Friday, November 14, 2008

First Basemen Rankings

h2h Corner

By: Albert Lang

I recently took a business trip to the west coast – I learned that it is far. Thankfully my roommate (he is a DJ and also really good at Survivor Fantasy) lent me his iPod. Since he is a DJ, he has loads of pop music. While I still love listening to the whimsical Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, I cant deny the joy I get from Burnin’ Up or Hot N Cold (man Katy Perry’s songwriter = the amazing). I can’t remember a time when pop music was so consistent and fraught with as many heavy hitters, which, now makes the rambling preamble pertinent.

The not-so-hot corner (unless Ryan Howard [lefty] is up) represents a deep pool of home run hitters and RBI collectors. This is, perhaps, the steadiest position, year in year out. Outfield is deep, and you start three (sometimes more) for a reason. But outfielders possess the full gamut of fantasy statistics, while, with first basemen, you really only need think about HR/RBI production.

There isn’t anything shocking in these rankings – I’ve long been a fan of Lance Berkman, although I never seem to get him. His stolen base output (18) was great, but don’t expect that when figuring out your plans on draft day.

In my opinion, there is a core of nine reliable first basemen. This means you can wait on the position in drafts and try to acquire elite players at more elusive positions and stat categories early. There is no shame, however, in securing HR/RBI production – week in, week out – by grabbing an Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard in the first round.

That said, I am not sold on Carlos Delgado, Derrek Lee (mostly because of how he spells his first name), David Ortiz and Carlos Pena. Quite simply, where did Delgado’s first half self go? In April, May and June, Delgado hit .198, .258 and .229 with 3, 5 and 6 home runs respectively. Regardless, that horrendous start is in there somewhere, and it could come back like that sketchy rash you got vacationing in Tijuana.

Lee doesn’t provide the power or RBIs slotting into the middle of a potent line-up that an owner would like to see. He seems far removed from his MVP-esque numbers in 2005, when he hit .335 with 46 HRs, 107 RBIs and 15 SBs. Last year (a comeback year of sorts), he hit .291 with 20 HRs, 119 RBIs and 8 SBs. In his last three seasons he has hit a combined 50 HRs; reaching his 2005 levels now seems unattainable.

Meanwhile there are a lot of question marks around Big Papi. What does the loss of Manny, if anything, mean? Will Jason Bay provide the necessary protection? Will his wrist heal fully? He appeared to be cheating on fast balls down the stretch. With first base, I’d rather not take a chance and draft him early expecting Morneau-, Fielder- or Youkilis-level production. Given where I rank him, there is a good chance for upside. I see him as a solid UTIL on someone’s squad.

I bought heavily into Carlos Pena last year. It didn’t pay the dividends I would have liked, especially when Adrian Gonzalez was still on the board 2-3 rounds later. That said, Pena provides a good chance at 35+ HRs and 100+ RBIs. I guess what I’m saying is, if he is the 13th first basemen off the board, you have a good upside play on your hands.

I also really like Joey Votto – he could provide some great stats in that ballpark. In what was essentially a full season, he hit .297 with 24 HRs, 84 RBIs and 7 SBs. Lots of upside there.

Last year’s top 15*:

  1. Prince Fielder (last year’s overall ranking: 14) Finished: 11th among first basemen
  2. David Ortiz (19) Finished: 22nd among First Baseman
  3. Ryan Howard (23) Finished: 4th among First Baseman
  4. Carlos Pena (25) Finished: 20th among First Baseman
  5. Albert Pujols (27) Finished: 1st among First Baseman
  6. Lance Berkman (28) Finished 2nd among First Baseman
  7. Justin Morneau (41) Finished: 9th among First Baseman
  8. Adrian Gonzalez (50) Finished: 8th among First Baseman
  9. Derrek Lee (66) Finished: 14th among First Baseman
  10. Mark Teixeira (69) Finished: 3rd among First Baseman
  11. Carlos Delgado (76) Finished: 10th among First Baseman
  12. Kevin Youkilis (77) Finished: 6th among First Baseman
  13. Paul Konerko (83) Finished: 37th among First Baseman
  14. Adam LaRoche (89) Finished: 25th among First Baseman
  15. Todd Helton (98) Finished: 52nd among First Baseman

*Miguel Cabrera wasn’t ranked because he didn’t have first basemen eligibility yet.

Man…Todd Helton was the first draft pick in fantasy I ever made – it’s sad to see him fall to these depths. What can you do though? I wasn’t too interested in him last year and want no part of him this year.

