2021 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 30 First Basemen

Thanks to what should be less strict eligibility rules across most platforms in 2021, the first base pool has gotten a little deeper. Here at RotoRanks we’ll be operating under the seven-game threshold, for your general information. If your league is more strict, at least you get a sense of how more players are compared to each other as we move through some preliminary rankings. Catchers like Travis d’Arnaud and Austin Nola who have eligibility at first base have been removed. You’d be crazy or desperate to consider a catcher in this spot.

Lastly, this is my own first pass for 2021. Don’t pile on Jorge or Micah if you see something crazy. This is all me. So come at me! Find me on Twitter @HeathCapps or just tweet all of us at @roto_ranks. We’d love to talk fantasy baseball with you. And if you see ADP referenced here, it is drawn from the #2earlymocks, and compiled by the great Smada. The link to that ADP set is here. Go and support his awesome work.

RANKPLAYERTEAMNOTES
1Cody BellingerLADIn 2020, he made more contact and swung more inside the strike zone. He posted a .188 BABIP over the first 29 games of 2020, and a .311 BABIP over the last 27 games. On the season that worked out to a career-low .245 BABIP and .239 BA. He’s a career .273 hitter, who hit .273 in the second half of 2020 and had a .284 xBA during shortened season. You do the math. Take the half a round discount in ’21.
2Freddie FreemanATLAside from sprint speed, his Statcast page is alllllll reds (Rounders reference). That’s insane for a guy whose 14.1% strikeout rate ranked inside the top 10% of the league in 2020. He also set career highs in 2020 in any metric that has to do with hitting the ball hard or quality of contact. He’s just 31 years old and plays for one of the best offenses in the majors. Oh, he was also coming off of a rough bout with Covid-19. I’m excited to see what Freeman accomplishes with a stout Atlanta team in 2021.
3DJ LeMahieuNYYA free agent, we’ll need to make sure he doesn’t leave the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, which is built for his swing. He’s a premier batting average asset and his eligibility is huge–but a move to a less-friendly park could mean the power dips. We should find out no later than this coming Wednesday if LeMahieu will accept New York’s $18.9 million qualifying offer or not. If he does not, we’ll need to revisit this rank based on his landing spot. Sounds like he’s walking, but let’s wait and see.
4Jose AbreuCWSHe’s power without sacrificing batting average (career. 294 hitter) and he plays in a formidable White Sox lineup. He’ll turn 34 years old in January, but that’s not a big concern to me for a guy who played all 60 games in the shortened year. He can give us another elite year, and the Sox can spell him at DH to keep him fresh and his bat in the lineup. Think .280+ with 30 bombs as a rock solid floor…with room for more.
5Luke VoitNYYHe’s never hit more than 22 homers in a season due to injuries, but he just hit 22 in only 56 games in 2020. Luke Voit has officially arrived, and there’s room for the batting average to improve from this year’s .277 mark. He had a poor .268 BABIP in 2020, but has a career .323 BABIP. Much like Jose Abreu, you’re getting batting average, power, and a great surrounding lineup. Just less of a track record, and probably more injury risk.
6Vladimir Guerrero Jr.TORHe’s still just 21 years old and prospect fatigue is real. Vladito has disappointed a lot of people, but he lowered his strikeout rate and chase rate in 2020, and severely increased his swing rate inside the zone. His ISO bumped from .162 to .199, and his SLG from .433 to .462. He’s in the 93rd percentile in hard hit rate and average exit velocity–meaning he’s a slight launch angle adjustment away from a 30-homer season that would come with a plus batting average and tons of counting stats. Lastly, did I mention he’s only 21 years old?
