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March 1, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Fantasy Tier Rankings: First Basemen

by Derek Carty

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These are the first base fantasy rankings for 2012. Check out our previous closer and catcher installments.

We’ve got a lot of positions to cover over the next couple of weeks, so let’s dive right in. At bat: first basemen.

As a reminder, five-star players are generally going to be your star-level producers that will be selected within the first couple of rounds, usually worth upward of $30. Four-star players are the next step down, worth more than $20. Three stars are worth more than $10, two stars will be in the single digits, and one star will be roster-filler and late-round fliers. Of course, this is just a general guideline. While the rankings will generally follow PECOTA, I will deviate when I feel strongly that a player will over or underperform his PECOTA projection.

I’ve also decided to give my choice for a value pick in each tier—a guy who I think will be worth more than your leaguemates do, or a guy who I believe stands a good chance of beating his PECOTA projection.

For reference, the dollar values were created by our PFM using a league format of 12 teams, 5x5 scoring, and 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify. We’ll be providing values for both mixed leagues and AL-only/NL-only leagues. While this is the industry standard format, your own league structure may differ, in which case you can customize the PFM to your own needs.

Also, please note that for players who are eligible at multiple positions, the dollar values listed are representative of their most valuable position. So for a guy like Mike Napoli, who qualifies at catcher, his dollar values aren’t directly comparable to Eric Hosmer if you’re drafting him as a first baseman. His ranking, however, is indicative of where he would fall as a first baseman.

Five Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Albert Pujols

1B

ANA

$43

$32

697

0.305

37

11

111

107

Miguel Cabrera

1B

DET

$40

$30

703

0.313

34

3

111

106

Joey Votto

1B

CIN

$36

$32

686

0.303

31

10

103

101

Adrian Gonzalez

1B

BOS

$35

$27

706

0.301

33

1

107

103

Prince Fielder

1B

DET

$33

$25

687

0.284

37

2

104

102

This tier is pretty predictable. These five are the cream of the crop, and there shouldn’t be any surprises. You can’t go wrong with any of these guys anchoring your fantasy squad. Moving on.

Five-Star Value Pick: Pujols. The guy has been the most consistent (and best) player in baseball for years, yet he’s being taken third on average, and as low as seventh, in mock drafts. If I have the number-one pick in a draft, I’m probably grabbing Pujols.

Four Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Mark Teixeira

1B

NYA

$27

$23

700

0.271

34

2

100

98

Michael Morse

1B,LF

WAS

$16

$21

620

0.28

26

2

87

81

Mike Napoli

C,1B

TEX

$27

$22

547

0.269

31

6

85

77

Eric Hosmer

1B

KCA

$18

$20

682

0.284

19

8

85

85

Carlos Santana

C,1B

CLE

$28

$21

685

0.252

27

5

85

91

Mark Reynolds

1B,3B

BAL

$19

$20

656

0.234

35

11

91

83

Paul Konerko

1B,DH

CHA

$15

$17

646

0.266

28

1

85

85

Now things get interesting. You could make a case for Teixeira in the first tier, but his batting average troubles over the past couple years place him out of it. Mike Morse might surprise a bit as my sixth most-valuable first baseman, but I really like him. I talked about how I was buying into Morse early in the 2011 season, and he continued to rake the rest of the way. Great power, hits the ball hard, multi-position-eligible. This guy’s legit.

I’m sure some of you would like to see Hosmer higher up on the list, and he’s certainly a great talent, but he also has little major-league experience. He has good raw power and hits the ball to all fields, but at this point I’ll still take guys like Morse and Napoli, for whom we can be a little more certain about what to expect.

We also see two catchers in this tier. I would highly recommend against drafting them as first basemen because you’re going to have a hard time getting them for proper value, but it’s interesting to note just how good their bats are; they’d still be Four Stars even if they weren’t backstops.

Four-Star Value Pick: You’ll surely rather play him at third, but even as a first baseman Mark Reynolds is valuable. He’s a guy who always seems to wind up on my team, perpetually undervalued in my eyes, and he’s in a good ballpark for his power. He even has a decent lineup around him, considering he plays for the Orioles. I’ll take the over on his PECOTA home-run projection; 40-plus is a very real possibility. He’s being taken in just the 10th round, on average, in Mock Draft Central drafts, so Reynolds is my value pick here.

