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January 21, 2014

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

First Basemen

by Mike Gianella

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This series began last week with a look at the catchers. Today, our positional tier rankings series continues with a look at first base.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $30. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2014.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we allocate $180 of a $260 budget to hitters. Players needed to play in 20 games at a position to qualify there. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format, you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

Players with multi-position eligibility are listed at the position where it is most likely they would start in a standard fantasy league. Buster Posey and Carlos Santana both have eligibility at catcher and first base but are not included in this part of the series for this reason. While there are unique situations where a fantasy owner might start Posey or Santana at first, these situations are the exception and not the rule.

Five Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Paul Goldschmidt

ARI

$39.36

$43.13

710

103

36

125

15

.302

Chris Davis

BAL

$39.45

$38.74

673

103

53

138

4

.286

Joey Votto

CIN

$22.02

$28.01

726

101

24

73

6

.305

Edwin Encarnacion

TOR

$24.69

$28.27

621

90

36

104

7

.272

Last year turned out to be a transitional year at the position, with Goldschmidt and Davis replacing Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder as the studs at first base. This change should hold in 2014. Even if Davis slips off of his 53-home-run clip from 2013, a 35-40-HR season should still put him at the top of a pack at a position that doesn’t offer quite as much power as it used to.

Goldschmidt is the real deal: an all around five-category monster who plays in a very good hitters’ park and has youth on his side. Those steals are gravy; Goldy was one of only two players who put up double-digit steals at first base in 2013.

Five-Star Value Pick: Joey Votto
Votto’s down year in the power department will make it tempting for some to downgrade him a few draft slots. His numbers with runners on base last year were fluky, as Votto slugged 97 points worse with men on than with the bases empty. This is atypical of Votto’s career norms and it is unlikely that he repeats this performance. Even if Votto misses 30 home runs again, his all-around performance catapults him into the elite category.

Four Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Prince Fielder

TEX

$18.51

$22.56

712

82

25

106

1

.279

Albert Pujols

LAA

$1.32

$9.55

443

49

17

64

1

.258

Eric Hosmer

KC

$20.63

$25.12

680

86

17

79

11

.302

Freddie Freeman

ATL

$23.37

$27.12

629

89

23

109

1

.319

Adrian Gonzalez

LAD

$15.73

$22.50

641

69

22

100

1

.293

This year’s four-star players offer a mix of up-and-comers on the rise with older hitters looking to bounce back or maintain. Freeman might have the most upside of any of the players in this category given his youth and the potential for some moderate power growth. His .371 BABIP does speak to a slip in batting average, and a .290 batting average might be a more realistic expectation in 2014. Freeman might crack the elite barrier this year, but 2015 is a more realistic bet.

Fielder had a down year 2013 yet still was a top 40 hitter in mixed leagues in 2013. The switch to Texas won’t have a dramatic impact on Fielder’s power that some might be expecting, but even if Fielder simply maintains at this “down” level of performance he’s still a near-elite hitter. It’s better to anticipate the new normal instead of overpaying for a bounce back that might or might not come.

Pujols is even more of an enigma than Fielder. He says he’s 100 percent after surgery, but even if he is healthy, Pujols wasn’t a fantasy monster in his last healthy season for the Angels and at his age shouldn’t be expected to dominate in 2014 either. There is some obvious bounce back potential, but a return to Pujols’ monster form with St. Louis is an unrealistic expectation.

Four-Star Value Pick: Eric Hosmer
Hosmer has been “disappointing” for so long that many have missed the fact that his stolen bases have made him a solid fantasy first baseman for the last couple of seasons. He is only a disappointment based on the lofty expectations many placed on him out of the gate. Compared to this group of hitters, Hosmer is least likely to get pushed to a price that is far past what he is capable of doing. A step forward in the power department to 20-25 home runs would put Hosmer a cut below the elite.

Three Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brandon Belt

SF

$11.10

$19.66

571

76

17

67

5

.289

Allen Craig

STL

$14.17

$20.21

563

71

13

97

2

.315

Anthony Rizzo

CHC

$8.95

$20.01

690

71

23

80

6

.233

Justin Morneau

COL

$5.38

$12.90

635

62

17

77

0

.259

Mark Trumbo

ARI

$17.40

$23.37

678

85

34

100

5

.234

Juan Abreu

CHW

Mike Napoli

BOS

$11.85

$17.59

578

79

23

92

1

.259

A common theme in the three-star category is hitters with questionable batting averages. Morneau, Rizzo, Napoli, and Trumbo all provide some degree of risk in the category and—with the exception of Trumbo—don’t provide the kind of power to make the poor BA contributions forgivable. Morneau should benefit from the Coors bump this year, while Rizzo is still young enough to anticipate some all-around improvement.

