The Strikeout: 2023 fantasy baseball first and third base preview

With the third base position being so lackluster this year, who can you reasonably expect to give you value? And which first basemen am I targeting?

[A photo of two Astros players high fiving.]

“The Strikeout” is a column by Diego Ynzunza dedicated to all things fantasy baseball.

Welcome to the third week of “The Strikeout.” This week, I’ll be previewing first and third base for 2023.

In general, I’m looking to get surefire production from third base early. Your choices will fade quickly, so I’m looking to use one of my first five picks to get one, with the exception of one guy who is going a bit later. For first base, the position runs a bit deeper. Even if you wait until you get to the pick 150 range, you can find good value down there.

Starting with my top 10 at first base, I see it stacking up as follows:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  2. Freddie Freeman
  3. Paul Goldschmidt
  4. Pete Alonso
  5. Matt Olson
  6. Nathaniel Lowe
  7. Anthony Rizzo
  8. Rhys Hoskins
  9. Christian Walker
  10. Luis Arraez

For third base, this is how I see things playing out:

  1. Jose Ramirez
  2. Manny Machado
  3. Rafael Devers
  4. Nolan Arenado
  5. Bobby Witt Jr.
  6. Austin Riley
  7. Alex Bregman
  8. Max Muncy
  9. Gunnar Henderson
  10. Eugenio Suarez

For first base, I’m privy to Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy put up an MVP year last year, and I believe people are expecting him to regress. In reality, he’s been very consistent and put up similar numbers to 2022 in almost every season since 2013. His NFC ADP of 26 is a steal for the production he will offer.

However, I’d like to take a deeper look at Christian Walker’s numbers. Walker has quietly put up tremendous numbers. Last year was by far his best, as he put up 36 homers and 94 RBI, all while walking more than he ever has. I find it intriguing that his best year came when he had a career-low K and Chase percentage. If he continues on that same trajectory, I can see him coming close to last year’s numbers. The counting stats will most likely stay similar to last year as well with the addition of guys like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Gabriel Moreno and the emergence of top prospect Corbin Carroll to provide him some protection in the lineup.

As far as late sleepers, I’m looking to target Isaac Paredes. Paredes is typically going late in leagues, just barely inside the top 400. He’s eligible at first, second and third base, so he can offer up some much-needed positional eligibility. In just 381 plate appearances last year, he slugged 20 homers. The power is accompanied by a K% in the 73rd percentile, as well as a Chase Rate in the 94th percentile. He also plays tremendous defense, which will most definitely keep him on the field. I see Paredes as a 20+ homer, big slugging type, late-round dart who can provide multi-position eligibility with a bit of upside in terms of counting stats, just because of how much he walks.

As I said previously, third base is tricky. I’d really like to deep dive into Alex Bregman, to see if there is any possibility of him returning top-five position value. Bregman will begin 2023 at 28, right in the middle of his prime. Last year was a mini return to form for the former All-Star, after a couple of years when he performed below his career norms. He was able to elevate the ball closer to his 2019 levels by hitting 23 homers returning to a 19.5 average launch angle — a vast improvement from 2020 and 2021. He sports a good amount of red on his Baseball Savant page, even in the years in which he underperformed. He’s always been well above average in K%, BB% and Chase Rate. He will likely always boast excellent counting stats, as he sits in the middle of one of the best line-ups in baseball. The BAT X on FanGraphs projects Bregman to be the second-best third baseman in baseball, just behind Jose Ramirez. While I would still probably take Ramirez and Machado over him, I think there’s a tremendous possibility to wait to get Bregman. He’s going to perform similarly to Nolan Arenado and Rafael Devers, two guys going more than 50 picks ahead of him. If I miss out on one of the top-five third basemen, Bregman will not be a consolation prize for me at his NFC ADP of 76.

A deep-round third baseman I’m targeting is Gio Urshela. Urshela is reuniting with his former hitting coach, Phil Plantier. Plantier was the Yankees’ Triple-A hitting coach when Urshela was with them in 2018, and he credits Plantier with a lot of his career resurgence. In general, Plantier was able to tap into Urshela’s pull-side power, which led to his career high of 21 home runs in 2019. If he can tap back into that, he has an upside of 20 home runs, while maintaining his floor of a .260 batting average.

Even if Urshela isn’t hitting the ball out, he will provide a good batting average, as well as decent counting stats. He currently sports an NFC ADP of 446, so I’m looking to get him with one of my last picks. The only issue for him is playing time. The Angels currently have a crowded infield, with the likes of Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher and Luis Rengifo competing for time. If Urshela is producing, I don’t see him struggling to get at-bats. If anything, he could gain multi-position eligibility if Rendon is holding down third base.

Thanks for joining me for this week’s edition of The Strikeout. Next week, I’ll be diving into second base and shortstop.

“The Strikeout” runs every Monday.