Three Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Michael Cuddyer

1B,RF

COL

$6

$17

553

0.278

18

7

71

71

Michael Young

1B,3B,DH

TEX

$12

$18

652

0.295

14

6

76

81

Freddie Freeman

1B

ATL

$11

$17

659

0.27

20

3

79

80

Lance Berkman

1B,RF

SLN

$8

$17

577

0.268

22

6

71

78

Carlos Pena

1B

TBA

$8

$13

609

0.22

32

3

78

78

Adam Dunn

1B,DH

CHA

$8

$13

601

0.231

30

1

77

79

Edwin Encarnacion

1B,3B,DH

TOR

$4

$13

561

0.26

20

5

70

70

Adam Lind

1B

TOR

$7

$14

572

0.268

22

2

78

71

Ike Davis

1B

NYN

$5

$15

570

0.269

20

2

72

73

Mitch Moreland

1B,RF

TEX

($0)

$13

518

0.268

17

2

65

64

Paul Goldschmidt

1B

ARI

$8

$15

430

0.248

21

2

60

55

While PECOTA seems to disagree a bit, I see Michael Cuddyer as the class of the Three Stars. Between moving to the National League and the ballpark swing from Target to Coors Field, I don’t see how Cuddyer hits fewer than 25 home runs in the middle of a solid lineup. Of course, I’m not the only one who is onto him, as he’s generally been going in the seventh round of Mock Draft Central drafts.

I’ve already explained why I like Ike this year, so I won’t rehash my feelings.

Edwin Encarnacion and Mitch Moreland both made the cut for my CBS AL-only team, and I’ll tell you now that it was by design. I love these two for the 2012 season and could easily see 25 home run seasons out of both. Both have some risk, but both also have very good raw power and play half their games in favorable ballparks, E5 especially. Moreland’s offseason wrist surgery worries me a bit and causes me to temper expectations of him, but it’s still likely he exceeds his round 20 ADP as long as he gets close to full-time at-bats. The second caveat goes for Edwin too, as the Jays have a crowded outfield/DH picture. But between his ability to play first, third, DH, and apparently left field, the team should find a way to keep him in the lineup as long as he hits.

I grabbed Adam Dunn for $11 in the CBS league as well, but I am a bit concerned about him, especially with Ozzie Guillen saying how out of whack his swing was last year. There’s a lot of upside if he comes cheap enough, though, and there are plenty of reasons why he could improve. New manager Robin Ventura thought he looked good during batting practice a couple days ago. Dunn says he hits better when he plays the field, so the Sox will work him in at first base a bit more this season. He also didn’t do any work in the batting cages last offseason, which he did do this winter. He’s now had a full year to start adjusting to American League competition. Plus, he has natural regression on his side.

Three-Star Value Pick: Encarnacion. He’s being selected in the 19th round of mocks, so you simply can’t pass him up.

Two Stars

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Lucas Duda

1B,RF

NYN

$5

$14

594

0.264

19

1

74

75

Mike Carp

1B,LF

SEA

$5

$14

605

0.25

23

2

74

72

Chris Davis

1B,3B

BAL

$9

$15

584

0.262

25

2

82

72

Carlos Lee

1B,LF

HOU

$7

$17

584

0.275

20

4

75

72

James Loney

1B

LAN

$7

$17

651

0.278

12

7

70

77

Gaby Sanchez

1B

FLO

$5

$15

583

0.269

18

5

70

73

Adam LaRoche

1B

WAS

$2

$12

562

0.251

21

1

70

68

There’s a lot of “bleh” going on in the Two-Star category, with several veterans who you more or less know what you’re getting from.

Chris Davis is intriguing if he can finally prove he can handle big-league pitching, but there’s big risk. He’s struggled in the past, causing some to pencil him into the Quad-A category. He had injury problems through the end of last season and decided to forgo hernia surgery (which often just means he’ll wind up getting it later on down the road). He also has a good deal of competition in Baltimore should he struggle (Wilson Betemit, Josh Bell, Ryan Flaherty, and Matt Antonelli). The risk may outweigh the potential reward here.

Lucas Duda is a great pick in this tier; he has good power, the Mets are moving the Citi Field fences in, and he will have little competition for his job as the starting right fielder. He’s a big guy, but he manages to keep his strikeouts in check, which is great.

Two-Star Value Pick: Mike Carp. The RBI and runs might leave a little to be desired with an offense like Seattle’s, but manager Eric Wedge has said Carp will be the primary left fielder, also getting starts at first and DH. He has very good power, and if he continues to bat cleanup, he should easily exceed his 22nd round ADP.

One Star

Player

POS

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

AVG

HR

SB

RBI

R

Ryan Howard

1B

PHI

($3)

$10

423

0.251

23

1

62

56

Todd Helton

1B

COL

($3)

$10

527

0.281

11

0

54

68

Justin Smoak

1B

SEA

($4)

$7

579

0.234

16

0

57

66

Justin Morneau

1B

MIN

$2

$12

504

0.279

19

0

68

67

Daniel Murphy

1B,2B,3B

NYN

$9

$17

593

0.288

11

7

70

73

Garrett Jones

1B,RF

PIT

($2)

$12

473

0.255

17

8

59

57

Brandon Belt

1B,LF

SFN

($6)

$9

428

0.255

13

8

50

54

Aubrey Huff

1B,OF

SFN

($4)

$9

521

0.253

13

3

57

60

Brandon Allen

1B

OAK

($3)

$9

508

0.23

18

6

57

60

Casey Kotchman

1B

CLE

($7)

$8

493

0.27

10

1

52

58

Ty Wigginton

1B,3B,LF

PHI

($9)

$7

461

0.244

13

3

50

51

Morneau sticks out as the only One-Star player that PECOTA projects for a positive mixed-league contribution (outside of Daniel Murphy, who is valued as a second baseman). His post-concussion symptoms are still lingering, and when a guy talks about the ailment he’s dealing with potentially ending his career, it’s time to worry. Throw in Target Field’s effects on the healthy version of Morneau, and I’m staying away unless he’s dirt cheap. AL-only players, Chris Parmelee makes for a good $1 or reserve selection.

Ryan Howard experienced a setback yesterday, so he could move down this tier if it proves serious. If it doesn’t and you have DL spots, you could make the case that he’s the best One-Star Value Pick. Draft him, take somebody like Ty Wigginton at the very end, and find yourself with a very serviceable first-base tandem.

One-Star Value Pick: Let me tell you, though, I don’t want to find myself without a first baseman when these are the only guys left. However, Brandon Belt does have a lot of, and at the point of a mixed-league draft when you’re going to be faced with a decision like this, upside is more important than the consistency you’ll get from someone like Todd Helton. For this reason, Justin Smoak is also a compelling option, especially if the injury the Mariners are said to have covered up last season sapped his effectiveness.

***

With over 1,600 player comments in Baseball Prospectus 2012, you might find it difficult to read through them all before draft day arrives. To help you out, in each article of this series, I’ll point you toward some of the most insightful comments for the position. These are the guys that I’d highly recommend flipping to in your copy of the book and reading before you sit down at the draft able.

Be sure to read the BP2012 Comments for these first basemen: Brandon Allen, Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Casey Kotchman, and Justin Smoak.

***

Finally, I’ll be flying out to Arizona this weekend to compete in LABR, the longest-running expert league in fantasy baseball history. I’m in the NL-only league that drafts Sunday night, which should prove a nice complement to the CBS AL-only league I drafted last week. If you’re interested in getting a sneak peek at my roster, check out DerekCarty.com late Sunday night, or check back here at BP on Tuesday for a more complete rundown.  I’m always interested to get readers’ thoughts on my teams.  I won’t have anything on Monday since I’ll be traveling, but we’ll have at least two or three more sets of position rankings throughout next week.

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Wyrm22

It seems like on the 5 and 4 star players you have the values of mixed and AL/NL switched.

Mar 01, 2012 06:30 AM
rating: 0
 
ddufourlogger

It seems that way, but I believe Derek will confirm they're correct. I'm at a loss as well though, to explain how people would pay more in a mixed league than in AL/NL only...? Guess maybe if Pujols/Fielder/Cabrera jump off the board in the first 5 picks, you bid harder on Joey to make sure you aren't left out? Seems counter-intuitive to me too.

Mar 01, 2012 06:45 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yes, the values are correct. In my experience, mixed league auctions do see higher prices than AL/NL-only. In Tout Mixed last year, for example, Pujols and Hanley went for $46 and $47. In LABR NL, they were under $40, IIRC.

