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RotoAuthority Rankings 2014: First Base

There is depth at first, especially in power, but that doesn't mean you can afford to wait for the position: you'll be needing that depth. First base is where you turn for your cornerstone player, for your CI slot, and for Utility and bench depth. That is to say: a good fantasy team has more than one first baseman. Kind of like the Mariners, but you really don't have to care about defense.

Last Saturday, we ranked the catchers, and a week ago we did the outfield. Check out those rankings alongside first base, because there's a lot of overlap between first basemen and those two positions. So when catchers or outfielders show up in these rankings, remember that this is where they rank if you're drafting them for first base.

Rounds are given with tiers more to help you separate the values of players than tell you which round to target the player. In any given draft, values will show up at different times, and the whole league may be up or down on a position. Whether or not you should stick to your rankings or go with the flow depends on the situation, your strategy, and the effects your particular league settings have on position scarcity and the value of pitchers.

Tier 1: First Rounders

1. Paul Goldschmidt

2. Chris Davis

3. Edwin Encarnacion

4. Joey Votto

 Goldschmidt isn't really in this tier, he's in Zero-Tier by himself as the third overall pick. Davis offers more power than anyone else in the draft, and you can argue his upside as worth a top-five selection...or focus on his regression risk and argue for him in the second. Votto is nearly for batting average what Davis is for homers, and he's an extremely safe early pick. Encarnacion takes a sort of middle ground by offering overall production and a risk level between that of Davis and Votto. In Yahoo! leagues, he's 3B eligible, which is very awesome.

 Tier 2: Just Below Elite (2nd-3rd Rounds)

 5. Prince Fielder

6. Freddie Freeman

Park factors won't save Fielder from regression, but they might wash it out a little. He's distinctly less valuable than the four guys ahead of him, but still a solid lineup anchor. Freeman may not post such a high average next year, but he's young enough to expect some skill improvement and carries significantly fewer red flags than the next set of guys.

 Tier 3: The Safety's Off (4th-5th Rounds)

 7. Mark Trumbo

8. Albert Pujols

9. Eric Hosmer

10. Adrian Gonzalez

10.5 David Ortiz

Trumbo could be a three-category monster in Arizona with all that power. Watch Pujols carefully in Spring Training, especially anything to do with playing the field, running, or his feet. Warning signs should bury him on your lists, but successful play could bump him into Tier 2. Picking Hosmer here is betting that he'll compound his improvements from last year. Gonzalez is like the lite version of Votto: good average, low risk, so the opposite of his tier-mates. If David Ortiz is 1B-eligible in your format (read: Yahoo! leagues), he's worth taking with this tier.

 Tier 4: Risk and Reward (6th-7th Rounds)

 10.6 Buster Posey

11. Jose Abreu

12. Allen Craig

If your league hates catchers, here's where you should take Posey to play first. What will Abreu do? I have no idea--but the power potential makes it very intriguing to find out. He's even more interesting to me if you've already taken one first baseman. Craig is a bit overrated (maybe playing for the Cards will do that these days), has a lengthy injury history and rocked a massive BABIP last year. He'll produce, but don't reach for him. 

Tier 5: All About Upside (8th-9th Rounds)

13. Brandon Belt

13.5 Joe Mauer

14. Anthony Rizzo

14.5 Carlos Santana

15. Mike Napoli

16. Matt Adams

16.5 Billy Butler

16.6 Michael Cuddyer

Belt took significant steps forward last season, and could put together the last piece of the puzzle: homers. Even if he doesn't, he should offer fine production in a surprisingly good Giants lineup. Rizzo disappointed last year. If you think his struggles were mostly due to his low BABIP, bump him up a tier. If you think maybe that low BABIP was due to a skill he hasn't developed yet, drop him down a tier. If you aren't sure, this is a decent place to take a chance on his upside. Napoli isn't the healthiest guy in the world and needs a stratospheric BABIP to post an okay average...but he should provide plenty of homers and RBI.

By rounds, this is a pretty aggressive Adams ranking, so wait on him if you think you can get away with it. He was a partial-season monster, though, and St. Louis seems intent on giving him the job (but watch their spring carefully just in case). Mauer and Santana's skills probably translate to this tier in first base--definitely take them after Posey is gone.

If Butler has 1B eligibility, he belongs in this tier, as does Cuddyer. Both are a big step ahead of Tier 6.

Tier 6: Hey, Nobody's Perfect (10th-15th Rounds)

17. Brandon Moss

18. Nick Swisher

19. Adam Lind

20. Adam LaRoche

21. Chris Carter

22. Kendrys Morales

22.5 Jonathan Lucroy

Moss and Lind are platooners, but their power rocks in daily leagues. Frankly, it's even good enough to cover for their off days in deep weekly leagues. Swisher and LaRoche used to be unexciting, dependable options until they disappointed last year. They both hit in quality lineups, however, and a little bit of bounceback could provide fine fantasy value. Carter can hit a ton of homers, but his batting average black hole will suck away a lot of their value. He can be particularly useful on teams that punt the category, use OBP, or can afford to balance him out with high-average players. Morales's value will depend a lot on where and if he gets a job. I can honestly see him opening the season unemployed, so I won't be taking him until he signs somewhere.

Tier 7: First Base Isn't as Deep as You Thought (15th-20th Rounds)

23. Justin Morneau

24. Adam Dunn

25. Yan Gomes

26. Corey Hart

26.5 Michael Morse

27. Todd Frazier

27.5 Victor Martinez

27.6 Chris Johnson

28. Yonder Alonso

29. James Loney

29.5 Daniel Murphy

29.6 Daniel Nava

Morneau has upside since he'll play in Coors Field. Dunn ought to still have some of that old power--but man, is the average bad. Gomes is an interesting sleeper...for a catcher, so you can see how rough things have gotten. Hart is one to watch in Spring Training. It was only two years ago that he was putting 30 homers out of the park. Morse could be interesting as well. If either is truly healthy, they might be worth bumping up a tier. Frazier could conceivably bounce back from a low-BABIP year. Martinez, Johnson Alonso, Loney, and Nava shouldn't hurt you in average, which is more than you can say for the players below this level.

Tier 8: No (After Round 20)

30. Mark Teixeira

31. Ryan Howard

32. Ike Davis

33. Mark Reynolds

34. Mitch Moreland

35. Justin Smoak

36. Paul Konerko

37. Garrett Jones

Teixeira and Howard may have a little power left--or they may not. Will Davis be able to hold up a decent batting average? Or even a bad one? If Reynolds has the power to be a usable bench option. Moreland could help with runs and RBI in that Texas lineup. Smoak may have one last chance to fulfill some promise. Konerko probably won't get too much playing time, with Abreu and Dunn looking much better. Oh, Garrett Jones. Oh, the Marlins.

If you're filling in your DH or Util slot, or if you're playing a Yahoo! league, the ranks of Tiers 7 and 8 swell with catchers, outfielders and DH's with a few games played at first. Don't forget about them, as many produce more than the real first basemen on the list.

The moral of first base: don't wait! Yes it's deep, but you need lots of them on your team. I love building my offense with a first-rounder and then locking up my CI or Util slot a few rounds later with two heavy hitters, but there are intriguing options all the way down to Tier 6. At a minimum, try to get two players above Tier 7--I really don't suggest trying to rely on anyone below that. As for Tier 8 guys, try your best to stay away. Far away.

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