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Fantasy Baseball First Basemen: Who to Start and Who to Stream

A look at preseason draft rankings and who at first base is perceived as a player to put in your lineup every day and who is best used in the right matchups.

Daniel Hepner Feb 21st 9:40 AM EST.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves during the Major League Baseball game on September 12, 2023 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 12: Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves during the Major League Baseball game on September 12, 2023 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Everyone plays fantasy football (not everyone, but you know what I mean), but fantasy baseball, despite a richer history, is more niche and left to the most diehard fans. Others who play for the sake of it often lose interest throughout the season or spend minimal time after the initial burst of the draft and early season.

Fantasy baseball is harder due to the number of positions to fill and players available. While most fantasy football leagues have just one defense while ignoring individual players, nearly every baseball league includes every position player and pitcher, even those moving between the major and minor leagues.

It’s overwhelming to keep up with baseball every day. I took a break for over a decade from fantasy baseball because I just couldn’t find time to do it at a level I felt happy with. 

To help myself, I think in terms of fantasy football. We talk about starters, streamers and must-sit players from week-to-week in football, and it seems easier to think of baseball the same way. Determine who is a must-start player and who you can drop and add as matchups dictate.

I am going through each baseball position to see who is perceived as must-start or stream-worthy heading into the season. This won’t be my own analysis of the players as much as analyzing their value in terms of average draft position.

To determine that status, I used FantasySP’s Average Draft Position tool. That’s important: Other sites will have different rankings and values, and this is exclusively based on FantasySP’s calculations.

I am thinking in terms of a 10-team league with Roto scoring and standard lineup structure, with a player at each infield position, three outfielders and a DH/utility among position players.

Let’s cover first base, where there are a lot of fantasy options who can add home runs and RBIs to your lineup. The top of the position is strong, with a Hall-of-Famer having the best stretch of his career and a handful of others with a history of consistency and/or MVP-level heights.

 

Daily Starters

 

A franchise stalwart left his team after winning a World Series, and, somehow, it worked out for everyone involved. Not only has Freeman not lost a step since heading to the Dodgers, but he had two of the best seasons of his career. He even stole 23 bases last season! Freeman’s status isn’t exaggerated.

Despite Freeman’s exploits, the Braves haven’t had time to miss him, as Olson has filled the position with two of his own top seasons. Olson hit 54 home runs last year and set career highs in most offensive categories. Even a drop back from that production leaves him as a top-five first baseman.

Just like Terminator, Vlad Guerrero Part II matches up to the original. He showed out as one of the best hitters in the league in 2021 but has decreased across the board the last two seasons. He still excels at the plate, but Guerrero hasn’t been on the level of Freeman or Olson.

Harper has made the move to first base permanently, dropping his value a bit from slotting in as an outfielder. The former MVP has struggled with injury, and that alone is enough to put him below the top three. There are safer options, but Harper does have as high a ceiling as anyone.

Alonso is pretty much a lock for 25 doubles and 40 home runs, but his batting average fell all the way to .217 last year. That was accompanied by 151 strikeouts, his most since 183 during his rookie season. It’s reasonable to expect a bounce-back, and Alonso’s power numbers will play with anyone.

Goldschmidt is the essence of consistency: Excluding the COVID season of 2020, he has been below 159 hits, 35 doubles, and 25 home runs exactly once in each category since 2015. He doesn’t have the upside of Freeman, but Goldschmidt is as safe as anyone listed here.

 

Stream-Worthy

 

There are a ton of useful first basemen, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. Cody Bellinger is still unsigned and eligible at first base and in the outfield in many leagues. Salvador Perez can play both catcher and first; I love that multi-position flexibility, one of the reasons I like Mookie Betts (2B- and OF-eligible) more than anyone else.

The depth of players who can hit home runs and add fantasy value means that you shouldn’t reach at first unless you’re going for one of the top guys. The elite are worth their draft position and reasonable to use one of your top picks on. After that group, though, players start to become very similar and more matchup reliant.

A few stream-able players are younger upside plays, like Steer, Casas, Pasquantino and even Naylor despite several seasons under his belt. They could blossom into the top group at some point, but each is better against the right pitchers than as a daily option.

Diaz set career highs in pretty much everything last year. He has improved each of the last three seasons and is ranked fairly at the top of this tier.

Walker’s numbers have improved as Arizona has gotten better. There’s probably a little causation both ways, as the team is propped up a bit by his performance and better players surrounding Walker increased his RBI and runs scored numbers. He’s correctly ranked here as bordering on starter but a hair below.

Hoskins missed all last season with a knee injury but has shown big-time power in the past. He will be a useful fantasy player, especially against left-handed pitching.

 

Streaming Advice

With too many players to list here, first base is not a position at which to reach. I have no problem grabbing Freeman in the first or second round, but you can find similar value after the first few guys.

First base is as stream-able a position as any in fantasy baseball. I like the strategy of skipping the top of the first base class and having someone in mind to draft later as your first streamer (we’ll get to who those guys are closer to opening day).

These lists will change, too. Bellinger wasn’t a must-start player coming into last season but played his way there. Injuries will open new opportunities, as will trades and lineup shuffling later in the season.

Keep an eye on resources like FantasySP, as we will be updating the best streamers for each day/week. Every position has the same structure, of “Daily Starters” and “Stream-Worthy” options, so this is good advice to remember: You don’t have to stick with your sub-par players. Streaming is a great way to find extra value on a regular basis.

#2024-fantasy-baseball-draft

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