MARKET PULSE: First basemen of 2018

 NOTE: Our preseason Market Pulse column is an exercise in identifying the gaps between the valuation of the "popular" market (as reflected in Average Draft Position, or "ADP") and that of BaseballHQ.com. If a player is not listed here, it's likely that he qualifies at a scarcer position, or he's not in the ADP top 500-600 (it's a bit fluid). Remember that this is an exercise in relative valuation, not absolute.

Each hitter is being considered at his scarcest qualified position (in order: C/DH, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, OF), as it is the scarcest eligible position that typically drives fantasy value. The rankings are a risk- and position-adjusted estimate using current BaseballHQ.com projections. It is a purely quantitative ranking, with no specific consideration of "upside" (aside from reliability scores). The dollar values are position adjusted, but do not incorporate risk. Average auction values are approximate. These are not the "official" BaseballHQ.com straight-draft rankings, but they should be close.

Note that this article assumes a standard 15-team, mixed, 5x5 league, though the recommendations here will generally apply in most formats. Note also that a positive number in the "Diff" column indicates a player that BaseballHQ.com ranks lower than the "market," and a negative number indicates we have the player ranked higher, based on ADP. The list is split into tiers, based on the ADP.

(NFBC ADP Report) | Unofficial Rankings

Previous Columns: C/DH | SS | 2B | 3B

This is a pretty easy set of players to navigate through, with only a couple of pitfalls and a few minor bargains. You pretty much get what you expect. Just be careful of the low-contact, high-power types, especially any younger guys who wowed you with a late-season power display. Lots of downside there.

(Players in bold are profiled in more detail below.)

                                     HQ                      --  HQ Projections --
Player               TM POS REL ADP Rank Diff HQ$ AAV Diff |  AB AVG HR RBI  R  SB
==================  === === === === ==== ==== === === ==== | === === == === === ==
Goldschmidt, Paul   ARI   3 AAC   4    5    1  36  45   -9 | 550 299 31 107 105 16
Votto, Joey         CIN   3 BAA  19   14   -5  32  30    2 | 526 318 31  95  98  5
Freeman, Freddie    ATL   3 CAC  22   21   -1  32  28    4 | 563 302 33  95 103  6
Bellinger, Cody      LA 3o7 ADF  24    9  -15  33  27    6 | 604 268 39 111 101 14
Rizzo, Anthony      CHC   3 AAB  25   19   -6  28  27    1 | 567 284 30 105  94  9
Abreu, Jose         CHW   3 AAB  42   23  -19  27  22    5 | 605 295 31 103  90  2

Hoskins, Rhys       PHI o73 ADD  50   74   24  16  20   -4 | 506 249 32  94  78  6
Encarnacion, Edwin  CLE   3 AAA  57   32  -25  24  19    5 | 554 263 36 106  95  2
Myers, Wil           SD   3 BBA  70   48  -22  22  17    5 | 577 256 30  82  87 21
Hosmer, Eric         FA   3 AAD  71   38  -33  23  17    6 | 587 296 21  94  90  6
Cabrera, Miguel     DET   3 BAF  95  121   26  12  14   -2 | 515 285 22  78  67  0
Desmond, Ian        COL o73 CAC 114  114    0  13  12    1 | 535 267 17  66  77 19
Olson, Matt         OAK   3 ABC 124  182   58   8  11   -3 | 481 234 33  75  72  2
Zimmerman, Ryan     WAS   3 DBF 130  162   32  12  11    1 | 470 272 23  82  72  2

Smoak, Justin       TOR   3 ACD 150  109  -41  12   9    3 | 543 259 31  81  74  0
Bird, Gregory       NYY   3 FFB 153  267  114   6   9   -3 | 481 239 27  78  70  0
Mancini, Trey       BAL o73 ABF 155  107  -48  12   9    3 | 572 272 25  76  73  2
Santana, Carlos     PHI   3 AAC 172  179    7   8   8    0 | 521 251 23  78  71  5
Carpenter, Matt     STL   3 BAA 181  129  -52  11   8    3 | 488 261 25  67  88  2
Bell, Josh          PIT   3 ABA 181  199   18   7   8   -1 | 519 264 21  74  66  3
Thames, Eric        MIL 3o7 ABF 187  142  -45  10   7    3 | 416 251 25  71  75  6
Bour, Justin        MIA   3 DCC 197  140  -57  14   7    7 | 485 271 29  94  62  1
Gurriel, Yulieski   HOU   3 ADF 209  128  -81  11   6    5 | 513 288 15  76  73  3

