Welcome to the 2016 First Base Projections and Profiles for the National League, a part of the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts Fantasy Baseball Draft Package.
While first base is generally viewed as a deep position, there aren’t as many elite bats as most people think. Especially in the National League, where once you get past Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and Joey Votto, there are plenty of question marks. Whether you play in mixed leagues or deeper NL-only formats, it’s advisable to get one of the elite bats in the first two or three rounds.
What follows are the 2016 First Base Projections and Profiles for the National League. The players are listed alphabetically to make it easy to find the player you’re looking for. We’ve used the 20-game played threshold for position eligibility. If a player did not play 20 games at any position, we used the position they played the most games at.
We also list players at the position they are most likely to be drafted at.. For instance, in some formats Buster Posey is eligible at first base, but smart Fantasy owners will be using him at catcher.
The initial run of projections and profiles will focus on players with clear roles.. As Spring Training approaches and rosters start to solidify, we’ll add names so that we can satisfy not only the needs of mixed league owners, but the traditionalists out there that play in 12-team NL-only leagues. These 2016 First Base Projections and Profiles will be updated all the way up to Opening Day, so remember to check in occasionally to get the latest news.
2016 First Base Projections and Profiles
Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals
He got off to a decent start in 2015, but then missed almost three and a half months with a right quadriceps injury, which required surgery to be repaired. Adams’ struggles against left-handed pitching are well documented; look for the Cards to continue benching him whenever possible if there’s a southpaw on the hill. When he’s healthy and at his best, Adams has shown the ability to provide good Fantasy power that doesn’t necessarily come at the cost of batting average. His free-swinging ways limits his upside in OBP leagues, and it’s worth noting that his batting average was buoyed by a lofty BABIP in both 2013 and 2014. Early talk has St. Louis considering Brandon Moss for considerable time at first base. Keep an eye on Adams’ status this spring: if he wins the regular job at first base, he figures to be a marginal option in mixed Fantasy leagues. – Buck Davidson
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Belt essentially recreated his fine 2013 campaign last season, but when he – again – missed time with injuries we were left saying those two words that have grown so familiar to fans of the Baby Giraffe: “If only…” . One of the injuries in question was his second concussion in as many seasons, and it serves as a possible red flag insofar as Belt’s health status going forward. In addition to the aforementioned injury woes, Belt was often benched against lefties – though he did manage to craft a solid .802 OPS with five homers and 18 RBIs in 145 plate appearances against southpaws. Belt underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee in late September, but he is expected to be completely recovered from that procedure by the time spring training rolls around. Belt is of course a significant injury risk, but his modest power, solid batting average and sharp eye makes him a multi-category Fantasy contributor when he’s in the lineup. – Buck Davidson
Kyle Blanks, San Francisco Giants
The massive Blanks was once reckoned to be a big part of the future in San Diego, but his inability to make contact has relegated him to the nomadic life of a “Quad-A” player. He found some success in a part-time role last season, showcasing his plus power while faring very well against left-handed pitching. He owns a career .796 OPS against southpaws, and his future may lie in a platoon role. He underwent surgery on both Achilles tendons in September, but he should be good to go for the start of spring training; Fantasy owners in monoleagues should keep an eye on Blanks’ role as Spring Training progresses. – Buck Davidson
Justin Bour, Miami Marlins
He had shown good pop and serviceable OBP skills during his minor-league career, but Bour’s 2015 breakout still took many observers by surprise. Can he do it again? It’s concerning that his numbers dropped pretty much across the board in the second half: his walk rate plummeted while his strikeout rate nudged upward. He will almost certainly take a seat against lefties this season, as he compiled a meager .279 slugging percentage in 75 plate appearances against southpaws last year. The 27-year-old Bour is worth a look in NL-Only leagues, but keep in mind that his batting average could slip rather dramatically this season. – Buck Davidson
Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers
