A look at how the shallow the pool of National League first basemen has become and how to navigate those tricky NL-only waters in 2012
To say that the first base pool in NL-only leagues is thin these days would be a rather massive understatement. Essentially, the league traded Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder and got only Michael Cuddyer and Adam Kennedy back, while also losing Ryan Howard for an undetermined part of the season due to his playoff-ending ankle injury. The offseason shuffling has made Joey Votto the best player at the position in the National League by a significant margin, on top of the honor of already being one of the three best fantasy options for National League players overall.
What are the fantasy implications of the latest roster rumbles?
This past week has been very active in terms of free-agent signings and trades, and now that some of the bigger names on the market are starting to go, we’re likely to see the rest follow suit rather quickly.
Josh Willingham | Minnesota Twins | OF | Signed as free agent Willingham has remained on the outskirts of mainstream relevance for his entire career, beginning with the Marlins (before their ridiculous spending, media spotlight days), getting traded to the Nationals, then getting dealt to Oakland, and now finally signing with the Twins. For as little notoriety as he receives, he’s actually a pretty darn good player, both in the real world and fantasy. In fantasy, his biggest contribution is his power, despite playing most of his career in parks that have played toward pitchers or have been neutral. Target Field will continue that tradition, but because Willingham has been playing in similar parks, it won’t change his projections much; Oakland’s O.co Coliseum is actually slightly worse than Target.
By committing $104 million to Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, the Twins underline the changes in baseball economics, and change the conversation about their team's winter.
Taking a break from the endless Johan Santana negotiations, the Twins reached agreements with two members of their lineup core, two homegrown hitters, this week. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer signed a three-year deal worth $24 million, while 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau inked a six-year $80-million contract.
This week, Marc takes a look at the growth of an Age-27 season posterboy.
Cuddyer was selected ninth overall by the Twins in the first round of the 1997 amateur draft. He didn't sign until almost September, so his first professional playing time came in the next season. His debut came at the Low-A Midwest League in Fort Wayne went very well considering he was only 19 years old: .276/.355/.451, with walks in 11 percent and strikeouts in 19 percent of all plate appearances. Baseball America rated Cuddyer as prospect #36 in their Top 100 for the 1999 season. That year saw Cuddyer repeat at Fort Wayne, and his numbers were the roughly the same, only with a higher walk percentage (14%), and fewer strikeouts.
Cuddyer was promoted to Double-A New Britain in his Age-21 season, and took a step back at the higher level. His walk rate fell, but his strikeouts remained steady. The most damage was done to his Triple Crown rate stats, as he finished at .263/.351/.394. Asked to repeat the level the following season, the differences between his Age-21 and Age-22 season at Double-A were dramatic: