Kill the disbelieving squint Mark Trumbo, you’re no. 7
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
Normally, the term "first base" is synonymous with "failure" for handsome sooth-sayers like myself. Yet when we are talking fantasy baseball, the word takes on a more positive connotation. First base is deep; always has been.
Sure the league-wide drop in power has affected the position, but if you adjust your expectations for today’s type of HR production, first base remains the most power-heavy position (and it’s not even close).
Of course, the position remains chock full of overrated options and profit-netting players. Fortunately, your boy Stats All Folks has decided to rank and tier the top 47 first basemen in fantasy.
More after the jump:
The “Big Shot” Behemoths
The players in this tier require little explanation as to why they sit above the rest of the 1B options.
1. Albert Pujols
Though Pujols reached career-low marks in several categories last year, he still deserves top honors. After struggling in the first half, he became the Albert “Shit-Openings” of old (.305 BA, .276 ISO, 54 RBIs in 69 games). Now Josh Hamilton will be hitting ahead of him? Say word.
2. Joey Votto
A career .310 hitter, Votto has the ability to slug 30 HRs and rack up over 100 Rs and RBIs. That’s valuable at a position that features a lot of two or three-cat contributors.
3. Prince Fielder
Fielder had somewhat of a disappointing season in 2012, but still hit .313 and totaled 30 HRs, 108 RBIs, and 83 Rs. That’s a breakout campaign for most players, which tells you how dope he can be. With a year of American League experience under his belt, expect Fielder to kill it in 2013.
4. Edwin Encarnacion
He’s getting a little bit of the Jose Bautista treatment after Joey Bats broke out for 54 HRs in 2010. Some fantasy owners are worried that last year was a fluke, so he’s falling farther than he should in some leagues. His performance last year was legit no matter the stats you look at, and he always had the potential to put up sick numbers. Health is a concern (he’s been injury-prone for most of his career), but he should put up elite numbers yet again if he stays on the field.
The “On Deck” Divas
You can find a reason to knock any of the dudes on this list, but no matter how you try to spin it, they are the next best options at first after the elite guys come off the board. Better yet, they won’t cost you nearly as much as the big names (though a couple of them won’t come cheap either).
5. Paul Goldschmidt
While Goldschmidt is listed as a “Discount Diva,” there actually is little room for profit given his draft day value. Yet while you are overpaying a bit based on last year’s numbers, the talent is there for him to have a monster season. The D-backs 1B only mustered 20 HRs in 2012, but has plenty of untapped power potential in his bat (.303 ISO in minors). The good news is that he cut down on the strikeouts that plagued him in 2011, which allowed him to post a solid .286 BA last year. As an added bonus, he also chipped in 18 steals in 2012. You hate paying good money for a player before they’ve even broken out, but Goldschmidt can provide just as much power as Fielder or Votto (but at a cheaper cost) and help contribute in the steals department.
6. Allen Craig
Craig has actually been pretty expensive this draft/auction season. It’s not that people are overpaying per se, but rather that they are paying for his ceiling (or at least close to it). Don’t get it twisted, Craig is a tempting RBI bat who should put up great numbers when healthy. Problem is, he’s had a hard time staying on the field the last two years. Fortunately, the injuries he’s suffered weren’t of the lingering variety. Still, you don’t want to pay full price for a somewhat unproven commodity.
7. Mark Trumbo
Despite showing good power and being a part of the best lineup in baseball (where he is expected to hit fifth after Hamilton/Pujols), Trumbo is getting little respect in fantasy leagues. Perhaps people expect the strikeouts to hurt his BA more (26.1 K% in 2012), or maybe they view him as more a two-cat player (HR/RBI). Seems to me that a dude hitting behind two of the best sluggers in the game should cruise to a 100-plus RBI season. Plus, Trumbo took a step forward in his pitch selection last year, which should help him cut down on the strikeouts and post a better BA (.268 last year).
8. Ike Davis
Considering that he did jack shit for the first two months of the season, the fact that Davis finished with 32 HRs and a .235 ISO is pretty damn impressive. Now that he’s over his bout with Valley Fever, Davis is strong entering 2013 and should be a terrific power source even in spacious Citi Field. Like Trumbo, the price is looking mighty affordable.
