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2012 Position Rankings: First Base

This week's rankings take us to the most productive position on the field, first base. The average first baseman hit .271/.345/.451 with 24 homers, 91 RBI, 79 runs scored, and four stolen bases last year, so expected production is high. The position is not as deep with elite players as you may think though, with just five no-doubters in the primes of their careers followed by a bunch of guys with limited track records, injury problems, age concerns, significant flaws, or all of the above.

Just to be clear, I am not including Mike Napoli, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, and Joe Mauer in these rankings even though they'll likely have first base eligiblity next year. All four guys are far more valuable behind the plate at the catcher position. This list is true first basemen only. The rankings are made with respect to traditional 12-team, 5x5 mixed leagues.

  1. Miguel Cabrera, DET - Still just 28, Cabrera hasn't hit lower than .320 in three years now and is a lock for 30 HR and 100 RBI. He's the best all-around hitter in baseball at the moment, and if the Tigers truly intend to use him at third base at least part of the time in 2012, he's a candidate to go first overall in drafts given inevitable hot corner eligibility.
  2. Joey Votto, CIN - The early season power slump was puzzling, but Votto finished strong and ended up with 24+ HR for the fourth straight season. If he can get back to stealing double-digit bases like he did in 2010, he'll have a strong case to be the best fantasy first baseman as a true five category contributor.
  3. Albert Pujols, LAA - New league, new team, new ballpark, but expect the same old Albert. Last year's bout with mortality is a career year for most players, with power (37 HR), average (.299), steals (nine), RBI (99), and runs scored (105). The Machine still does it all.
  4. Prince Fielder, DET - Comerica Park isn't nearly as hitter friendly as Miller Park, but Prince has the kind of power that plays anywhere. He'll give you everything but stolen bases, and if he hits behind Cabrera, he's got a chance for to put up an eye-popping RBI total.
  5. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS - Gonzalez admitted to feeling fatigue in his surgically repaired shoulder last last season, which is probably why he hit just 12 HR in his final 404 plate appearances. He hit a ton of ground balls last year (46.7%), and if that goes back to his career norm (41.4%), expect his BABIP (.380) and batting average (.338) to come back to Earth a bit.
  6. Lance Berkman, STL - Berkman looked pretty close to done in 2010, but he revived his career in the outfield of all places. He'll step in for Pujols now, but it would be wise to expect second half Puma (.315/7/31) rather than first half Puma (.290/24/63) over a full season. Fortunately that's still an excellent player.
  7. Mark Teixeira, NYY - After seeing his batting average (.248) decline for the third straight year, Teixeira acknowledged that he changed his approach in an effort to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's short right field porch. His average will get back to being respectable with a shift back to his all-fields approach, and the HR and RBI totals will still be gaudy.
  8. Paul Konerko, CHW - Like Berkman, Konerko looked close to done once upon a time (2008 and 2009), but he rebounded to have the two best years of his career in 2010 and 2011. His teammates won't help much with the runs and RBI, but the power and batting average should still be top notch. He's not without risk at age 35 (36 in March).
  9. Eric Hosmer, KC - An aggressive ranking? Sure, but the 22-year-old did everything but draw walks last year. He'll threaten 30 HR with a full slate of plate appearances, and could make a run at 20 steals as well. Fewer ground balls (49.7% in 2011) will likely result in a lower batting average (.293), however.
  10. Mike Morse, WAS - Once thought to be a one-year wonder, Morse is now working on almost 900 plate appearances of high-end production, with power (31 HR last year), batting average (.303), and run production (95 RBI). A healthy Ryan Zimmerman and a resurgent Jayson Werth will do wonders for his RBI and runs scored totals.
  11. Billy Butler, KC - Butler hasn't delivered the kind of power we'd hoped for (20+ HR just once in his four seasons), but he hits for average (.290+ last three years) and drives in runs, something he should do more of with a full season of Hosmer batting ahead of him.
  12. Freddie Freeman, ATL - A solid all-around player that will contribute in every category but steals, my one concern is that Freeman hit lefties better in 2011 (.247/.304/.403) than he ever had before. It could be real improvement, but I want to see more at such a young age.
  13. Carlos Pena, TB - It's no secret what Pena is at this point; he's going to flirt with 30+ HR and threaten triple-digit RBI while draining your batting average. The move from Wrigley Field to Tropicana Field will hurt his production a bit.
  14. Ike Davis, NYM - Davis was having a breakout season (.302/7/25 in 36 games) before an ankle injury ended his season in May. His power was big enough to conquer CitiField even before they moved the walls in, so there's some serious breakout potential here if healthy.
  15. Michael Young, TEX - The highest BABIP of his life (.367) was propped up by an astonishingly low fly ball rate (26.5%) that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his career. If he starts putting more balls back in the air, his average will come down and so will his value given the lack of power. Young is considerably more valuable at second or third bases.
  16. Ryan Howard, PHI - Howard would obviously rank higher if he was going to be healthy all year, but that achilles problem will sideline him in April, if not longer. You'll get a ton of HR and RBI when he gets back on the field, but the batting average isn't anything to write home about.
  17. Mark Reynolds, BAL - Another all power and run production type with an ugly batting average, Reynolds is right in the prime of his career and could top 40 HR again if he plays first base all season and doesn't have to deal with the wear-and-tear of the hot corner.
  18. Mark Trumbo, LAA - Trumbo could be very useful if he gains third base and/or outfield eligibility, but he's another average killer with big power. Nothing in his track record suggests that he'll start drawing more walks for those of you in OBP leagues.
  19. Michael Cuddyer, COL - Going from Target Field to Coors Field is a dramatic change, and it could help get Cuddyer back in 25 HR territory. He'll hit for an okay average and contribute in most categories, but not an overwhelming amount. Like Young, he has considerably more value at second or third bases.
  20. Gaby Sanchez, FLA - A dynamite first half was sabotaged by a ridiculously slow finish, but Gaby's value will always be tied to his batting average and RBI output because he doesn't hit for much power. Having Jose Reyes atop the lineup will help, but the new ballpark in Miami is an x-factor.
  21. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI - Off-the-charts raw power, but I'm not expecting much in terms of batting average. Assuming he beats out Lyle Overbay for playing time, he'll still be at the platoon disadvantage most of the time as a right-handed bat.
  22. Mitch Moreland, TEX - Moreland was unrosterable in the second half, but he has some pop and is in the right ballpark and lineup to maximize his fantasy output. First base is the one spot where Texas could use a clear upgrade, so his job could be in jeopardy come the trade deadline.
  23. Carlos Lee, HOU - The power is clearly starting go and the lineup around him won't present many RBI and runs scored opportunities, so if anything I might be overrating Lee. It's a contract year though, and a midseason trade to a contender in need of a DH could up his value a bit.
  24. Adam Dunn, CHW - Dunn was so unfathomably bad last season that I can't help but think a rebound is coming. He's in a great hitters' park and isn't over-the-hill yet, so there's really no reason he shouldn't pop 30 HR this year. Then again, we said that last year at this time.
  25. Justin Morneau, MIN - It's all about health. If Morneau is healthy, he's still young enough (31 in May) that 30 HR are within reach, even in Target Field. That's a huge "if" though.

Honorable Mention: Todd Helton, COL; Adam Lind, TOR; Justin Smoak, SEA; Yonder Alonso, SD; Mike Carp, SEA; Lucas Duda, NYM; Casey Kotchman & Derrek Lee, N/A

Other Positions: Catcher

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