First Basemen

First Baseman Rankings

We posted a solid set of catcher rankings a few days ago; now it's time to rank the first basemen.  As always, my dollar values reflect a 12-team mixed league with 23-man active rosters (C, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, MI, CI, OF, OF, OF, OF, OF, DH).  Everything here is subject to change and open to suggestion.  Though they don't have 20 games played at first base from 2010, I've included Adam Lind, Freddie Freeman, Dan Johnson, and Juan Miranda.  Average draft round is in parentheses, courtesy of Mock Draft Central.

  1. Albert Pujols (1) - $41.46
  2. Miguel Cabrera (1) - $33.66
  3. Joey Votto (1) - $26.48
  4. Adrian Gonzalez (1) - $24.45
  5. Mark Teixeira (2) - $22.59
  6. Ryan Howard (2) - $21.97
  7. Prince Fielder (2) - $21.54
  8. Kevin Youkilis (3) - $20.22
  9. Adam Dunn (5) - $17.36
  10. Kendry Morales (5) - $16.02
  11. Paul Konerko (6) - $12.41
  12. Justin Morneau (5) - $12.21
  13. Billy Butler (8) - $9.76
  14. Derrek Lee (24) - $9.53
  15. Adam Lind (15) - $9.24
  16. Gaby Sanchez (20) - $8.85
  17. Carlos Lee (12) - $8.75
  18. Aubrey Huff (10) - $8.27
  19. Buster Posey (4) - $8.22 - if drafted strictly as a 1B
  20. Ike Davis (22) - $7.78
  21. Carlos Pena (19) - $7.66
  22. Michael Cuddyer (21) - $7.29
  23. Lance Berkman (28) - $6.88
  24. Freddie Freeman (31) - $6.29
  25. Adam LaRoche (17) - $5.06
  26. Dan Johnson (Not drafted) - $4.79
  27. Mitch Moreland (33) - $3.22
  28. James Loney (25) - $2.23
  29. Kila Ka'aihue (Not drafted) - $2.16
  30. Matt LaPorta (33) - $2.13
  31. Juan Miranda (Not drafted) - $1.08
  32. Justin Smoak (33) - $0.77

As always, drafting first overall comes with the huge advantage of building your team around Pujols.  Cabrera is a monster, yet Albert is worth 23% more.

I mentioned a few days ago that once the second round ends, the top seven first basemen will be off the board.  Of the Big Seven, only Pujols, Cabrera, Votto, and Gonzalez offer elite batting average, and only Pujols and Votto can steal you ten bags.  If you like Votto for a repeat of his MVP season rather than a mild step back, don't be shy about taking him earlier than seventh and even second overall.

If you miss out on the Big Seven, Youkilis, Dunn, and Morales are solid consolation prizes.  Though he's coming off a broken leg, Morales in the fifth round has potential for profit.

My Morneau projection is for 475 ABs, given the uncertainty around his concussion issues.  If everything looks peachy in Spring Training and you like him for 575 ABs, he's in Tex-Howard-Fielder territory.

Fantasy leaguers seem so desperate to have Butler when he has his long-awaited power breakout that he always goes earlier than his numbers warrant.  He's not a good play in the eighth round with Derrek Lee, Lind, and Sanchez capable of similar overall value if not the .300 average.  Toss in Carlos Lee, Huff, and Davis, and you'll find a slew of first basemen projected for an average in the .270s, 22-24 homers, and around 90 ribbies.  If someone manages to knock in 100 or hit .290, they'll separate themselves.  Sanchez's history suggests he could quietly swipe ten bags for you, and he's getting no respect right now.  Huff is going too early for me; I'm not expecting .290 or 100 runs scored again.

Next you find first basemen with warts like a low batting average or playing time concerns.  Take a flyer on Freeman or Moreland late for your CI slot.  With 575 ABs either player could jump to the $8-9 range and not hurt you in batting average.  Freeman is a Rookie of the Year contender as he'll apparently be handed Atlanta's starting job.  Also keep an eye on the Giants' Brandon Belt.  He gets a fantasy boost as an average runner who could steal 10+ bags in a full season.  At the moment he's blocked at first base by Huff, and the Giants' outfielder corners are crowded as well.

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2010 Sleepers: First Basemen

Thanks to Baseball Monster, here are 2010's top mixed league first basemen.  I've also added the round in which they were drafted in March, using data from Mock Draft Central.

