Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

print article archives RSS

2014 Breakdowns: First Base

Monday, February 10, 2014


On to first base with the position breakdowns. This is the strongest the position has appeared in years; I have 11 first basemen in my top 80, a figure that doesn't include Miguel Cabrera or Joe Mauer. It also doesn't include designated hitters David Ortiz or Billy Butler, both of whom would crack the top 80 in leagues in which they qualify at first base.

 

For my complete rankings at every position, check out the online draft guide, now available to purchase. It includes an overall top 300, top 250s for both AL- and NL-only leagues, 1,000 player profiles, 1,500 player projections, keeper rankings and much more.

 

 

Underrated

 

Prince Fielder - Rangers - Fielder has topped 30 homers, 100 RBI and a .275 average in six of the last seven seasons, so he's about as safe as picks get. However, this is the first time he's looked like a strong value pick in a few years. That's because he's coming off a down season while dealing with a rough divorce, and he's about to find himself in a better situation in Texas hitting in between leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre in the cleanup spot. He'll certainly score more runs batting third in Texas than he did fourth in Detroit, and he should still get tons of RBI chances. The guess here is that he just about matches Chris Davis in homers and beats him in average, making him the AL's top fantasy first baseman.

 

Adrian Gonzalez - Dodgers - Gonzalez is tumbling in drafts because many are skeptical that he can slug 25-30 homers any longer. Still, this is a guy who has hit .290 and driven in at least 100 runs in four straight seasons. Last season, he got to 100 RBI even though he was mostly hitting third in a Dodgers lineup that dealt with a lot of injuries. This time, he'll be hitting cleanup, probably behind Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez. That seems like a recipe for a ton of RBI, and he also shouldn't be such a liability in runs scored with a healthier Matt Kemp behind him. While there's a big gap after the top six first basemen (Paul Goldschmidt, Fielder, Joey Votto, Davis, Freddie Freeman and Edwin Encarnacion), I see him as the best of the rest.

 

Kendrys Morales - FA - Unsigned players tend to get short shrift in early drafts, but what are the odds of Morales landing in a worst situation than he dealt with in Seattle last season? Hitting in the middle of a terrible lineup in a tough park for hitters, he still managed a .277-23-80 line. He'll be a full-timer somewhere this year, and if the Rangers or Orioles come up with the money to sign him, then he'll look like quite a bargain for a guy who is lasting 150-200 picks into mixed-league drafts.

 

Justin Morneau - Rockies - This is all about Coors Field. Morneau obviously isn't the player he was before dealing with post-concussion syndrome in 2010, and now that he's entering his age-33 season, there wouldn't seem to be much chance of a return to All-Star form. However, he's still been an average first baseman these last two years and Coors will be far more kind to his power numbers than Target Field was. He's also in a nice RBI situation behind Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer in the Rockies lineup. He makes for a fine CI option in mixed leagues.

 

Overrated

 

Chris Davis - Orioles - Excluding Davis, six guys have hit 50 homers the last 10 years. They lost, on average, 14 homers the following year, despite largely staying healthy (all played at least 138 games the following year). That's about what I'm expecting from Davis, too, after he hit 53 last year. He's still as good of a bet for homers and RBI as anyone in the AL, but losing those 14 or so homers will take a toll on both his average and his run total.

 

Allen Craig - Cardinals - On a per-at-bat basis, Craig definitely rates with the top first basemen. In fact, he'd top Davis and Freeman and be right there with Votto for the third spot if I projected him for the same playing time as those guys. However, he's clearly the biggest injury risk of the group, particularly now that it looks like he'll be playing right field most of the time. Craig served two DL stints in 2011, two in 2012 and then missed the final month of last season with a foot injury. The price tag is just too big for someone who comes with this much risk.

 

Anthony Rizzo - Cubs - I didn't think I was down on Rizzo, but he has an average draft position of 101 at Yahoo so far, while I place him 157th in the top 300. On the one hand, it looks like quite a fluke that Rizzo hit just .233 last season, given his obvious power and the fact that his strikeout rate was below the league average. Still, I think he's more of a .260-.270 guy than someone likely to hit .280-.290. Also, he has a really crummy lineup around him again. The Cubs got OBPs of .321 and .310 from the top two spots in the lineup ahead of Rizzo last year, and they've done nothing to upgrade over the winter. Actually, they've most likely downgraded, since David DeJesus had a .341 OBP in his 66 games as a leadoff man last season. I have Rizzo posting the same kind of OPS as guys ahead of him like Eric Hosmer, Morales and Mike Napoli, but I expect him to lag behind all of those guys in RBI.