Craig is a terrific all around hitter, but his 22 home runs in 2012 might represent his ceiling. If there is a hitter in the three-tier group who might be underrated and break through into the four-star category, it is Craig.

Your guess is as good as mine or anyone else’s when it comes to what Abreu might do. This tier is a placeholder of sorts for Abreu. Spring training might give us some idea of what Abreu is capable of…or it might mislead us into drawing false conclusions that won’t hold up once the season starts.

Three-Star Value Pick: Justin Morneau
Morneau may have been a poor choice for the Colorado Rockies, but from a fantasy perspective he will get a fairly significant boost moving from Target Field to Coors Field. He isn’t going to come close to the glory days of his peak, but some home cooking is going to give him a nice bump that some will underestimate.

Two Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Brandon Moss

OAK

$13.34

$19.58

505

73

30

87

4

.256

Matt Adams

STL

$0.06

$9.71

319

46

17

51

0

.284

Ryan Howard

PHI

($5.00)

$5.46

317

34

11

43

0

.266

Corey Hart

SEA

Nick Swisher

CLE

$6.00

$13.78

634

74

22

63

1

.246

Adam LaRoche

WAS

$4.92

$15.88

590

70

20

62

4

.237

Mark Teixeira

NYY

($19.80)

($4.60)

63

5

3

12

0

.151

Adam Lind

TOR

$9.17

$15.75

521

67

23

67

1

.288


Some would argue that Moss belongs in the three-star tier, as he was pretty similar to Trumbo and in fact better than Rizzo and Morneau in 2013. While this is true, Moss’s limitations against lefties and his disadvantage playing half his games in Oakland put a cap on his ceiling. Moss is a fine player if you’re looking for power and nothing else, but I prefer the upside with three-star hitters to the known knowns that Moss offers.

If you’re looking for a consistent, under-the-radar performer in standard leagues, Swisher is your guy. He has hit 20 home runs or more nine years running, and provides solid counting stats across the board. The batting average is a drag in some seasons and is highly unlikely to ever be an asset but depending on your squad, Swisher can offer some reliable production if some of the other first sackers go for too much earlier in your draft or auction.

There is a lot of upward mobility in Teixeira’s ranking if he is completely healthy and can bounce back from a lost season due to a wrist injury. However, reports in late December indicated that Tex was still feeling some tightness and discomfort in his wrist. Wrist injuries are tricky in terms of figuring out when a full recovery will occur. Spring training might merit bumping Teixeira up a tier, but if you are drafting early it makes no sense to pay for past performance at such a thick position.

Two-Star Value Pick: Adam LaRoche
LaRoche is often viewed as a borderline mixed-league option or worse, but like Swisher has consistently put up 20 home runs nearly every season he has been on the field. He had a down year in 2013, but surgery to remove loose bodies in his elbow should put him back on more solid footing this season. He will be treated as a bottom of the barrel option in standard mixed by many, which is a mistake.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

PA

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Kendrys Morales

FA

$10.43

$16.92

657

64

23

80

0

.277

Chris Carter

HOU

$7.13

$15.23

585

64

29

82

2

.223

Yonder Alonso

SD

($2.45)

$8.14

375

34

6

45

6

.281

James Loney

TB

$8.01

$14.87

598

54

13

75

3

.299

Justin Smoak

SEA

($0.08)

$8.55

521

53

20

50

0

.238

Ike Davis

NYM

($8.06)

$4.63

377

37

9

33

4

.205

Adam Dunn

CHW

$7.76

$15.98

607

60

34

86

1

.219

Mitch Moreland

TEX

$1.98

$10.56

518

60

23

60

0

.232

Logan Morrison

SEA

($9.05)

$2.74

333

32

6

36

0

.242

Gaby Sanchez

PIT

($8.25)

$3.35

320

29

7

36

1

.254

Garrett Jones

FLA

($2.47)

$8.60

440

41

15

51

2

.233

Brett Wallace

HOU

($7.03)

$2.96

285

35

13

36

1

.221


Many of the hitters listed in the one-star category are included here due to uncertainty. If Morales signs somewhere as a starter, he’s at least a two-star player based on prior performance; he gets lumped in here for now simply because there is always a chance he winds up in a platoon or as a part time 1B/DH. Dunn suffers for similar reasons. With the Abreu/Paul Konerko/Dunn logjam at 1B/DH in Chicago, Dunn might see fewer at bats than he has in years. Carter has a high ceiling—and in OBP leagues he ranks higher than this—but the Astros are talking about opening up competition at 1B/DH in the spring. Jonathan Singleton will be knocking on the door by midseason, and while Carter seems like a great choice for the power, there is enough of a logjam in Houston to keep him among these deeper mixed/only league options.