Davis, Chris        BAL   3 BAC 249  192  -57   8   4    4 | 539 225 32  83  84  1
Martinez, Jose      STL o37 ADF 274  339   65   1   3   -2 | 341 285 17  46  47  5
Morrison, Logan      FA   3 CBC 289  347   58   1   3   -2 | 452 239 23  62  58  4
Alonso, Yonder      CLE   3 CBD 303  120 -183  13   3   10 | 483 288 18  75  78  3
Belt, Brandon        SF   3 CBB 305  222  -83   7   2    5 | 468 261 18  65  80  3
McMahon, Ryan       COL   3 ADF 358  161 -197   9   1    8 | 501 287 19  68  52  8
Mauer, Joe          MIN   3 BAB 394  209 -185   7   0    7 | 540 290  9  66  71  2
Reynolds, Mark       FA   3 ABB 397 1051  654 -15   0  -15 | 182 251  9  28  26  1
Moreland, Mitch     BOS   3 CBC 399  297 -102   3   0    3 | 498 245 22  76  63  0
Cron, C.J.          LAA   3 BCB 403  344  -59   1   0    1 | 419 252 18  69  48  4
Smith, Dominic      NYM   3 ADA 415  784  369  -8  -1   -7 | 313 262 12  46  37  1
Duda, Lucas          FA  30 FCC 448  354  -94   1  -1    2 | 422 235 25  70  55  0
Moran, Colin        PIT   3 BDD 470  670  200  -7  -2   -5 | 346 262 12  46  43  0
Adams, Matt         WAS   3 CDC 472 1015  543 -16  -2  -14 | 191 243  9  33  23  0

One wonders if GMs are concerned with the regression risk inherent in Cody Bellinger's (1B/OF, LA) 2017 Rookie of the Year season, or if they just like other guys better. In the past two seasons, this space has warned against drafting second-year players in the first two rounds, simply because we don't know what they are yet. However, Bellinger is different from Carlos Correa 2016 or Trea Turner 2017. First, Bellinger had 480 AB in his rookie year, not the 300 or so that the other two had. Second, everything he did in 2017 was supported by his skills. If you're going to fixate on a number, it's his 25% hr/f, but let's say that regresses to 20%—with 25% more playing time, he still approaches the 40-homer mark. Personally, we believe his 2017 is quite repeatable, with some room for a bit more in Runs and RBI. However, we still won't take him in the first two rounds. Nope.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B, CLE) has been a fantasy machine, hitting between 34 and 42 HR each year since 2012. Sure, he saw minor drops in a couple of skills in 2017, most noteably xBA. However, at worst, that's just some normalization of PX; his xPX was 136-142 from 2015-2017. There's nothing here that says "decline has begun." Literally nothing. The man hasn't even hit the DL once since 2014. Sure, he's 35, and that's a risk. But we're probably going to wait until the late third/early fourth to draft a first basemen, because he's our pick if he's there.

A confluence of events may have been keeping Eric Hosmer's (1B, SD) fantasy market value below his projected value—but with his contract with SD, it shold stabalize some. Prior to Sunday, fantasy GMs were rightfully pricing that risk into their draft decisions. Our concern here is that they're worrying about the wrong risk, and we can't put it any better than the Baseball Forecaster did: "just a lot of ct% over huge AB totals yielding a ton of balls in play." That's it. His power was league-average through 2016, then he put up a 65 xPX in 2017. With a 22% FB%. His 23% hr/f is a mirage. We know what his numbers have looked like in recent years, but we're 100% with the GMs on this one. Especially those passing on him, even into the 10th round (okay, maybe at that point he has some value).

Matt Olson (1B, OAK) and Gregory Bird (1B, NYY) are practically the same player, skills-wise. They both project with elite power, good patience, and poor contact skills. This is the kind of profile that can generate some BA luck, hit .260-.270 and as a result, knock out 40+ HR. It's also Chris Carter (1B, FA) circa 2015, who can kill you with a sub-.200 BA. Olson and Bird do have the advantage of being on the good side of the platoon, so they won't be as exposed to same-handed pitching. However, this is not a profile you reach for. We'd rather have Justin Smoak (1B, TOR) in the 10th round; his home run upside isn't as high, but his BA downside is much less that either of these two.

You can add Eric Thames (1B/OF, MIL) to the Olson/Bird list, as well. His April 2017 aside, he profiles very similarly to the other two. The differences are slight: his ct% wasn't quite as bad as the other two, he hits a few more LD, and most importantly, the market is down on him while it's quite hot on Olson and Bird. Thames crushed righties all year, so we could easily see him in a true platoon role. Plus, he has some positional flexibility, which will help you in fantasy terms and could help him find some additional PT in the real world. If we had to choose from among the three around #180, we'd probably go with Olson's power upside. However, that's not how the market is playing out on average. We'd certainly rather have Thames at #180 than Olson four rounds earlier.

When a 30-year old hitter who failed to exceed 9 HR in five previous season breaks out with a 28-HR season, GMs are wise to expect some regression. That's Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE). But what might this regression look like? The current BaseballHQ projection splits the difference between his 2016 and 2017. That seems like a good starting point. If you believe the MLB power surge is real, 17-18 HR is a reasonable expectation. Even if you see more downside risk than upside, there's not 12 rounds of risk. Keep in mind that he's gone as early as #100, so there's at least one Yonder fan out there. If he's hanging around in the 15th or so, you kind of have to grab him there.

We didn't expect you read all the way to the end of this, eagerly waiting to see what we had to say about Mark Reynolds (1B, FA). We hadn't even considered covering him, but we couldn't resist, given the 43-round difference between the BaseballHQ.com ranking and his ADP. That's a draft and a half! His gaudy stats in 2017 were an artifact of playing in Coors—his OPS was 275 points lower on the road. At best, he lands on the short side of a platoon, though he's hit better against RHP in three of the last four seasons. You can't complain too much about a guy taken in the 27th round, but he's still a bad value there.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.