2016 First Base Tier Rankings: Preseason Edition

“Microphone Check 1,2, what is this?”

Well, it’s not a five foot assassin, but instead it’s my first run at a tiered ranking of the first baseman. Also a week late in my tribute; sorry about that. I appreciate any and all feedback, but do keep in mind these are subjective and based on a predicative nature. Just because I have somebody tiered lower than you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with what you think is best. Naturally. Also, players with a star next to their name played less than 20 games at first base last season, so they may or may not be eligible depending on your format, and they may or may not receive eligibility during the season.

For the astute and avid Rotograph readers, you will notice these rankings differ from the staff rankings we did earlier in March. I hadn’t done as much research for those at the time, so these are more in line with what I think at this moment. Which may change in ten minutes. Alas, the fun of rankings.

In the spirit of subjectivity and my love for music, I have created tiers based on my personal favorite jazz styles. In no way am I saying my top tier is the best style of jazz; just my personal favorite. In a perfect world, we could all somehow discuss jazz and baseball together. Here is my first attempt at doing so. Keep it real!

 

Tier 1: Hard Bop

Paul Goldschmidt

How appropriate that my favorite genre is titled Hard Bop and features not only the best first baseman in the game, but arguably the best player in all of baseball. I easily could’ve included Rizzo and Cabrera in the first tier, but I decided to keep them separate just because Goldschmidt should be in your drafts top 5, no problem. Rizzo and Cabrera aren’t far off, but just aren’t this level. Goldschmidt is at the top of first base class, and at 28, there may still be room to improve. Yikes.

Tier 2: Bop

Anthony Rizzo

Miguel Cabrera

Bop is extremely important to jazz and is the predecessor to Hard Bop, but I just prefer the artists that came out of Hard Bop more, such as Art Blakey and the Miles Davis’ bands that emerged. Miguel Cabrera is a fantasy baseball legend and should still go in the first round, but probably not top 5. Health is my only concern for Cabrera, but it’s not a major concern…just something to think about. Rizzo gets the slight edge because of age and the stolen base boost.

Tier 3: Free Jazz

Jose Abreu

Edwin Encarnacion

Joey Votto

Chris Davis

Interesting that Joey Votto falls into any group named “Free” as he is one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball. If you miss the top 3, this is still a strong group, bringing good power along with good situations, outside of Votto. Votto found his power again last season, and if he comes close to his second half for the duration of the season, I will look foolish for not putting him in a higher tier. The lack of a surrounding cast will probably hurt his RBI and Runs totals, which is unfortunate.

I struggled with putting Davis this high because of his 2014, but the power has always been there, so even if he has some trouble, the power spurts will continue to give him high value.

Tier 4: Fusion

Lucas Duda

Freddie Freeman

Adrian Gonzalez

Prince Fielder*

David Ortiz*

Eric Hosmer

I am very high on Duda this year, and being a part of a very good line-up will help his RBI’s and Runs. The power is there, and the batting average may or may not get to where fantasy owners want it, but I’m still buying, especially with general variability in batting average.

Lots of stability in this tier, with some health and positional eligibility concerns. Freeman and Gonzalez would be my safe bets in this group, even though I am slightly concerned with the counting stats for Freeman. Hosmer and Freeman are interesting guys to compare, since they hit for similar batting averages and exhibit some power, but not enough for the top tiers. They also have almost identical ADP’s as well. I see a potential for more power in Freeman, but Hosmer will have more RBI and run scoring opportunities, meaning I could’ve easily flip flopped the two in this tier. I stuck with Freeman above most because I still see that power potential coming through, and if that wrist is healthy again (which all signs this spring point to yes with a .229/.449/.629 triple slash), bigger things may be on the horizon.

Tier 5: Cool

Brandon Belt

Buster Posey

Kendrys Morales*

Albert Pujols

Victor Martinez*

Justin Turner*

Mark Teixeira

Carlos Santana

I always have trouble ranking cool jazz because what defines cool jazz is kind of murky. Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” is considered the standard for this genre, but it’s really a lot of the West Coast artists that embraced and moved cool jazz forward. It’s nice and typically pleasant sounding, but doesn’t go to that next level that I sometimes seek in the jazz I prefer.

This brings me to this tier. These are some solid players who will provide value to your team, excel in very specific categories, but nobody to really love. Sure, Brandon Belt could finally hit twenty homers, but I’ve been saying this for years and have yet to see him reach his projected expectation. None of these guys truly excite me, yet I wouldn’t be mad to fill my roster with them either. Like cool jazz, it’s not my go-to, but I won’t be mad if somebody puts it on.

I have trouble ranking Buster Posey as first baseman in every league. With the lack of talent at catcher, and you have a chance at Posey, why wouldn’t you make him your catcher? I don’t see many scenarios where I would use Posey as my 1B rather than my C. You could easily make the argument he belongs in a higher tier, and I wouldn’t disagree with fervor. I would just take five and wonder why you’re using him at 1B at all.

Tier 6: Hot Jazz

Chris Carter

Wil Myers

Stephen Piscotty*

Mark Trumbo

Trevor Plouffe*

Ryan Zimmerman

Mitch Moreland

Byung-ho Park

Hanley Ramirez

Daniel Murphy*

Ben Paulsen

Hot Jazz is an extremely important time in jazz, as this was the time when Louis Armstrong, the Babe Ruth of jazz, emerged. In terms of importance, the Hot Jazz era needs to be near the top. Yet outside of Louis Armstrong, this can be a rough style of jazz to just relax and listen to. Musicians were still essentially exploring jazz and a lot of the recordings are not as clean as the more modern ones. Still value to be had from this genre, but you won’t find me listening to Hot Jazz frequently.

If you have read any of my other articles in my brief time at Rotographs, you will know I am very high on Chris Carter this year. In no way am I delusional in thinking Carter’s September/October will last him a full season. What if he had 3 scattered months of that type of performance? He hit 24 home runs while batting under .200. He is not at the same level as Chris Davis, but I see the similarities in terms of power and the streakiness created by their low contact rate. I’m not calling for over 40 home runs, but hitting over 30 HR’s is not farfetched for a guy playing at Miller Park and garnering a full-time role, with no true threat just yet.

I am not as high on Hanley Ramirez as others may be, and that could be because I am overvaluing the significant drop in his BB%. Since 2011, he has bounced around from 8%-12%. Last year, it dropped to 5%. I know he was injured and the pressure of fulfilling a big contract in a big market certainly doesn’t help with one’s patience, but I’m still concerned.

Paulsen and Park are other players I am interested in late or for the right price, as there is some nice upside. Myers could also fall into that category, but I see his past prospect status always keeping him at a potentially higher than actual value.

Tier 7: Swing

Adam Lind

Mark Canha

Justin Bour

Pedro Alvarez

Brandon Moss

Matt Adams

Stephen Vogt

Logan Forsythe

Justin Smoak

Ryan Howard

John Jaso*

Mark Reynolds

Mike Napoli

C.J. Cron

Chris Colabello

Scott Van Slyke

Travis Shaw

Swing is the style that got me into jazz, and some of the earliest songs I could play on my saxophone were swing/big band era songs. Still, you won’t catch me blasting swing music at my leisure very often these days.

I don’t see many guys in this tier getting 600 PA’s, as almost all of the players in the Swing tier are platoon mates., with the exception of Travis Shaw who I will discuss in a moment. There is still some worthwhile value as many of these guys will get the strong side platoon and could be good compliments at a corner spot after you nab one of the higher first baseman.

Shaw was recently announced as the starting third baseman for the Red Sox over Sandoval, which boosted his ranking for sure. How much should I have bumped him up? Not really too sure because I wouldn’t say he has the position on lock for the whole season. If he struggles, the pressure will be on to put in the big contract, whether or not that is actually the best move.

Mark Reynolds in Colorado would be even dreamier if he had a full-time spot locked down…in 2011. I still may buy low on a deep roster spot for some cheap home runs.

Tier 8: Minimalist

Steve Pearce

Yonder Alonso

Luis Valbuena

Yangervis Solarte

Darin Ruf

Logan Morrison

Michael Morse

Tyler White

Minimalist is a more modern style of jazz, and features more spaces in sound and a less frequency of played notes. It’s very relaxing and can be pleasant. Beyond that, however, there always seems to be something missing. Which I guess is the intention, hence the term minimalist.

These are guys who will get playing time, but not as much upside as even some of the lower tiers, who will feature players with potentially better skills, just not a lot of room to play.

White has impressed so far this spring, and has hit for a high average throughout his minor league career. He has secured a starting position so far with the demotion of Jonathan Singleton. He won’t set the world on fire, but has the potential to be an effective low end bat.

Tier 9: Ragtime

Dae Ho Lee

James Loney

Clint Robinson

Brett Wallace

Ragtime is one of the earliest styles of jazz, and in a similar vein to Hot Jazz, is extremely important to the development of jazz. In terms of popping on some Scott Joplin to impress some guests on a Saturday night, not very likely.

With this group, there is some upside in terms of playing time. Outside of Lee who will most likely platoon with Lind, most of these guys are blocked by other players who do not have strongholds on their jobs, either for skill or injury.

Wallace is probably blocked by the strongest player in Wil Myers, but it’s not like Myers has been tearing the league up. Still, I cannot see the Padres not giving Myers every opportunity to succeed. One scenario would be an injury in the outfield, which would force Myers back into regular OF duty opening 1B.

Robinson has some potential of playing time with the oft-injured Ryan Zimmerman.

 

Tier 10: Smooth

Jason Rogers

AJ Reed

Tyler Moore

Richie Shaffer

Kyle Blanks

Max Muncy

Jake Elmore

Jonathan Singleton

Justin Morneau

 

I hate smooth jazz. I don’t hate these players. They just aren’t on a major league roster yet, but could see some time when injuries start to hit. Might be good to keep your radar on them. Except for Justin Morneau who won’t play until the earliest June and is not even signed by a team yet.

“Competition dem try fe come side way,

But competition they must come straight way.”

-Phife Dawg from Jazz “We’ve Got”

We hoped you liked reading 2016 First Base Tier Rankings: Preseason Edition by Paul Kastava!

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Love the ATCQ references. Love the jazz theme. Nicely done with the tiers.