One-Star Value Pick: Garrett Jones
Jones will bury your batting average, but with Logan Morrison off to Seattle, he has an open opportunity at playing time and it is likely the Marlins will give him 550-600 plate appearances unless he completely falls off of the map. The park will hurt him, but Jones could still manage to cobble together a 20-home-run season if he gets full-time reps.

-Only League Notes

National League: Lucas Duda and Josh Satin are the fallbacks for the Mets if Ike Davis falters again or gets traded. Satin is likely to get some at bats at first against left-handers even if Davis sticks. Darin Ruf will get some at bats against lefthanders in Philadelphia for Ryan Howard. Scouts and analysts alike are down on Ruf, but he could provide some cheap power at a third corner slot in NL-only. Howard is going to lose some at bats to left-handed pitchers if Ryne Sandberg has his way, and Ruf could be the biggest beneficiary. If Kyle Blanks manages to stay on the field and get some playing time he could be a dangerous weapon. These are always big ifs though, so it’s best to leave him for the endgame and be disappointed on the cheap if he doesn’t work out.

American League: Jeff Keppinger is projected to start the year on the bench, but with Gordon Beckham and Matt Davidson in front of him at second base and third base, could sneak in 350-400 at bats. Keppinger was overrated last year, but as a cheap $2-3 option could be a nice source of stats across the board. Mike Carp looks buried in Boston, but was extremely effective when he played last year and even in 150-200 at bats could do some damage in AL-only. He is a great guy to sneak in at the end on the cheap if your league will let you. Jesus Guzman won’t play full-time, but could sneak in enough at bats in Houston to do some damage in only leagues. Sean Rodriguez is only 1B/OF eligible at the moment. He is a better AL-only play in season once he picks up eligibility elsewhere on the diamond, but even in only Rodriguez is a pretty fringy way to use a roster spot.

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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

BP Comment Quick Links

misterjohnny
(925)

Not enough love in this analysis for Matt Adams. Giving him only 316 PA is a disservice.

Jan 21, 2014 10:19 AM
rating: -2
 
Mitchell Dickson

That's his 2013 PA's....

Jan 21, 2014 12:15 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

The PECOTA/PFM projections won't be available until February. Until then, we are using last year's stats.

Jan 22, 2014 13:17 PM
 
joshtatum92

Ike davis = value pick???

Jan 22, 2014 07:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

He could be. The one star tier is littered with guys who could exceed expectations or could crash and burn. I'd like Davis a lot more as a value pick if the Mets weren't planning on platooning him with Josh Satin and if Lucas Duda - who has some value in his own right - wasn't lurking in the background.

Jan 22, 2014 13:19 PM
 
MaineSkin

If Votto does not change his approach, how in the world will he have the RBI to contend with the 5 star 1B? I hope he doesn't bc he's the best real 1B in baseball (in OBP leagues his bump almost takes care of RBI).
Serious, he couldn't produce the RBI with Choo and now has Hamilton and who knows if he's not in the 2-hole.
Votto is loved by all with such a push from the statistical branch of baseball that he's basically receiving a pass. He was the 7th best 1B on ESPNs PR and the only reason to take him among the top 4 is his consistency factor.

Jan 25, 2014 19:36 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Gianella
BP staff

I touched upon this in the article. His numbers with men on base were far poorer than with the bases empty for no particular reason. Losing Choo hurts, but the odds of Votto doing as badly with men on base again are poor.

I also weigh batting average more heavily than most analysts. Votto has hit .305 or higher each of the last five years, and that .305 number is low. Outside of Joe Mauer, there isn't a player in MLB who is more of a certainly to hit .300 this year.

Jan 26, 2014 11:21 AM
 
kingsac

Billy Butler?

Feb 07, 2014 08:47 AM
rating: 0
 
kingsac

Doh, I'll see him in the DH ratings. It's early!!!

Feb 07, 2014 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
kvamlnk

Juan Abreu CWS should be Jose Abreu
bp# 102005
mlb# 547989

Feb 21, 2014 10:01 AM
rating: 0
 
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Fantasy Article State of the Position:... (01/21)
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The Week in Quotes: Ja... (01/21)

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