 

James Loney - Rays - The Rays were happy enough with Loney's all-around game that they splurged and re-signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract over the winter. However, most of Loney's offensive production came early on: by month, he posted OPSs of .970, .894, .697, .777, .566 and .779. Also, all of that success last year led to a mere 54 runs scored and 75 RBI. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he'll hit about .300 again, but even if he does, he's not of much use elsewhere.

 

Sleepers

 

Yonder Alonso - Padres - With Tommy Medica on the way up and Seth Smith and Kyle Blanks also around as viable alternatives, Alonso's status as the Padres' lone-term first baseman is very much up in the air. Still, it's not like he's been bad with his .276/.345/.384 line in two years in San Diego. Last year, he struck out in just 12.5 percent of his plate appearances, and while he didn't hit for much power at all, that's pretty easily explained by the fractured hand he suffered on May 31; he had six homers and a .416 slugging percentage in 190 at-bats before the injury, compared to no homers and a .306 slugging percentage in 144 at-bats afterwards. I don't think Alonso will be much of a mixed-league first baseman with Petco Park holding him back, but he should put up solid numbers and prove to be a nice NL-only pick.

 

Ike Davis - Mets - Obviously, consistency is an issue for Davis. Still, it seems like he's been written off even though he's only a year removed from hitting 32 homers as a 25-year-old. One wonders how much differently he'd be viewed right now if not for the strained oblique that ended his 2013 with a month to go; he hit a much improved .267/.429/.443 in 131 at-bats after returning from the minors in July. Davis is going to have to fight Lucas Duda to keep his job this spring, assuming that the Mets don't just trade him first. He'll come awfully cheap for a 30-homer threat in his prime. I'm not projecting him to bounce all of the way back -- I don't really have any idea of how he'll perform -- but his stock has fallen so far that he's worth a try.

 

Logan Morrison - Mariners - It would have been nice if Morrison received a friendlier ballpark with his change of scenery, but he's not going to need to fulfill his potential in order to turn a profit this year; all he should need to do is stay healthy. He was limited by a knee injury throughout 2012 before undergoing surgery that September, and he still wasn't recovered last year when he missed the first 10 weeks of the season. At this point, he's probably as healthy as he's going to get. Morrison has never hit for average in the majors like he did in the minors, but he doesn't strike out overly much and he did hit 23 homers in 123 games in the closest thing to a full season he's had so far. I'm not as high on him in Seattle as I might have been elsewhere, but he should be decent enough.

 

Japhet Amador - Astros - The Astros took a flier on Amador last year after he hit a ridiculous .368/.419/.693 with 36 homers and 121 RBI in the Mexican League, and he went on to hit .302 with no homers in 10 games in Triple-A and .284 with four homers in 67 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Oddly, he struggled mightily in the Mexican Winter League, coming in at just .209/.273/.333 in 129 at-bats, but maybe a very long year was to blame. After all, conditioning isn't exactly a strength for the 27-year-old, who checks in at 6'4" and 305 pounds. He's most likely going to be a DH if he's anything at all in the majors, but the power is real and the Astros would have little reason not to give him an opportunity if he impresses this spring. He's a long shot, but a fun one.



Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com 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

  •  
    NBA 6-Pack: Tuesday

    NBA 6-Pack: Tuesday
  •  
    Levitan: Week 13 Waiver Wire

    Levitan: Week 13 Waiver Wire
  •  
    Tuesday

    Tuesday's Fantasy Minute
  •  
    Bales: Inside the Numbers

    Bales: Inside the Numbers
  •  
    Monday

    Monday's Fantasy Minute
  •  
    Beer

    Beer's NFL 6 Pack - WR & TE
  •  
    Beer

    Beer's NBA 6-Pack: Friday
  •  
    Friday

    Friday's Fantasy Minute