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January 24, 2014

TTO Scoresheet Podcast

First Basemen

by Ian Lefkowitz, Ben Murphy and Jared Weiss

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Welcome back to the second installment of BP’s weekly Scoresheet fantasy baseball podcast and column. If you missed the first one, which focused on catchers, you can check it out here. This week we are following our BP brethren by taking a look at first basemen, and don’t forget to listen to our podcast, links to which can be found at the bottom of the page.

In a typical AL10 or NL12 league, the TTO crew recommends that you try to focus your offensive value around up the middle positions--C, 2B, SS, CF. So our typical teams represent a tradeoff where we redraft our 1B and DH instead of finding a keeper level player. This is at least in part because Scoresheet allows anybody to play at 1B, and players with average or better defensive rankings at other infield positions will have average defense at 1B. Our rankings are meant to be agnostic of our strategic mindset but incorporate the Scoresheet tactical rules. We would therefore advise that when you’re sitting down on draft day, you might consider the tiers of first basemen and pick out the guys you want for your team and can draft without making too many sacrifices for positional scarcity.

Without further ado, here’s how we rank the position:

KEEPERS

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

1

R

31

Det

Miguel Cabrera

2

L

30

Cin

Joey Votto

3

R

26

Ari

Paul Goldschmidt

4

R

27

SF

Buster Posey

5

L

24

Atl

Freddie Freeman

6

L

28

Bal

Chris Davis

7

L

31

Min

Joe Mauer

8

L

29

Tex

Prince Fielder

9

L

24

ChN

Anthony Rizzo

10

R

31

Tor

Edwin Encarnacion

11

R

29

StL

Allen Craig

12

L

31

LAD

Adrian Gonzalez

13

L

24

KC

Eric Hosmer

14

R

27

ChA

Jose Abreu

15

L

26

SF

Brandon Belt

16

R

34

LAA

Albert Pujols

17

R

27

Cle

Carlos Santana

18

R

28

KC

Billy Butler

19

R

32

Bos

Mike Napoli

20

L

25

StL

Matt Adams

21

L

38

Bos

David Ortiz (DH)

22

B

33

Cle

Nick Swisher

23

L

30

Oak

Brandon Moss

24

L

32

Col

Justin Morneau

CUT BUBBLE

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

25

L

30

Tor

Adam Lind

26

R

27

Hou

Chris Carter

27

R

29

LAA

Mark Trumbo

28

L

27

NYN

Ike Davis

29

L

29

TB

James Loney

30

B

35

Det

Victor Martinez

REDRAFT FOR VALUE

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

31

B

34

NYA

Mark Teixeira

32

R

32

Sea

Corey Hart

33

L

22

Hou

Jonathan Singleton

34

B

30

Kendrys Morales

35

L

34

Was

Adam LaRoche

36

R

27

Phi

Darin Ruf

37

L

34

ChA

Adam Dunn

38

L

26

Sea

Logan Morrison

39

L

27

NYN

Lucas Duda

40

B

27

Sea

Justin Smoak

DEEP ROSTERS

Rank

H

Age

Team

Player

41

L

28

Tex

Mitch Moreland

42

L

21

ChN

Daniel Vogelbach

43

L

34

Phi

Ryan Howard

44

R

30

Pit

Gaby Sanchez

45

R

38

ChA

Paul Konerko

46

R

27

Oak

Nate Freiman

47

R

24

LAA

CJ Cron

48

L

27

SD

Yonder Alonso

49

L

32

Mia

Garrett Jones

50

L

27

Hou

Brett Wallace

51

L

28

Oak

Daric Barton

(A brief note about our rankings. We considered every player who is either 1B-eligible or will become so at the very beginning of the season and ranked them in order of preference of playing them at first base. So, for example, while we might prefer to have Carlos Santana on our team than Brandon Belt, if we only had first base open on our team, we’d rank Belt ahead of Santana.)

In terms of roster construction strategy, it is also important to note that in a BL league, especially in a BL24 format (but also in a BL20) the ratio of MLB 1B + DH spots to Scoresheet rostered 1B + DH spots shifts enough to alter the replacement level and effective value of some of these players. As a result, positional scarcity shifts a little bit from what you are typically used to seeing, where 1B and DH are not scarce positions. Make sure you stash a few extra bats to fill in at these positions and to use as pinch hitters throughout the year.

We’ll now highlight some first basemen to think about in your upcoming draft and be sure to check out the podcast below for more thoughts.

