For a long time first base has been the deepest position in fantasy baseball. Team owners could wait and wait and still get a quality option, and usually have two or sometimes three guy at the position that could bring you great fantasy stats. Well, times have changed and although there are still some guys that retain first base eligibility, the quality guys who actually start at first base are starting to dwindle. Big time. There are still a handful of incredibly talented guys and there are a number of young players coming up through the ranks that have the chance to be the new breed of fantasy stars. When do you take those guys? Can you even trust them as your starter? That is the conundrum that is the first base position in 2013. Depending on the draft, I think I want to get one of these top guys quickly.
Are you preparing for your draft? Have you already drafted? Need trade advice? Feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will answer you within 18 hours. Also, you can follow me on Twitter @fightingchance for updates, news, and maybe a laugh or two……but no promises on the last one.
1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
.285 average, 30 homers, 105 RBI, 8 SBs, 85 runs
Well, apparently even Superman has a weakness. I don’t know exactly what happened to Albert Pujols last season, but the consensus number one player in fantasy baseball for the past who knows how many years finally did the unthinkable…….he had a down season. Yes folks, those numbers above are a colossal disappointment. He got off to a completely atrocious start and didn’t hit a home run until May 6th and didn’t hit his second one until ten days later, and then he finally looked like the Pujols we were used to. But I have to say he doesn’t seem quite the same. He doesn’t seem to be the freakish healer that he was earlier in his career, and nagging injuries have seemed to nag longer and had more of an impact on his play. That being said he is still the best at his position and I believe that he is not quite on the down slope yet and still has a couple more good years in him. He is no longer the consensus number one guy, and in fact likely isn’t in the discussion for the number one overall pick. I still do believe he belongs in the first half of the first round however, and still helps you in pretty much all categories.
2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
.337 average, 14 homers, 56 RBI, 5 SBs, 59 runs (111 games)
Perhaps my greatest man crush going right now is (and has been) with Joey Votto. The power and average combination is just something that I haven’t been able to resist in his career to this point, and although he missed 51 games last year he STILL led the National League in walks. I know that isn’t a sexy fantasy category, but it just proves his plate discipline. He had two knee surgeries in the offseason but all reports are that he is doing well and should be ready. I don’t see any reason he won’t hit .320 with 30 homers and 115 RBI again this season.
3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
.313 average, 30 homers, 108 RBI, 1 SB, 83 runs
Fielder turned in a great year for the Tigers making the money they spent on him seem more than worthwhile, and it was close, oh so close, for me to rank him ahead of Votto. It was the slightly higher batting average and ability to steal a few bases that landed Big Prince at number three. He has six straight seasons of at least 30 homers and he hit over .300 for the first time last season. He won’t be 29 until May, and I don’t see any reason at all to think that Prince won’t continue his career of consistency. To me the question marks start at the position after him, so I don’t have any problem with him going in the first round.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
.280 average 42 homers, 110 RBI, 13 SBs, 93 runs
Do I have to believe in Edwin? Do I really? Because I don’t want to, I never have. For years people have been saying that this guy had this kind of season in him and for years I have been calling them all crazy. And for years I have been right. And then at the end of 2011 he started mashing the ball, and then ALL of 2012 he was parking baseballs in bleachers like it was his job. Oh wait, it is his job. So, do I believe that Encarnacion can repeat this amazing 2012 performance? Clearly I don’t, but at the same time I have him ranked this high so go figure right? I always have a hard time with people who break out so close to their 30s, but I guess this was coming for a few years. I won’t be drafting him, I’ll say that, but I wouldn’t be unbiased if I didn’t say it made sense towards the end of Round 3.
5. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
.299 average, 18 homers, 108 RBI, 2 SBs, 75 runs
You know that expression “It was the best of times, It was the worst of times”? Well, last season was the worst of times for Adrian Gonzalez, especially the time with the Red Sox. After five straight seasons of at least 27 home runs, Gonzalez couldn’t even get to 20 in 2012. He didn’t fare much better when he arrived with the Dodgers, but by that part of the season I think he had already packed it in. Now, he starts fresh with Los Angeles and a lineup full of stars. You have to believe that Adrian is going to get a good number of fastballs this season, and also that he is happier playing in Los Angeles than he was with Boston. I can easily see him getting back to the .300/30/100 machine that he was throughout most of his career, even when he was in a pitcher’s paradise in San Diego. It might be a bit of a risk to trust Gonzalez, but I’m going to do it if the pick is right, you should too!
6. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
.251 average, 24 homers, 84 RBI, 2 SBs, 66 runs (123 games)
Do you know the phrase “It was the…….wait, I can’t use that again can I? Well, it was a really rough season for Teixeira and certainly the worst of his career. After eight straight seasons of at least 30 homers and over 100 RBI, a calf injury ended his season early but he blames an illness as what put him behind the eight ball before the season even started. Tex says that is why he got off to such an awful start to the season, and he never really got going. He will turn 33 right when the season starts and his best days are either behind him, or very close to behind him. He still plays half of his game in rinky dink Yankee Stadium which should help his home run numbers stay strong. I don’t think he’s ready to slide all the way down the slope to say Todd Helton category, and I still think he as at least the same stats or possibly slightly higher in 2013. I still believe he is a solid starting first baseman in fantasy baseball.
7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
.286 average, 20 homers, 82 RBI, 18 SBs, 82 runs
I think this speaks to not only the condition of the position, but also to the potential of Goldschmidt that he is ranked so high. He had back to back 30 homer seasons in the minors before arriving in Arizona part way through 2011, and then he came out and had a pretty solid campaign last year where he hit for a good average, and some decent power. The kid is only 25 and I love the career path that he is on. I’m not exactly sure where all of those stolen bases came from because that is not what we are used to seeing from this guy, but the rest of the numbers are legit people. Based on his talent there’s no reason that he can’t take the next step and be a .290-.300 hitter with more than 30 jacks. Fantasy baseball needs a new breed of first basemen to come through, and I think this guy is going to lead the pack.
8. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
.271 average, 33 homers, 100 RBI, 1 SB, 76 runs
He has long been my mid to late round selection at a corner infield spot or utility and has always produced (outside of one season where he was injured) and I always laughed all the way to the bank. But now LaRoche had to go out last season and top the 30 homer and 100 RBI plateau so I’m guessing my little secret is going to get much more attention this season in drafts. He isn’t flashy, he isn’t sexy, but LaRoche is the closest thing to a guarantee for .270 average, 25 homers, and 90 RBI. Can you do better than that? Maybe, but can you also do worse? Absolutely. There is very little risk with this pick and that’s why I like him. He has gone from utility guy to possible starting fantasy first baseman that you can get a little later in drafts.
9. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
.270 average, 33 homers, 85 RBI, 2 SBs, 75 runs
Another product of the Texas Rangers organization, I don’t blame them at all for giving up on Mr. Davis. One of the top power prospects in baseball for years, Davis floundered after his initial call up, unable to recognize a breaking ball and striking out more often than he got on base. Many more times! It all seemed to click last year for Davis as, although the strikeouts continued, the dude MASHED the ball! He had career highs across the board in his first full season with the Orioles. Now, I’m not sure that I think he can repeat this performance. I kind of see more of a .255 with 26-28 homer kind of season which would still be good and still worthy of a roster spot. Unless he closed up all of the holes in his swing, and I doubt he has, I think there might be a bit of a regression with Davis in 2012.
10. Ike Davis, New York Mets
.227 average, 32 homers, 90 RBI, 66 runs
I know this might sound corny but I like Ike. Wait, now that I’m thinking of it, probably 60% of you don’t know why that’s corny. Well, go ask your grandfather when you are done reading this. Anyway….Davis got off to an Absolutely (with a capital A, get it?) atrocious start to the 2012 season that they were screaming in New York for him to be sent down to the minors. I know, who would expect New Yorkers to overreact? I digress. Then June came and now he is one of the most popular Mets on the team as he just crushed the crap out of the ball for the rest of the season to a great statistical season……outside of batting average. But he was hitting .158 on June 8th! So the fact that he got it up to .227 really isn’t that bad for the rest of the year. Look, I’m not trying to tell you the guy is going to be Tony Gwynn by any stretch (ugh, ask your father who that is) but I don’t see him hitting .220 again this year, and the power is legit. I can see him easily getting his average up thirty to forty points from here and threatening 30 homers again, and on a high side hitting 40. Like I said at the top, I like Ike and have no trouble drafting him this season.
11. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
.307 average, 22 homers, 92 RBI, 2 SBs, 76 runs (119 games)
From the second half of 2011 through the NLCS last year, Craig was a superstar for the St. Louis Cardinals. With Lance Berkman headed to Texas, Craig will be the everyday first baseman for the Cards. He doesn’t strikeout a lot, he has slightly above average power, and his ability to hit with runners in scoring position is uncanny. I know when he first went crazy in the 2011 playoffs people thought it might just be a fluke, but believe me people it isn’t. Craig has hit at every level throughout his career, and now without Berkman, the Cardinals will count on him to drive in even more runs. I really like him and think he is a great corner infielder/utility with the potential to be a starting first baseman in fantasy.
12. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
.219 average, 14 homers, 56 RBI, 28 runs (71 games)
I’m sure you all remember Howard in a heap down the first base line in the 2011 playoffs as the Phillies were eliminated by the Cardinals. It took him three months to get back and he wasn’t exactly all that exciting when he did return. Somehow, Ryan Howard is now 33 years old, and his best days are likely behind him. However, given how he is perceived after this injury, chances are he is going to be a pretty good bargain come draft day. His batting average might not be what you would want it to be, but he clearly still has 30 homer and 100 RBI power even in a completely awful year. I love Howard as a mid round steal and at worst a nice source of some homers.
13. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
.285 average, 15 homers, 48 RBI, 3 SBs, 44 runs (87 games)
Another one of the (hopefully) young and upcoming first basemen in the league, Rizzo got his chance with the Cubs after coming over from the Padres organization. He’s a pretty big boy at 6’3” and 220 pounds and he certainly has shown the ability to hit for power. He comes into 2013 with his best chance to make an impact as the starting first baseman for the Cubs. He really doesn’t have much of any competition for at bats in Chicago, so unless he really, really sucks he is going to get plenty of chance to prove his worth. It’s a bit of a gamble picking Rizzo, but I think he did enough in his half of a season that he is worth the gamble come Draft Day.
14. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
.227 average, 24 homers, 56 RBI, 1 SB, 53 runs (108 games)
I know that I put him in the catcher article as well, and I don’t like to duplicate guys in the rankings, but this is going to be where Napoli plays this year for the Red Sox. And in all honesty I forgot I put him in the other article and I didn’t want to have to change these rankings because then I would to have to include James Loney in them, and I don’t want to give him any more ink than I just did. Napoli should be solid, and if he can get his batting average over .250 he would be a great corner infielder for your team. You could survive with him as your starting first baseman, assuming you made some pretty great picks elsewhere in your offense.
15. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
.298 average, 26 homers, 75 RBI, 66 runs
After the 2009 season when Konerko had back to back season of under 30 home runs, I began to write him off as over the hill and past his prime. And what did he do after that? He went on to mash 70 home runs in the next two season and he made me look like an ass! I know, me! Who would have thunk it? Well Paul, I know you had a wrist injury last year that was repaired, but buddy I’m going to write you off again. You will be 37 in March, I think your bat speed is declining, and I think you just had a temporary jump back in your numbers. I’m not saying your career is finished, but I’m certainly not counting on you for 30 homers or 100 RBI again.
16. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
.259 average, 23 homers, 94 RBI, 2 SBs, 91 runs
Freeman gave up a chunk of his batting average last season for a couple more home runs and nearly 20 more RBI. His walks also went up, while his strikeouts dropped, so despite the 23 point drop in his batting average, his on base remained nearly the same. I like Freeman as a corner infielder/utility man this year as I believe that his batting average will improve again, as he was always a competent hitter before coming to the majors and he is more than a .260 hitter. I don’t think you should expect any more in the home run or RBI department than you got from him last season, I believe that is just about his max. A solid, yet unspectacular player, Freeman gets my endorsement.
17. Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers
.270 average, 30 homers, 83 RBI, 5 SBs, 91 runs
I know he is going to miss the first month of the season at least after knee surgery, but let’s be honest fantasy baseball leagues aren’t won in April, and rarely are they lost in April either. That being said, Hart has been a solid contributor throughout most of his career, outside of 2009. When he returns from this injury, I assume that he will be rehabbed and ready to go, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up 20 homers and 70 RBI in an abbreviated season. He is likely going to plummet in drafts because of the injury, but in mid to late rounds I think he is going to be a steal.
18. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
.232 average, 14 homers, 60 RBI, 16 SBs, 65 runs
This time last year, I likely wrote about Hosmer as one of the up and coming new first basemen in the American League. Boy, did that turn out to be wrong! The second year man apparently remembered that he played for the Royals and wasn’t supposed to be successful as his numbers took a significant drop across the board outside of stolen bases. What the hell happened to Hosmer? He just looked completely lost at the plate and couldn’t drive the ball with any sort of purpose whatsoever. He did have a right shoulder injury towards the end of last season, so if you want to be nice, perhaps you can say that attributed to his poor stats. But I don’t want to be nice….but I do want to be realistic. Hosmer was a great hitter at every stop along the way, including the majors in his rookie season. Do I believe that all of a sudden he forgot how to hit and he is going to suck going forward? No, I don’t believe that. I think you will see a nice comeback season for the young Royal and I think he is going to be a steal in the late rounds of drafts this year. Is he going to be a 30 home run hitter? No, he was never going to be that. But I do think he can get his average into the .280s or .290s and get into the mid 20s as far as home runs are concerned.
19. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
.274 average, 27 homers, 86 RBI, 2 SBs, 68 runs
Jones is an interesting fantasy player. He gives you a good deal of power at a traditionally strong power position, but he rarely garners much fantasy attention. It could be his RBI numbers don’t really add up for a guy who hits 25+ home runs, but he has twenty homers in three of the last four seasons and 86 RBI in two of the last three seasons. The .274 average represented a 30 point jump from the previous two seasons, but he is worth rostering. He also generally carries outfield eligibility as well, and is an underrated player. He is best served as a utility man or as injury insurance, but don’t overlook the power that Jones can provide.
20. Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians
.221 average, 23 homers, 69 RBI, 1 SB, 65 runs (135 games)
For years his career has been a whole lot of home runs and strikeouts and a pretty crappy batting average. Reynolds has also not produced as many RBI as a guy should with the number of home runs as he hits. 2013 should be no different. There’s no question that Reynolds is going to hit home runs at Jacobs Field. But is his average going to be under .250? Probably. Will his home runs be over 30? Possibly. I’m sure that he will hit between 20 and 30 home runs and his average will be crappy. He has only topped 100 RBI once in his career. Reynolds is who we have always known him to be, a guy with an awful average with a bunch of homers.
21. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
.267 average, 19 homers, 77 RBI, 1 SB, 63 runs (134 games)
It is sad to see a career upended by injuries, especially one that included an MVP award, but that certainly is the case with Justin Morneau. Concussions and other maladies have cost him significant parts of the last three years, and at age 31 he has become a huge injury risk and has certainly fallen off the fantasy “cool list.” I was encouraged to see him bounce back last season somewhat with nearly a full year, but he definitely isn’t the player he once was. Considering it now seems like a when he will get injured and not an if, it is hard to try to predict what kind of season Morneau will have. I can’t believe his numbers will get much worse than they were in 2012, so by that barometer beware of when you select him.
22. Chris Carter, Houston Astros
.239 average, 16 homers, 39 RBI, 38 runs (67 games)
Carter is a mountain of a man at 6’4” and 244 pounds, and has been considered one of the best power prospects for the past couple of seasons. He got his best opportunity in the Majors last year and while his batting average is far from impressive, 16 homers in 67 games is pretty impressive, especially when you play for Oakland. He was just traded to the Houston Astros, which means as long as he doesn’t hit the ball to centerfield, he is in a heck of a hitter’s park. This move also might see him spending time in the outfield, but he will still carry the eligibility. The Astros still do have Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace to challenge him at first base, but let’s be honest they both suck, and Houston’s move to the AL also opens up a DH spot. I’ve seen the Astros roster, Carter will play every day. He isn’t likely to win any batting titles, hell he isn’t likely to hit .250, but he is going to distribute lots of souvenirs to fans in the bleachers this year, so he’s worth a spot on your roster purely for his power.
23. Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners
.273 average, 22 homers, 73 RBI, 61 runs (134 games)
Morales exploded in 2009 with an MVP-type performance with a .306/34/108 performance. He was off to another great start before celebrating a home run snapped his leg and cost him a year and a half. Morales returned in 2012 to have another pretty successful season. He is now two seasons removed from the injury, and I don’t know why he can’t go back to being the masher he was that season. Safeco Field has long been a pitcher’s park, but they are moving the fences in some which will help Morales get back above 25 homers again. Can he get his average back up? That will be the difference between Morales being an average player, or perhaps be a better than average player.
24. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
.275 average, 7 homers, 56 RBI, 12 SBs, 47 runs
He struggled mightily in his first chance at the majors, and many fantasy owners lost hope early on Belt. He was better in 2012, well he did better at getting on base. Belt raised his batting average 50 points and was able to steal double digit bases. He still has plenty of untapped potential in the power department, and hopefully in 2013 he will realize some of that. However, until I see more from him, I can’t trust Belt with a starting spot on my roster. He definitely has a ton of upside and is worth taking a chance on, just don’t stretch too soon.
25. Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins
.230 average, 11 homers, 36 RBI, 1 SB, 30 runs (93 games)
After a big year in 2011, Twitter and knee injuries have taken Morrison down from on the road to a huge career, to a speculative fantasy player at best. He initially fell out of favor with the organization for his tweets trashing them, and getting hurt knocked him down a few more notches. He has never been able to top 123 games in his three major league seasons, and he’s only topped 100 once. Morrison has a ton of potential but there have been too many roadblocks in his way to success. I’d love to believe that he is going to be the man because he is funny and has a cool nickname. But my brain tells me not to put any real stock in Morrison unless I see a string of great games.
26. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers
.275 average, 15 homers, 50 RBI, 41 runs (98 games)
I would like to start out by saying that I am not a Mitch Moreland fan. I’ve never really understood how a team with so much offense in Texas has had this guy play so many games at the power position of first base. He has shown some great ability, but he is always hindered by his ability to hit left handed pitchers (.232 lifetime). Until he gets that straightened out, Moreland’s fantasy potential will be limited. Texas added Lance Berkman recently and still has prospect Mike Olt to possibly man first base if Moreland continues to struggle. He might be worth a bench spot on your roster, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in Moreland.
27. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners
.217 average, 19 homers, 51 RBI, 1 SB, 49 runs
Smoak had a hell of a minor league career, and had the world in his pocket as he entered the Majors. Well, he’s been there for parts of three seasons and so far Smoak…….SUCKS! OK, so that might be a bit strong. He has had double digit home runs in each of his three seasons, and his total has increased each year. His average still hasn’t topped .234, and his RBI haven’t topped 55, but this kid has a world of potential, which means these numbers could possibly increase. However, I am not willing to give him more than a pick in one of the last few rounds as a speculative flier. I like his potential, but there are just too many other guys at this position to like.
28. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros
.253 average, 9 homers, 24 RBI, 24 runs (66 games)
Wallace is another in a string of young guys at this position who haven’t been able to live up to his potential just yet. He was better in 2012 but still has gaping holes in his game. He is still striking out more than once a game, he still isn’t flashing a ton of power, and is still struggling in the way as plate discipline. With Houston going to the AL, the designated hitter spot gives him another place to go to get his bat in the lineup, but I am not here to carry Wallace’s torch. I’m not drafting him this year, but I will watch him in free agency.
29. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
.273 average, 9 homers, 62 RBI, 3 SBs, 7 runs
Alonso had been touted as one of the best power hitting prospects in the Cincinnati Reds organization before he was passed over by Joey Votto. And once Votto turned into an MVP, Alonso needed to go elsewhere to make the Majors. Well, he went to the outfield and was traded to the Padres and he has spent part of the last two seasons in the majors. So far, the power hasn’t come in his short career, but he has been able to get on base and drive in some runs. He is just turning 26 as the season starts so he still has a long career ahead of him to improve and to develop that power. Keep an eye on him, but he doesn’t deserve too much attention on draft day.
30. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies
.238 average, 7 homers, 37 RBI, 1 SB, 31 runs (69 games)
It is killing me to even write about Todd Helton. I think he should have retired five years ago and we would have positive memories of his career. Now he hasn’t played anything that resembled a full season since 2009, his batting average has been a roller coaster in recent times with a bottom of .238 last season, and he hasn’t had more than 15 home runs since 2007. He was just arrested for DUI, although I don’t see that as anything relevant to his fantasy performance. Some people still seem to think he has some fantasy value, but I think that passed long ago. Let someone else deal with this guy and his injuries, he isn’t worth it.