The Trophy Husbands
Sure they look like attractive fantasy options, but these players have some underlying features that could have them looking like an episode of “Who the [Bleep] Did I Marry?”
9. Adrian Gonzalez
The big concern with Gonzalez is the power (or rather, the lack of it). His ISO has fallen each of the last three years and sat at a piddling .164 mark last year (18 HRs). So even though he’s recorded 100 RBIs in five of the last six years and is a career .294 hitter, he’ll never crack the top five again if he fails to rediscover his power stroke. Considering that he now calls Dodger Stadium his home, I’m not too optimistic about a slugging resurgence.
10. Ryan Howard
Howard’s 40 HR days are likely behind him, but he still looks capable of 30 or more bombs in a healthy season. He’s over the foot injuries that killed his 2012 value, but Howard is still a bit risky due to his struggles against lefties (.173 BA last year) and his increasing strikeout rate (33.9 K% in 2012). Those two factors could kill his average and relegate him to being a two-category helper (though, admittedly, he’d still be pretty damn good at providing HRs and RBIs).
11. Billy Butler
The most annoying part about Butler’s 29 HR season is that all the nerd-wads who have been reaching for him for the last three years all let out a collective “I told ya so.” Butler’s 26, so the idea is that he can continue to improve on his power. However, I hardly think he’s a lock for 30 HRs due to his spacious home park. Sure 25 or more HRs is in the cards if Butler can continue to drive the ball, but the tubby slugger is still a three-cat player.
12. Anthony Rizzo
People are reaching for Rizzo like crazy. Sure his batted ball profile looked rather impressive last year (24.4 LD% and 18.1 HR/FB), but you are leaving little room for profit by taking him as a fourth or fifth rounder.
The “Willing To Wait” Wrecking Crew
You didn’t see the need to fill our your first base spot in the early rounds, so now you’re looking at more affordable sources of power. Of course, when you wait to make your move, it could prove to be similar to a night at your local watering hole: the longer you wait, the more unattractive your options become.
13. David Ortiz
I was ready to put Ortiz in the tier above before his Achilles injury. It’s a disturbing ailment considering he missed most of 2012 last year with an Achilles injury to his right foot. Ortiz is 37, so you can’t be overly optimistic about his chances of staying healthy. Of course, he still ranks rather high at the 1B position because of his elite production (.318 BA and .293 ISO last year).
14. Adam LaRoche
Hitting in the middle of Washington’s lineup, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think LaRoche can duplicate his 2012 numbers (33 HRs and 100 RBIs). Sure he was more of a 25 HR guy for most of his career, but he’s rocked 30-plus bombs before and is part of an offense that should put him in plenty of RBI situations. He’s coming at an intriguing price too.
15. Mike Napoli
Yes, I am aware that Mike Napoli qualifies at catcher in fantasy leagues. And yes, that is factored into consideration with this ranking. I think Napoli will be productive when he’s healthy, but the degenerative nature of AVN disease makes me pessimistic of him staying healthy enough to prove a draft day value. Don't get it twisted, he's still a solid option, he's just a bit too costly in most fantasy leagues.
16. Adam Dunn
It’s not a big surprise that Dunn was able to sock 41 HRs and post a .263 ISO last year. It’s also not a shock that he finished with a .204 BA considering his strikeout issues. What is rather abnormal is the 29.3 HR/FB he chucked up in 2012. That’s an unsustainable rate, so Dunn should finish closer to 30 HRs than 40. It’s worth noting, however, that Dunn posted a 22.4 LD% and .246 BABIP, so he should (in theory) finish a bit higher above the Mendoza Line in 2013. Then again, with his strikeout rate, expecting a BA near .250 is borderline lunacy.
17. Chris Davis
Like Dunn, Davis is a high-strikeout/high-ISO slugger who could boom or bust this season. Unlike Dunn, he only has one legitimate season for fantasy owners to hang their hat on (although to be fair, he always had serious power potential).
18. Freddie Freeman
On the surface, it seems like Freeman is on the verge of a breakout since he took a step forward with his power last season (.196 ISO and 23 HRs). He also improved his plate patience in 2012 and racked up over 90 Rs/RBIs. Sounds like a great player to target, but I would steer clear. Call me a traditionalist, but I like my first basemen to bring a lot of power to the table. Freeman? His power upside is capped (career .171 ISO in the minors). Expect him to perform like the poor man’s Billy Butler, but with a batting average 20-30 points lower.
19. Nick Swisher
Leaving Yankee Stadium may seem like it will hurt Swisher’s value a lot, but he actually had similar power splits between his road and home games last year. His plate patience suffered a bit in 2012 as he swung at more pitches outside the zone and increased his K% to 22.6 percent, but he remains a good bet for a 22-25 HR season and solid counting stats.
The Eyebrow-Raising Renegades
Taking one of the players in this tier may draw guffaws from some of your league-mates, but hey, at least you are saving some coin at a position loaded with starter-worthy options.
20. Lance Berkman
The Rangers are plunking Berkman into the third spot in the lineup, which is great news. The home ballpark is a plus as well. If you could just guarantee 140-150 games, Berkman would be a great buy.
21. Mark Reynolds
Because of his 3B eligibility and history of gaudy power numbers, Reynolds still holds value despite a down season and major strikeout issues. The silver lining from last year is that he cut down on the swings-and-misses (career-low 13.5 SwStr%) and upped his LD% (20.1 percent; below 14 previous two years).
22. Paul Konerko
37 years old and coming off a season in which he saw declines in his walk rate and power, Konerko is going way too early in a lot of fantasy leagues. The fact that he can still hit 25 or more HRs helps, but another step in the wrong direction could make him a terrible draft-day investment.
23. Kendrys Morales
Outside of his breakout 2009, Morales has never posted an ISO above .200. His struggles from the right-handed side of the plate (he’s a switch-hitter… pause) are well-documented and do put him at risk of being put in a platoon. Yet he appears to be completely over the foot issues that destroyed his 2011 (and reportedly impacted his 2012), so there’s hope he can recapture some of his earlier magic.
24. Corey Hart
If it wasn’t for his second offseason knee surgery in two years, he would be ranked a lot higher. Yet there’s a bit of unpredictability surrounding Hart, who might be out until May. Another thing to keep an eye on is the strikeouts. He saw a jump in whiffs in 2012, and another bump in the wrong direction could make him a BA liability.
25. Justin Morneau
The injury-prone Morneau has played under 140 games in each of the last three years, but he’s entering a walk year and still has the power to hit 20-plus HRs.
26. Brandon Belt
I’ve pretty much run out of patience for Brandon Belt. There’s still a sliver of hope hanging onto his insane minor league numbers, but the strikeouts and lack of major league pop (.146 ISO last year) are not encouraging.
Though these guys don’t sit very low on many 1B rankings, they are true power-bottoms (capable of generating plenty of power despite their subservient status).
27. Chris Carter
Carter posted an elite .275 ISO and 15.0 BB% last year, but he’s pretty damn risky since he strikes out a ton (31.9 K% in 2012) and could always be put into a lefty/righty platoon.
28. Brandon Moss
Fantasy owners have been drafting Moss on the strength of his .306 ISO and 21 HRs in 296 PAs. Just remember that he’s a 29-year-old journeyman with some serious strikeout problems.
29. Mark Teixeira
Because the injury that will force Teixeira to miss a lot of time (and possibly the season) is to his wrist, there is some concern that his power stroke will be lacking in 2013 when (if?) he returns.
The “I Went All-In On Grabbing An Elite 2B, SS, And 3B, So Now This Is What I Have To Pick From” Posse
You spent all your money addressing other parts of your roster, but you still need a body to man first. Have at it.
30. Tyler Moore
31. Garrett Jones
32. Eric Hosmer
33. Mitch Moreland
34. Carlos Pena
35. Adam Lind
36. Logan Morrison
37. Mike Olt
38. Matt Adams
39. Justin Smoak
40. Tyler Colvin
41. Yonder Alonso
42. Brett Wallace
43. John Mayberry
44. James Loney
45. Todd Helton
46. Jonathan Singleton
47. Hunter Morris
*Last updated 3/25/13.