Although the league-average second baseman only hit .250/.307/.364 in 2014, the position was rather deep. Seven second basemen finished the season as top-50 fantasy players in ESPN leagues, including a few breakout stars such as Josh Harrison, Dee Gordon, and Brian Dozier. Ultimately, it proved to be a crazy season in which cheap options on draft day provided some of the best value—as five of the top-10 second baseman were, on average, drafted outside the top 15.
Big power might suddenly be tough to come by at a position that had been well stocked before 2014.
If 2013 looked like the dawn of a grand new era at first base, in 2014 reality came crashing down on this supposed new paradigm. Ten first basemen earned $25 or more in mono formats in 2013; in 2014, only five first basemen managed to reach this vaunted plateau. It could be argued that first base has been impacted more by the limited offensive climate than any other position. The days of the 25-30 home run hitter aren’t dead and forgotten, but with fewer top shelf big boppers to go around, fantasy owners have to decide if they want to invest a high draft pick on a major power play or if they want to try and opt for cheaper production that is attached to more of an all-around player. James Loney’s 2014 line looks excruciatingly boring, but he was the 13th-best first baseman in fantasy in 2014. Unless your league is super shallow, what were once pedestrian-looking numbers are now a staple in some team’s lineup.
Despite the lack of top tier production in 2014, the top of the player pool still looks strong. Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera both look to bounce back from injuries and take their rightful place at the top of the heap in mono leagues. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Abreu offer strong power production and could easily fill the void if Cabrera’s injury recovery winds up being on the longer side. Immediately beneath this quartet of $30-plus potential earners is a trio of grizzled veterans—Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, and Albert Pujols—accompanied by last year’s big breakout player, Anthony Rizzo. Martinez produced at an elite level last year, but the fickle nature of V-Mart’s high batting average makes Rizzo the most likely to crack the top five this year assuming further growth.
Sizing up the backstop landscape for fantasy purposes.
The 2014 season proved to be a mixed bag at the catcher position. A few players emerged as legitimate top-10 talents, such as Devin Mesoraco and Yan Gomes, while some of the preseason darlings, such as Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos, failed to produce due to injury. Those circumstances, though, seem to add up to an extremely deep position in 2015: If the breakouts carry over and the injured players return to everyday roles, the top 10 could be relatively stacked.
An underappreciated advantage at the catcher position has always been plate appearances. Position players around the diamond amass 600-plus PA with regularity, but in 2014, only three players eclipsed that mark. However, only one catcher (Carlos Santana) did so in 2013. The biggest reason for the increase? Catchers are beginning to play multiple positions. Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Joe Mauer, Yasmani Grandal, Carlos Santana, Brian McCann, Stephen Vogt, and Evan Gattis all qualified at more than one spot. The added roster versatility is always nice for fantasy owners, but more importantly, the benefit can be found in the PA category. That means more opportunities for counting statistics—a category in which catchers have traditionally struggled. Teams are searching for ways to get quality catchers more plate appearances, which is a boon for fantasy owners wise enough to capitalize on such trends.
Craig examines the strategies you should employ when filling this premium offensive position, and what it might look like down the road.
First base is always an interesting position, especially for those of us who are in dynasty leagues (or just into prospects) because it lacks the high-end prospects in the minors but manages to maintain a huge portion of value in fantasy. Because of the depth that the position picks up at the major-league level, thanks mainly to position changes, the strategy it sees can actually be similar to the one Bret mentioned in the State of the Position: Catchers writeup, in that many people will go into a draft planning on passing until the later rounds. With catchers, this can be because at some point, all that’s left are similarly (but poorly) skilled players, so it just doesn’t matter who you end up with. It’s different at first base in that, while there are elite talents at the top, the depth of the position provides some cushion for those who choose to draft/spend elsewhere early on.
That depth is the defining aspect to the position. While outfield may rival first base for its depth, it also has between 3-5 positions to fill, depending on the league, while first base only has the one (though CI is also filled by 1B-eligible players). The top of the depth chart at first base appears more muddled than ever, with Chris Davis the reigning king thanks to his power explosion in 2014. Still, Paul Goldschmidt might be the better investment thanks to a steadier track record and impressive versatility (he led all first baseman with 15 stolen bases). We’ve seen Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt finally, hopefully, solidify themselves reliable first-base options with upside, adding talent to what has become a very robust middle tier.
A fantasy-oriented look at the present and future behind the dish.
The beginning of each week of pre-season positional coverage here at BP is going to kick off with a high-level view of that position before we start diving too deeply into rankings, individual players and the like. And as a reminder, here is what the rest of the week’s schedule will look like: