Who's at top of fantasy first-base rankings?

March 16th, 2021

When it comes to first base and fantasy baseball, it's no secret: You come here for the big hitters.

That's not changing this season. Both reigning league MVPs are first basemen -- Freddie Freeman in the National League, José Abreu in the American League -- and they lead the crop of sluggers at the position. Draft the right first baseman, and you could easily end up with a home run king.

Let's take a look at the top fantasy first basemen entering 2021.

Slot Freeman in at first base and don't worry about the position for the rest of the season. The NL MVP hits like clockwork, and with Freeman batting in the heart of a potent Braves lineup, he's going to fill up the entire fantasy stat sheet. That's why he's the only first baseman who's even in the top 30 overall of MLB.com's fantasy player rankings.

The 31-year-old is coming off a career year in which he posted a .341/.462/.640 slash line with 13 home runs, 53 RBIs and an MLB-leading 51 runs scored in the shortened 60-game season. But even before that, his production was MVP-caliber. From 2016-19, a run that included three top-10 MVP finishes, Freeman hit .303/.394/.549 while averaging 31 homers, 95 RBIs and 98 runs a year (and even eight steals).

Abreu and Alonso join Freeman as the other first basemen ranked in the top 50 overall for fantasy. Abreu, the reigning American League MVP, offers reliable fantasy-category production like Freeman, and he also bats in the middle of a stacked offense with the White Sox. The 34-year-old batted .317/.370/.617 with 19 homers, an MLB-high 60 RBIs and 43 runs scored in 2020, and over his six full seasons from 2014-19, he's hit .293/.349/.513 while averaging 30 home runs, 102 RBIs and 80 runs a year.

Alonso offers maybe the biggest power upside of any first baseman. He's not as complete a hitter as Freeman, but you're getting a potential league home run leader. Even in a "down" season in 2020 -- compared to his 53-homer, 120-RBI rookie season -- Alonso still had 16 homers and 35 RBIs, which projects to 40-plus homers and close to 100 RBIs over a 162-game season.

Voit, who's ranked just outside the top 50, is home run-heavy like Alonso -- he's the reigning MLB home run champion, with 22 in 2020 -- he just doesn't have the track record of Freeman or Abreu, as a late bloomer. If you target home runs with Alonso and Voit, you're also probably getting a lot of RBIs considering the strong New York batting orders.

The third tier of first basemen is an interesting mix. Vlad Jr. could vault into Tier 1 at any time -- his ceiling is "one of the best hitters in the league" -- he just hasn't quite put it all together yet, with 15 homers in 2019 and nine in '20 with a batting average sitting around .270. Still, he's only 22, and he hits the ball as hard as anybody. Guerrero has 15 batted balls with an exit velocity of 115 mph or higher since his MLB debut, more than twice as many as anybody else (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Alonso have seven each). His upside is why he's ranked just outside the top 50 overall for fantasy, only a few spots behind Voit in the tier above.

Olson doesn't hit for average (.245 career hitter), but the 26-year-old sweet-swinging lefty is a candidate to lead the AL in homers any given year. Olson hit 14 home runs in the shortened 2020 after hitting 36 in 127 games in '19, 29 in 162 games in '18 and 24 in just 59 games in '17. Projection systems like Steamer have him hitting close to 40 in 2021.

Goldschmidt was the opposite of Olson last season: mostly average, not a lot of power (.304/.417/.466 slash line, six home runs, 21 RBIs in 58 games). But he had almost no help from the Cardinals hitters surrounding him ... and now he has Nolan Arenado. The 33-year-old veteran averaged 32 homers, 99 RBIs and 104 runs scored over his last five full seasons (2015-19), and he could return to that level again.

Muncy is like Olson with more walks -- the 30-year-old hit 35 home runs apiece in 2018 and '19, then 12 last year. But while his on-base percentage is high, his batting average is low (.236 career, .192 in 2020). He does get the benefit of being on the Dodgers, who are absolutely stacked.

Rizzo is one of the steadiest first basemen. The 31-year-old will almost always give you a solid average in the .280-.290 range with close to 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 90 runs scored. He's the last fantasy first baseman ranked in the top 100 overall, even if he's not as exciting as some higher-reward (but higher-risk) options.

All these first basemen have a key question mark that puts them in Tier 4.

• Can Smith repeat his breakout 2020 over a full season (.316/.377/.616 slash line, 10 home runs, 42 RBIs), or was that a fluke for the Mets' 25-year-old slugger?

• Can Hosmer get the ball off the ground enough to be a reliable power producer at a fantasy position that demands it (22-home run average from 2016-19, nine in 2020)?

• How much will Hoskins' home run hitting (63 total from 2018-19, 10 in '20) be offset by his low batting average (.239 career hitter)?

• Was Bell a one-season wonder (.277/.367/.569 slash line, 37 home runs, 116 RBIs, 94 runs scored with the Pirates in 2019) or will a change of scenery in Washington be just what the Nats' 28-year-old slugger needs?

• And will Sanó stay on the field enough to put up the big-time home run totals we know he can (never more than 116 games played in a season, but a career 40-home run average per 162 games)?