Big Board's Picks: First Base

This week at Harper Wallbanger, I'm sorting through the Big Board for 12-team 5x5 leagues to find the must-draft and must-avoid players at each position. Let's keep it rolling with first base!

STATE OF THE POSITION

I really prefer to come out of the first round with one of the elite 3B's this year, which means I'll be missing out on great seasons from Goldy, Miggy, and Rizzo, but I won't fault anyone for drafting those guys with confidence. The next tier or two are ranked pretty well in each of the major formats, and can provide great power-AVG bases for your team to build from. I would prefer to have one of the top-10 guys in my 1B slot, but there are lots of great targets mid-to-late that can fill your IF/CI/UTIL slots. It drops off quick, so don't find yourself left holding the bag with the risky bottom tier that can include the likes of Cron, Bour, Vargas, Carter, and Napoli.

Target: Tommy Joseph
540 PA, 28 HR, 63 R, 81 RBI, 3 SB, .259 AVG

I'm moving towards the conservative side on Tommy J's playing time projection (FGDepth has him for 595PA) to account for the potential risks posed by his past concussion issues as well as the exciting surplus of young outfielders on the Phillies' 40-man that could be pushed to 1B. Even with that adjustment, he's a top-15 first baseman, so there is serious upside here. He put up a 40-homer pace in 2016 in just about the quietest way possible, and xFantasy mostly believed, regressing both his power (28 xHR in 600 PA) and average (.256 xAVG) a bit. He's no slam dunk, but the projections believe in him, and there is room for growth here when you consider last year was his first full season since 2012.

When to target: Round 16 in all formats. Might last 'til Round 17. 

Risk profile: Medium. (health)

Target: Gregory Bird
500 PA, 25 HR, 66 R, 72 RBI, 3 SB, .264 AVG

This time last year, I was pining over what could have been for Greg Bird in 2016 had he been healthy. It seemed the Yankees' starting first baseman job was being handed to him on a silver platter. Cut to this year, and suddenly the competition is looking tough, with the Yankees bringing in Chris Carter and Matt Holliday to possibly fill in for him or platoon. I'm not buying it. The Yankees are planning to be competitive and couldn't afford to risk having nobody to fill in for Bird if he wasn't fully recovered from his labrum surgery. That said, they aren't the most "win now" team, and should let Bird play through some struggles, should he have them. Expect Carter and Holliday to DH or ride the pine, as Bird has put on an impressive show in spring training so far. I don't care about the stats specifically, but reading the numbers, I see the word "HEALTHY". Pencil him in for 500 PA conservatively (he could potentially be eased in, or platooned early on), and expect awesome power when he plays.

When to target: Round 19 in CBS/Yahoo. Late Round 16, early Round 17 in ESPN, where he's ranked much higher.

Risk profile: Medium. (platoon)

Avoid: Adrian Gonzalez
588 PA, 21 HR, 67 R, 81 RBI, 1 SB, .267 AVG

At this point in his career, Adrian's best skills center around complaining (Exhibit A, B, and C). He receives a decidedly 'meh' projection here, backed up well by his xFantasy line from last year (21 xHR, .260 xAVG) as he's settled into the decline phase of his career. I would much rather have Bird and Joseph, who are in the same tier of value, but going several rounds later due to lack of name value. They both have upside as well, whereas I can only see downsides for Gonzalez. Cody Bellinger is also making a case this spring for the Dodgers' 1B job, and while that definitely isn't happening out of camp, it could certainly happen some time this summer. The Dodgers have proven they are not afraid to park a salary like Adrian's firmly on the bench or waiver wire. That said, I also believe there is a big dropoff at 1B after these three guys, so you might get stuck with him. Don't put yourself in a spot where you're forced to hit the panic button and draft Complainin' Adrian.

Risk profile: Mid-to-High.