Carter’s enormous power is indisputable, but from a Fantasy standpoint, his elevated strikeout rate makes those dingers extremely expensive in terms of batting average. He was the only hitter with at least 400 plate appearances to finish with a batting average below the Mendoza Line, and only Steven Souza, Jr. had a higher strikeout rate among that group. While Carter’s batting average is problematic, his sharp batting eye helps to mitigate the negative effect of his low contact rate in OBP Fantasy leagues. Carter was not tendered a contract by the Astros after the season and signed a one year deal with the Brewers. It’s hard to know how much patience the Brewers will have for his all-or-nothing approach, but if he gets anything close to full-time at-bats, the home runs will come… along with a bunch of strikeouts – Buck Davidson
Lucas Duda, New York Mets
A stint on the 15-day disabled list cost him a shot at matching his power numbers from 2014, but otherwise it was another strong season for Duda in 2015. His batting average was on the low side of acceptable, but his sharp batting eye helped to ease the pain if you owned him in an OBP league. He historically struggles against left-handed pitching, but Duda managed to cobble together a very respectable .285 batting average and .878 OPS against southpaws in 2015. Right now, Duda looks like the starting first baseman for the Mets, and if he holds on to that gig he should be a decent pick in the later rounds of your mixed league Fantasy draft. Duda’s high strikeout rate should keep his batting average in check, but don’t let him fall too far if your league counts OBP instead of average. – Buck Davidson
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Concerns over his supporting cast depressed Freeman’s 2015 draft-day price, but his partial-season numbers extrapolate to about 24 homers and 86 RBIs over a 155-game campaign. The reason we’re doing this cocktail-napkin math is that Freeman missed a big chunk of the season due to wrist and oblique injuries. When healthy, Freeman is a good source of Fantasy power stats who also draws plenty of walks, thus bolstering his value in OBP leagues. While it looks like the .319 batting average he put on the board back in 2013 will be a career outlier, Freeman typically provides decent Fantasy support in this category. Like last season, though, questions regarding Freeman revolve around how Atlanta’s lineup will look on Opening Day; RBIs are tough to come by without ducks on the pond. Freeman is a good Fantasy fallback if you pursue pitching or speed in your draft’s early rounds. – Buck Davidson
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt rebounded from an injury-marred 2014 season with another fine year at the plate and on the basepaths. He led all qualifying first basemen in runs scored and stolen bases, while finishing second among his peers in batting average, third in runs scored, OBP and RBIs and fourth in home runs. Goldschmidt is one of very few players who contribute meaningful stats in the five roto categories, and his ability to draw walks makes him a top-shelf talent in OBP formats as well. Goldschmidt is in the prime of his career, so there’s little reason to believe that he won’t be one of the top Fantasy Baseball performers again in 2016. Draft him with confidence, sit back and enjoy the ride. – Buck Davidson
Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
His 40-homer season back in 2009 is likely to be his career outlier, but Gonzalez certainly was won favor from Fantasy owners for his ability to post solid – if unspectacular – power numbers year after year. He has plated at least 90 RBIs and batted at least .275 every season since 2006, and he has launched at least 22 homers in all but one of those campaigns. He is no longer and elite on-base producer, but he did finish with his best OBP since 2011 last season. Gonzalez is undoubtedly a hitter in decline, but he should be a good source of Fantasy power stats again in 2015. – Buck Davidson
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard was once one of baseball’s top sluggers, but Father Time has not been kind to the veteran first-sacker, who batted .229 or below for the third time in the past four seasons last year. Injuries have limited him to an average of only 108 games played during that period, and his advancing years only add to his already significant injury concerns. He batted an abysmal .130 against left-handers left season, which led to his often being benched against southpaws. Howard can still provide some modest Fantasy pop, but those dingers are likely to come at a steep cost insofar as batting average. At this stage of his career, his Fantasy value is primarily of the NL-Only variety. – Buck Davidson
Michael Morse, Pittsburgh Pirates
Morse was a popular sleeper pick last spring, but he was batting just .211 with two homers and 10 RBIs when a sprained finger landed him on the DL in late May. He batted just .219 after returning in July, and he was traded twice in two days later that month; eventually winding up with Pittsburgh. He showed some signs of life while playing in a part-time role, batting .275 with a .782 OPS in 82 plate appearances as a member of the Pirates. Morse can be a decent source of power when he’s in the lineup, but he’s not likely to garner enough playing time to be relevant in most Fantasy leagues this season. – Buck Davidson
