“That’s Amore!” Hit & Miss First Basemen of 2017
Each season, at each position, we scratch our heads wondering what went wrong. Last season, I had a few positions — most notably pitching — that had me quickly searching the waiver wire for additions to my lineup. Once traded to Atlanta, Matt Adams paid quick dividends to my lineup and guys such as Chris Taylor made huge impacts over the course of the entire 2017 season. Fast-forwarding to 2018, I want to take a look back at the first-base position, and zero in on specific guys that were either hits or misses. This week, I bring the first 2018 installation of “That’s Amore!” in Hit & Miss First Basemen of 2017.
Naturally, the likes of Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, and Freddie Freeman will come off fantasy draft boards quickly. If you’re patient and go after other positions, Wil Myers has proved to be one of the better bargains in fantasy baseball. Last season, Myers slashed .243/.328/.464 with 30 HR and 74 RBI. Myers saw dips in OBP, AVG and RBI, but still managed to swipe 20 bases. That being said, his 20 stolen bases led all first basemen and Myers was one of only four first basemen with 10+ steals.
At 27, Myers is in the early stages of his prime years and was available in round 5+ in 2017. It’s hard to argue for a better bargain when Myers ranked top-15 in runs scored (14th), first in stolen bases (20), top-10 in home runs (10th) and top-20 in OBP (20th). Myers splits were similar (Home: .246/.336/.403 – Away: .241/.322/.518), but the power numbers were obviously better as he hit 22 home runs on the road compared to eight at Petco Park. For a player that will push for 30+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases, it’s hard to argue over Myers.
Healy was one of the better players that either went in the later stages of fantasy drafts or undrafted. Similar to Travis Shaw, Healy carried both first-base and third-base eligibility in leagues. Coming off his first stint in MLB (2016) when he slashed .305/.337/.524 with 13 HR, Healy embraced everyday at-bats last season slashing .271/.302/.451 with 25 HR and 78 RBI for an Athletics team that finished last in the American League West. If playing in Oakland Coliseum wasn’t challenging enough, Healy was dealt to the Mariners and will play his 2018 home games at Safeco Field.
If owners didn’t know who Ryon Healy was entering 2017, I assure you they do now. What makes Healy intriguing this season is the fact he’s playing with a Mariners team that is better off than the Oakland Athletics. There’s no questioning the wheels of Dee Gordon and Jean Segura. If they are on base when Healy steps to the plate, I assure you we will see an uptick in the 78 RBI he produced in 2017. As with most hitters, striking out at a near 25% clip is a concern, but the production Healy will provide in the later parts of drafts make it easier to stomach the strikeout potential. If I were to sell you on Healy, I’d recommend paying attention to his splits. One would expect a player’s stats to be better on the road than at Oakland Coliseum. However, Healy slashed .296/.334/.507 with 18 HR and 56 RBI at home, compared to .248/.274/.402 with 14 HR and 42 RBI on the road. The power is real, and playing in this Seattle offense should see Healy produce even better numbers in his second full season in the big leagues.
Don’t get me wrong, Alonso had a phenomenal 2017 season, but for a guy with 67 career home runs — 28 being hit last season — it’s hard for me to buy into his monster season. Hearing Carlos Beltran helping Alonso find his power stroke was a feel good story, and many owners were paid huge dividends buying into the power surge early into the season. Now, I’m not saying Alonso won’t reach double-digit home runs for only the second time it what will be his ninth Major League season, but he’s averaged eight in his first eight seasons! What keeps Alonso intriguing are his low strikeout numbers. Last year, was the first year he accumulated over 100 strikeouts (118), but it was only the third time he’s had over 400 at-bats. Playing in Cleveland will have him playing for the best ball club he’s been apart of, and that alone is motivation to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. I know there are naysayers what will say, “But he did it in Oakland and Seattle!” This is true, but what makes you think he’s going to see meatballs after 1-0 and 1-1 counts like last season. By the way, he hit 14 home runs after 1-0 counts, and 14 after 1-1 counts. I promise you, teams will put an extra emphasis and getting ahead of Alonso.
Again, I’m not saying Alonso won’t have a successful season, but be weary of the one-hit wonder. I can already see owners drafting Alonso higher than he should be drafted. One of two things will happen. One, Alonso will be a complete bust and not reach 15 home runs. Two, he’s a late bloomer and will enter into the talks of Jose Bautista and we will see Alonso push for 30 HR and 80 RBI. Remember, this is what Oakland does. They find guys, boost their self-esteem and flip them for prospects! Either way, Alonso was one of the better bargains from the 2017 waiver wire.
Arguably one of a handful of waiver wire MVPs from 2017, Zimmerman had a season to remember. He stayed healthy for an entire season and had the statistically-best season of his career slashing .303/.358/.573 with 36 HR (career-best) and 108 RBI (second-highest). What makes Zimmerman’s season even more impressive from a fantasy standpoint was the fact he was undrafted in numerous leagues. I can attest that I was a fantasy owner that scooped him up immediately and moved him for much needed pitching. When it comes to 36 HR and 108 RBI, it’s easy to see why Zimmerman is easily one of the top candidates to be drafted early by owners licking their chops for a repeat season. He’s only 33 years old, but can we really expect a repeat season of nearly 40 HR and 110 RBI from a player that has a history of shoulder injuries and three-straight clunkers before having the 2017 season that he did? The answer is maybe. I don’t think Zimmerman will be a complete bust assuming he stays healthy for the length of the season. However, I don’t think we will see a repeat of 36 home runs and 108 RBI.
Heading into 2018, I’d suggest tempering expectations and expect home runs in the low-20s and runs batted in around 80+. Still, that wouldn’t be a bad season at all, but you can find similar numbers in the later rounds without having to reach for Ryan Zimmerman. Mark my words, I can see Zimmerman being draft my numerous owners over Miguel Cabrera. There’s about a year-and-a-half age difference, but assuming Miggy has fully healed from 2016 off-season foot surgery and the season-long back ailment that plagued him in 2017, I’d put money on Zimmerman being drafted higher than Cabrera and Cabrera having the better season. Zimmerman will have a nice season, but I don’t believe the numbers will correspond to the reach many owners will put into his draft stock entering 2018. Regardless, it’s hard to argue over a better bargain that Zimmerman proved to be in 2017.
It happens with every slugger that starts to reach the twilight of his career. We are only a few years removed from Miggy going first overall in all re-draft leagues. Last season was a forgettable year for any owner that rostered Cabrera. He was coming off a 2016 offseason that saw him undergo foot surgery and 2017 was an injury-plagued season. It saw Miguel Cabrera drafted after Goldschmidt, Votto, Rizzo and Freeman. He still accumulated 469 at-bats in 130 games, but the struggles were apparent early on. He was a buy-low candidate for most of the season and a rebound never happened. Moving forward, I’d say suggest we’ve seen the last of Cabrera pushing the 40 home run plateau.
If you were one of the owners that planned ahead, I assume you were able to grab Alonso or Zimmerman to help in the power categories. Still, it was a long season rostering Cabrera and I saw numerous owners — in keeper leagues — who weren’t able to bounce back from the slow start of Miguel Cabrera. If Albert Pujols is used as a guide with projecting Cabrera moving forward, I’d suggest moving him if you own Cabrera in keeper leagues. After battling a foot ailment, Pujols has seen a dip in his average while providing decent power numbers overall. Cabrera is entering his age-35 season and injuries start to linger as players reach their mid-30s. Of all the first basemen drafted in 2017, it’s hard to argue that anyone was a bigger miss than Miguel Cabrera.
Davis’ average and OBP has constantly slid since his monster 2013 season that saw him slash .286/.370/.634 with 53 HR and 138 RBI. Three of the next four seasons have seen him below his career averages in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. For a first basemen drafted with the top-10 at the position he absolutely hammered owners who were expecting big things after having a solid 2016 season. Strikeouts have always been part of Davis’ repertoire, but a 42% clip in 2017 was 6% higher than his career average.
Overall, it was a dismal season for the Baltimore Orioles who were looking to compete for the AL East division. The team finished dead last with a 75-87 record. To make matters worse, their pitching staff that has always been in question saw starting pitcher Chris Tillman miss time as well as electric closer Zach Britton. The production didn’t come to close to the high expectation owners of Chris Davis paid for during draft season. Another slump will only hinder Chris Davis’ draft stock and I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls in this season’s drafts. It’s hard to find any first basemen who were bigger misses than Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 11th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #97 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a tenured writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena.