Fantasy Baseball 2021: First base rankings, tiers, draft strategies and more to know

Get ready for your 2021 fantasy baseball draft by diving in to the first base position
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While not quite as deep as in years past, the first base position is stacked with enough intriguing names at the top that you don't necessarily have to jump early to grab one of the top players. That doesn't mean you should completely avoid taking a Freddie Freeman or Cody Bellinger; I've landed plenty of the former in my leagues so far this year at the Round 1/2 turn, for example. But it does mean you shouldn't feel panicked to grab one of the guys in the 8-12 range for fear of missing out, as there are plenty of great values and sleepers to be had that can go in your utility, corner infield or even your primary first baseman slot.

So how should you attack the position heading into your draft? I've done numerous mock and real snake and salary cap drafts heading into the 2021 MLB season, and I'm here to share the things I've learned so far. If you're a regular subscriber to SportsLine, you probably know me from dominating NFL picks for years, but did you know I actually got my start in sports media as a fantasy baseball analyst? I even finished No. 1 among all experts for my draft rankings the first year FantasyPros tracked MLB expert accuracy on their site.

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More tiered rankings: C1B2B3BSSOFSPRP

Here's how I'm ranking and approaching the first base position for fantasy baseball in 2021:

First base ranking tiers

1. Freddie Freeman, ATL
2. Cody Bellinger, LAD

Freeman is heading into that 30-plus age range for first basemen where you start to worry about them falling off a cliff, but there's zero in his profile to expect that's coming any time soon, if at all, with Freeman. Just look at last year's MVP campaign, where he delivered the best ratios of his career over the smaller sample-size season. He'll even chip in a handful of steals for Roto players, something you don't get from many first baseman on the list. Feel comfortable taking him any time after Pick No. 10. Bellinger put together a dud of a performance after his MVP season in 2019, but I don't really have any concerns about him. Still, I'm typically looking elsewhere in the second round if I don't nab Freeman.

3. Jose Abreu, CHW
4. DJ LeMahieu, NYY
5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR
6. Luke Voit, NYY
7. Pete Alonso, NYM

These are all fine players, but I tend not to shop in this tier much this season (save for LeMahieu, who I'm playing at 2B when I grab him), preferring instead to take harder-to-fill positions or load up on pitching while these guys are going off the board. But the upside of Guerrero in particular is tough to pass on, especially considering he could pick up third-base eligibility again at some point in 2021.

8. Paul Goldschmidt, STL
9. Matt Olson, OAK
10. Anthony Rizzo, CHC
11. Max Muncy, LAD
12. Rhys Hoskins, PHI
13. Dominic Smith, NYM  

Again, nothing particularly wrong with the top four names on this list, but with them coming off the board in the top 100, I prefer to wait a little bit longer to fill first base if I didn't take Freeman at the top of the draft. Muncy is a nice guy to target in OBP-focused leagues; I've loved having him in my dynasty points league the last few years and moving him around to accommodate the rest of my roster with his position versatility. I wait a round or two after the top four on this list are gone and then cast my lot with Hoskins, who has been a pretty consistent performer over the last three years even if he hasn't reached the heights of his rookie campaign, or Smith, who has done nothing but crush the ball the past two seasons, delivering a .299/.366/.571 line with 21 homers in 396 plate appearances. A bat like that will force his way into the lineup, even if he's a liability in the outfield.

14. Josh Bell, WAS
15. Mike Moustakas, CIN
16. Eric Hosmer, SD
17. Andrew Vaughn, CHW
18. Ryan Mountcastle, BAL
19. Miguel Sano, MIN

Plenty of solid options here, but the one with major upside is Vaughn, who won't be in the minors long if he doesn't break camp with the team already. He had only one real season in the minors after being taken third overall in the 2019 draft, but by all accounts he's ready to contribute at the major-league level. He has the type of upside you should be looking for in the back half of your drafts, and I would think about taking him any time after Pick No. 150.

20. Carlos Santana, KC
21. Jared Walsh, LAA
22. C.J. Cron, COL
23. Christian Walker, ARI
24. Hunter Dozier, KC
25. Bobby Dalbec, BOS

First base strategies

Again, Freddie Freeman is my guy early in Round 2 if I can get him, and if I can't, I'm typically waiting until the top 10 names at the position are off the board before looking toward guys like Dominic Smith and Rhys Hoskins. I have landed Jose Abreu at a relative discount during draft season as well, so I don't think you have to stick to this strategy 100% if the value in your draft dictates pivoting.

At corner infield, I love snagging Carlos Santana, particularly in OBP-focused formats as he's largely a forgotten name at the position. C.J. Cron offers a ton of power upside in Colorado after having his contract selected, so make sure he's on your list of end-game options for corner infield or utility as well.

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R.J. WhiteSuper Stat Geek

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