Ben Paulsen, Colorado Rockies
He was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season in Colorado, but his .351 BABIP and 26 percent strikeout rate signal that a substantial correction could be in store for 2016. Paulsen has decent power, but he managed only a .554 OPS against left-handed pitching last season, so he figures to be in a platoon situation – albeit on the more productive side of one. Paulsen has never been a top prospect, and his .277 career minor league batting average was inflated by two seasons in the hitters’ pinball machine known as the Pacific Coast League. Keep an eye on his status and role this spring; Paulsen is a decent NL-Only Fantasy option if he lands a starting job. – Buck Davidson
Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies
Reynolds still has power, but pitchers continue to find the holes in his swing. Despite his mild reverse splits Reynolds likely finds himself in a platoon with Ben Paulsen at first base. The good news is that Reynolds will now play half his games in Coors Field. Mixed leaguers can still ignore Reynolds, but his power and the new digs do give him solid value in NL-only formats. – Doug Anderson
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
He followed up his breakout 2014 campaign with another fine season in 2015, establishing new career highs for RBIs, OBP and runs scored while swiping an astonishing 17 bases. Rizzo had never shown that kind of running ability during his professional career, and it’s noteworthy that he swiped just five bags after the All-Star break. Stolen bases aside, Rizzo is a fine source of Fantasy pop who hits in the middle of a lineup chock full of some of today’s brightest young stars; he should post impressive power numbers again in 2016. If there’s a point of concern with the slugging first baseman, it’s that he batted a modest .255 in the second half, and he’s only three years removed from the .233 average he hung on the board back in 2013. Take comfort, though, as his lackluster post-break average was largely brought about by a .271 BABIP. – Buck Davidson
Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies
His .371/.447/.660/1.107 slash line in 114 plate appearances against left-handed pitching last season undoubtedly endeared him to many DFS players, but Ruf batted just .158 against righties, thus relegating him to the short side of a platoon. Ruf has shown plus pop when he’s in the lineup, and his .268 BABIP last season signals that he should improve his batting average of a year ago. Extrapolating stats is a slippery slope with a small sample size, but Ruf’s 2015 numbers work out to about 23 homers and 72 RBIs over the course of 550 plate appearances. If you doubt his power potential, remember that he launched 38 bombs and batted .317 at Double-A back in 2012. Keep an eye on his status this spring; Ruf is likely to be a member of a platoon again, but his power makes him a viable asset in NL-Only Fantasy play. – Buck Davidson
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Votto reminded us – again – just how good he can be when he’s healthy, smacking out his best power numbers since 2011 and firmly re-establishing himself as a member of the Fantasy elite at first base. Votto led the league in walks last season, and he finished just one-hundredth of a point behind Bryce Harper for the lead in on-base percentage. Votto not only turned in a vintage power performance last season, he also swiped double-digit bases for only the second time in his career. Votto is almost certainly a first-round pick in OBP Fantasy leagues, and he figures to be one of the first first basemen off the board in batting average formats. His history of injuries may suppress his draft-day price; don’t let him fall too far. – Buck Davidson
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
It was another injury marred season for Ryan Zimmerman. Each time you think he’s on a roll, one injury or another pops up and derails his season. The skills still seem to be intact, as a .268 BABIP seems to explain much of his .249 batting average. Zimmerman no longer has hot corner eligibility and he’s obviously a huge injury concern. The good news is that he will come at a low cost in 2016 drafts, and still has 25-to-30 home run type power. First base is not as deep as many people think, and Zimmerman makes a nice upside play for a utility slot or injury replacement.
We’ll be updating the 2016 First Base Projections and Profiles for the National League, right up until Opening Day. There will undoubtedly be some names we add to the list and some we need to get rid. Check back regularly and let the “So-Called” Fantasy Experts get you ready for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season.
Also please check out the rest of our 2016 Projections and Profiles
NL Catcher | AL Catcher | NL First Base | AL First Base | NL Second Base | AL Second Base | NL Third Base | AL Third Base | NL Shortstop | AL Shortstop | NL Oufield | AL Outfield | AL DH | NL Starting Pitcher | AL Starting Pitcher | NL Relievers | AL Relievers |
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