  1. Miguel Cabrera (1)
  2. Albert Pujols (1)
  3. Joey Votto (3)
  4. Paul Konerko (18)
  5. Mark Teixeira (1)
  6. Adrian Gonzalez (3)
  7. Aubrey Huff (28)
  8. Kevin Youkilis (3)
  9. Ryan Howard (1)
  10. Adam Dunn (5)
  11. Prince Fielder (1)
  12. Adam LaRoche (17)
  13. Justin Morneau (4)
  14. Gaby Sanchez (36)
  15. Billy Butler (8)
  16. James Loney (16)
  17. Carlos Pena (7)
  18. Derrek Lee (8)

Tons of disappointments in this group, but Votto, Konerko, Huff, LaRoche, and Sanchez returned good value.  Let's attempt to classify these five first basemen.

  • Votto: Off-field concerns, undervaluing of steals.  In March I labeled Votto a first-round value, and therefore wasn't shy about taking him in the middle of the second round.  I had him projected for eight steals, which added a couple of bucks to his value.  It's still hard to see why fantasy leaguers weren't jumping on him earlier after such a strong 2009 season within 544 plate appearances.  Perhaps they only saw the counting stats and were not aware that Votto missed most of June with an anxiety issue.  Simply projecting Votto's '09 stats over 600 PAs showed you he was in for a monster year.
  • Konerko: Boring player, unexpected resurgence in age 34 season.  Konerko's 2010 season is outside of the normal aging curve.  You might have drafted him as a .270-30-90 CI type, and even that is pretty good in the 18th round.  Instead he's probably going to come in with a .315 average and nearly 40 home runs, something few people could have guessed.
  • Huff: Had experienced success, but disappointed in previous season.  Switched to NL.  We knew Huff was capable of big things based on his '08 season, and he was moving to the easier league.
  • LaRoche: Boring player.  LaRoche is pretty much doing his thing - 25 homers, 85+ RBIs.  Moving to Chase Field made him slightly less boring, so hopefully you took a chance on him late. 
  • Sanchez: Playing time concerns, questionable power, undervaluing of steals.  Plenty of reasons not to draft Sanchez out of the gate.  He'd slugged only .475 in Triple A in 2009, so a poor man's Lyle Overbay wasn't terribly appealing to mixed leaguers.  Still, the idea that Sanchez could hit 20 homers and swipe about eight bags given regular playing time was quite reasonable.  Sanchez officially won the Marlins' first base job on March 29th, so that was the time to grab him off the waiver wire.

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First Baseman Rankings

Our tentative first baseman rankings, for a 12-team mixed league using AVG, HR, RBI, R, and SB and 14 active hitters.  These are subject to change, and I'm open to arguments in the comments.  Current average draft round is in parentheses.

  1. Albert Pujols (1) - $32.49
  2. Miguel Cabrera (1) - $23.44
  3. Prince Fielder (1) - $22.23
  4. Ryan Howard (1) - $21.80
  5. Mark Teixeira (1) - $20.69
  6. Joey Votto (3) - $20.62
  7. Mark Reynolds (2) - $17.80
  8. Kevin Youkilis (3) - $14.58
  9. Adrian Gonzalez (3) - $14.46
  10. Pablo Sandoval (4) - $14.18
  11. Lance Berkman (6) - $13.26
  12. Justin Morneau (4) - $13.06
  13. Kendry Morales (5) - $12.05
  14. Adam Dunn (5) - $10.30
  15. Derrek Lee (8) - $10.04
  16. Carlos Pena (7) - $9.16
  17. Garrett Jones (13) - $8.86
  18. Billy Butler (8) - $8.83
  19. Adam LaRoche (21) - $8.23
  20. Michael Cuddyer (10) - $7.22
  21. Chris Davis (14) - $6.46
  22. James Loney (20) - $6.10
  23. Jorge Cantu (15) - $4.81
  24. Paul Konerko (20) - $4.21
  25. Garrett Atkins (25) - $3.20
  26. Nick Swisher (22) - $2.97
  27. Todd Helton (19) - $2.39
  28. Aubrey Huff (28) - $0.77

Cabrera, Fielder, Howard, Teixeira - I value all four similarly.  Cabrera wins right now because he's the only one projected to hit over .300.  With 575 ABs Votto could be right there with them, and he could be the one swiping more than five bags.  As a third-round pick he's a mild bargain.