I was a little too bullish on Carlos Pena it appears, and the David Ortiz injury really hurt that prediction. I thought Prince Fielder was the second coming of Ryan Howard…I was wrong. I do expect the same kind of season next year, maybe a tick better.

It pays to go with consistency at first base, which is why Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez make up my top five fantasy first baseman next year.

Complete First Baseman Ranks:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Ryan Howard
  3. Lance Berkman (probably will not repeat his stolen base performance)
  4. Mark Teixeira (regardless of where he lands)
  5. Adrian Gonzalez
  6. Miguel Cabrera
  7. Justin Morneau
  8. Prince Fielder
  9. Kevin Youkilis
  10. Carlos Delgado (kind of scary putting him here, cant argue with 2/3 of his season though)
  11. Derrek Lee
  12. David Ortiz (no Manny, no problem? Hurt wrist = problem)
  13. Carlos Pena (legit 30+ HR possibility)
  14. Jason Giambi (where will he end up?)
  15. Joey Votto
  16. Jorge Cantu (could regress)
  17. Mark Reynolds (prefer him as your 3b – one of these years he will put together a good *lucky* batting average campaign)
  18. Mark Derosa
  19. Aubrey Huff
  20. Mike Jacobs
  21. Conor Jackson (man, did he fade)
  22. Adam LaRoche
  23. Chris Davis
  24. Nick Swisher
  25. James Loney (not so high on him…never was)
  26. Ryan Garko (see catcher rankings)
  27. Kevin Millar (consistently below average)
  28. Alex Gordon (so woefully inconsistent)
  29. Lyle Overbay (consistent)
  30. Eric Hinske
  31. Casey Kotchman
  32. Victor Martinez (you want him for his other eligibility)
  33. Ty Wiggington
  34. Paul Konerko (could he be D.O.N.E.?)
  35. Billy Butler (let’s just say, I don’t believe in the Royals)
  36. Matt Stairs (platoon in Philly, if Burrell gone?)
  37. Daric Barton
  38. Rich Aurillia
  39. Greg Dobbs (ditto the Stairs talk)
  40. Ross Gload
  41. Darin Erstad (he wasn’t entirely unusable last year…but yeah, he was close)
  42. Martin Prado (interesting numbers down the stretch: .335 BA, 25 runs, 2 HRs, 25 RBIs in the second half, massive positional flexibility, cool name)


Jacob said...

nice article

Albert said...

Thanks much. Who would have thought first basemen were so engaging and offered such strategic analysis.

Andrew said...

i'd have to rank cabrera at 3, at worst 4. Even in a "down" year for him, adjsuting to the AL, he put up gaudy numbers. I don't see how in that lineup, his perennial second half surges he is ranked below Gonzalez. His ceiling has still not been reached.

Albert said...

I have him sixth, so we're splitting hairs a tad. I also think his line-up was a little overblown (is Sheffield done? How good is Granderson? Maggs is good, no doubt, but there aren’t a ton of boppers backing him up.).

Also, perennial second half surges are only helpful if you're in a second half redraft league. In actuality, first half performance is more important in h2h leagues, because the second half is partly consumed by the play-offs. In addition – just an FYI here – over the course of his career, Miguel Cabrera has hit .310 in the first half, .308 in the second half. He has 5 more HRs in the first half, 50 more runs and 20 less RBIs. Not sure if he is a perennial second half charger…

Without names, who do you want?

Player A: .292, 37, 127, 85 Runs (36 Doubles)
Player B: .279, 36, 119, 103 Runs (32 Doubles)
Player C: .308, 33, 121, 102 Runs (41 Doubles)
Player D: .312, 29, 106, 114 Runs (46 Doubles)

Personally, I’d take Player D (who also had 18 SBs), then Player C. It is closer between Players A & B, but I’d give the slight edge to Player B. He had one less HR, and 8 less RBI, but scored almost 20 more runs. That’s about one more run a week, while Player A gives you .045 more HRs per week and .36 more RBIs per week.

Player D = Lance Berkman, Player C = Mark Teixeira, Player B = Adrian Gonzalez, and Player A = Miguel Cabrera. It’s a virtual toss up between Gonzalez and Cabrera; I just happen to value Gonzalez’s consistency and run scoring ability a bit more. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cabrera end up with better stats than Gonzalez, but if I had to choose, I’d take Adrian. Plus I like Rocky…