7Pete AlonsoNYMHot take: Alonso was nearly the same guy in 2020. There were no discernible differences in batted ball profile, except he did go oppo a little more. His walk and strikeout rates were similar, and his hard hit rate (per Statcast) was similar. His barrel rate dropped 3% to “only” 12.8%, which still placed him in the 84th percentile. I don’t love taking this sort of power profile with some batting average risk early in drafts–but Alonso’s .242 BABIP from 2020 is bound to improve. I’m into a rebound for him over the course of a full year in 2021 if his price is depressed. I could see drafting him if he fell a bit farther than his #2earlymock ADP, which was 52.4. I’d like him better around pick 70, just ahead of Matt Olson and Paul Goldschmidt.
8Matt OlsonOAKThe 92.3 MPH average exit velocity was inside the top 9% of the league, but the strikeout rate ballooned to 31.4%, aka the bottom 9% of the league. He still hit 14 homers and ranked 21st in the MLB with a 96.7 MPH exit velo on fly balls and line drives (and in 2019 it was 97.1 MPH). He swung less and made less contact in the short season, but a .209 BABIP vs. righties seems unlucky. I still view him as a .250+ hitter moving forward.
9Paul GoldschmidtSTLWhich of these BABIPs is not like the other: .364, .303, .359, .343, .358? Goldy’s .303 mark was during his first year in St. Louis, and it now reads like an anomaly. Amazingly, Goldy made more contact in 2020 than ever before, at 79.5%. His .380 xWOBA ranked inside the top 6% of the league, and he still had an above average 40.9% hard hit rate. Only 33 years old, apparently rumors of Goldy’s demise are unfounded. May not win you your league, but he probably won’t lose it for you, either.
10Dominic SmithNYMThere might be questions about his playing time if there’s no universal DH, and that’s the only reason he’s not higher on this list.I’m assuming we get the DH, but even if we don’t we are dealing with the Mets’ best bat from 2020. Smith placed inside the top 10% of the majors in XBA, XSLG, WOBA, XWOBA, and XWOBACON in 2020. His 46.7% hard hit rate (83rd percentile) and 13.3% barrel rate (86th) were also studly. He topped Mets regulars with a 165 wRC+, .412 wOBA, and .299 ISO. Buy this man at his current 101.6 #2earlymock ADP.
11Anthony RizzoCHCHis 16.7 degree launch angle was his highest mark since 2015, and his 7.8% barrel rate was his best mark since 2017. He doesn’t strike out much and still sports a double-digit walk rate. He may not be sexy, but 2020’s .218 BABIP seems unlucky (career .286). His career .271 BA and last year’s .266 xBA seem more fair. He’s a death-by-papercut sort of play, but the floor is still solid. He’s a solid buy around pick 100.
12Max MuncyLADHe trimmed his swinging strike rate to a three-year best 9.3%, and made more contact than he had the two years prior. His chase rate was a career-best 18.3%, and his walk rate was still superb at 15.7%. For a guy with a career .266 BABIP, his .203 mark in 2020 seems unlucky given no huge changes in launch angle, hard hit rate, or barrel rate. His expected batting average was .235, and I’m into a guy who can hit .240 for the Dodgers with plenty of power. As always, he gets a boost in OBP formats–he still managed a .331 OBP despite the .192 batting average of 2020. His 1B/2B eligibility may ultimately mean he’s drafted ahead a little sooner than I’d like in 5×5 formats.
13Eric HosmerSDHe hit the ball hard in 2019, 46.0% of the time. In 2020 that number was pretty static at 47.0%, but his average launch angle made a huge jump to 8.7 degrees on average. That’s below the 11.9 degree MLB average, but it’s a big deal for Hosmer. His numbers prior to 2020 were 2.1, -1.4, 3.8, 4.0, and 6.0. Lifting the ball more–while still hitting it hard–also meant a career-best 10.3% barrel rate. If he can stay healthy in 2021, he’ll compile a healthy amount of stats for a loaded San Diego lineup. As an added bonus, being a member of the run-happy Padres means he could chip-in with 7-10 steals if everything breaks right.
