The top two players on our list are the reigning NL and AL MVPs, highlighting just how valuable First Base position can be.
When you think of a first basemen, what do you picture? A big, long, and, sometimes, chunky player, who doesn't exactly have wheels, but can provide a lot of pop at the plate? Congratulations! You nailed it. Because first basemen are such an archetype, and dole out such similar production, it can be rare that one or a few rise to the level of first round talent.
This year, much like the past few years, really only one *cough* Freeman *cough* might go that high. It's absolutely what I'd call a high floor position. In the third round, you might be just as likely to get a guy who's outpaced by a player in the twelfth round, but, even then, not by much. When you look at what an accomplished 1B can bring to your team, it's easy to see that there's no reason to skimp.
Freeman isn't someone you'd describe as flashy or sexy, but the man rakes, and he rakes consistently. Out of his 10 full professional seasons, he has hit over .300 half of the time, and the rest of the time was within spitting distance.
He usually puts himself right around 20-25 homers, but he really shines as a guy who drives in runs. He's had over 100 RBIs twice, 90 thrice; and last season, if you prorated his number out to a full 162 games, he would've posted an astonishing 143.1 ribbies.
I don't even know how you'd notch a tenth of a run, which makes that feat more impressive. With only a couple seasons marred by injuries, you can pretty much count on the guy to be healthy and in the lineup everyday. He's twice played in all 162 and didn't miss a game last year either. All that being said, he'll be the only guy at this position anyone would consider at the end of the first round, so I'd say getting him at the top of Round Two is a steal.
A home run for Freddie Freeman. A souvenir for a fan. Welcome to the NLCS. (Via @MLBONFOX) https://t.co/diXcO4FVOI— Yahoo Sports MLB (@Yahoo Sports MLB)1602548047.0
Here's a deserving MVP after being the most steady hand on a team that went from the verge of greatness to actual greatness. He's a perennial favorite to lead his league in RBIs, SLG, total bases, and as a guy who just absolutely rakes. He's dealt with injuries for only one season in his career and only missed about 40 games. Unlike some of the guys below him, there's never been a down year to point to, and he represents a gun-to-your-head safe bet for 100 ribbies.
The only Polar Bear in Queens had himself a bit of a sophomore slump after an electric rookie season, in which he set the rookie HR record and led the league with 53 dingers. His average dropped nearly 30 points, showing a worrisome streakiness and a literal boom or bust potential.
But remember, you were never going to draft him for his average. If he can reach the high .240s, which seems more likely by the day, the homers and a decent chunk of the 120 RBIs from his rookie season should return to his stat sheet.
The lumber-swinging farm boy, who seemed like a trade deadline flier and depth piece, has become a starting All-Star quality first baseman over his time in pinstripes. Voit managed to lead the league in homers last season, essentially hitting one every third game and putting up a .277 average, all while dealing with "foot stuff" to boot.
Entering this season fully healthy and with a dangerous team around him should only mean more opportunities to hit dingers and drive in runs.
Like a fair number of players last year after the shutdown, Vlad Jr. started the season not quite in playing shape, and he didn't manage to reach the lofty expectations of his potential and bloodline. This was particularly difficult on the guy, who's notoriously and unfairly been maligned for battling to stay at his fighting weight.
Fast forward to 2021, and we enter the age of Slim Vaddy who looks a lot more like his daddy. Another thing to note: It probably didn't help his production that the Blue Jays were essentially brainstorming from Buffalo around the AL East, which was only settled weeks before Opening Day. Hopefully, having these two issues settled will led to increased powered numbers and the further ascension of Vlad.
THE NEXT TIER
I see the talent here as pretty interchangeable, so no reason to expound on anyone in too much detail. These all represent guys who will hit you DINGERS, then hover around the .240s or .230s or lower (except Goldschmidt, but that's why he's the top of this tier).
In last year's small sample size season, Olson and Muncy both slumped and went under .200, while Rhys and Rizzo managed to stay just above. None of that should bother you, because these guys could win you the HR cat every single week.
ALL THE REST
There's an interesting mix of guys in the group that land in different times, places, and points of their career. Some are looking for a comeback to previous success, some are old vets who have diminishing returns but bring leadership and other qualities to a team, and some are guys on the rise that could by season's end make us all look foolish for rating them so low.
He suffered through a wonky 2020 after mashing 37 homers in his first All-Star season the prior year. As a Pirate who seemed to transcend their inherent Pirate-ness, he became the center of trade rumors on a team that offered little to no protection for their switch-hitting power hitter. A fresh start in Washington surrounded by a different class of talent can only help Bell return to form.
Is 30 dingers too high to reach for? Maybe, but I would have to imagine 20 should be a low bar to clear.
