Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fantasy Focus: First Base Rankings

Most fantasy baseball leagues only count offensive stats.  Since 1B is primarily an offensive position for most teams, first basemen tend to be sought after on fantasy draft day.  At first glance, it would seem like it should be easy to find a mashing first baseman in a 10 or 12 team league, but first basemen can also fill Infield and Utility positions, so it is not unusual for one fantasy team to roster 2, 3 or even 4 first basemen making it no sure thing to find even one!  In addition, several MLB teams have first basemen who are also eligible at other, more scarce positions, so that effectively shrinks the 1b talent pool for fantasy purposes because fantasy owners will roster those players at the more scarce position.  Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera would be the prime examples this year.  Of course, many DH's have 1B eligibility so that helps expand the position.  1B is changing as some of the old standbys have started to age and are being replaced by new stud hitters.  Here is a list of fantasy first basemen along with the standard fantasy stats from last year:

1.  Paul Goldschmidt, D'Backs:  103 R, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 15 SB, .302 BA, 710 PA.  Goldy has become the premium first baseman in the game, the only true 5 category stud at the position.

2.  Chris Davis, Orioles:  103 R, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 4 SB, .286 BA, 673 PA.  It's easy to dismiss Davis' 2013 as a fluke, but he hit 33 dingers in 2012.  He might not hit 50+ again, but he's a strong bet to come in at 30+ which is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

3.  Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays:  90 R, 36 HR, 104 RBI, 7 SB, .272 BA, 621 PA.  Another guy you might dismiss as a fluke, but he hit 42 dingers in 2012.  Another great bet to hit 30+.

4.  Prince Fielder, Rangers:  82 R, 25 HR, 106 RBI, 1 SB, .279 BA, 712 PA.  Many people think Fielder had a down year last year, but there were less than 10 first base eligible players who hit more HR's and only 3 who had more RBI's.  Look for his HR production to go up playing his home games in Texas.

5.  Freddie Freeman, Braves:  89 R, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 1 SB, .319 BA, 629 PA.  Ideally, you would like more dingers from 1B, but again, 30+ dingers are mighty hard to find these days and Freeman gives you rock solid production in 4 categories.

6.  Joey Votto, Reds:  101 R, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB, .305 BA, 726 PA.  Votto's stock may be unfairly down a bit due the inexplicable RBI drought last year.  Look for a bounce back in that category while staying steady in the others.

7.  Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers:  69 R, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 1 SB, .293 BA, 641 PA.  His 40 HR days are probably long gone, but he still give solid production in 4 categories.  Be aware of a likely continued slippage in his numbers, though.

8.  Eric Hosmer, Royals:  86 R, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 11 SB, .302 BA, 680 PA.  Hosmer is still on the upswing of his career.  Good chance of his numbers making another advance in 2014.

9.  Allen Craig, Cardinals:  71 R, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 2 SB, .315 BA, 563 PA.  Will probably play RF for the Cardinals which could expose him to more risk of injury.  Many fantasy owners will want to roster him as an OF or a utility player rather than at 1B.

10.  Albert Pujols, Angels:  49 R, 17 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB, .258 BA, 443 PA.  If he's healthy, he should have an nice bounce back and give you 30+ HR's, but will he ever be fully healthy again?

11.  Mark Trumbo, D'Backs:  85 R, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, .234 BA, 678 PA.  Most fantasy owners will want to roster Trumbo at 3B or OF or Utility rather than 1B, but he gives 1B level production.

12.  Mike Napoli, Red Sox:  79 R, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 1 SB, .259 BA, 578 PA.  Napoli loses catcher eligibility which will be a blow to his fantasy value.  He's still a solid performer at 1B as long as the dead bone in his hips does not crumble.

13.  Brandon Belt, Giants:  76 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 5 SB, .289 BA, 571 PA.  His career is definitely on the rise with some analysts projecting a breakout season.  One drawback is he is still likely to sit against certain LHP's if only because of Buster Posey's availability and the need to find AB's for Buster when he needs days off from catching.

14.  Anthony Rizzo, Cubs:  71 R, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 6 SB, .233 BA, 690 PA.  Not quite what some Theo Epstein groupies were expecting, but those are good numbers.  I don't think he'll ever hit for much average.

15.  Kendrys Morales, ?:   64 R, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .277 BA, 657 PA.  We don't know where Morales will end up.  His QO is proving to be a barrier in finding a team to sign with.  His numbers should improve almost anywhere besides Seattle.

16.  Justin Morneau, Rockies:  62 R, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 0 SB, .259 BA, 635 PA.  Morneau moves from one of the toughest parks to hit in to the easiest which should boost his numbers.  Will he ever be fully healthy again?

17.  Matt Adams, Cardinals:  46 R, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB, .284 BA, 319 PA.  Adams is reportedly in the Best Shape of his Life.  Widely expected to get the bulk of playing time at 1B for the Cards with Craig moving to RF.

18.  Brandon Moss, A's:  73 R, 30 HR, 73 RBI, 4 SB, .256 BA, 505 PA.  From a fantasy perspective, Oakland's penchant for platooning is a huge frustration and limits Moss' value.  His production is good enough that you might want to live with the reduced PT.

19.  Ryan Howard, Phillies:  34 R, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .266 BA, 317 PA.  Howard put up strong numbers when he finally returned from the DL.  He probably doesn't have any more 40 HR seasons in him and he'll always be BA challenged, but he could be a great value if other owners are sleeping on him.

20.  Adam Dunn, White Sox:  60 R, 34 HR, 86 RBI, 1 SB, .219 BA, 607 PA.  Good source of dingers and RBI's as long as you don't mind punting Average.

21.  Chris Carter, Astros:  64 R, 29 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .223 BA, 585 PA.  Adam Dunn clone.  Nice player for the owner who is punting Average.

22. Adam Lind, Blue Jays:  67 R, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB, .288 BA, 521 PA.  Nice production for a second utility guy.

23.  Nick Swisher, Indians:  74 R, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB, .246 BA, 634 PA.  Second utility guy here.

24.  Adam LaRoche, Nationals:  70 R, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB, .237 BA, 590 PA.  More second utility numbers here.

25. Justin Smoak, Mariners:  53 R, 20 HR, 50 RBI, .238 BA, 521 PA.  More of a guy for deep leagues.  20 HR is impressive for Seattle's ballpark, though.

26.  Garrett Jones, Marlins:  41 R, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB, .233 BA, 440 PA.  Another deep leaguer, but should get more PA's with Miami than last year with Pittsburgh.

27.  James Loney, Rays:  54 R, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 3 SB, .299 BA, 598 PA.  Wow! How long has it been since Loney, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp were going to rule the NL West for the next 15 years?  Kemp had one great season and could have some more, but Martin and Loney never quite lived up to expectations.  Loney seems to have found a home in Tampa Bay.  Still strictly a deep leaguer though.

Comeback Candidate:  Mark Teixeira, Yankees.  Has to prove he can stay healthy and hit above the Mendoza line but the potential is there.

Wild Card:  Jose Abreu, White Sox.  Will probably be drafted fairly high.  Could pay off big time, but I would let other owners take that risk.

Sleeper:  Tommy Medica, Padres.  Might be relegated to the short end of a platoon with Yonder Alonso, but he's a much better hitter than Alonso ever thought of being.  Petco tends to be friendlier to RH power than LH.  I would watch this situation closely and if Medica ever gets the full time gig, I'd grab him, especially in a deeper league.

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