14Alec BohmPHIIf seven games is the threshold for eligibility in your league, he’ll qualify at both corners in 2021. The .410 BABIP won’t repeat, and the 53.2% ground ball rate was higher than we like. However, the 21.4% line drive rate, 10.3% barrel rate, .286 xBA, low strikeout rate (20.0%), and solid walk rate (8.9%) were all encouraging. A batting average asset with solid power in a quality lineup? Sign me up. He won’t run much, but that reads like the only downside here. That and a short track record.
15Josh BellPITHow do we explain the .226 BA? The .206 BABIP against southpaws, I suppose. That ugly mark coincided with a dip in hard contact rate (per Fangraphs) in that split. But for a guy who posted a 42.9% hard hit rate per Statcast, I could see a bounce-back season. Bell had a 46.6% hard hit rate during the month of August, for instance, sandwiched by a 35.0% rate and 38.0% rate in July and Sept/Oct. Over the course of a year, I think the hard hit comes up. His second half .243 BA was tolerable, and I think we can expect more of that over the course of a full season.
16Jake CronenworthSDA 5.8% swinging strike rate, stellar 22.4% chase rate, and studly 85.3% contact rate contributed to the healthy 9.4% walk rate and .354 OBP. He’s a big plus in batting average and he’s also in the 92nd percentile for sprint speed. A healthy 10.5% barrel rate and .541 xSLG pair nicely with the tools and the 1B/2B/SS eligibility. The great Paul Sporer has compared him to Ben Zobrist, and that seems pretty apt with the HR/SB upside and the eligibility.
17 Ryan MountcastleBALMountcastle should have 1B/OF eligibility on most platforms and obviously plays in a hitter-friendly park. The .398 BABIP was wild, but he should at least be a plus in batting average despite the aggressive 58.8% swing rate. He’s toolsy and athletic (78th percentile sprint speed) but I don’t think we can expect a ton of swipes. Instead, you’re looking at a middle of the order cornerstone in Baltimore, potentially. He’s got more BA stability than the next guy…
18Rhys HoskinsPHIA career-high .276 BABIP still meant only a .245 BA (.238 xBA). And that’s the massive blemish with Hoskins in 5×5 leagues. In OBP formats he gets a massive boost due to the career 15.3% walk rate and career .366 OBP. I’m probably not owning him in 5×5 leagues due to this anchor of a batting average, though. Of note is a career-high 14.8% barrel rate, a top 7% mark. The power is real so long as he’s not ice cold at the plate.
19 Hunter DozierKCHe had a breakout 2019, slashing .279/.348/.522 with 26 homers in 139 games. 2020 was derailed with Dozier contracting COVID-19, which he had for over a week (including some shortness of breath issues that lingered). I’ll take a chance that the hard hit rate of 2019 returns. Dozier also offers plus speed and some nice 1B/OF eligibility. He could cover third base in a pinch, too. So long as he’s healthy, I think he’ll be one of KC’s best bats again.
20Mike MoustakasCINA brief absence due to COVID-19 protocols and a quad strain limited Moose to only 44 games in 2020. The good news is he should qualify at 1B and 2B in 2021. Also, when he returned from the quad strain, he finished Sept/Oct with a .351 ISO, 17.2% strikeout rate, and 11.5% walk rate (23 games). Perhaps Year 2 in Cincinnati will bring a higher BA, something closer to 2020’s .242 xBA or the .254 and .251 marks of the two seasons prior.
21Miguel SanoMINHe can obliterate the ball when he makes contact. Problem is, he really struggles with breaking stuff. His 43.9% strikeout rate was a new low, and the resulting .204 BA was killer. Amazingly, his chase rate, zone swing rate, and swing rate are all normal–it’s just the super-poor contact rate (59.6%) holding him back. When he does make contact, he ranks inside the top 1% of the league in barrel rate (22.9%) and hard hit rate (95.2 MPH). So the 13 homers in the short season (about a 35-homer pace) are for real. You just have to eat the anchor of a batting average, which also looks very real. It would be great if he could take a tad off of his swing in the name of a bit more contact. His 19.1% swinging strike rate of 2020 was far off from the 15% or so range he had settled into during 2018 and 2019. I could see a bit of a rebound with a more normal offseason and (hopefully) less COVID-19 protocol limitations in 2021.
