Vlad vs. Freeman: Short, Pianowski debate their top 1B

DJ Short and Scott Pianowski debate their top five fantasy first basemen in 2023 and one has Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the top, while the other has Freddie Freeman.

Video Transcript

DJ SHORT: I have Jose Abreu at number six. And again, we've talked a lot about Abreu, what he could potentially do in that Astros lineup. I think we're going to see a bounceback power wise and counting stats. He'll be there. Should hit for average too. I think he's pretty safe for, like you said earlier, outside the top 100ADP, he's one of the safer picks you can get that late in the draft.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: For sure, which is why I have him at number five. If we would talk about the top guys, Paul Goldschmidt coming off an MVP season, aging gracefully in his 30s. He's been number four first baseman. Pete Alonso maybe the best pure power hitter in the game, and that Mets lineup is super deep.

There's a lot of-- I'm saying that a lot. There's a lot of lineups I want to invest in. I know you're a Mets fan. I got to get some Mets away from you this year when we're drafting against each other. Pete Alonso, my number three guy.

And then I think it's a great debate, and I know we have different answers on this, I have Vladimir Guerrero at two, Freddie Freeman at one. I know a lot of people will have that the other way around. They'll both go with early picks. They're both going to be on the short list of MVP favorites.

Maybe Guerrero gets a little bit of buzz because he hasn't won it yet. So if Guerrero was in the hunt, maybe people would want to give him an MVP, where Freeman's already won it. But man, give me all the Freddie Freeman and Vladimir Guerrero you want because you're not going to want to be sitting that out this year.

DJ SHORT: Yeah, I think it's an interesting debate because when you talk about ceiling, Vlad Junior has the ceiling, but Freddie Freeman has the safer floor. So either way I could see both perspectives with that. With me, I have Vlad Guerrero Junior number one at first base just because of that potential ceiling there.

But going back to the number five for me, I have Matt Olson. And I think a bit of a disappointment in his first season with the Braves replacing Freddie Freeman there, but I mean, his quality of contact is elite. Even last year, Matt's exit velocity 98 percentile, average exit velocity 97 percentile, hard hit percentage 96, better percentage, 93.

He's going to hit for power, we know that. The Braves lineup is very good, very deep. There's been a lot of teams we've said that about, but the weird thing about Matt Olson is this bouncing strikeout rate that he's had. It's been all over the place.

In 2020, the pandemic shortened season, he had a strikeout rate of 31.4%. 2021, went down to 16.8%. Last year, 24.3%. So it's kind of all over the place, and the batting average, wherever it settles, I think is dependent upon where that strikeout rate falls. But I think another year in the National League, familiarizing himself with these pitchers in the National League East, I think could do him some favors there. I'm still really big on Matt Olson, even though he's my number five.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Just at age 29 season too. So this is a lot of baseball left in Matt Olson too.

DJ SHORT: So more of a veteran here, Paul Goldschmidt at number four coming off an MVP season. It feels like people are sleeping on that, actually. He's coming off that MVP, but he's aging gracefully. Quality contact metrics are still fantastic, hit 35 homers last year, even stole seven bases. We thought of him as being done from a speed perspective, but he still fills up the box score, which you want to see there.

And I like that Cardinals lineup. I think there's every reason to think he can be, maybe not MVP caliber again, but still very good. But I'm going with the youth at number three, Pete Alonso. I don't think we've seen his ceiling yet from a fantasy perspective. I know he had that rookie home run record, but made it back to 40 home runs last season, drove in 131 runs.

It's hard to do much better than that, but I can see with the power that Pete Alonso has, he has a 50-homer season in him, he has another one. At some point it's coming down the pike. And what I like about Pete Alonso is that he's not just a power hitter.

You look at the way he's improved with the strikeout rate, hit .271 last year. It's not crazy that he could hit .285, .290 one these years, hit 50 homers. And again, it's hard to bank on 130 RBIs, but he could do that again with a lineup that is very, very good. So I have Pete Alonso at number three.

Freddie Freeman at number two. The only question for me is how much power Freeman can hit for. That's the only reason I put him behind Vlad, who I think he could be a 40-homer hitter annually. And a lineup I really loved there with the Blue Jays, like we mentioned a bit earlier. Vlad's quality contact is elite as well. I think that the sky's the limit for Vlad, whereas Freeman is reliable as it gets at first base, but I think there's a healthy debate there, like you said.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Yeah, it's interesting. So you look at NFBC ADP and the top 30-- the guys in the top 30 at this position are Goldschmidt at 27, Alonso at 20, Freeman at 13, and Vlad's at 11. I think you make the argument that Olson's-- not Olson, Alonso is the best value of that group because he could easily win this tier.

He's had a 53-home run season before. As you said, he hits for average. People lose that. It's easy to get caught up in the power with him. He's in the Home Run Derby every year. He hits these tape measure home runs, but he's not a-- he's not like some .220 swing and miss guy.

I mean, he's a really smart hitter. He has power to all fields. That the Mets have put a tremendous lineup, obviously, they've spent more money than anybody this year and they put a great team on the field. If somebody said to me they wanted to draft Pete Alonso over Freeman or Guerrero, I wouldn't say you're wrong. I didn't rank him that way.

But if you want to-- again, if you're like in a salary cap league where you have a little bit more control over the shape of your roster and you get Alonso a couple of bucks cheaper than these other two guys, I'm fine with that. I think he's the best value of the four.

As far as Freeman and Guerrero, and maybe this is a weakness of me as a fantasy player, with the early picks, sometimes I'm a little bit more floor-driven. And I just think when have I ever regretted a Freddie Freeman pick? Vladimir Guerrero is wonderful. The park is terrific.

The fences are coming in. He's on the escalator. We haven't seen his best season yet. Vladimir Guerrero could win a home run title, he could win a batting title, he could be an MVP, it's in a park that looks like it's going to be Disneyland. These are all great things.

And as you say, Freeman is more of a well-rounded player. He's not going to hit 45 home runs. I get it, but I don't know. I'm a little bit more floor-driven sometimes with these things. So that's why I have Freeman first, but if you and I were co-managing a team, and our pick was on the clock, and you wanted to pound the table for Guerrero, I think I'd be persuaded by that.

DJ SHORT: Yeah, I think they're both safe I think early. And they're likely to be off the board, probably within the first 15 picks of any mixed league draft this spring. So I think it's interesting you bring up tiers because I think Vlad and Freeman are in the first tier. Alonso, Goldschmidt, Olson are in that second tier.

Third tier for me, Abreu, Pascal, Antino, Lowe. And then you go a bit lower, no pun intended, with Crone, Hoskins, Mountcastle, Walker, those kind of guys. To me at that point maybe you're thinking more like corner infielder, that's where you start to think when you get that late in the draft. But I think you can tier these guys out and make your plan based off that.