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The best first basemen in baseball reside in the National League.
In most fantasy baseball drafts, the top five players at the position will come from the senior circuit, with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers both coming off the board early.
Freeman is the top true first baseman, while Bellinger has split time between the right corner of the infield and the outfield during his career.
After those two are selected, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets will receive the most draft attention after he produced one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory.
If you miss out on the top three first basemen, you can still get value out of Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt and others, but Freeman, Bellinger and Alonso are in a class of their own.
First Base Rankings
1. Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
3. Pete Alonso, New York Mets
4. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
5. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis
6. Matt Olson, Oakland
7. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh
8. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland
10. D.J. LeMahieu, New York Yankees
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Freeman is coming off a season in which he produced career bests in runs, home runs and RBI.
In addition to his 38 home runs and 121 RBI, the Atlanta first baseman recorded his fifth season with more than 175 hits and an OPS over .930 for the third time.
Freeman should have plenty of run-producing opportunities again in 2020 with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies hitting in front of him.
The addition of Marcell Ozuna should provide some security beneath Freeman as the Braves look to fend off the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals in the National League East.
Freeman did the majority of his damage in 2019 against right-handed pitchers, as he recorded 30 home runs, 97 RBI and a 1.005 OPS.
The 30-year-old had 342 fewer plate appearances against left-handed pitching, and in those matchups, he had eight home runs, 24 RBI and an OPS of .750.
Freeman’s splits even out more when you compare his production at SunTrust Park and on the road. He produced a better batting average, on-base percentage and OPS on the road but had higher power numbers in Georgia.
He should be one of the first sluggers off the board in fantasy baseball drafts, and some owners may feel comfortable taking him in the opening round.
If he does not land in the first 10 to 12 picks, depending on how large your league is, he will not last longer than the second round due to his power and importance within the Atlanta lineup.
Projection: Late first round or early second round.
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The positional flexibility of Bellinger could hand owners an advantage if they draft a certain way. He should play the bulk of his games in the outfield, but he has first base eligibility on all fantasy sites.
The 24-year-old has started 216 games in the outfield and 196 at first base in his career, and he played in the infield on 36 occasions in 2019.
In certain situations, the Dodgers could move Bellinger to first base to make room for A.J. Pollock or Joc Pederson in the lineup.
The versatility of Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez also helps with certain matchups, or if players need days off.
Muncy can move from first base to second or third base, and Hernandez can start at second base or the outfield, which could force Bellinger down to first.
Bellinger delivered more home runs and RBI than Freeman while posting a better OPS in 2019. His 47 home runs, 115 RBI and 1.035 OPS were all career highs.
If you draft him and three other outfielders, you could maximize the power in your lineup since only Freeman and Alonso may be able to match Bellinger’s numbers at first base.
Projection: First round
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Most owners will be buying Alonso’s stock high after he produced 53 home runs and 120 RBI in his rookie season.
If you miss out on Freeman or Bellinger, the Mets star is worth an early selection because of how much he can provide in the power categories.
The argument against choosing Alonso in the first two rounds involves his 183 strikeouts and .260 batting average.
Thirty-four percent of the 25-year-old’s hits were home runs and his on-base percentage of .358 suffered because of that.
Since Alonso is the third-best first baseman in fantasy rankings, he could go earlier than projected because of the need at the position and the power he displayed in 2019.
If he improves his batting average and on-base percentage and cuts down on his strikeouts, he could become more valuable than he was a year ago.
Projection: Third round
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.