Abreu, Bell changing teams leads fantasy 1B storylines

DJ Short and Scott Pianowsk discuss the top storylines heading into the 2023 season involving first basemen and it's headlined by Jose Abreu and Josh Bell changing teams.

Video Transcript

DJ SHORT: Let's start out here looking at what changed at the first base position during the off season. Sort of an in case you missed it to start us off at the top here. The biggest move, Jose Abreu. So, he signs a three-year $58.5 million contract with the Astros, which is super interesting.

Obviously, that deep lineup, that scary lineup, there's going to be all kinds of ducks on the pond there for Abreu, coming off a season where he fell off a bit, power-wise. But I love this fit. I'm wondering, what do you think, Scott.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Crazy about it. I mean, I know he's what, 36 now, age 36, but in their projected lineup, going to hit between Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Talk about the catbird seat. And they have a bunch of high OBP guys who are ahead of them. This is very, look, maybe the 8 and 9 spots will be dead spots in this lineup.

But when they have, it looks like Jeremy Pena is going to bat seventh right now is the lineup is constructed. This line of goes seven deep. And they're probably going to be the AL's highest scoring team. And I think the Abreu's getting the right team at the right time, and he's somebody I'm willing to jump the line. I'm going to have, I'm going to try to rank him above ADP, and maybe skip a half round or a round on him or go a little bit extra on those salary cap drafts.

I would like to be proactive on Jose Abreu, and I think the Astros, a team, look, I know people, it's a polarizing team because of what happened with them a few years ago. But it's a smart organization. It's such a deep roster, they're going to score runs by the truckload. You want a piece of this offense. And why not with Jose Abreu, who I think his early ADP is very reasonable.

DJ SHORT: It is. I mean, if he doesn't have 100 RBIs this year, I'm going to be shocked with that lineup. So the flip side of that, obviously, Jose Abreu had a very long tenure with the White Sox. But now, Andrew Vaughn takes over first base there in Chicago. Sort of was pigeonholed into left field when he made his Major League debut. Not really where he belongs. I wonder if we see him make a leap here now that he can go to his more natural position, maybe be a bit more comfortable.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Yeah, I was all in on the White Sox last year. And just, it feels like everything went wrong. Jose Abreu had a mediocre season. Giolito couldn't pitch, for some reason. He was on a bunch of my teams that really went bad. Eloy Jimenez got hurt again. Obviously, Tony La Russa was probably the wrong man at the wrong time. A Hall of Fame manager, but past his relevance date.

So maybe it's a case of buying on the cheap with a lot of these guys. Now Vaughn won't be cheap, because he was really good last year. And it's a little maybe frustrating that he's probably going to hit sixth as the lineup is currently constituted.

But again, a team I think goes about seven deep, right. I mean, who wouldn't want Tim Anderson. Benintendi is going to hit second. He's a high OBP guy. I would love to see Jimenez just get a break from the injury gods. He hasn't had them.

DJ SHORT: Yeah, yeah.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: So this is an offense, I think it has the chance to be, I said Houston, I already gave Houston the run-scoring title in the American League. I think the White Sox could have a puncher's chance to win that themselves. A lot of these guys won't be as expensive. Certainly Vaughn would be a lot more inexpensive in ADP than Jose Abreu would be. And this is another lineup I want to draft into proactively.

In the case of Vaughn, if Abreu's age makes you concerned, I mean, Vaughn's just age 24. He'll turn 25 this year, so you're getting him, he's on the escalator. This is the type of player you like to draft. A young player who's got a ceiling, who hasn't had his best season yet. And that describes Andrew Vaughn.

DJ SHORT: So another big one here, a noteworthy one fantasy-wise, Josh Bell signed a two-year $33 million contract with the Guardians. And it was kind of a tale of two seasons for Bell. Last season started out great with the Nationals. Then was traded to the Padres in the big Juan Soto deal. And his production fell off a cliff.

But what I like about Bell, just really solid plate discipline. Fits in that Guardians lineup very well. And we know how much they value making contact. But he adds an element of power as well. And I like him a lot, because he's going to have those table setters in front of him as well. I just, I think this is a great fit for the Guardians, who needed that sort of middle of the order bat. We saw that in the series against the Yankees during the playoffs. They really lacked that. I think Bell gives them some legitimacy there.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Yeah, I like the way you framed the Cleveland lineup. They do put the ball in play, and they do get on base a lot. They draw a lot of walks. As you said, it's a high OBP team. And Bell probably fits in the middle of that lineup. Right now, hitting behind Kwan, Rosario and Ramirez the way they're constructed. Another switch hitter for them. I like Terry Francona as a manager.

You don't know how much power you're getting from Bell, but you have to look at look, he's going to score a lot of runs. He's in a lineup that maybe not as deep as that Houston, Chicago lineup, but a lineup that goes six deep at least. Should be a plus offense. And you're going to get some of that value back in batting average, because I think this guy could hit maybe .300 in a good year, and I think .270 plus.

