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2013 Position Rankings: First Basemen

Our position rankings are rolling along today with first basemen. If you're just catching the series, check out Catchers and Outfielders. After a team discussion, featuring Tim Dierkes and the entire RotoAuthority staff, we've prepared tiered rankings that go 40 players deep. The players are divided into groups of similar value, and tiered by where they deserve to be drafted in a standard league. If you're bidding in an auction, consider players in the same tier to be of similar price.

If a player has other positions in parentheses, that means you can draft and start him there. Speaking of players with other eligibilities, their rank here only represents their rank as a first baseman--basically, Carlos Santana's ranking represents when you should nab him even if you've got your catcher slot filled by Buster Posey.

Finally, there's a strategic reality to be aware of before you go into the draft: first base is weak this year. Really weak. A lot of the old stalwarts have fallen off the map, and their younger replacements haven't brought their game to an elite level yet. You'll still have to pay a premium for first basemen, but don't be shocked if you aren't getting the production or the certainty you've been able to expect for the last two decades.

1st Round

1. Albert Pujols, LAA
2. Joey Votto, CIN
3. Prince Fielder, DET

These guys are pretty easy to rank. Though Votto and Pujols come with more question marks than usual, the supra-elite production we've seen from them before is enough to keep them at the top of the pile. Fielder is close, much closer to Votto or Pujols than he is to any other player. So close that if you prefer his consistency to their upside, we'll understand.

2nd-3rd Round

4. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR
5. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD

These guys are fair value in the third, but I can totally understand reaching for them in the second. First is just that shallow, that it's worth banking that Encarnacion can do it again or that Gonzalez will find his lost power. Plus, Gonzo's average and lineup will keep him valuable even if the power doesn't come back on, and E5 was so good that he can slip a lot and still be one of the top third basemen. Yeah, things are that thin.

5th Round

6. Billy Butler, KCR
7. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
8. Allen Craig, STL (OF)

Call me crazy, but I prefer Butler's consistent production and recent power surge to the relative unknowns of Goldschmidt and Craig. I know this seems low on Goldy, but would you take him in the second round if he wasn't stealing bases? He's got plenty of potential, but his ADP doesn't reflect that--it reflects a proven star and that isn't what he is. Craig is going too high too. He's not young and he's got a career full of injury-shortened seasons. Was he great last year? Yes. Will he be great again if healthy? Probably. See: question marks.

6th Round

9. Anthony Rizzo, CHC
10. Freddie Freeman, ATL
11. Buster Posey, SFG (C)

Rizzo is full of potential and Freeman still has room to grow. That said, players like these used to be had a lot later in the draft. It feels like a reach to me, but that's the change of market value. I prefer Rizzo because he's got the best chance to make a big jump instead of a little step. Unless your league doesn't allow catchers, you can't get Posey at this point. This is where I'd slot him in at first, as I expect some regression from any MVP season.

 7th-8th Round

11.5 (David Ortiz, BOS--DH only)
12. Mark Teixeira, NYY
13. Paul Konerko, CHW
14. Adam LaRoche, WAS
15. Adam Dunn, CHW

Ortiz can't play first, but at this point you might be taking your utility player or DH. If you are, take Ortiz above any available first baseman. Age and injury risk are all that keep him this low, because his production is top-notch when he's healthy. I still hesitate to write Teixeira's name down, even this much lower than his ADP. He truly seems to be on the decline, and he's at the point of his career where the downward slide could really accelerate. Maybe he rights the ship and I reevaluate during the season, but right now he isn't where I'd place my bet. Konerko and LaRoche are consistent and unexciting. Oddly, I think Konerko is a little overrated and LaRoche a little underrated despite similar profiles. Dunn's good years kill your batting average, but his power is getting rarer and rarer, so I'd still reach for him here.