Mar 01, 2012 08:37 AM
 
Deadheadbrewer

I don't play in mixed leagues, but I believe the seeming error in "flipped" values has to do with the so called "stars and scrubs" nature of the mixed league. When you're using only the top fifteen players at any given position, you need to spend a great deal to get one of the stars at the position. You don't need to hold back any money for a decent back-up at that same position because the free agent pool is full of decent options that one can have for free.

Mixed-league players, please feel free to correct me if I'm off base on this one . . .

Mar 01, 2012 07:39 AM
rating: 1
 
tballgame

I keep seeing this at the beginning of articles, "These are the first base fantasy rankings for 2011." What do these rankings have to do with 2011?

Mar 01, 2012 06:55 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

That should say 2012 :)

Mar 01, 2012 07:23 AM
 
Jack Thomas

K Morales, M Trumbo, B Butler & or B LaHair were not in your 1B rankings. Morales, Trumbo & Butler or eligible as 1B in most leagues. LaHair is only OF eligible -- but will open as Cubs starting 1B. Where would they fit in your ranking or will you rank at other positions?

Mar 01, 2012 07:06 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yeah, the only guys who made the cut are guys who played at least 20 games at 1B last year, so that's why Butler and LaHair aren't on there. Trumbo didn't make it because of PT concerns, and same with Morales.

The latter two are perfectly fine AL-only buys for a couple bucks and would have a lot of upside. Morales, if he qualifies at first, I would even say belongs in the One Star group, between Huff and Allen. LaHair would also be a One Star guy, right below Morales.

Butler would be in the Three Star group, if he qualifies in your league, either before or after Michael Young.

Mar 01, 2012 08:48 AM
 
BindleStiff

Very small point... I'm just curious why Belt is a few rungs lower than Helton on your rankings if "at the point of a mixed-league draft when you’re going to be faced with a decision like this, upside is more important than the consistency you’ll get from someone like Todd Helton"?

Mar 01, 2012 07:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Well, the rankings are based on average expected value. In that regard, I see Helton as the better pick. In a mixed-league, where these are going to be among the last guys chosen to fill out your roster, upside is more important. In an NL-only league where they're filling in the middle of your roster, though, and where replacement level is much lower, upside is less important.

Mar 01, 2012 08:39 AM
 
robmcangus

Is Rizzo still considered 1B? If so - is he just have that poor of value?

Mar 01, 2012 08:49 AM
rating: 0
 
robmcangus

Nm...I didn't see the replies to the comments. I am assuming it is b/c Rizzo didn't play 20 games. Sorry! i should read better....dont tell my kids I did that. :)

Mar 01, 2012 08:50 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

Yeah, Rizzo will start the year in the minors, and if LaHair hits well, there's no guarantee he comes up this year. Hoyer admitted to rushing him to the bigs last year in San Diego, and I don't expect him to make that mistake again. In an NL-only league Rizzo is a fine buy for cheap, but his expected value doesn't reach that of the guys on this list.

Mar 01, 2012 08:51 AM
 
Robotey

I understand that the 'stars & scrubs' principle begins to explain how the top-tier's salaries are bigger in mixed league, but I still must believe that the dearth of 1b talent in the NL thanks to the Central Division diaspora can only make Votto that much more valuable in an NL only league. I would be thanking the fantasy gods if my $33 bid were met with the sound of crickets, but I wouldn't bet on it happening. I know for a fact that in our 11 team NL the team that has Votto for $39 is keeping him, a move I envy.

Doesn't position scarcity account for anything?

Mar 01, 2012 12:06 PM
rating: 2
 
hwbliz

What.about Mat Gamel?

Mar 01, 2012 17:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Carty
BP staff

More valuable as a 3B, but if he qualifies at 1B in your league, he'd be a firm One Star guy.

Mar 01, 2012 17:08 PM
 
Worthing

Next position...

Mar 06, 2012 11:50 AM
rating: 2
 
mikebuetow

Yeah, no kidding. Time's a wastin'!

Mar 07, 2012 05:17 AM
rating: 1
 
doshspy

I got my draft in 10 days and you've covered 3 positions so far? The fantasy info on this site does not seem to be coming at the rate it did last year. Value Picks every couple days is basically it. Where is the breakout players guide?, position analysis etc. Step up your game BP!

Mar 07, 2012 09:08 AM
rating: 1
 
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