Fantasy Baseball Preview: First Base

Who to choose and who to avoid in your fantasy draft.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

There are a couple instances in life where it is guaranteed you simply need to do a double-take: that girl that walks past you in those skin tight pants at the farmer’s market…and noticing how shallow first base is.

That’s right, first base, the position that is traditionally very deep…isn’t so full of guarantees this year. Especially if you play in a league with two utility spots, you need to grab a couple of big bats early.

Note: As long as I don’t have to over-pay, I am also one to take a prospect with high upside over a veteran with a guarantee of average numbers, (ie. Justin Smoak over Jim Thome).

Note Two: I will only ‘rank’ my top 12 players, considering these players would be the only guys I would start immediately in a standard 12-team mixed league. Please use this guide in helping you to determine which first basemen to target, and who to stay away from and not over-pay for on draft day.

Note Three: I am also including the ‘DH’ position on this list.

Great Value Picks! Guys I Love.

Based on their ADP (average draft position), these players could be draft day bargains. Get ready to jump.

1 Albert Pujols (LAA) I know, it’s Albert Pujols. Arguably the number one pick in the whole sport. But shouldn’t that say something—the fact that he is still at the top of the pick after a ‘down year—a year in which he went .299/37/99. New ballpark, new team, new league, new pitchers that haven’t face him. I’m predicting he hits a slow start in April, then has a monster season the rest of the way.

2 Miguel Cabrera (Det) Will also have third base eligibility. Can you say ‘money!’

3 Adrian Gonzalez (Bos) I’m calling it now, ‘AGone’ wins the AL MVP. He got off to a slow start last year, and still ended up hitting 27 home runs with a .338 average. The best part: he just admitted recently that he was playing hurt the past two years and his swing feels better this spring than it has in years. I’m all in!

4 Joey Votto (CIN) Has hit at least .300 with 25 HRs, 100 runs and 100 RBI in each of the past two seasons. Re-li-able.

5 Prince Fielder (Det) Now playing for his daddy’s old team. Some are projecting less than 35 homers. I say it’s a push. Solid.

6 Paul Konerko (CHW) Only one of two first basemen last year to hit .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. The other player: Miguel Cabrera. He’s 36 years old and not done yet.

7 Lance Berkman (STL)

A lock for a .280 average and 25 homers at the very least. I’ll take that for pick 75 on the ADP.

Adam Lind (Tor) He’s going at pick 170. This is a guy who hit .300 with 16 homers in the first half last season before tanking. He averages 24 homers and is projected to hit around .260. How is this guy going after Mark Reynolds? Note: If he gets hot in the first half, consider selling high for second half.

11 Billy Butler (KC) Career .297 hitter who will hit nearly 20 homers every year. He is also a doubles machine; so consider that as well if your league counts OPS. His ADP is 135. In-sane in the mem-brane. Love him.

 

Value Is Appropriate

These guys are being drafted close to their value. Feel free to grab at the right time, but do not reach.

8 Mark Teixeira (NYY) I seriously almost have him on my ‘hate list;’ ‘don’t over-pay.’ He only hit .248 and his three-year average is .266. In short, if you play head to head, avoid. If you’re playing roto with only five categories, his homers are plentiful; draft if he falls to you.

9 Michael Morse (Was) I predicted his break-out last spring and boy was I happy to have drafted him. Too bad my Morse for Prado trade didn’t work out. (sad horn)… Prado was hurt most of the season… Anywho, Morse is a late bloomer…but so was Joey Bautista.

12 Eric Hosmer (KC) Be verrrrry careful here. Don’t get over-hyped up on sophomores coming off big rookie years. It doesn’t always work out. Trust me on this one… Chris Coghlan (cough)… Jason Heyward (cough cough)… I do think Hosmer is special. He’s only 22 and hit .313 with 11 homers after the All-Star break. He’s a star in the making, just don’t over-pay.

Paul Goldschmidt (Ari) See Hosmer above. Only add to it that Goldschmidt strikes out twice as much.

David Ortiz (Bos) Being drafted around pick 100 right now. That’s just about right for a 36 year old coming off Jekyl and Hyde seasons. He had a career low strikeout rate last year, therefore having a solid contact rate; that tells me he’s not done.

Freddie Freeman (ATL) Freeman: .282 in 571 at-bats, 67 runs, 21 home runs, 76 RBIs, 4 SB. — Eric Hosmer: .293 in 523 at-bats, 66 runs, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs, 11 SB. Only Freeman is going around pick 120 as opposed to Hosmer’s 58. This is mostly showing how over-priced Hosmer is, but still Freeman is flirting with my ‘love list.’ I wouldn’t mind taking him around pick 100.

Ike Davis (NYM) Going at pick 170, Davis has projected potential to hit 25 homers. Before he hurt his ankle on May 10, he was batting .302/.383/.543 with seven homers. Health is a concern though. Make sure that not only his ankle is healthy, but that he’s fully recovered from the ‘Valley Fever’ that struck him during the off-season.