16. Eric Hosmer, KCR
17. Chris Davis, BAL (OF)
18. Carlos Santana, CLE (C)
19. Joe Mauer, MIN (C)

Hosmer will either be a steal here, or a hideous bust. I don't imagine for a second that he'll give ninth round production, but I couldn't say with any confidence whether he'll be better or worse than this. The power that Davis showed last year was no surprise, but the respectable batting average sure was. In case you already have Posey catching for you, here's where you should grab Santana or Mauer to play first.

11th-12th Rounds

20. Nick Swisher, CLE (OF)
21. Ike Davis, NYM
22. Mike Napoli, BOS (C)

Swisher takes a slight value hit at first, but he's still a really consistent performer with versatility. Davis could be a decent value play here. Napoli will be playing first for the Sox, but you probably don't want him out from behind the plate on your team.

13th-14th Rounds

23. Lance Berkman, TEX
24. Todd Frazier, CIN (3B)

The chance that Berkman has any gas in the tank at all makes him worth a flier. He could be massive value here, though the risk is high. Frazier is an interested and underrated player. After an impressive partial season, he won't be battling the ghost of Scott Rolen for time at third base.


25. Justin Morneau, MIN
26. Kendrys Morales, LAA

Morneau is one of those fallen stars, but at least he's picked himself up to the kind of mediocrity that allows you to play him at utility or corner infield. The move to Safeco scares me: I don't know what difference the moving fences will make, but I do know (sort of, not like I'm a meteorologist or anything) what that humid Seattle air does to fly balls. Plus, Morales isn't that awesome in the first place. 


27. Yonder Alonso, SDP
28. Chris Carter, HOU
29. Michael Cuddyer, COL
30. Mark Reynolds, CLE

Alonso might be able to take advantage of the shortening fences in Petco, and he's young enough to improve the old fashioned way. Carter could hit a bunch of home runs, and the Astros will have little choice to be patient with any batting average issues that hit him. A healthy Cuddyer could be pretty valuable splitting time between your OF and CI spots, especially in daily leagues where you can take shameless advantage of his home park. Reynolds is like Adam Dunn lite: lower ceiling, (usually) lower floor. We miss that 3B eligibility--though he managed 15 games there last season, so if your league has less stringent requirements than most, lucky you.


30. Brandon Moss, OAK
31. Ryan Howard, PHI
32. Garrett Jones, PIT

At this point, it's worth taking any chance at all that Moss's fluky looking season can be repeated. Howard isn't much more than a famous name who strikes out a lot at this point. He's getting drafted way higher than this...but I can't think of a good reason why. Jones will probably be platooning a bit more, but you can use that to your advantage with a little bit of a bench and daily changes.

21 and Beyond

33. Corey Hart, MIL (OF)
34. Justin Smoak, SEA
35. Carlos Pena, HOU
36. Brandon Belt, SFG 
37. Adam Lind, TOR 
38. Tyler Colvin, COL (OF)
39. Mitch Moreland, TEX
40. Todd Helton, COL 

Hart will be injured, and it remains to truly be seen for how long. If we get definitive good news, I'd bump him up, maybe up several rounds. If not...maybe I wouldn't draft him at all. Maybe Smoak can take advantage of the new dimensions in Safeco. I'm skeptical, but this is the time for chance-taking. If Reynolds is Dunn-lite, maybe Pena is Reynolds-lite. Belt believes he found his stroke late last year. If he did he could finally be fantasy-viable. Lind is a memory of a great 2009, and fading fast. Toronto seems to be giving him one last try, so your fantasy bench could too, I suppose. Colvin plays in Colorado, so that's always interesting. Well, usually interesting, since Todd Helton is only number 40 because round numbers make us all feel more comfortable.

Even in the deepest of years I feel pretty comfortable taking an elite first baseman early in the draft. This year, that's even more true. Any of the top three can anchor your team, but everyone after that is a serious question mark. Plenty of players could make (or remake) their mark as an elite hitter this year, but who knows for sure which ones really will. I suggest taking two or more, again, just as usual but for different reasons: it's time to diversify the risk at this position in a way most of us never have. 

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