Berkman in the sixth round is another potential value pick, as he could match several guys picked in the third.  With a poor batting average but 12 projected steals, Jones is someone to consider at CI.  But he deserves to be in the 13rd round range until he proves 2009 wasn't a fluke.  Butler is going pretty early, in the 8th round.  You probably won't regret the pick, yet taking him that early means paying for a level of performance he hasn't reached yet.  I was among many fantasy owners burned by Davis last year, and he's dropped eight rounds.  The 30 HR potential remains if you can stomach a questionable AVG, though Justin Smoak is knocking on the door.

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First Base Draft Trends

Assuming a 12-team league, let's take a look at the typical draft trends for first basemen using Mock Draft Central data.

The first round usually contains three first basemen: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Ryan Howard.  In my book, Cabrera and Howard are similar in value but Pujols is worth a good $8 more than them.  Pujols' average draft position is 2.39, and he'll never go later than fifth.  Cabrera is just 26 in April, and his second half was insane, so he stands a good chance of closing that $8 gap.

Three more big name 1Bs drop in the second round: Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, and Justin Morneau.  Not that he'll be bad or anything, but I don't think Morneau is justified here.

The third round often sees Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis chosen.  Fielder strikes me as a mild bargain at 25.02, but Gonzalez and Youkilis are going dangerously early.

I like to try to get a $10+ player at every position, and I have 14 1Bs reaching that dollar value.  9 of the 14 will be off the board when the third round closes, creating the impression of scarcity if you don't have one yet.

The next group of 1Bs doesn't get moving until Chris Davis in the 6th round.  Davis may be a victim of too much hype, but he remains capable of 30 HR and 100 RBI without the cost of a third-round pick.  Carlos Pena will go right after Davis.  Both players carry some risk of a detrimenal batting average.

In the 7th round we see two "safe" picks in Derrek Lee and Garrett Atkins, plus the intriguing Joey Votto.  Might as well go with Votto for the upside and the possibility of 10 steals.

Still don't have a first baseman?  You're probably going to have to settle for less-than-ideal production unless you hit on a sleeper.  You'll see Aubrey Huff, James Loney and Carlos Delgado move in the 8-9th rounds.  These three, Loney especially, do not thrill me.

The dog days of the draft produce these picks: Jorge Cantu (13th), Paul Konerko (15th), Hank Blalock (16th),  Nick Swisher (16th), Jason Giambi (17th), Conor Jackson (18th) Pablo Sandoval (19th), Carlos Guillen (20th) and Casey Kotchman (20th).  Sandoval is solid here if he qualifies at catcher in your league (11 games played).  Out of this bunch, I'll take Jackson.  He's 27 in May and had a couple of 5 HR months last year; you never know.

In the last round of the draft, you may see Adam LaRoche, Casey Blake, and Mike Jacobs taken.  LaRoche is a very affordable 25 HR bat, and he's entering his contract year.  Jacobs is similar minus the contract year.

Undrafted: Todd Helton, Lyle Overbay, Billy Butler, and Ryan Garko.  Butler is your breakout candidate here.  Also keep an eye on Gaby Sanchez, Chris Duncan, and Matt LaPorta.

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First Base Rankings

Using 20 games for eligibility, here are our tentative rankings for first basemen.  These are based on a standard 12 team 5x5 mixed league (categories: AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB).  Adam Dunn (17 games played) and Pablo Sandoval (17 games) did not make the cut.  Dunn would be worth $11.92, Sandoval not quite draftable at this position.  Draft round is in parentheses.

  1. Albert Pujols - $32.23 (1)
  2. Ryan Howard - $25.27 (1)
  3. Miguel Cabrera - $24.79 (1)
  4. Mark Teixeira - $19.94 (2)
  5. Lance Berkman - $19.90 (2)
  6. Prince Fielder - $18.34 (3)
  7. Chris Davis - $16.49 (6)
  8. Joey Votto - $14.51 (7)
  9. Justin Morneau - $14.39 (2)
  10. Adrian Gonzalez - $11.98 (3)
  11. Kevin Youkilis - $11.41 (4)
  12. Derrek Lee - $10.66 (7)
  13. Garrett Atkins - $10.25 (7)
  14. Carlos Delgado - $9.46 (9)
  15. Carlos Pena - $9.17 (6)
  16. Aubrey Huff - $7.02 (8)
  17. Carlos Guillen - $5.65 (21)
  18. Paul Konerko - $5.63 (16)
  19. Conor Jackson - $5.36 (18)
  20. Mike Jacobs - $4.97 (21)
  21. Adam LaRoche - $4.18 (23)
  22. James Loney - $2.92 (9)
  23. Jorge Cantu - $2.01 (13)
  24. Casey Kotchman - $1.66 (22)
  25. Jason Giambi - $1.58 (17)
  26. Hank Blalock - $1.40 (18)
  27. Billy Butler - $1.33 (27)
  28. Nick Swisher - $0.67 (17)

Aside from Pujols, you will probably not see me take a 1B early.  As you know, I consider Davis and Votto pretty good bargains (yes, the hype is mounting).  Lee are Atkins are Plan B if I don't get Davis or Votto.  Jackson and Butler have upside for your CI slot.  Huff and LaRoche are in contract years.

