Dumpster Dives and Dynasty Finds: First Base
Each week of draft season, I’ll be digging through the dumpster to find players for the deepest of deep league owners. I’ll also look at some prospects who have a decent acquisition cost in dynasty leagues. The projections next to the player’s name are an average of THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, and ZIPS projections systems found on Fangraphs. NFBC ADP data is from the date range 01/01/2019-02/11/2019. Let’s dig deep for some first basemen that can go deep for your squad.
Justin Bour, LAA (ADP 414): 403 PA, 48 R, 19 HR, 59 RBI, 1 SB, .246/.338/.456/.794
Bour may very well be my favorite dumpster dive of the 2019 fantasy baseball draft season. With Shohei Ohtani still not cleared to swing a bat, Bour is going to receive the majority of the at bats to begin the year, particularly against right handers. He has very substantial platoon splits for his career, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that he sits against lefties. Once Ohtani returns, he’ll receive frequent days off for Tommy John rehab and I’m not sure the Angels have much of a leash left on running the corpse of Albert Pujols out there every day. Outside of the playing time I think he’ll receive, Bour maintained some excellent plate skills through his struggles last season. He had a career high 14.6 BB% and only struck out 24.8% of the time. In my mind, this gives him a nice floor to fall back on even if his BABIP doesn’t rebound from a career low in 2018 (.270). Lastly, the Angels lowered the right field wall before last season and there’s evidence to suggest that can boost lefty power numbers. I’m getting Bour on the cheap in every league I can.
Ronald Guzman, TEX (ADP 457): 484 PA, 56 R, 16 HR, 58 RBI, 2 SB, .248/.315/.416/.731
Guzman made his big-league debut to mixed reviews in 2018. He saw his two biggest positives as a prospect, the batting average (hit tool) and strikeout rate, tank as he transitioned to the MLB level. In his last full AAA season in 2017, he batted .298 and only struck out 16.1% of the time; as he gets more acclimated to big-league pitching he should improve on his .235 average and 28.3% strikeout rate from 2018. He isn’t known for his power but between swing changes, the juiced-up baseball, and the Texas heat, mid 20s home runs aren’t out of the realm of possibilities. There’s a useful player in here somewhere and it’s closer than most think.
Ryan O’Hearn, KC (ADP 347): 534 PA, 59 R, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, .231/.309/.419/.728
O’Hearn tore the cover off the ball through his first 44 MLB games. 12 homers with a .336 ISO and a 42.3% Hard% is certainly one way to make your MLB debut as a 24-year-old non-prospect. He should be get ample playing time in a putrid Royals lineup; while there is absolutely regression coming for O’Hearn, the counting stats should be good. The two players above him on this list are going well after him and I prefer them, but O’Hearn isn’t a bad option if you have batting average anchors and a need for power in some deeper leagues.
Ryon Healy, SEA (ADP 401): 436 PA, 47 R, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 1 SB, .252/.294/.435/.729
The early returns for the Mariners in the Ryon Healy trade were disappointing from Seattle’s perspective. Healy saw his batting average tank while keeping his power output about the same. The biggest part of the batting average drop was a 62-point BABIP from 2017, so it looks like he just ran into some bad luck. His batted ball profile remained the same and while he rarely walks, his strikeout rate is not what you’d expect from a .235 hitter. Healy will be a big draft day returner for the owner who drafts him If he can keep that K% in the low 20s, get a little more BABIP luck, and find an everyday role in the lineup.
Wilmer Flores, ARI (ADP 477): 541 PA, 61 R, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB, .274/.324/.460/.784
Another one of my favorite late round pick in drafts or $1 players in auctions is Flores. He’s eligible at first base only right now, but he’s currently slated to be the everyday second baseman for the Diamondbacks, so he’ll pick up that eligibility early in the season. He mashes lefties, which is good news for Arizona as the most dangerous pitchers they face in the NL West are almost all left handers. Simply put, when Flores gets playing time, he’s a fantasy relevant hitter. The Mets never gave him a chance at a full-time gig, but he may have found it in the desert.
Chris Davis, BAL (ADP 569): 508 PA, 55 R, 23 HR, 62 RBI, 2 SB, .201/.294/.416/.710
OK, OK you can stop laughing now. It’s not hyperbole to say that Chris Davis had one of the worst seasons in baseball history in 2018. He posted a laugh out loud funny slash line of .168/.243/.296/.539 with 16 home runs. To put that in perspective, he had a slugging percentage higher than his 2018 OPS just 4 seasons ago. There isn’t much else to say about Davis’ 2018. He was horrible but I’m not automatically assuming that he’ll post those stats again. I don’t see any reason why he can’t repeat his 2017 where he hit .215/.309/.423/.732 with 26 longballs. Those are fantasy stats you can use and he’s free going in to 2019.
First Base Prospects
First base can sometimes be a difficult position to fill with young stars in a dynasty league because most teams want their players to be higher on the defensive spectrum. For example, an OF or 3B that can hit but isn’t good enough in the field may move to first base. We can’t always predict which players will end up at first base, because their MLB teams want to keep them in their other positions until they absolutely must pull the plug. I’m looking at young players like Rafael Devers, Miguel Sano, and Miguel Andujar in the big leagues and prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nolan Gorman, and Colton Welker as guys who may have to move to first base. But for now, I’ll just be looking at guys already playing first base. It’s not a great pool but these three players have me excited for not just the future, but as soon as 2019:
Yordan Alvarez, HOU: Age 21, ETA: 2019
I’m a big fan of the large Cuban slugger who stand 6’5” and 225 pounds. He mashed AA pitching in 2018 before sputtering a bit in AAA. He’ll start the season back in AAA and look to build on what looks like already solid plate skills. He hits for both average and power while walking at a decent clip. If Tyler White struggles out of the gate or sustains an injury, the Astros will likely look to Alvarez. They may not be able to help themselves if he forces their hand.
Peter Alonso, NYM: Age 24, ETA: 2019
Alonso has a clearer path to playing time at the big-league level than Alvarez. For that reason, along with his prodigious power, he’s being selected at pick 260 in the NFBC. He’s got 80 grade power and showed it last season, hitting 35 HR in 131 games. He showed elite plate skills in AA and managed to walk 11% of the time and strikeout only 25.9% in his first taste of AAA. That’s not bad for a player whose biggest concern is his ability to make contact. I personally think he’s got a lot of Rhys Hoskins in his game and he shouldn’t have any trouble surpassing Todd Frazier on the Met’s depth chart.
Nathaniel Lowe, TB: Age 23, ETA: 2019
Lowe projects to see a good amount of playing time at first for the Rays after a little more seasoning at AAA. He wasn’t nearly as good in his 28-game sample there as his previous stops, so Tampa will likely want to see him dominate down there first. He’s got less power than Alonso, but projects to hit for a higher average. While 2018 was the first year he’s put up fantasy relevant numbers, waiting to see if he can do it again may cause you to be too late.
We’ll continue first base week at KMill Sport’s Insights tomorrow with a pair of player spotlights. I’ll dig in on one superstar first baseman and one that may be primed for a bounce back.