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The Market Report: First Basemen

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Last week began our look at how the market values players at each position. Once again, we'll use ADP data from Couch Managers and group players with similar ADPs into tiers to demonstrate which ones are considered roughly equal in value in the fantasy marketplace. I'll then discuss a few players whom I view as undervalued or overvalued. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the market for first basemen entering 2014. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Paul Goldschmidt  (5)

2. Chris Davis (8)

Tier Two

3. Joey Votto (12)

4. Edwin Encarnacion (14)

5. Freddie Freeman  (14)

6. Prince Fielder  (15)

Tier Three

7. Albert Pujols  (32)

8. Eric Hosmer  (39)

9. Allen Craig  (40)

10. Adrian Gonzalez (45)

Tier Four

11. Mark Trumbo  (69)

12.  Anthony Rizzo (69)

13. Michael Cuddyer (79)

Tier Five

14. Matt Adams (95)

15. Mike Napoli (107)

16. Jose Abreu (136)

17. Brandon Moss (141)

18. Brandon Belt (184)


Jose Abreu (ADP 136)

Ok, I may not be rational when it comes to Abreu, but on paper this just looks like a recipe for fantasy stardom. Eno Sarris wrote an excellent piece on the challenges in translating numbers from Cuba. It's an inexact science, and the results are mixed. That being said, the numbers alone suggest that Abreu is one of the best hitters in the world. It's certainly cherry-picking, but I don't need to tell you that Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig have been able to turn their tools into success over here. Well, Jose Abreu was clearly a better hitter than either of those two in Cuba, and frankly it wasn't close. More importantly, the underlying peripherals were dynamite, too. In 1527 plate appearances over the past four seasons, his walk rate was 18% with just a 12% strikeout rate; that's not your typical power hitter. It all added up t0 a triple-slash line of .392 / .539 / .790. Once again, we're just throwing darts if we try to project how that translates to the Bigs. With a current ADP outside of the top 100, however, the risk is minimal relative to the potential reward. Oh yeah, did I mention he's going to be playing at the best park for right-handed power hitters? Overall then, this is my favorite target in the middle rounds right now. 

Brandon Belt (ADP 184)

Sometimes it doesn't really matter how much we like a player; sometimes the market makes the decision for us. I've never really considered myself to be that bullish on Belt, but the asking price right now is simply too cheap. After a relatively disappointing first full season in 2012, Belt more than doubled his HR total this past season. In fact, few players witnessed such a marked spike in isolated power. I doubt he'll even approach 25 HR this year, but he only needs to repeat his 2013 campaign to return a profit based on his current ADP. This is a skilled batsman who hits the ball with authority on a consistent basis, spraying line drives all over the field. Entering his age-26 season, it's certainly within reason that he continues to make strides in the power department. Ultimately, I'm perfectly content drafting Belt after pick 150 as a solid corner infield option. 


Freddie Freeman (ADP 14)

If you compare Freeman's 2012 and 2013 seasons, you'll see that they're virtually identical across the board - except for the batted ball department. Few players experienced such a drastic jump in BABIP from one year to the next as the Braves slugger did last season. Now I'm not here to tell you that his .371 BABIP was completely a fluke. Like Belt, Freeman too makes hard contact quite often and is a good bet to rank among the league leaders in line drive rate going forward. As such, one would expect Freeman to continue to post relatively high hit rates relative to his speed. Even so, when compared to his .331 xBABIP, that .371 BABIP still looks a tad fortunate. I'd split the difference on the .295 BABIP in 2012 and the .371 BABIP in 2013 and project an AVG around .290. When combined with 20 to 25 HR, that makes for a valuable fantasy player.

Accordingly, I actually view Freeman as a safe, durable option who would make for a solid pick in the fourth round. The only problem with that is he's currently going just outside the first round in 12-team mixed leagues. With his line drive approach, I don't see the upside in the HR category to warrant that market price. In the second round, I'd much prefer to grab sluggers like Adrian Beltre or Prince Fielder who are capable of matching Freeman in AVG while hitting significantly more HR. I hope I'm wrong because I recently extended him through 2018 in my dynasty league, but I just don't think Freeman will ever be a fantasy superstar.

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