First Base Rankings
Welcome to the next installment of Baseball Nation’s Fantasy Rankings. Before we go any further, let me list a few of the things that I have taken into consideration when making these rankings.
- Player's Age
- Track Record (last 3 years)
- Average Draft Position (ADP)
- A Few Advanced Statistics (BABIP, K%, HR/FB%...)
All of that put together creates these lists that are inherently flawed because they are my opinions and not necessarily fact. Feel free to add your own thoughts and opinions. That’s what these lists are all about.
For years, first base has been one of the more talent filled fantasy positions. It was relatively easy to find a guy that is a lock to hit 30 HR and drive in 100 RBI. This year however, it is deceptively shallow. Last year has to be the first in a looooong time that no 1B hit 40 or more home runs. The top 6 guys are solid, reliable options, but once you move past them there are a lot of flaws to be found. Let’s take a look, and you can decide for yourself.
1) Miguel Cabrera* – I am not going to lie. I have a man crush on Cabrera. There are 3 things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and Miggy hitting 30 HR and 100+ RBI. He has been an elite hitter since he entered the league, and in his age 29 season he still has 4 to 5 more years of dominance left in him. Add to that he will become 3B eligible, and it is hard not to fall in love. He very well could be the first pick in many leagues with that added 3B eligibility.
2) Albert Pujols – It’s amazing how long it has taken Pujols to appear human. A “down” year for him last year would still make him a top 5 1B in any league. He is switching leagues and has the pressure of that mega contract/expectations, but I don’t think he will be fazed. He is simply too good. Best player of his generation. Expect another 35-40 HR and 100+ RBI.
3) Joey Votto – He took a step back from 2010 last year, but let’s be honest here. Most mortals would take a step back from Votto’s 2010. His power outage to start the year was disappointing, but he made it up in the second half of the season to finish with 29 HR and 103 RBI. HE is entering his age 28 season, and is in a ballpark that highly favors right-handed power hitters. The only problem is Votto is a lefty and the Great American Ballpark is only slightly favorable for left-handed batters. Anyways, look for him to do much of what he did in 2011 and return to double-digits in stolen bases.
4) Adrian Gonzalez – Adrian’s HR total may have dropped by 4 last year (31 to 27), but he improved in almost every other offensive category with career highs in Hits, Runs, and OBP. Don’t look for him to repeat the .338 batting average, as his BABIP (.380) was about 5o points higher than his career norm, but he is easily a lock to be around .300. Fenway Park is a hitter’s haven, and Gonzalez must think he’s in heaven compared to his days in Petco.
5) Prince Fielder – With the move to Detroit, Fielder forms one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball with Miggy. The only problem: Comerica Park kills left-handed power hitters. According to it’s Park Index (PI), Comerica (102) is a neutral park meaning it doesn’t favor batters or pitchers. 100 is considered an average score. Comerica’s ranking for LHB power is 89. Yikes! To give a little perspective, 111 would be an elite index score, so 89 is the exact opposite. The good news is that very few batters have the power that Fielder does. 11 of his 38 HR’s last year were categorized as ‘No Doubt’ home runs, and conversely 10 were ‘Just Enoughs’. So maybe half of those JE’s don’t go and he ends up with 30-35 HR this year. Either way, count on him to continue raking.
6) Mark Teixeira – Teixeira is another guy who is a lock for 30+ HR and 100+ RBI and Runs. The only catch with him, is that horrible .250ish batting average he has had the last 2 seasons. He has a career BABIP of .299 and his BABIP last year was .239 That right there would lead you to believe that he might be in for a bump in average. However, I think that the dreaded shift that he is going to be bunting to beat is what is to blame for that lower BABIP, not to mention the fact that he is a flyball hitter. Still, if the first 5 are off the board, you will be hard pressed to find another guy that will fill those counting stats the way Teixeira will.
7) Eric Hosmer – Okay. The big names are off the board and you don’t know what to do. Pick Hosmer. In keeper leagues, I would even consider him ahead of Teix. He is only 22 going into this season. He is going to fill up all 5 categories. Don’t mistake him for a 30 HR guy this year, he will likely finish with 20-25 HR. But his 10-15 SB and solid batting average will help make him a good play at 1B. He will be hitting in the middle of an improving Royals line-up which will provide him plenty of RBI opportunities.
8) Mike Morse – Morse seemingly came out of nowhere in 2011 to hit .303 with 31 HR. His .247 ISO was 10th best in the majors last year. So the power seems to be legit. The big flaw for him is his vulnerability to the strike out. That could easily haunt him this season and cause his .303 average to fall 20 or so points. Still, he will be hitting in the middle of the Nats line-up with good hitters in front of him. Add to all of that he will be OF eligible, and Morse could be a nifty little fit on your team.
