Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

print article archives RSS

2011 First Base Overview

Monday, February 07, 2011

Second in line for the position overviews is a position second to none right now: first base. Seven first basemen could go in the first two rounds of mixed league drafts, and Albert Pujols will go first overall in most of them.

I do agree with the consensus top seven. Here's how they're being selected in recent Mock Draft Central drafts:

Albert Pujols - 1st overall
Miguel Cabrera - 3rd overall
Joey Votto - 7th overall
Adrian Gonzalez - 8th overall
Mark Teixeira - 15th overall
Ryan Howard - 17th overall
Prince Fielder - 22nd overall

I have them in almost the same order, but I don't think they should go quite so high. Here's how I have them in my top 300:

Albert Pujols - 1st
Miguel Cabrera - 5th
Adrian Gonzalez - 14th
Joey Votto - 17th
Mark Teixeira - 21st
Ryan Howard - 35th
Prince Fielder - 38th

It would be nice to end up with one member of the group, particularly since the pool really thins out after the top 11. Still, I can't see using such early picks on Howard and Fielder when they're just not as good of bets as they were a couple of years ago.

First base/DH Overview


Kendry Morales (Angels) - Morales is the one top-10 first baseman being undersold, at least in my estimation. He was on pace to hit .290-35-124 when he went down with a torn ACL one-third of the way through last season. I don't like that he'll probably hit fifth again, this time behind Vernon Wells, but it doesn't figure to last if Wells struggles. And if Wells actually has another good season, that wouldn't be such a bad thing for Morales either. I rank Morales eighth at first base, only a bit behind Fielder.

Derrek Lee (Orioles) - Expectations seem pretty low after Lee lost 200 points of OPS last season. However, he wasn't far off from being an MVP caliber player just two years ago, when he hit .306/.394/.579 from the Cubs, and he did rebound following a trade to Atlanta last season, hitting .287/.384/.465 in 39 games despite playing most of them with a torn thumb ligament. Never having played in the AL before, Lee will have some adjusting to do in Baltimore. Still, he's in a cozy ballpark, one that should help him get back to 22-25 homers. He's a strong CI option in mixed leagues.

Daric Barton (Athletics) - I don't see Barton emerging as a consistent 20-homer-per-year guy, at least not in Oakland, but he's still just 25 and getting stronger. He had 10 homers among his 48 extra-base hits last season, and he also chipped in with seven steals. Oakland's offense is guaranteed to be better this season, so Barton should improve his mediocre run and RBI numbers while hitting second or third for the team. He's no fantasy stud and he probably never will be, but the likelihood that he'll score 90 runs separates him from guys like Justin Smoak and Matt LaPorta when it comes to AL-only first basemen.


Ryan Howard (Phillies)/Prince Fielder (Brewers) - These two ended up with pretty much the same fantasy projection for me: I have Howard at .271-39-122 and Fielder at .277-38-116. Those are fine power numbers, but with the batting averages, they just don't justify second-round selections. Howard hasn't topped .280 since his .313 season in 2006. Fielder has come in at .276, .299 and .261 the last three years. It's a side effect of home run totals dropping: most of those balls not leaving the park turn into outs, not doubles.

Paul Konerko (White Sox) - It's not exactly going out on a limb to say that Konerko won't duplicate the career season he turned in at age 34: all he did was top his previous best OPS by 45 points in a 2010 campaign in which offense was down throughout the league. It should help a bit that the White Sox have added Adam Dunn to hit in front of him, but Konerko is still due for a significant decline, particularly in batting average. He came in at .259, .240 and .277 in the three years prior to batting .312 last season.

Aubrey Huff (Giants) - Not that I'd put a whole lot of stock in it, but the truth is that Huff hasn't been good in back-to-back seasons since 2003 and '04. He's 34 now and he's never seemed like a great bet to age well, though there's no denying that he was an excellent player for the world champs last year. He'll probably come in closer to .275-20-85 this year, and it should be possible to get similar numbers from cheaper players.


Kila Ka'aihue (Royals) - The Royals had the money to go out and buy a name DH, but they declined to do so. Perhaps the job will end up going to Wilson Betemit, but there's little doubt Kansas City's best lineup features Betemit at third base and Ka'aihue at either first base or DH. The Royals had no one hit more than 16 homers last season, so they could definitely use Ka'aihue's power behind Billy Butler in the order. His fantasy upside is limited, partly because he won't hit for average and partly because he'll be toiling in a pitcher's park, but he could hit 20 homers and drive in 70 runs if given the opportunity.

Juan Miranda (Diamondbacks) - The Diamondbacks did a pretty horrible job of addressing their offense over the winter, but Miranda does have sleeper potential. In very limited action with the Yankees the last three years, he hit .253/.330/.458 over 83 at-bats. He's a platoon player at best and he won't even be a lock to make the team out of spring training, but he does have 20-homer ability. Like Ka'aihue, he won't be much to look at when it comes to batting average.

Brandon Belt (Giants) - The Giants haven't ruled out putting Belt on the Opening Day roster after he hit .352/.455/.620 with 23 homers at three minor league stops last season. The 2009 first-round pick will probably see time at first base and in left field this spring. If he makes the team, it will probably be as the primary first baseman, with Huff moving to left. Odds are that he'll spend at least the first two months in Triple-A, but he has a great deal of upside. A rookie season much like Buster Posey's is a possibility.

Other thoughts

- Dunn figures to make a strong bid for 40 homers in his White Sox debut, but his average will probably suffer as a result of the league switch. He's another in the overrated category. … Smoak and LaPorta are side by side in my rankings: I expect 20 homers from both, but subpar batting averages and poor run and RBI production. … Freddie Freeman is another who failed to make the sleeper list in large part because I just don't see strong run and RBI numbers on the way. He'll probably open the season hitting eighth for Atlanta, limiting his upside.

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot

Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days

Video Center

    MLB On The Bump: Tuesday

    MLB On The Bump: Tuesday

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Tuesday
    MLB On The Bump: Friday

    MLB On The Bump: Friday

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Friday
    Short: MLB Fantasy Mailbag

    Short: MLB Fantasy Mailbag
    Short: Strasburg

    Short: Strasburg's slow start

    Beer's MLB 6-Pack: Wednesday
    MLB On The Bump: Wednesday

    MLB On The Bump: Wednesday