22Christian WalkerARZKevin Cron’s release gives Walker a bit of breathing room. Walker’s numbers don’t leap off the page at you, but over the course of a full year he’ll push for 30 homers if he continues to be the starter for Arizona. He’s turned himself into a solid defender, so there’s hope that his bat sticks into the lineup even if the D’backs do something crazy and trade him during some form of rebuild (or retool).
23Carlos SantanaCLEHis $17.5 million dollar option was declined by Cleveland, so we’ll have to see where he lands. It sounds like there’s hope for a reunion in Cleveland on a lesser deal, but Santana should do his diligence as a free agent, too. He still managed a .349 OBP despite career-low marks in BA (.199) and BABIP (.212). He’s 34 years old, but I’d expect some positive regression in 2021 for a dependable guy like Santana.
24Jared WalshLAAHe was one of few bright spots for the Angels in 2020 and looks like the current successor to Albert Pujols at first base. He’s simplified his setup at the plate, inspired by teammates like Anthony Rendon and Albert Pujols, the man he could replace. The result was nine homers in just 32 games. He’s been doing it for a while, too, with 29 HR across three levels in 2018 and 36 homers at Triple-A in 2019. I’ll bite at his 240.6 ADP.
25Renato NunezBALHe may not survive as an Oriole due to likely needing a raise in arbitration after slugging 31 homers in 2019 and another 12 HR in the sprint of 2020. A ranking to revisit if his park and team context change.
26Trey ManciniBALHe’s a candidate to move up this list in a hurry if we get positive reports on his Stage 3 colon cancer. I’d imagine we’d need to severely improve our handling of the pandemic if Mancini is to see the field on Opening Day, though. He’s not a player to draft aggressively at this time.
27Evan WhiteSEAAn AL Gold Glove winner, White should have tons of opportunity to improve in 2021. He needs to make more contact, but the batting eye seems solid with a 28.4% chase rate. He’s a plus athlete, too. The 85th percentile sprint speed is sneaky, and he could definitely chip-in with some steals over the course of a full season. Lastly, when he does make contact, he’s blistering the ball–87th percentile exit velo, 95th percentile hard hit, and 90th percentile barrel rate are studly.
28Bobby DalbecBOSMitch Moreland’s trade opened up time for Dalbec’s rookie year, and he posted a 152 wRC+ over his paltry 92 plate appearances. It was only a 23-game sample, but his eight homers in 2020 works out to a 50-homer pace. We like everything here except the strikeout rate, which was a whopping 42.4% (and backed up by a 21.2% swinging strike rate). Perhaps he can trim that to his closer to his 15.8% mark at Triple-A in 2019 and retain the growth in walk rate (10.9% in 2020). With an ADP past pick 300, you don’t have much to lose.
29 Andrew VaughnCWSYasmani Grandal spelled Jose Abreu a bit at first base in the shortened season. However, if the White Sox let James McCann walk, Grandal would be stuck behind the plate more–allowing Vaughn a bit of a window to get his feet wet at the big league level. He could also fill the DH hole if the Sox don’t bring back Edwin Encarnacion. Vaughn is a candidate to somersault up this list if we get an idea that the playing time is coming.
30 Jesus AguilarMIAHis 35-homer campaign of 2018 seems distant, but the 2020 numbers were similar. His launch angle and sweet spot percentage rebounded to 2018 levels, even if the hard hit rate didn’t quite get there. Still, he posted a career-best 9.5% swinging strike rate, so the growth in strikeout rate (18.5%) looks legit. I think .270+ with some power is boring, but he’s an afterthought in drafts with a 285 ADP per the #2earlymocks. I’ll bite.

outro

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