Five First Base Busts for the 2024 Season

Matt Cohen explores the first baseman you want to avoid in fantasy.

The cold corner in fantasy this year is a very polarizing position. Unless you’re taking one of the very top players at first base early, you’re likely not taking one until much later. That’s the type of drop-off between the tiers this season. And while plenty of first basemen have hype attached to them by being labeled trendy sleeper picks, I’m going to identify the first basemen you want to avoid at their current ADP.


Spencer Steer, Cincinnati Reds, 97 ADP


Yes, I did just write about his value in OBP leagues, but that doesn’t make Steer a great get across the board. Steer is considered by many to be one of this year’s trendiest first base gets, but most people aren’t looking carefully enough under the hood to see why drafting him this early isn’t a great idea. Steer can get on base, but part of that was due to a .318 BABIP last season, sixth at his position. Okay, maybe that isn’t all bad, but his wOBA vs. xwOBA difference was 0.022, second at his position. This means he got on base more than his expected numbers would suggest. Fine, some guys can zig while the expected numbers tell them to zag, but there’s more to Steer’s story. His ISO was just .192, eighth in his position. His actual slugging versus expected slugging differential was the third highest at the position. For almost all leagues, a first baseman in fantasy needs to be a lineup leader, someone who can hit dingers and drive lots of guys in. Steer’s power was not especially great, and even in the numbers that show he hit for some power, they were higher than what was expected. Drafting him among the first 100 players is too high for an expected power position in my lineup.

But it’s not just his power that concerns me. His barrels per plate appearance percentage (Brls/PA%) was 25th positionally. His sweet spot percentage (SwSp%) was 18th. His hard-hit rate was 25th amongst all first basemen and his chase percentage was in a rather pedestrian 78th percentile, even in today’s whiff-tastic era. His average exit velo was only 88.7, 22nd at the position. If first base is truly one of the more lock-and-play positions in my lineup, I’ll be steering clear of this player at their current ADP.


Cody Bellinger, 54 ADP


Perhaps it would be wise for me to wait and see where Bellinger ends up. After all, returning to his former team would be the best-case scenario for all involved, especially since Bellinger resuscitated his career at the Friendly Confines. Bellinger’s numbers were pretty fantastic last year, but when looking closer, that 54 ADP is just too high a price to pay for a player like Bellinger.

Belly’s BAPIP was fifth at the cold corner, but his batting average versus expected batting average differential was tops at the position. His ISO was a solid .218, 30th overall in the league, but his slugging versus expected slugging differential was also the highest at first base, telling me some of that power isn’t likely to continue. These only tell part of the story. Bellinger’s wOBA vs. xwOBA was also tops among first basemen. His Brls/PA% was 24th at the position, his hard hit rate was 29th, his chase rate in the poor 33rd percentile, and his average exit velo was 25th. These numbers indicate to me a man who took advantage of some decent luck to propel him to a resurgent season. Even if some of his numbers continue, like his seventh-ranked 38.0 percent SwSp%, coming off the board as the sixth-highest first basemen right now is too rich for my blood. The last piece is the holistic view. His 2023 is on the heels of his 2021 and 2022 seasons when he had an OPS+ of 44 and 81, respectively. For reference, his career OPS+ average is 135 when excluding those seasons. So which hitter is he? I’m not bold enough to draft him that high to find out.


Yandy Díaz, Tampa Bay Rays, 110 ADP


Diaz is an example of a player whom I normally don’t have any major concerns with drafting given he has shown some consistency throughout his career, but given the jump he made last season and the ADP, I’m choosing to either take one of the top-tier first basemen early or avoid Diaz altogether.

There are reasons to like Diaz’s play, with an elite chase rate in the 92nd percentile and his 93.4 average exit velo and 54.0 percent hard-hit rate that both ranked him second among first basemen. But these numbers came at a price, as his .367 BABIP was second at the position last season. Additionally, his batting average alone was nearly 20 points higher than his previous career-high, with his batting average differential placing as the second highest at the position. His on-base differential was also the fourth highest. His Brls/PA% ranked 12th at the cold corner and his 28th ranked SwSp% left plenty to be desired.

Perhaps among all of the first basemen on this list, Diaz might be the most likely to continue his hot-hitting ways from a year ago, especially due to his lack of striking out, but these numbers indicate to me that he too benefitted from a little too much luck for my liking. 110 ADP is just a little too high for me to hope for what came our way from Diaz last season.


Anthony Santander, Baltimore Orioles, 127 ADP


Santander has had the unfortunate privilege of finding his name on many of these lists in the past couple of seasons, and his ADP has appropriately dropped some as a result. His BABIP (.299) was fine alongside his batting average difference from his expected (fifth at the position). What concerns me are the rest of his numbers. His ISO was only .215, seventh positionally. His Brls/PA% was 11th. His SwSp% was 22nd. He chased pitches at an awful rate that placed him in the 17th percentile. His on-base differential was third-highest and his average exit velo and hard-hit rate were both middle of the pack among first basemen.

Santander is a classic example of a player who offers more value to their team in real life than in fantasy. If you pay the price to take him among the first eight or nine first basemen off the board because he plays for a World Series contender, you’re going to find out real quickly you should have looked elsewhere for better draft value.


Wilmer Flores, San Francisco Giants, 283 ADP


Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here since a 283 ADP isn’t exactly losing much value. But as mentioned earlier, if you don’t get a top-tier first baseman earlier, your better bet is to find them later in the draft. Flores, however, might be one you wish to skip.

To the naked eye, yes, Flores had a decent season in 2023. However, his BABIP was 14 points higher than his career batting average. His batting average differential was highest at the position behind Bellinger. Same with his on-base and slugging differentials. He wasn’t even ranked in the top thirty or so first basemen in ISO and Brls/PA%. He was 28th in SwSp% and had the second lowest average exit velo among first basemen.

If you’re getting to this point in the draft without a cold corner fixture, you might be getting desperate, and unless you’re lineup is stacked elsewhere, Flores is another player to skip right over and find better value elsewhere.

Matt Cohen

Matt Cohen is a Fantasy Baseball here bat Pitcher List. In addition to being a fantasy writer, he's a dog lover, Simpsons fanatic, hiker, baker, and teacher.

2 responses to “Five First Base Busts for the 2024 Season”

  1. Mario Mendoza says:

    But, all of these are multi-position players, who will not be used at 1B… They are perfectly good for MI, C, and rounding out an OF.

  2. Zach says:

    Santander as a 1B – not great. Santander as a 3rd OF – Pretty good? Ya kinda know what he’s gonna be and he’s in a pocket of the draft where others can’t really flirt with 30/85 and an average that won’t kill you.

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