Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits a home run against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in New York. The Blue Jays won 6-4. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


Mike Shara

There was a time when dozens of big, burly, powerful first basemen roamed the countryside, looming over the rest of fantasy baseball like giant dinosaurs, crushing mammoth home runs and knocking in baserunners in record numbers. As light-hitting little middle infielders meekly scampered around on the ground beneath these skyscrapers, they lived in fear of being stomped on by the apex predators of the roto realm. Those dinosaur days are over, fellow historians. The first base position isn’t dead, but it’s not nearly as deep as it was in previous centuries (see: the 90’s). There are a few older veterans who may squeeze out one or two more above average seasons and a few young players with potential, but there are very few elite first baseman who are operating at their peak right now. If there weren’t a few additions to the list because of positional versatility, I’d actually be tempted to call it weak. In the past, you may have been comfortable waiting until later in your draft to still get a good, productive first baseman. You will regret that strategy this season – don’t wait too long. Here’s my top 20 at the position for 2022.

– a year ago many ‘experts’ worried if he’d ever figure it out. Pfft. He’ll be just 23 in 2022.

– He’s likely to finish his career with Atlanta, but how much longer will he remain elite?

3 MATT OLSON | Oakland
– Likely to be traded before this season begins. Leaving Oakland might add even more HRs.

– Hard to believe hitting .294 with 31 HR and 12 steals felt like a down season, but it did.

5 JOSE ABREU | Chicago (AL)
– batting average was the lowest of his career in ‘21. Other than HR/RBI not much else now.

6 AUSTIN RILEY | Atlanta | other positions: 3B
– him qualifying at 1B is a big addition to this group. After a dismal April he was en fuego.

– 27 year-old HR derby champ didn’t quite have the power season he was hoping for in 2021.

8 MAX MUNCY | LA Dodgers | Other Positions: 2B
– impossible to know if he’s ok after a serious elbow injury late last season. Big plus if he is.

9 KRIS BRYANT | ?? | other positions: 3B, RF, CF, LF
– he still runs a bit, but 25 HRs, 73 RBI and a .265 batting average won’t help much here.

10 RHYS HOSKINS | Philadelphia
– injuries seemed to derail him every time he got hot. Still…hit a HR every 14.4 AB in ‘21.

11 DJ LEMAHIEU | NY Yankees | other positions: 3B, 2B   
– have to think his batting average will resurrect itself. Power is a question mark, though.

12 JARED WALSH | LA Angels | other positions: RF
– 2021 was pretty good but I’m not crazy about 27 year-olds who’ve played just 1 full season.

13 KYLE SCHWARBER | ??? | other positions: LF
– hit 16 HR in 16 days in June, salvaging a pretty mediocre season otherwise.

14 RYAN MOUNTCASTLE | Baltimore | other positions: LF
– had a strong second half to boost his totals but he doesn’t walk and strikes out a ton.

15 JOEY VOTTO | Cincinnati                            
– showed power in 2021 that he hadn’t touched for years but his legendary BA/OBP suffered.

16 C.J. CRON  | Colorado
– he doesn’t get a lot of rub, but the power is legit and he will be the Rockies’ clean up guy.

17 JOSH BELL | Washington | other positions: LF     
– he qualifies at outfield this year which just barely keeps him relevant. New team in ‘22?

18 TREY MANCINI| Baltimore
– comeback was a great story but 21 HR and 77 RBI with a .255 BA again won’t be much help

19 LOURDES GURRIEL JR. | Toronto | other positions: LF
– he probably will only qualify here this year. Won’t win a pool for you but he won’t bury you.

20 BRANDON BELT | San Francisco
– injuries derailed a good power year for him – can he return successfully at age 34?

– if he re-signs with the Yankees, home field dimensions might help him stay relevant.

I can not stress this enough – you do not want any of these players as your everyday first baseman. They’re valuable pieces on your bench because they can cover more than one position, but they aren’t productive enough to be there all year. Of all of them, I think Kirilloff has the highest ceiling, though. I’m hoping not to roster any of the other guys here.

JT Realmuto, PHI (C)Yasmani Grandal, CHW (C)
Jake Cronenworth, SD (2B, SS)Ty France, SEA (2B, 3B)
Alex Kirilloff, MIN (LF, RF)Andrew Vaughn, CHW (LF, RF)
Bobby Dalbec, BOS (3B)Eduardo Escobar, NYM (3B, 2B)
Jonathan Schoop, DET (2B)Patrick Wisdom, CHC (3B, RF)

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