MARKET PULSE: First base, 2020

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.

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

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

(NFBC ADP Report) | Unofficial Rankings

First base may be the shallowest position in 2020 that doesn't require wearing a mask. BaseballHQ only ranks 17 first basemen in the first 15 rounds, and after the 10th round, there's a lot of blech without much upside appeal. There are a couple of guys outside the 10th round projected for 30+ HR, though both have some risk attached to them. Overall, just find someone competent and look for breakouts and upside elsewhere.

                                      HQ                      --  HQ Projections --
Player                TM POS REL ADP Rank Diff HQ$ AAV Diff |  AB AVG HR RBI  R  SB
===================  === === === === ==== ==== === === ==== | === === == === === == 
Bellinger, Cody       LAo938 AAF   4    4    0  35  45  -10 | 564 287 42 107 109 14
Freeman, Freddie     ATL   3 BAB  17   14    3  31  31    0 | 565 301 36 103 100  7
Alonso, Pete         NYM   3 ACD  30   39   -9  22  25   -3 | 576 254 44 104  94  0
Olson, Matt          OAK   3 BBB  58   75  -17  18  19   -1 | 519 260 39  97  77  1

Rizzo, Anthony       CHC   3 BAA  68   43   25  22  17    5 | 540 291 26  98  86  5
Goldschmidt, Paul    STL   3 AAC  70   32   38  24  17    7 | 563 281 33  98  97  4
Abreu, Jose          CHW  30 AAB  76   36   40  22  16    6 | 610 284 30 109  84  2
Bell, Josh           PIT   3 CAB  95   65   30  20  14    6 | 566 270 32 106  87  1
Mancini, Trey        BAL o93 AAD 101   87   14  15  13    2 | 561 277 28  81  85  1
Hoskins, Rhys        PHI   3 AAC 111  109    2  13  12    1 | 521 247 31  86  82  4
Santana, Daniel      TEX o38 CDC 127  229 -102   6  11   -5 | 521 239 18  62  66 17

Santana, Carlos      CLE  30 AAC 140   84   56  15  10    5 | 548 259 28  85  93  4
Encarnacion, Edwin   CHW  30 BAB 165   73   92  18   8   10 | 511 258 37  96  88  1
Voit, Luke           NYY  30 BCC 195  219  -24   6   7   -1 | 453 260 28  62  65  0
Walker, Christian    ARI   3 CCD 201  400 -199  -1   7   -8 | 372 243 20  50  54  4
Pederson, Joc         LAo793 ACB 202  275  -73   3   6   -3 | 394 244 23  62  70  3
Hosmer, Eric          SD   3 AAD 223  174   49   8   6    2 | 597 260 19  85  71  2

Murphy, Daniel       COL   3 DBD 243  203   40   9   5    4 | 476 290 15  78  65  2
Cron, C.J.           DET   3 BBB 249  100  149  15   4   11 | 580 258 36  95  73  1
Votto, Joey          CIN   3 BAF 269  141  128  11   4    7 | 528 281 17  65  82  5
Nunez, Renato        BAL   3 ABB 274  273    1   3   3    0 | 473 243 26  71  58  1
Tsutsugo, Yoshitomo  TAM   3 AAC 326  419  -93  -1   2   -3 | 357 252 15  65  55  0
White, Evan          SEA   3 AFF 327  330   -3   1   2   -1 | 315 282 16  47  53  2
Aguilar, Jesus       MIA   3 ACD 332  493 -161  -3   2   -5 | 334 249 16  60  47  0
Lowe, Nate           TAM   3 AFD 345 1030 -685 -14   1  -15 | 149 264  7  24  24  0
Cooper, Garrett      MIA 3o9 FDF 375  388  -13  -1   0   -1 | 345 269 16  58  50  0
Thames, Eric         WAS   3 BCB 390  286  104   3   0    3 | 331 248 22  53  59  6
Cabrera, Miguel      DET   3 FCF 391  360   31   0   0    0 | 458 273 14  62  49  0
Mountcastle, Ryan    BAL   3 AFF 394 1034 -640 -15   0  -15 | 131 281  6  17  17  1
Smoak, Justin        MIL  30 AAC 399  906 -507 -10   0  -10 | 290 223 14  43  39  0
Vogelbach, Daniel    SEA   3 ACB 423  322  101   1  -1    2 | 461 231 26  66  62  0
Belt, Brandon         SF   3 CBB 440  338  102   1  -1    2 | 472 244 19  56  68  4
Pujols, Albert       LAA  30 BAA 442  282  160   3  -1    4 | 475 246 21  82  52  3
Choi, Ji-Man         TAM   3 ACA 446  274  172   3  -1    4 | 383 261 21  68  48  3
Tellez, Rowdy        TOR  30 ACB 454  230  224   5  -1    6 | 435 255 25  65  56  3
Bauers, Jake         CLEo703 ABB 481 1025 -544 -13  -2  -11 | 210 230  7  27  28  5
Smith, Dominic       NYM 3o7 CCF 482  728 -246  -9  -2   -7 | 223 264 12  33  32  1

Paul Goldschmidt (1B, STL) is past his peak, though it's too early to expect significant decline. The biggest effect so far is that he's stopped running. Otherwise, plate skills (11%/72% bb%/ct% in 2019) and power (140 xPX in 2019) remain intact. The biggest discrepancy between BaseballHQ and the market is his BA—BaseballHQ is expecting some positive regression from his .260 BA in 2019, while fantasy GMs are likely recency biasing over it. Here at the Market Pulse, we're more inclined to believe his projected .266 xBA, which is right in line with both 2018 and 2019 xBA. As Brandon Kruse said in a recent Facts/Flukes, "he's no longer a five-category contributor, and there are reasons to be a little concerned about his status as a four-category contributor heading into the 2020 season." Score one for the market.

We're not sure why GMs are down on Jose Abreu (1B, CHW). His skills are holding up as he ages, and his AAB reliability shows that his health has been good overall. His value does rely on a relatively lofty 610 AB, leaving much more downsisde than upside, but other than general age risk he's a pretty safe bet to reach that PT. Hedge your bets a little, perhaps, but he's a nice pickup in the 4th round.

Daniel Santana (1B/OF, TEX) was one of many players who had post-peak breakouts in 2019, going 28-81-21 with a .283 BA. BaseballHQ's pessimism is based on 2017-2018, where he was far less than good, to be charitable. His 68% ct% from 2019 is a concern, and his 111 xPX doesn't inspire confidence in him as a two-true-outcome guy (since he doesn't walk). His 28 xHR (vs. 26 HR) says the power is real, but there's pretty much nothing but downside at his ADP. We do think our projections are a bit pessimistic, but a 9th-round ADP is still much too early.

The market has been dissing Edwin Encarnacion (1B, CHW) for several years now. Don't believe me? Look here. And here. And here. Yes, he's 37, and yes, he missed 32 games in 2019. But most of that was a fractured wrist, which is not related to aging. Look, one of these years he's going to slow down. But he's going 5 rounds later than Joey Gallo (OF, TEX), whose expected value and track record don't compare to Encarnacion's. (While Encarnacion can't match Gallo's raw power, Gallo has never posted better than a .240 xBA.) Don't be shy.

We can surmise that the disagreement between BaseballHQ and the market over Christian Walker (1B, ARI) is playing time. BaseballHQ has him with 372 AB currently, which suggests some skepticism about his ability to sustain his 2019 skill gains. We do think he is what we saw last year—above-average power, with enough contact ability to make it work—but at 29, don't expect much more growth. His upside is something like a .250 BA with 30 HR, which isn't terrible, but it's not worth a reach; plus, he comes with more downside than Encarnacion.

On a per-AB basis, C.J. Cron's (1B, DET) 2018 and 2019 look very similar, though xHR says he deserved a few more than his 25 HR in 2019. His skills pretty much support his production in those years, so his 2020 projection comes down to PT. There's really nobody pushing him for PT in Detroit, so his BaseballHQ projection should hold up, all things being equal. His ranking at #100 has quite a bit of downside to it, but even just a repeat of his 2019 should yield a 7-8 round profit at his current ADP.

Eric Thames (1B, WAS) and Rowdy Tellez (1B, TOR) both make decent endgame selections. They both will likely be limited to the strong side of a platoon, but that still leaves from for 450-475 AB as an upside. Thames has big-time power, though it's limited by his poor ct%, even against RHP. Tellez is still only 25, so there's some possible growth remaining. Thames is kind of an it-is-what-it-is kind of guy, while Tellez has more upside (and more downside as well). Both are reserve-round picks who could still provide good power numbers without killing your average. Both should be Plan B at best, however.


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