9) Paul Konerko – Honestly, I should probably have Konerko ranked higher than Morse, but he is going to be 36 this next year, and has hinted at retirement. The White Sox are in rebuilding mode, and good players around him (including him) could be dealt. The White Sox really stunk it up last year, and that really affected Konerko’s runs scored totals. He still managed to drive in 105 and hit .300, but age and a season with low expectations could lead to a lower output than what we saw last year from Konerko. Stay away from him in keeper drafts unless you plan on trading him mid-year, or if you are in a win-now mode.
10) Lance Berkman – His .547 slugging percentage was the best it has been since 2008, and you have to go back to 2006 to when he was putting up those numbers consistently. In only 488 AB’s he managed 31 HR and 94 RBI hitting behind Pujols. He is currently being drafted around the 8th round in 12-team mixed leagues. For a guy who could put up similar numbers to what you would expect out of the top guys, the 8th round is pretty good value. He will also be OF eligible which does increase his value a little bit.
11) Michael Young - With all of the talk pre-season about Michael Young being displaced by the Beltre signing and whatnot, he remained the professional that he has shown himself to be and went out and hit .338 with 106 RBI. That's a lot of production for a guy in his age 35 season who is supposedly on the downside of his career. However, don't draft Young for last year's numbers. His .338 average was due to a significant spike in his BABIP (.372) from his career norm (.342). Basically, he was a .300 hitter last year who got pretty lucky to end up in the .330's. Still, he will be 3B eligible and even though he wont bring power to your line-up (only 11 HR in 2011), he will give you a high batting average and run production.
12) Michael Cuddyer – The move to Coors Field can only have a positive impact for a guy like Cuddyer. Especially when you consider he is moving from Target Field to Coors. His 20 HR could easily make a jump to 30 in a hitter’s park. Temper your expectations however, because he is going into his age 32 season. Still, he will be 1B/OF eligible in all leagues, and even 2B eligible in a few. He too will be drafted in the 8th round along with Berkman. Berkman has a higher ceiling, but Cuddyer is the safer bet if you ask me.
13) Paul Goldschmidt – In only 156 AB last year, Goldy hit 8 HR and had 26 RBI. Combine that with the 30 HR and 94 RBI he hit in AAA last year, and you can see that he has some serious power to offer. There is a catch. His 53 SO in that limited time put him on pace to strike out more than 150 times this next season. This basically means that his average will likely top out around .250 or .260 if he is lucky. What we potentially have here is a young Adam Dunn. There is definitely a lot of value if you can pair him with one or two high average guys at another position.
14) Freddie Freeman – Freeman needs to cut back on his strikeouts if he hopes to improve this next year. For a guy who never struck out much at the minor league level, 142 is a lot. If he can cut back on those, I think there is a good chance he maintains the solid batting average, and as he grows his power input should grow as well. Don’t expect more than 25 HR this year with 80-90 RBI, but he is only going to be 22, so he has a while to figure things out. I would say he is a young Adam LaRoche with a better batting average.
15) Gaby Sanchez – A lot of people were really high on Gaby after his 2010 season. While it was a good season, there is still a lot to be desired from a 1B. His career average of .269 with 20 HR and 80 RBI is what you can expect. While that’s not a bad line per se, it is a bit light at a position traditionally relied upon to produce power. Marlin’s Prospect Christian Yelich is a couple years away from being MLB-ready, so Gaby has a couple years to take a step forward or else it is likely that he will be traded.
16) Carlos Lee – He has truly been a professional hitter his entire career. While his value to the Astros is laughable, his value to your fantasy team is legit. I am a true believer in guys like Lee. First of all, he will be OF eligible as well which makes him versatile. Secondly, he is going to be hitting in the middle of the Astros line-up and has always been an above-average run producer. He won’t score many runs but he will hit around 20 HR’s and drive in close to 100 RBI. For a guy with an ADP of 190 (15th or 16th round), you could be looking at a nice value. A lot of people are going to judge him by his actual value and not his fantasy value. They will also complain that his team sucks (and they do). But they sucked last year and he still managed 94 RBI. Draft him.
Honorable Mentions: Ike Davis (injury), Mark Trumbo (playing time), Ryan Howard (injury), Brandon Belt (playing time), Kendrys Morales (injury/playing time)
So there you have it. There are plenty of guys who merit consideration. Personally, I prefer using one of those first 2 draft picks on one of them, especially since power numbers have been down the past couple of years. But I know that many prefer to go for positions that are a bit more scarce those first 2 rounds. My argument is that there are only 6 guys locked in at 30 HR and 100 RBI, and so you need to take that into consideration when planning for your draft.