Morneau, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Pena, and Huff don't do much for me where they are being drafted.  And I really don't get what people see in Loney so early; I have him at .293-13-82-67-6 in 547 ABs.  In general, though, I can see why people are reaching for 1Bs.

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First Baseman Ranking Comparison

My first baseman rankings back in March, including round drafted:

Rnk Name $ VAL Round
1 Albert Pujols $30.64 1
2 Ryan Howard $24.85 1
3 Prince Fielder $21.91 1
4 Mark Teixeira $19.25 2
5 Lance Berkman $17.02 3
6 Derrek Lee $15.61 4
7 Justin Morneau $13.02 4
8 Carlos Guillen $12.14 5
9 Carlos Pena $11.41 5
10 Adrian Gonzalez $11.25 7
11 Todd Helton $10.19 11
12 Paul Konerko $8.98 8
13 Victor Martinez $8.84 3
14 Nick Swisher $7.76 7
15 Alex Gordon $6.00 12
16 James Loney $5.36 11
17 Carlos Delgado $5.29 12
18 Adam LaRoche $4.04 19
19 Kevin Youkilis $3.79 15
20 Conor Jackson $2.76 26
21 Ryan Garko $2.61 15
22 Mike Jacobs $0.30 27
23 Aubrey Huff $0.19 28

Actual rankings for 2008:

Rnk Name Round
1 Albert Pujols 1
2 Lance Berkman 3
3 Mark Teixeira 2
4 Aubrey Huff 28
5 Kevin Youkilis 15
6 Miguel Cabrera 1
7 Justin Morneau 4
8 Ryan Howard 1
9 Adrian Gonzalez 7
10 Carlos Delgado 12
11 Derrek Lee 4
12 Prince Fielder 1
13 Jorge Cantu N/A
14 Conor Jackson 26
15 Garrett Atkins 5
16 Jose Lopez N/A
17 Joey Votto 24
18 James Loney 11
19 Adam Dunn 4
20 Jason Giambi 23
21 Carlos Pena 5
22 Casey Blake 24
23 Mike Jacobs 27
24 Adam LaRoche 19
25 Carlos Guillen 5

It's quite possible first base was make or break for your fantasy season this year. 

Busts: Lee, Guillen, Pena, Helton, Konerko, Swisher.  These picks did not work out as hoped.  Lee, Guillen, and Konerko may just be naturally declining.  Helton was hurt.  As for Swisher...maybe he needed an adjustment period after the trade?  He's had two decent months out of six; last year he only had one bad month.  Fielder's been disappointing, but it's mainly because he was drafted too early originally.  By the way I would suggest not drafting Huff or Delgado in the fifth or sixth round.

Surprises: Huff, Youkilis, Delgado, Cantu, Jackson, Votto.  If you were "stuck" with one of these guys at first, you were pleasantly surprised.  Aside from maybe Jackson and Votto, I'm not sure how these breakouts/career years could've been predicted.  I guess the lesson again is that if you have a guy you know is decent and he starts raking, just pick him up and ask questions later.  Huff, Youk, Delgado, Cantu...all four have had past fantasy success, just not much in '07.

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2008 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: First Basemen

Sleepers, undervalued, profitable players, call 'em what you will.  In general, some guys who may not be getting enough respect in your mixed league.

  • With this position, it seems the undervalued players are likely to be youngsters.  Certain younger types would have to break out beyond normal projections to achieve a big profit.  Guys like James Loney, Ryan Garko, Joey Votto, Casey Kotchman, Billy Butler, Chris Duncan, and Conor Jackson fit this mold.  A lot of these project to be worth just a couple of bucks in a mixed league, but .290-25-100 wouldn't really shock you for any of them.
  • From the veteran set, it's slim pickens.  Adam LaRoche, Nick Johnson, maybe Aubrey HuffTravis Hafner could be a touch undervalued coming off a down year; he played 11 games at first in '07.
  • The position doesn't appear to be stacked with good sleepers, but we are all just prognosticating at this point.

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