We have to reconfigure what we think about batting average. It used to be, oh, I don't want anybody hits .240. Now it's like, your team might hit .240 in a deeper fantasy league. So Josh Bell's going to, maybe he won't hit the 35, 40 home runs, but he could hit 25. And he's going to be a plus player everywhere else. And he's still just age 30. Maybe we haven't seen his best season. I think there's a very sharp move by Cleveland, and I love the way he fits this current lineup.

DJ SHORT: And we also have to mention some of the changes in the rules this offseason. The shift change. Josh Bell is one of those guys, a lefty hitter who I think could benefit from that, maybe to boost him up a few points. He already makes a decent amount of contact, as we said. I think he's a sleeper pick to maybe hit to .290, .300 this season.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: You talk about, Bell obviously a switch hitter, but it's a right-handed league, so he's going to be batting left handed most of the time.


SCOTT PIANOWSKI: The other day I was just having a little daydream that maybe I'll draft the team of all left-handed hitters, thinking that they stand to benefit more, or all switch hitters slash left-handed hitters. Because those are the guys who are getting killed by the shift. All the left-handed hitters getting shifted against.

And I'm actually, I'm probably going to get booed or sacked by some of the sabermetric-friendly people in the crowd, but I'm kind of excited about the shift change. Because I just, watching a player ground out to a keg party in right field is not satisfying to me. And look, I know, why penalize teams for being smart? Hitters should learn to adjust.

But the pitching is so good now. And every team has all these fire-breathing dragons that come out of the bullpen. We don't ask the starting pitcher to go anywhere near as deep as he used to. It's so hard to hit. I don't mind them, And also, somebody would say, well, who cares, they're going to, just trying to hit a home run anyway. They're not trying to hit a single to right field.

But the bottom line is, we're going to see more hits this season, because the defensive positioning won't be as good. And I think, I think it's a good thing. I miss a couple of singles. I don't mind that. If batting average goes up, I think that will make the game a little bit more enjoyable. At least for me, it will.

DJ SHORT: I totally agree. And speaking as someone who sometimes I go to games in person, but if you watch it on TV, I think you're conditioned to a certain way of watching the game. And when you see a ground ball hit up the middle, I think we're used to seeing that ball go into center field.

But in recent years, that ball just gets gobbled up. It's a very jarring thing to watch on television. So I think it'll make it a more exciting game to watch with these shift changes. I'm not against it, especially if it helps us fantasy-wise.


DJ SHORT: A few smaller moves we had here as well. Wil Myers signed with the Reds. Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer, both to the Cubs. Brandon Belt signed with the Blue Jays, made a couple of even smaller moves than that. Dominic Smith to the Nationals. Carlos Santana to the Pirates. From some of these smaller moves, Scott, what is one of them that jumps out to you?

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: If Brandon Belt could ever get full, it's kind of a glass half full, glass half empty. Because he may be a platoon guy in Toronto.


SCOTT PIANOWSKI: But if he's a platoon guy, he's only facing the right-handed pitching, so his ratio stats would be better. We know they're moving the fences in, the dimensions are changing in Toronto. So I think a lot, and that's, I think we're going to have a good debate about Freeman and Vlad Guerrero later. That's one of the hot points is, pick your guy, who do you want.

Because Toronto's lineup is deep and the defenses are coming in. It just looks like, again, I'm giving every team in the American League, I'm going to say they're going to lead the American League in runs, but that Toronto lineup, how can you not look at it and be like, oh, my God, I have to have some of these guys?


SCOTT PIANOWSKI: And even if it goes down to what's a cheaper way I can get invested in the Toronto lineup, it might be Brandon Belt. I also think the Carlos Santana signing is interesting, because he's still got good OBP skills. Another guy who's a switch hitter, maybe picks up a couple of hits from the shift.

And the type of move that you see a smaller market team has to make, and maybe he'll get flipped at the trading deadline. I don't think Carlos Santana is out of relevance. I think he could be a nice, he won't be your headliner at first base by any means, but he could be a nice depth pick you get at a pretty good ADP.

DJ SHORT: Yeah. I like Wil Myers in Cincinnati. I think in that ballpark, he's only a couple of years removed from being a useful player in mixed leagues. I still think there's some possibility there. He's someone who could get traded if he gets off to a hot start. That's something to watch. But in that ballpark, I could see him really surprising some people.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Only 30 years old. He's still, I still think he might have 10 stolen bases in him, too, which is a lot in today's day and age.


SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Another park that anybody in Cincinnati, right, anybody who's going to be in their lineup, you have to take some interest in, because it's one of the four or five best parks. It could be easily the best offensive park this side of Coors Field, and so we always want to get an investment there if we can.

DJ SHORT: Yeah. And another rule change I wanted to mention here is, a lot of us are making that shift from fantasy football to fantasy baseball prep. Remember, there's going to be the pitch clock this year. There's going to be throw over limits for pitchers. The bases are bigger than they've been in the past.

A lot of people are anticipating an uptick in stolen bases. So that's something to think about, especially if you're looking at some of these, like one-trick pony kind of type of speedsters. I don't think there's the need for that quite anymore if you can sort of cobble together 10 stolen bases here, 20 stolen bases there. I think you can win a league that way. So it's another thing to keep in mind as we start to do our fantasy baseball prep this season.