After bouncing around and landing with the A's, can the first baseman bounce back in 2015?
Ummm… what now? An entire fantasy player profile about Ike Davis? The guy that returned a whopping $8 of NL-only value last year? The guy who’s currently going as the thirty-eighth first baseman off the board in early NFBC drafts, behind the Yonder Alonsos and Mitch Morelands of the world? Yeah, that’s the guy. He doesn’t deserve that kind of a draft day fate. Walk with me. Let’s talk about Ike Davis, and why he shouldn’t be that irrelevant to your 2015 plans.
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Which of these first sackers should you choose in multi-year formats?
By this point, you’ve seen a few Tale of the Tape articles. Matt Collinskicked us off strong, Craig Goldstein refused to fall victim to groupthink and branched out with a dynasty league version, and Mr. Collins doubled up with another installment this week. The 2015 Tale of the Tape series shines a spotlight on two closely ranked players at the same position, hoping to pry them apart enough to help fantasy owners on draft day. Today, we’re featuring a showdown between Lucas Duda, who was a breakout guy last year, and perennial fantasy darling Brandon Belt. It’s East Coast vs. West Coast. The Big Apple vs. the City of the Bay. The penniless Mets vs. the World Champion Giants.
Five of the top eight at this position reside in the junior circuit, but things get dicey after they're off the board.
Last week, I examined the American League catcher landscape, and it became apparent that the position lacked depth. First base, a much less demanding defensive position, on the other hand, is able to offer owners a buffet of options. When preparing for your draft, adjusting for depth or lack thereof at certain positions can be crucial. Are the elite players at the position worth the risk? Is it better to wait out the top players at the position in hopes of getting an undervalued player later? When should you fill your corner-infield position? How these questions are handled will go a long way in deciding the makeup of your roster.
While the AL catcher landscape lacked both elite options and depth compared to the National League, first base is a decidedly different story. The first-base position is deeper in the AL—and five of the top eight first basemen in the tiered rankings reside in the junior circuit—but your draft truly gets interesting once Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Victor Martinez, and Albert Pujols are all off the board. It’s at that moment that AL-only owners will shuffle draft sheets, skim magazines, and browse draft software looking for the next first basemen to target before lamenting the loss of former stalwarts Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, Carlos Pena, Luke Scott, Mike Sweeney, Aubrey Huff, and Richie Sexson. The first-base position isn’t what it was in the latter part of the previous decade, and this will leave owners scrambling to find certainty after the top-shelf options are gone. What this means for your draft weekend is that you’ll need to wade through the middle tier like it’s a minefield.
Is retaining roster flexibility during drafts and auctions, and when making keeper choices, actually worthwhile?
“No decision is an island.” –Earl
Regardless of whether the author created a fictional, quotable Earl for the sake of making a point, the quote attributed to Earl is important for our drafts and auctions. Any decision we make is influenced by both past decisions we and others have made and future decisions we can imagine making. In theory, we should be cold, calculating decision-making machines, only weighing the relevant information, but that theory does not usually hold. Instead, we factor in how others will view our decisions, take sunk costs into account, try to remain logically consistent, and often weigh irrelevant information (even though it feels relevant to us). Also, our physiology keeps us warm.
In the first edition of a weekly series, the fantasy crew picks little-owned first baseman who might be worth grabbing for 2015 and beyond.
If there’s anything we love more than baseball around here on the fantasy staff, it’s collaborating with each other. So, at the behest of myself, we’re going to be doing one final group series of the year to close out the last seven weeks of the season. For this series, we will each select one player who is below 25 percent owned in either ESPN or Yahoo! leagues who could be someone to consider grabbing before the end of the season with an eye toward a keeper spot. Now, given the depth we’re dealing with here, these recommendations are not for owners who can keep five or seven players from season-to-season. They’re more for those of you who play in leagues where keepers take up more than half of your roster (and possibly more, in the case of some recommendations contained within).
Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
“There was a point, earlier this season, when Alonso was just about the worst player in baseball. It’s not that hard to pinpoint either. On May 8, Alonso went 0-for-4 against the Marlins to sink his batting line to a cringe-worthy .157/.183/.217. That’s terrible for the best fielding shortstop you’ve ever seen, and Alonso is certainly not that. However, what he’s done since will probably surprise you, since he’s been left for dead in just about all fantasy leagues (including Mike and my LABR team) for the last three-plus months. In the 48 games he’s played in since that fateful day that his OPS touched .400 (he was sidelined for over a month with a wrist injury, Alonso has been exactly the player the fantasy owners who drafted him in the pre-season had hoped—hitting .303/.353/.533 with seven homers, 20 extra-base hits and four steals in 152 at-bats. Project that out over the course of a full season, and you get a little tingly inside when you hit the “add” button in your deeper mixed league.” —Bret Sayre
Paul Goldschmidt leads off this list of the best long-term assets at the position heading into 2014.
Because dynasty-league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.
First base is the place you need to get offense these days if you want to compete, and after a strong first ten or so names, the rest of the options can get a little more dicey than you’d like to see. It’s not a particularly strong pipeline for prospects, but that’s not terribly uncommon for the position—the pipeline is often just as wide for players who have defensive deficiencies than it has been for strict first base prospects in the last decade or so. That won’t be any different in 2015, when Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer join the fold.
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 visual representation of the rankings in the tiered first-base list with a breakdown of the statistical contributions each player is projected to make.
For a primer on the graphical rankings, click here.
First base was an extremely fun position to break down this year. The top offensive producers will come from the cold corner. Miguel Cabrera will move there from third, Joe Mauer and perhaps Buster Posey will enter into transitional phases in their careers at first, and there’s still a host of highly talented incumbents that crowd the rankings quite a bit. Again, these are made to mirror Mike Gianella’s tiered system and aren’t necessarily in a hard order. With that in mind, let’s address some questions about the graphs.
The trio at the top won't make it out of many first rounds, but there are values to be found in lower tiers.
Next up on the tier rankings is first base. Below you'll find the tier breakdown at the position.
For those just now stumbling upon the series, and for those who need a refresher, the tiers are broken down by stars. Five-star players are the studs at their respective positions. In general, they are the players who 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. They will also be early round selections, and they're 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. One-star players are late-round sleepers and roster placeholders. As was the case with our positional rankings series, the positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of the projected PECOTA values.
First basemen had a collective down year in 2012. Why was that, and will it last?
In a chat last month, I was asked whether third base is the weakest position in baseball. The answer: not by total WARP produced in 2012, by a longshot. Of all the men playing in the field (that is, excluding DHs and pinch-hitters), third basemen produced the second-highest percentage of the league’s positional WARP: