Clearing The Bases
Now we get to a position in which I would spend an early pick or high dollar amount on. First base is deep, but not with as many top tiered players as there have been in the past. New York Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira was taken off this list as he suffered a strained list Tuesday that will keep him out 8-10 weeks. Tex is still someone who should be drafted, especially if you have DL spots, but not until later on in your draft. Don’t pay a premium price for someone who won’t return until May at the earliest, always gets off to a slow start, and may not be the same player the entire season due to the nature of the injury. Tex would’ve been eight on my list had he been healthy.
1. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers: Some people view Fielder’s first season in the American League as something less than successful. Apparently 30 HRs, 108 RBI, and a .313 AVG just isn’t good enough. Now he may not have hit the 40 HRs some were hoping for but he may have needed time for a little adjustment after switching leagues. I have to believe those numbers (maybe not the AVG) will increase this season. He’s comfortable now and whether or not you believe in lineup protection, having Victor Martinez hitting behind him certainly can’t hurt.
2. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: Why is Pujols not my top 1B? He has gotten off to extremely slow starts in each of the past two seasons, a killer in H2H leagues, his OPS has now declined for five straight seasons, and I for one have serious doubts that he isn’t a year or two older than what he states. Listen, he is still a first round pick for me, not like I’m waiting until the fifth round, I just prefer Fielder. They both have great hitters around them, both will produce, I just believe Fielder is trending up while Pujols may be stagnant or heading in the other direction.
3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: Not sure why there is so much love for Votto as far as making him a 1st round pick. Now he is a great player, but he is also a player that is likely only to hit three of the five categories in your fantasy league. The knee injuries he has suffered are likely to end his days as a player who might steal double digit bases, and even though he plays in a ballpark designed for the long ball, he has only hit 30+ HRs once in his career. My first round pick has to contribute in at least four cats, if not all five, second round for me.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: First let me say that Encarnacion has one of the greatest nicknames in MLB, E-5, but he doesn’t play 3B anymore, could it be a coincidence that he has his best offensive season when he no longer has to worry about his defense? Maybe, maybe not. He certainly had a monster season last year, 42 HRs, 110 RBIs, .280 AVG, and even stole 13 bases. If he comes anywhere near close to these numbers this season, and he could in that lineup and in that ballpark, than he will be in the discussion for being a 1st round pick in 2014.
5. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers: Gonzalez is yet another player that fantasy owners seem to be down on. They act like his past two seasons have been terrible. Now they weren’t what we thought they would be and 45 HRs over the past two seasons do lead to some concern, but he did drive in 117 and 108 runs over those two seasons and no one is arguing that he should be a first round pick. Now he is back in the NL West, playing for a team that is loaded, his numbers could go back to where they were when he played in San Diego. I’m a believer, late 2nd, early 3rd rounder for me.
6. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals: Butler has always been able to hit, that has never been in question, he has a career batting AVG of .307. The question has always been where is the power? Well he hit 29 HRs last season, the third straight season in which his HR total has increased. If he can continue to hit in the neighborhood of 30 HRs while keeping his AVG above .300, he will be quite valuable in fantasy leagues, might even slip into the mid-rounds in some fantasy leagues.
7. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: Posey might be the number one catcher, but 1B is a completely different ballgame. He doesn’t quite have the power to rank higher on this list and there is always the injury concern as catchers do get hit with foul balls, bats, and runners. Not to mention the toll on their bodies from squatting behind the plate with all the equipment game in and game out. If you were to draft Posey, can’t see why he wouldn’t be starting at catcher for you unless you’re in a keeper/dynasty league or you suffer an injury or three.
8. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: On most lists Howard can be found in the low teens, but not on this one. I throw out last year, he was coming off the Achilles injury, it was a get back in the groove season. Now yes, his average isn’t likely to help your fantasy team, but the power potential certainly will. I’m looking at 30-40 HRs from a guy I may not have to draft until the double digit rounds if you go by ADP. He’s also having a terrific spring, feeling really good things from Howard this year.
9. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: I’ll admit it, I bought in on all the hype last season in regards to Hosmer, and yeah, had a couple of fantasy teams crash and burn because of it. I’m certainly more cautious this season, but still expecting good things from Hosmer. He was after all just a rookie last season and his problem seemed to be mechanical, not mental. Adjustments have been made and I still wouldn’t mind him starting for my team, assuming I got him at a price I can live with.
10. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: Sort of the forgotten man in Atlanta. All we are talking about is the addition of the Upton brothers, the retirement of Chipper Jones, and when will Brian McCann return. We forget that Freeman, who is just 23 years old, hit 23 HRs last season and drove in 94 runs. Could a 30 HR season be in his future? Possibly, although I wouldn’t count on it this season. Once again another player you should be able to get in the middle rounds of your draft if you want to load up at another position.
11. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals: Craig had the unenviable task of trying to replace a future Hall of Famer in Albert Pujols, and you know what, he did a pretty good job. Craig had 22 HR, 92 RBI, and batted .307 in 119 games, numbers that could get a nice bump if he can remain healthy and play 150+ games. Now that being said, health is a question mark and so is his ability to make adjustments. Opposing teams will prepare for him this season as he won’t catch anyone by surprise.
12. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks: Goldschmidt finally got the 1B job all to himself last year and had a productive year with 20 HRs, 82 RBI, .286 AVG, and actually stole 18 bases. Can he make the leap into the next tier. I have my doubts, not that he can’t be a top 10 1B, but don’t see him ever becoming top 5. One kind of strange stat is that he has hit more HRs on the road than at home, find that surprising in that Chase Field is known as a great hitter’s park. Perhaps he presses more in front of the home crowd than he should.
13. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians: Santana is yet another starting catcher that squeezes into the first base list. The addition of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn should alleviate some of that pressure and just allow Santana to concentrate on his game. He has 25+ HR potential and if he can play 150+ games, 90+ RBIs aren’t out of the question to go with an average that won’t hurt you.
14. Ike Davis, New York Mets: Throw out the first couple of months of last season when Davis was dealing with Rocky Mountain Fever and you have a player that has as much power as anyone. Davis hit 32 HRs last season and drove in 90 runs, this despite the fact that the Mets were thinking about sending him down to the minors. He turned it around in the second half, dramatically at that. Don’t forget about him as your draft progresses.
15. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels: Trumbo was a tale of two halves. He was a complete monster in the 1st half, a joy to watch in the home run derby but he trailed off in the second half. The trade of Kendrys Morales means that Trumbo should be an everyday player, probably moving all around the diamond (DH, OF, 3B, 1B), always good for his eligibility. He’s a good source of HRs and hopefully the AVG won’t hurt you.
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