Scoreboard. No really. Josh Bell hit the dang top of the scoreboard. @JBell_19 // #NATITUDE https://t.co/jjj54J5WzW— Washington Nationals (@Washington Nationals)1616806306.0
One of the most intriguing names on the board from a pure mystery standpoint. He played around a third of a full major league season. There are players who slumped for the duration of their entire career up until now and still made the All Star team.
He's absolutely crushed baseballs at every level, so the odds of him forgetting how to now are slim. In fact, he originally started as a shortstop, but his lack of defensive value prompted the switch to first base as a way to get his bat through the system faster. We could look back and wonder how we all missed an utter breakout season that was right in front of our noses, or how we all thought this guy was worth this eating and never hear from him again.
Ryan Mountcastle is in Ryan Mountcastle form 🔥 https://t.co/o1WMByFL8Z— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Baltimore Orioles 😷)1616715737.0
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.
The NFL's all-time leader in receiving yardage per game is looking for a new home.
Five time all-pro, Julio Jones, stated on FS1's Undisputed earlier this week that he was "out" of Atlanta and that his only focus on where he wants to play next year includes winning. This corroborates with reports back in April as Ian Rapoport indicated the Falcons were receiving calls for their star receiver prior to the NFL Draft.
It's no surprise that Jones wants out considering the Falcons have only made the playoffs once since their Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Jones is 32 now and coming off a season where nagging injuries kept him off the field for all but nine games in 2020. In those games Jones caught 51 balls for 771 yards while adding three touchdowns. Having only reached double-digit touchdowns once in his career in 2012, the volume and yardage have always been Julio's strengths. A lack of availability would certainly hurt his chances to be a major contributor for any title-contender.
According to SportsLine, the teams with the best odds to land Jones are as follows as of May 28, 2021.
- Patriots +200
- 49ers +300
- Titans +400
- Raiders +600
- Ravens +700
- Chargers +900
- Colts +1000
- Packers +1200
- Dolphins +1400
- Jaguars +1500
- Cowboys +2000
The theoretical talk about where Julio will go has been fun. But as we approach June 1 the situation is going to get real, and most experts believe we'll see a trade sooner than later. If it weren't for the fact that Atlanta is in such a bad salary cap situation, the organization and GM Terry Fontenot, may have tried to salvage the relationship as we're seeing the Packers attempting to do with Aaron Rodgers. But as it stands Atlanta isn't going to be able to sign their own draft class to contracts as they only have around $340K in available cap.
The Atlanta Falcons have discussed several trade offers for Julio Jones, including an offer for a future first roun… https://t.co/wkaP9RPs2O— Dianna Russini (@Dianna Russini)1622122213.0
By trading Jones after June 1 the Falcons will only take on a dead cap hit of $7.75 million, saving them $15.3 million if dealt before that date. The Patriots (+200) have jumped up the oddsmaker's list and are now sitting as the favorites to land Julio. The check all the boxes you would want checked if you're the Falcons front office.
They have a first round pick they can send, which is something the Falcons have made clear is an important piece. They are coming off a season where it doesn't appear giving them Jones in a trade would be enough to push them to winning the Super Bowl. Finally they're in the AFC, and teams rarely like to trade stars within their own conference.
When Atlanta says no to Julio Jones for N’Keal Harry and two 6th round picks https://t.co/EAN8caa731— Boston Diehards (@Boston Diehards)1621973206.0
The Patriots are in pseudo-rebuild mode. They're doing a lot of things to set a new foundation for the future (Mac Jones) but have aggressively spent money in free agency this offseason and bringing back Cam Newton means that Bill Belichick saw enough that he liked to run it back. Bringing in Julio to line up outside with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry in double tight end sets allows the Pats to continue to let Cam take off on designed run calls. Now that I'm thinking this out, maybe trading Julio to the Patriots does make them a Super Bowl contender.
Another great landing spot for Jones would be in San Fran and they have the second best odds (+300) to do so. The selection of Trey Lance indicates the team is ready to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo and they can save $25 million by simply cutting him after June 1. That would mean it would be very easy for them to take on Jones' salary, but the question is whether the Falcons would want to send their disgruntled star to an NFC power house.
Give Julio Jones back to Kyle Shanahan https://t.co/6DWAchs1SZ— PFF (@PFF)1621954860.0
Although the Ravens (+700) aren't one of the favorites to trade for Julio, they should be making calls to Atlanta. Baltimore drafted Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace in the draft to help bolster the group and Sammy Watkins signed with the team in the offseason. Hollywood Brown is an okay B-level Tyreek Hill.
But the team is going to have to pay Lamar Jackson and their championship window on his rookie deal runs out after this season. The fifth year option has already been exercised and while that means that Lamar will still be a Raven in 2022, the $1.8 million cap hit in 2021 jumps to just over $23 million next year. That makes the Ravens cap situation for bringing in Jones murky taking into consideration Lamar's contract increase.
The last team that is just fun to consider before that June date is if the Packers front office actually did something good, and figured out a way to get Julio Jones to Green Bay (+1,200). Now this situation is not only highly unlikely, it's virtually impossible. GM Brian Gutekunst has put the team in a very unfavorable cap situation for next season, and they only boast around $5 million in available cap now while still needing to sign draft picks.
But it's about the only way I see Aaron Rodgers willingly playing football for the Packers next season. It would be pretty tough to walk away from a duo of Davante Adams and Julio Jones, even though it may mean they would be losing an important defensive piece or Aaron Jones in an attempt to match up contracts in a potential deal with Atlanta.
The image of Julio donning the Falcons helmet with the jet black visor will always be the way I'll remember him, but it's apparent that it won't be how we'll see him ending his career. We should have a better idea of who the serious bidders are for the receiver's services by mid next week.
The play-ins have been a short, but wild rollercoaster and the playoffs are getting ready to set off.
The seeds are finally set, and the first-round matchups are 76ers(1) vs Wizards(8), Nets(2) vs Celtics(7), Bucks(3) vs Heat(6), and Knicks(4) vs Hawks(5).
Today’s #NBAPlayoffs schedule 📺 ▪️ MIA/MIL: 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals rematch ▪️ DAL/LAC: 2nd consecutiv… https://t.co/VBl9jKJOJF— NBA (@NBA)1621693800.0
76ers vs Wizards:
The Russell Westbrook-Joel Embiid rivalry will continue during this year's playoffs and fans cannot wait. The Wizards finished the season with a 16-6 record, and after a lackluster start this season, they have made themselves a dangerous 8th seed. While the 76ers didn't finish the season hot, I'm sure with a team-full of veterans, rest was more of a priority. The 76ers beat the Wizards three times during the season, but two of those games were very close and came early in the season.
The Wizards can definitely make this series a challenging one for the 76ers. The Wizards have shooters all around with Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans. But the 76ers have a much deeper team with guys like Danny Green, Seth Curry, and Dwight Howard providing good veteran leadership. The Wizards are riding on the health of Bradley Beal, who has dealt with hamstring tightness in the past two weeks.
Nets vs Celtics:
The Nets finally seem to be healthy just in time for the playoffs, which is dangerous for Boston. Although the Nets big three only played eight games together, the Nets still finished with a 48-24. The Nets also have a great mix of reliable veterans like Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, and Joe Harris. These two teams meet three times during the regular season with Brooklyn taking all three games.
The Celtics have not lived up to expectations this year. After making a conference finals last year, it was expected to carry through the regular season, but they never found their stride. Jaylen Brown will continue to be sidelined with a broken wrist, so most of the load will be carried by Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. I see this series being an easy one for the Nets.
Jaw-dropping handles, unlimited scoring ability and incredible playmaking… Kyrie Irving. #ThatsGame Kyrie and th… https://t.co/Oxb2hKv6OL— NBA (@NBA)1621697400.0
Bucks vs Heat:
A rematch of the heated second-round matchup last year, where the Heat upset Milwaukee, who had Giannis dealing with injuries. Interestingly enough, both of these come to the playoffs on the right side with an 8-2 record in their last 10 regular-season games. Giannis is back with more weapons on his sides like Jrue Holiday, PJ Tucker, and Jeff Teague, while also keeping their core from last year. Giannis had had another MVP-type season averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds.
The Miami Heat started the season off slow, probably because of the NBA finals hangover, but got hot after the all-star break. Miami also acquired many new weapons like Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon. The Jimmy Butler-Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup will be the most important aspect of this series.
Knicks vs Hawks
After what seems like a lifetime drought, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs! We can all agree that when the Knicks are good, the league is in better spirits. Tom Thibodeau has turned this team around, and you can't forget about how Julius Randle has been playing this season. Possibly the most improved player, Julius Randle has proved all his doubters wrong and has taken the keys to this Knicks franchise. The Knicks have great veteran leadership with guys like Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson who are familiar with Thibodeau. They also have great young talent with guys like RJ Barret, and Obi Toppin.
The Hawks on the other hand have turned it around since firing Lloyd Pierce and having Nate McMillan made this team do a complete 180. Trae Young and John Collins are one of the best duos in the league. With guys like Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who can get hot at any point of the game. This series can definitely go to 7 games, with last-second shots determining the outcome.