Michael Cuddyer (Col) Here is a guy that’s going way too high in Yahoo (81), but probably too low on Fox (135). He plays multiple positions, so that’s a plus. He plays in Colorado now, so that’s a plus. He’s 33, that’s a negative. His projections are probably pretty accurate. Expect a .280 average and close to 20 home runs.

Brandon Belt (SF) Mashes in the minors, but might have to compete for playing time if he gets off to a slow start as he only hit .225 in his brief stint in the majors last year.

Gaby Sanchez (Mia) Hit .293 with 13 homers in the first half in route to his first All-Star game. Second half was only .225 with 6 homers.

Mark Trumbo (LAA) Has a great bat, knocking in 29 homers last year with a decent .254 average (OK for a rookie). But it’s crowded in Anaheim. See if he gets playing time at third base, and if he does, his value improves tremendously.

Carlos Lee (Hou) Going at pick 190. About right considering the declining numbers. He’s 35. Expect .270 with 18 home runs, at best.

Ty Wigginton (Phi) He’ll help fill in the gap of a missing Ryan Howard until he returns. He’s a streaky player with multiple position eligibility. If he’s hot, he’s going to help you win. But bench or cut him when he’s cold.

 

Don’t Over-Pay!

These guys have solid numbers, but be careful. They’re going much higher in drafts than they should, considering their value.

10 Michael Young (Tex) I’m a big Michael Young fan, don’t get me wrong. But because he can play multiple positions, his ADP is around 63 right now. Too rich for my blook.

Mark Reynolds (Bal) If you’re buying at pick 119, do you want a guy that bats .238? That’s his career average. He hit .198 two seasons ago. No thanks…. Wait. He hits home runs?…still, no thanks.

Kendrys Morales (LAA) I’m a big fan. I truly hope he recovers from his ankle injury. But everything I hear tells me he might not ever recover. A source of mine told me that he would be surprised if Morales ever played again. Manager Mike Scioscia said this about his injured slugger just days ago… “has our comfort level soared because of where he is right now? I'll say it has gradually increased from when we saw him taking ground balls and swinging in January. That comfort level has grown."

Doesn’t sound promising to me. Too much risk here to take at pick 195.

Justin Morneau (Min)Another source of mine who works for the Twins told me no one knows what’s going on with Morneau. But just like with Morales, I don’t like what I’m reading and the way Morneau talks doesn’t sound convincing to me.

Carlos Pena (TB) I’m never going to take a career .239 hitter. Kills your batting average. He hit .196 in 2010 for heaven’s sake! (That’s grandma talk for “don’t draft!”)

Ryan Howard (Phi) Post-surgical infections are no joke. Keep a close eye on his status. If he might actually make his season debut in May, then draft late, but I’m not holding my breath.

Adam Dunn (CHW) This is probably a no-brainer to most of you. But let’s look at the ‘best-case’ scenario. He’s a career .243 hitter and hit 38 homers in ’09 and ’10. Projections therefore have him, at best, at .237, 26 home runs. At most, take him with your last pick and drop him if he starts slow. But don’t draft any earlier.

 Anthony Rizzo (CHC) Instead of taking him around pick 220, I would rather take a deep sleeper that’s actually going to see playing time right away. Bryan LaHair is no joke and it wouldn’t shock me to see him put up reliable numbers. Rizzo might not be called up until late summer.

 

Late Round Gold Mining. AKA Deep Sleepers!

 Justin Smoak (Sea) Post-hype sleeper! Had a bad BABIP (.273) and a litany of injuries last year. This is a solid pick in the later rounds that has major up-side.

Mitch Moreland (Tex) Had an injured right wrist that effected his swing. He’s in a hitter’s ballpark, only 26, and hit .272 with 11 homers in the first half last year. I’m not a huge buyer, but there are other analysts that love him and these stats.. Watch him closely.

Mike Carp (Sea) After a rocky stint in June, he hit .286 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in only 255 at-bats. He helped me win my fantasy title down the run last year. Love him. Could be better than Smoak.

Jesus Guzman (SD) Another guy who helped me win my title last year. The dude hit .312 with 5 homers and 44 RBI down the stretch. Yonder Alonso will likely start at first base, but Guzman should share time in the outfield at the very least.

 

Don’t Draft Under Any Circumstances!

Derrek Lee (Free Agent) No one has signed him yet, so it doesn’t look promising. He might unofficially be ‘retired,’ which is what should happen to your fantasy team if you waste a draft pick on him.

 

The rest of the league

I wouldn’t bother looking at any of these players unless they’re your back-up in an incredibly deep league. These guys are second-string, at best.

 

James Loney (LAD)

Todd Helton (Col)

Aubrey Huff (SF)

Brandon Allen (Oak)

Adam LaRoche (Was)

Bryan LaHair (CHC)

Garrett Jones (Pit)

Jim Thome (Phi)

Mat Gamel (Mil)

 

Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Josh Helmuth is the lead baseball writer for CraveOnline.com and has won ‘The League Of Champions’ fantasy baseball league four out of six years.