More 2018 Preview: Catcher

First base is never lacking in potential Fantasy contributors, in part because it's considered the path of least resistance defensively.

Chances are more than 20 first basemen will be drafted in even a modest-sized league, so you need to understand that everyone on this list is of great value to someone on Draft Day.

The ranks swelled more than usual in 2017, what with rookies like Cody Bellinger, Rhys Hoskins, Matt Olson and Josh Bell making a splash, and longtime also-rans like Justin Smoak, Ryan Zimmerman and Justin Bour rising from obscurity.

It's not a position you'll be rushing to fill, in other words. Of course, given the number of high-end options available, you also shouldn't approach it as if the first one you take is the last one you'll take.

Note: These rankings are intended to be just a first glimpse and aren't tailored for any specific format. In cases where the format would make a big difference, that difference is noted.    

Paul Goldschmidt Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
Why mess with a good thing? Paul Goldschmidt is the only five-category threat at the position, and has been a first-round fixture five years running.
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
Freddie Freeman's power gains from the second half of 2016 carried over to 2017, making one of the league's most accomplished line-drive hitters a perennial MVP candidate. And even though he felt like he was swinging a "wet newspaper" after returning from a fractured wrist in July, it hardly impacted his production.
Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs 1B
After a slow start, the 28-year-old recovered to have another typical Anthony Rizzo season. He may not have the batting average potential of some of the other first round-caliber first basemen, but he's as safe as you'll find at any position. And in some formats, the low strikeout rate more than makes up for the so-so batting average.
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 1B
A former league MVP on a Hall of Fame path just had arguably the best season of his career and is only fourth ? Yeah, but Joey Votto is also 34 years old, putting him in a different category of risk than the three ahead of him. He's still probably a first-round pick, though.
Cody Bellinger Los Angeles Dodgers 1B
Given his strikeout rate, Cody Bellinger isn't exactly worry-free, but that rate improved over the course of the season and was never on the level of Aaron Judge anyway. His swing couldn't be any more geared for home runs, and he's already one of the premier sources of them as a 22-year-old.
Jose Abreu Chicago White Sox 1B
Jose Abreu isn't the most disciplined hitter, which may drop him behind Rhys Hoskins in some points league drafts, but in categories leagues, his combination of power and bat control makes him too steady to pass up at this point in the rankings.
Rhys Hoskins Philadelphia Phillies LF
Rhys Hoskins made headlines for his power -- which shouldn't be in doubt given that he set a Triple-A Lehigh Valley record for home runs in 2017 and placed second in all the minors in 2016. But it's his plate discipline, the near 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, that sets him apart in today's MLB. The only thing separating him from Rizzo in my mind is track record.
Edwin Encarnacion Cleveland Indians DH
Between the reduced strikeout rate and uptick in home runs, talk of Edwin Encarnacion's demise quieted in the second half. But he's still a 35-year-old who may be confined to DH duty going forward. Perhaps he has a couple more good years left, but he's in the danger zone and should be drafted accordingly.
Buster Posey San Francisco Giants C
Buster Posey obviously wouldn't rank this high if he wasn't catcher-eligible, and his dominance at that position makes him more valuable than some of the players projected for better stats at this one. Still, ninth is lower than I've typically ranked him at first base -- a reflection of how his stock has slipped a little at catcher, where he's no longer the definitive No. 1.
Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 1B
Maybe Miguel Cabrera has fallen off the proverbial cliff at age 34, or maybe the back strain he suffered during the World Baseball Classic never healed completely, messing up his swing for all of 2017 (sort of like what happened to Bryce Harper in 2016). Cabrera's batted ball tendencies -- specifically, the line-drive and hard-contact rates -- suggest he could bounce back in a big way.
Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals 1B
Eric Hosmer is risky in his own way, his 2017 production having relied on both a high BABIP and a high home run-to-fly ball rate. It's possible he's just exceptionally good at those things, but he hasn't been the steadiest performer over the years. And at a power-laden position, he has a thin margin for error.
Justin Smoak Toronto Blue Jays 1B
Some will write off Justin Smoak because of his second-half slowdown, especially since he needed until age 30 to become a worthwhile Fantasy option. But the batted-ball data supports him being the player he was in 2017 -- one completely transformed by improved contact and fly-ball rates.
Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians 1B
Carlos Santana has a knack for getting on base but not so much by way of batting average, which makes him arguably the most format-dependent player in Fantasy Baseball. In a standard points league, he might rank as high as 10th, but he could slip outside of the top 15 in traditional 5x5 play. I'll straddle the fence at 13.
Matt Carpenter St. Louis Cardinals 1B
Matt Carpenter is sort of like Cabrera in that the batted-ball data suggests he hasn't actually actually declined and should have had a much better year than he did. It's probably not a coincidence he also suffered an injury early -- in his case, a shoulder -- and tried to play through it. His walk rate gives him a high floor, but he'll be 32 in 2018.
Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals 1B
Ryan Zimmerman's 2017 kind of points to what I've been saying about Cabrera and Carpenter. His batted-ball tendencies weren't any different during a resurgent season, but he was healthier than he had been in years. The injury risk isn't gone, though, especially as he enters his mid-30s. Plus, an impossibly hot started inflated his numbers a bit. 
Wil Myers San Diego Padres 1B
Aside from Goldschmidt, Wil Myers is the most valuable source of steals at the position, but of course, he's not the all-around hitter Goldschmidt is and may never bat even .260 again if he doesn't bring his strikeouts down. He's also a good power hitter, of course, and draws his share of walks, but at a position of incomparable depth, his limitations hold him back. 
Matt Olson Oakland Athletics 1B
If it was only home runs that mattered, Matt Olson would have as much claim to the top 10 as Hoskins. In fact, I expect him to be the more prolific home run hitter of the two. But unfortunately, he has strikeout (not to mention platoon) concerns that Hoskins doesn't. They're not Joey Gallo-level or anything, but they give him a considerably lower floor and make him a second-half-of-the-draft kind of pick.
Justin Bour Miami Marlins 1B
I'd have a little more confidence in Justin Bour's breakthrough -- and particularly his success against left-handed pitchers -- if he didn't lose those six weeks to an oblique strain, but unfortunately, we only got to see him do it for two-thirds of a season. Still, the strikeout, walk, line-drive and hard-contact rates all point to a player with top-10 upside.
Josh Bell Pittsburgh Pirates 1B
Normally, a rookie who performs at the level Josh Bell did would kick off every sleepers list the following year, but at this particular position in this homer-friendly era, he didn't make that kind of impression. He has a great deal in common with Hosmer and perhaps even a higher power ceiling, but he'll actually need to perform at that level to make any headway here. 
Joey Gallo Texas Rangers 3B
Joey Gallo is built for home runs, but the way he sold out for them in 2017 left him with no other way to contribute if he didn't barrel up the ball. He did cut down on the fly balls and strikeouts in the second half, though, so there's some hope he can be more like a .240 hitter next year.