Most fantasy baseball owners just “expect” to find a 1B, whether it’s in the draft or on the waiver wire throughout the season. Most first basemen provide homers and RBIs; the elite ones give you average and runs. Once the best of the best are off the board, you’re basically just looking for guys who get everyday playing time and/or have the upside to really improve. As such, the term “sleeper” might apply less to first base than it does any other position, as the true “breakouts” often occur in the form of third-tier players jumping into the first tier, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some potentially worthwhile late-round options.
With the exception of Trey Mancini (and maybe Andrew Vaughn), the players listed below will only be considerations in deep leagues. That said, shallow leaguers should pay attention to these guys once the season starts, as it wouldn’t be a shock if they were useful in your UTIL spot. All of these players are in play if you have a CI spot in your league.
First base isn’t a position you need to reach for in drafts. There are enough established sluggers that you will get someone who produces, no matter when you draft your starter. But there are always power breakouts, and the players below might just be those guys this year. At the very least, they’re potential matchup plays if you’re in a daily transaction/roster-change league. Know the splits and take advantage of a player’s strengths when he’s getting at-bats.
Fantasy Baseball 1B Sleepers: Breakout first basemen, late-round steals
Position eligibility based on Yahoo’s default settings
Jared Walsh, Angels. Playing time might be an issue, as the 27-year-old lefty could easily fall into a platoon with Albert Pujols, but Walsh had a mini breakout last year, clubbing nine homers in 32 games. Perhaps even more noteworthy, he significantly cut down on his strikeout percentage (13.9) and fared well against lefties (.324/.306/.474 in 36 plate appearances), though both seem unsustainable. Regardless, Walsh, who hit 36 HRs at Triple-A in 2019, has big-time power and RBI upside.
Nate Lowe, Rangers. Lowe seems likely to fall into a platoon role again this season, but it’s unfair to say the 25-year-old slugger can’t hit lefties — he just hasn’t been given much of an opportunity (.231/.333/.436 in 45 career plate appearances vs. LHP). Maybe that will change in Texas, but either way, Lowe, who posted a .300/.400/.486 line in 405 career minor league games, will hit homers, take walks, and strike out when he gets major league at-bats. The average won’t be great, but he’ll produce when he’s in the lineup. If he carves out at everyday role, that could mean big power and RBI numbers.
Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox. Dalbec hit eight homers in just 23 major league games last year after hitting at least 27 in the minors in both 2018 and ’19. The 25-year-old slugger is a classic high-strikeout, high-walk, big-power hitter. That type of player can seem like a dime-a-dozen in shallow leagues, but depending on just how many homers Dalbec hits, he’ll likely be a worthwhile contributor in deeper formats, especially those with a CI spot.
Andrew Vaughn, White Sox. Vaughn has a good chance of breaking camp as Chicago’s everyday DH, and the 22-year-old slugger is likely to produce at least decent numbers in that role. An elite college hitter who’s played just 55 professional games (plus spent time in the expanded player pool last year), Vaughn can also man first base and potentially third base. Either way, his bat will likely make an impact, and given his above-average contact skills and role in Chicago’s stacked lineup, the fantasy numbers are sure to follow.
C.J. Cron, Rockies. Cron is ticketed for everyday at-bats in Coors Field to start the season. That might be all we need to say. At 31, he’s not exactly ancient, and while it is a bit worrisome he’s be on three different teams the past three seasons and came to Rockies camp on a minor league contract, the fact is he hit 55 homers in 2018 and ’19 combined before hitting four in 13 games with the Tigers last season. Cron has power (especially against lefties), which, again, might be all that matters. It’s possible the strikeouts pile up and he doesn’t get on base enough, but if he can stay in the lineup. he’ll be worth a late-middle-round pick.
Trey Mancini, Orioles (also eligible at OF). Remember him? Mancini missed last year while undergoing treatment for colon cancer, but he’s back after a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him hit .291/.364/.535 with 35 HRs, 106 Rs, and 97 RBIs. It would be ambitious to expect Mancini to repeat those numbers, but he has the potential to be an upper-tier 1B (or second-tier OF). He’s being a bit undervalued in drafts, so be ready to grab him if he starts slipping too far.
Other 1B-eligible sleepers written about elsewhere: Ryan Mountcastle (OF), Jake Cronenworth (2B, SS), Alec Bohm (3B), Ryan McMahon (2B, 3B), Mike Brosseau (2B, 3B)