained eligibility there to make it not such a big deal, that list had dwindled back down to the old and uninspiring by the time Draft Day 2019 came around.
So here we are surprised yet again to see first base back among the deepest positions in Fantasy. This table depicting the number of eligible players at each infield spot with at least 90 Head-to-Head points entering play Monday just about sums it up:
It hasn't been any one thing responsible for the talent explosion either. Just a bunch of unfulfilled pockets of potential suddenly being fulfilled, whether it's established assets like Cody Bellinger and Joey Gallo taking that next step or long-buried Triple-A standouts like Christian Walker and Daniel Vogelbach getting a chance to thrive.
Meanwhile, Pete Alonso has become an immediate offensive force. The Rays' Yandy Diaz gamble has paid off perfectly. Trey Mancini and Hunter Dozier have begun to do things we previously thought they couldn't. Luke Voit just put together a 46.5-point week, giving him season-long numbers more befitting his batted-ball profile. Edwin Encarnacion has bounced back in a big way. Jose Abreu and Anthony Rizzo have managed to remain productive despite slow starts. Josh Bell doesn't even make the 90-point cutoff, and he's had one of the loudest breakthroughs of anybody.
So it's in that environment that recent Rays call-up Nate Lowe will attempt to find relevance in Fantasy. It's in that environment that Monday standout Jesus Aguilar will attempt to regain a foothold.
The former is a prospect deserving of some acclaim. He appeared on only one top 100 list, Baseball America, at the start of the year (two if you count!), but that's mostly because of a limited defensive profile that confines him to — you guessed it — first base.
It's that phenotype that tends to get shortchanged the most. And while Alonso's relative high ranking coming into the year was in some part a response to past oversights like Paul Goldschmidt and Rhys Hoskins, it still stands to reason someone would get bumped for the many shortstops and starting pitchers that populate such lists.
And that someone may have been Lowe, who put together a .330 batting average, 27 home runs and .985 OPS between three minor-league stops last year, striking out just 90 times in 555 plate appearances. He had hit .300 with three homers, a .987 OPS and a near 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio prior to his promotion this year, making his strongest pitch by homering and singling twice off a rehabbing Mike Foltynewicz about a week ago.
He was also the author of this headline-grabbing home run this spring.
So yeah, exciting stuff. In past years, I might have even described it as rush-out-and-add-him-because-you-never-know kind of stuff. But ...at whose expense?
Maybe Aguilar's. True, his ownership has fallen after a recent five-game stretch in which he started exactly zero times, but it's still at 70 percent, which is much higher than Lowe's 27. But why, if you've held on to Aguilar this long, would you choose to drop him after a triumphant return to the lineup Monday in which he went 3 for 4 with two home runs?
OK, so he technically returned to the lineup Sunday, and both games were against left-handed pitchers. Plus, the left-handed batter taking his place against righties, Eric Thames, has hit .288 with five homers and a .963 OPS so far, so it's hard to imagine him simply fading back onto the bench.
A fade is almost certainly coming for Thames, though. He's striking out nearly 37 percent of a time, which is a rate only someone like Joey Gallo could survive. Plus, if you believe the guy making out the lineup card, Aguilar was sitting less because he was holding the Brewers back and more because they needed to get him right.
"That was the thought with the days off, just clear his head a little bit," manager Craig Counsell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "When you're struggling, it feels like every at-bat is bigger and more important. But it's not.
"For many hitters, it comes back to timing. You've got to take that good swing that jolts you back into a good place."
Seems like Aguilar just had two of those swings.
Then there's the fact he was drafted like a must-start option coming off a 35-homer, 108-RBI season and has done nothing notably different at the plate so far other than barrel the ball less — which sounds exactly like the sort of timing issues Counsell was describing. You don't have to squint too hard to see Aguilar bouncing back to last year's numbers, and after what he just did, today may be your last chance to stake your claim.
But again, at whose expense?
Because roster space is limited, you may find yourself in a place where you have to pick and choose between a few of these enticing options, and to that end, I've included a table not only ranking them by my order of preference but also rating them by various other criteria in case your priorities are different from my own. Included are an upside rating (1-5 scale), a confidence rating (also 1-5) and what I consider to be the player's biggest hurdle.
I limited the selection to those owned in less than 90 percent of CBS Sports leagues. You can assume that anyone left off the list isn't even a consideration for me, at least not relative to the others.
Hopefully, it provides the perspective you need.
|Upside rating||Confidence rating||Biggest hurdle|
Yandy Diaz TB 3B
|4||4||low fly-ball rate|| |
Daniel Vogelbach SEA DH
|5||3||playing time|| |
Josh Bell PIT 1B
|4||3||iffy launch angle|| |
Ryan McMahon COL 1B
|5||2||strikeouts, playing time|| |
Christian Walker ARI 1B
|5||2||strikeouts, low stature|| |
Jesus Aguilar MIL 1B
|4||2||slow start, playing time|| |
Hunter Dozier KC 3B
|4||2||low stature|| |
Jurickson Profar OAK 2B
|3||3||low exit velocity, bad park|| |
Justin Smoak TOR 1B
|4||2||uninspiring track record|| |
Nate Lowe TB 1B
|5||1||inexperience, playing time|| |
Jay Bruce SEA 1B
|3||3||low BABIP, playing time|| |
Miguel Cabrera DET DH
|4||1||health, decline|| |
Yuli Gurriel HOU 1B
|2||5||lack of upside|| |
Eric Hosmer SD 1B
|3||1||launch angle|| |
Jose Martinez STL RF
|2||3||playing time|| |
Ryon Healy SEA 3B
|1||4||lack of upside|| |
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