KEEPERS
Okay, we're not suggesting that you avoid Paul Goldschmidt, or that if you drafted and nurtured Paul Goldschmidt years ago, and ignored all those naysayers, you should feel badly about yourself. However, don't you perhaps agree that now might be a great time to cash in on all that Goldie love and see if you can't trade him for equivalent value in a position of greater need? Because Scoresheet allows you to play players at nearly all positions at first base without much of a penalty, even the top first basemen can probably be moved for equivalent value, and Goldschmidt is not much more likely to repeat his monster 2013 than Chris Davis is.

Prince Fielder is changing scenery from Detroit to Texas, and in addition to the park factor boost, he’s a reasonable candidate to benefit from playing with a little bit less pressure in 2014. He’s been incredibly durable over the past five years, but we saw a slight dip in his rate of production in 2013 from his established levels. The TTO crew is mixed on whether he is going to continue his slide, especially given concerns around his physique. Depending on which side of the fence you fall, there may be an arbitrage opportunity in your league.

Jose Abreu is likely a player who matters a great deal to those of you with early picks in American League or mixed league drafts. We're not saying we have the magic bullet here, or that we know any better than other sources how Abreu will do in the States. But the player we think he could be is definitely right there with McCann and Tanaka as the best first base values. Optimistic readings of Abreu's value will have him pass Tanaka and close in on McCann. Those who are looking for a power bat should jump in to a top pick, and those with the no. 3 pick in an AL draft should thank their lucky stars that the New York Yankees exist.

Without a better place to discuss him, we’re covering David Ortiz this week along with the first basemen. As an aging slugger—he’ll be 38 in 2014—coming off a very impressive campaign in 2013, Ortiz represents a strong value play for teams that are going for a pennant this year. Despite being one of many players to be regular designated hitters, Ortiz does have the distinction of being the lone player without a defensive rating on this year’s Scoresheet player list. As a result of these various caveats, he’s not a good target for everybody, but we expect that he will help his owners with strong offensive performance for at least another year or two.

You always want to be cognizant of a player’s home stadium, and the Coliseum is certainly one of the least desirable ones. But even considering that Brandon Moss plays in Oakland half the time and saw an expected BABIP regression from 2012, he’s now had two years in a row of slugging over .520. Plus he can play outfield in a pinch (with admittedly terrible defense). Which means Moss is a guy to consider keeping or targeting for an early redraft if another owner drops him.

CUT BUBBLE
We remember Ike Davis' 2013, where he played half the season like he'd had too much Manischewitz at his nephew's bar mitzvah before pulling it together into a weird BABIP inflated second half run. He'll never be the player he briefly looked like in 2011 or at Arizona State, but as with many players, his career value tells the truer story. He's a strong redraft candidate, especially if he pulls away from Lucas Duda once he proves himself the better offensive and defensive option.

REDRAFT FOR VALUE
When rating the years of Mark Teixeria’s baseball career, 2013 may well place second. If every other year is tied for first. While he may never get on base 35 percent of the time again, there’s a great chance he’ll bounce back to playable levels. So if you’ve focused on the more premium positions, Teixeira might be a solid early draft choice.

In an ideal world, you won’t need to put too much faith in a player who missed all of 2013 due to multiple knee surgeries and on top of that is heading to Safeco. But where there’s risk there’s reward. Corey Hart had been solid and relatively durable prior to last season, and is only turning 32 in March, so is a pick with plenty of potential to return value.

DEEP ROSTERS
While everyone else is spouting a tired joke about his contract, you can find some value in Ryan Howard. At the moment, he seems on track to recover from his knee surgery by the start of the season. And while he won’t get on base much, he should still have some pop. Most importantly, not that you want to place too much faith in the Phillies, but Howard hit .302/.357/.522 against righties last year and has a natural platoon partner in Darin Ruf.

If you follow the TTO philosophy on first basemen, odds are you either have had Gaby Sanchez on your team or will draft him this season. There’s nothing particularly sexy about a 1B expected to slug around .400, but Sanchez should have an OBP around .340 with good defense, which makes him a nice safety net for when all your other 1B plans fall through.

PROSPECTS
Just as we caution against spending a lot on first basemen who are not cornerstones, we'd advise against drafting first base prospects who do not look like top tier hitters. Unlike other positions, where a busted prospect could still have some value as a sinkhole for plate appearances, replacement level is generally high enough at first base that someone who doesn't project as a strong keeper doesn't have a lot of other utility. This year, that extends in particular to Jonathan Singleton, who is hoping that a strong winter outweighs years of projected second division play. Dan Vogelbach may not be a better real-life prospect, but he likely has more Scoresheet value given his age advantage and present bat. Dominic Smith is very intentionally not on this list; he needs a year or two to prove that he's better than a future James Loney, and at this point in his career, we'd probably rather have the draft pick than the player in shallower leagues.

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