It’s always difficult to predict first base fantasy breakouts heading into the season. Most teams seem to have settled situations at 1B, either with an established star or an obvious platoon situation. Either way, it’s tough to call any of those players “sleepers”. That’s once again the case in 2020, but it’s not going to stop us from digging a little deeper in the rankings and highlighting mid-tier/lower-tier players who could outproduce their average draft positions if they find their way into consistent playing time.
Our list features a mix of prospects, bounce-back candidates, and undervalued veterans. There will plenty of prospects worth watching, too, as 1B is a prime position for cheap power from a rookie. You probably won’t need to draft any of the guys on this list, especially if your league doesn’t have a CI spot, but it never hurts to have bench depth/power at the UTIL position. It’s easy to think you’re set at 1B if you have an established veteran, but even if you’re “getting by” with that player, you could be missing out on someone better who’s having a breakout season. Explore every option, both during your draft and once the season starts.
2020 Fantasy Baseball Rankings:
Catcher | First | Second | Third | Short | Outfield | Starter | Reliever | Top 300
2020 Fantasy Baseball 1B Sleepers
Luke Voit, Yankees. Voit was on everyone’s “breakout” list last year after hitting 15 HRs in just 47 games in 2018. Injuries slowed him a bit, but he still managed a respectable .264/.378/.464 line with 21 HRs in 118 games in ’19. Reportedly healthy heading into this season, Voit should be the Yankees’ primary 1B, and while New York has a lot of guys competing for at-bats at virtually every position, Voit’s ability to consistently get on base and hit both lefties and righties almost equally well gives him an advantage. New York should once again be among the league leaders in runs scored, and Voit will be right in the middle of it all as long as he’s on the field. If he plays 150 games, he’ll put up big numbers and far outpace his average draft position.
Jesus Aguilar, Marlins. Aguilar has earned the dreaded “one-year wonder” label after he followed up his breakout 2018 with a complete dud of a ’19. Now in Miami, it’s easy to ignore him, but if he can even come close to regaining his ’18 form, he’ll offer tremendous value. He did strike out less and take more walks last year, so his decline really comes down to making softer contact and hitting more ground balls. If Aguilar continues to struggle, that would open the door for Garrett Cooper to get more at-bats, and he’s another potential sleeper after hitting .281/.344/.446 with 15 HRs in just 107 games last season.
Rowdy Tellez, Blue Jays. Tellez is part of a crowded Toronto 1B/OF/DH group that will be competing for at-bats, but the big lefty has tremendous power after hitting 21 HRs in just 111 games last year. Perhaps most interesting about Tellez is that he actually hit southpaws noticeably better last season (.270/.317/.513), so he doesn’t necessarily have to be platooned. Tellez will probably need a hot start (or an injury) to get everyday at-bats, but he has major upside if that happens.
Jake Bauers, Indians (also eligible at OF). Bauers was a popular sleeper pick heading into last season, but he flamed out quickly and was forced to spend some time at Triple-A. He still wound up with 15 HRs and 11 SBs while maintaining his high BB-rate between the two levels, so the 24-year-old lefty remains an intriguing prospect heading into this season. He reportedly worked on his mechanics all offseason and feels better than ever heading into the year, but most players make similar claims in the spring. If Bauers has truly made improvements and can hold on to an everyday role in Cleveland’s crowded lineup, he has breakout potential given that so few 1Bs provide any stolen bases.
Nate Lowe, Rays. It’s tough to feel great about almost any Ray because of all the similarly skilled and versatile players Tampa has on its roster. Lowe will likely start the year as one of the odd men out, but the 6-4 lefty should make his presence felt at some point. Lowe held his own during his 50 games in the majors last year (.263/.325/.454), but his normally high BB-rate and manageable K-rate both went in the wrong directions. Lowe has little left to prove in the minors(.300/.400/.483), and even though it was a very small sample (28 PAs), it was nice to see him hit well against lefties in the majors (.292/.393/.625). If he starts getting regular at-bats, Lowe is a must-have in fantasy.
Evan White, Mariners. White spent of all last season Double-A (.293/.350/.488 with 18 HRs in 92 games), so it’s tough to project immediate success in the majors, but the big righty comes in with an impressive pedigree. He should get a chance to start right away for the rebuilding Mariners, and if he does, he can certainly provide cheap power and some RBIs. Whether he provides much more than that remains to be seen, but he’s worth watching throughout the spring and early in the year.
Ryan O’Hearn, Mariners. O’Hearn is another holdover on this list from last year, but his shine has dimmed quite a bit. Heading into last season, he was coming off a campaign that saw him club 12 HRs in just 44 games. This year, he’s coming off a season where he mustered just 14 dingers in 105 games, and he has more competition for playing time, especially if the Royals actually use Salvador Perez at 1B more some this season. At this point, O’Hearn might be nothing more than a platoon player against righthanded pitching, but he has the power to put up solid HR totals if he’s given the opportunity for regular at-bats.
Other players eligible at 1B who we’ve listed as sleepers elsewhere: Dominic Smith, Mets (OF), Yandy Diaz, Rays (3B)
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