Adrian Gonzalez should bounce back in his first full season with the Dodgers.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
By popular demand (yes, we’ve been listening to your emails!), the 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit is back today with another cheat sheet! So while you wonder how Justin Upton and B.J. Upton will fare together in Hotlanta, let’s turn our attention to the corner infield and review the top 66 first basemen in Fantasy baseball for 2013.
The power options at first base are plentiful, so if your’e looking for pop, look no further in 2013. There are at least 15 first basemen that have 25+ homer potential.
You’ve got the tried and true top tier consisting of Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. One of the new faces this season is Billy Butler, as he finally got in those 20 games to qualify here — obviously elevating his status for 2013. The young guns include Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, and an underachieving Eric Hosmer.
Even towards the middle of the pack we have Ike Davis who slugged his way to 32 homers after an abysmal start. Veterans Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard have regressed, but each of them still provides an excellent opportunity to pad your homer and RBI totals (but, of course, with BA limitations).
Allen Craig has exploded onto the scene with high expectations that he’ll build on his excellent 2012 (and stay healthy again). Garrett Jones hit 27 bombs last year and he’s virtually an afterthought. Does Brandon Belt finally reward his owners by translating that potential into counting stats?
Whatever path or draft strategy you choose to take at first base this year, there is no doubt that the options are plentiful.
Bear in mind that this is your likely destination when seeking to fill your corner infield slot, given the paucity of option at third base.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (4): Votto’s injuries last season burned his owners, but at least they allowed Todd Frazier to make Fantasy hay (we’re always looking for the silver lining, folks). Votto’s midseason knee injury wound up costing the Canadian slugger over 50 games, although his extra-base pop was pretty damn impressive regardless. Not surprisingly, his stolen base total dipped, but you could argue that he was on track for a career year before going down. Factor in Votto’s continued strong glovework at first base, and you’ve got yourself one of the best all-around talents in the game. Unfortunately, the knee is obviously not yet 100 per cent given that it’s not a sure thing he’ll be on the Canadian team at the WBC.
2. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (2): Pujols will be part of an even more potent Angel lineup in 2013 now that the club has added Josh Hamilton. Phat Albert required (supposedly) minor knee surgery in October, a procedure that may affect his ability to represent the Dominican in the WBC. Word on the street is the surgery was more serious than reported. The regression in his overall performance continued in his first season in Anaheim as he had a career low in runs, homers and BA. Still, the news wasn’t all bad. Pujols put up his third career 50-double season and reached 105 RBI for the 10th time (he just turned 32 last week and is already knocking on the door of 1,500 for his career). The addition of Hambone should help propel Pujols back over 100 runs this year and while Pujols wasn’t able to get the Angels back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they did show improvement and Hamilton should be the extra spark needed to get the Halos back into contention.
3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (5): First base may not be the deep position it once was, but Fielder remains among the best in the biz here. Despite his less than athletic build, he’s been extremely durable, missing just one game over the past four years and playing at least 157 games every year since becoming a regular in 2006. Fielder’s home run output dipped last year and his walks were also down, yet when factoring in his increased BA, he enjoyed his second highest WAR ever, finishing 10th in the AL in that department. His isolated power dropped in his first year as a Tiger and while he’ll likely remain at first base for the next two years, by 2015, Fielder could be the full-time DH.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (3): Being the cover boy on MLB ’12 The Show didn’t exactly work wonders for Gonzalez. He was not hitting as well as usual for Boston before he got shipped to the Dodgers in a mega deal and his extra-base power dipped even further after returning to the NL West. Overall, A-Gon had his lowest run total since becoming a full-timer and other than a reduced strikeout rate, there wasn’t much to celebrate last year. A late-first rounder in most drafts in 2012, Gonzalez is slipping until the fourth round this season. We’re expecting his run total to bounce back this year in his first full season at Chavez Ravine.
5. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (39): Forty-two homers? Really?! Double-E was ready to be run out of Toronto a year ago at this time, and then he finally delivered on his promise and had a breakout season for the ages. He shattered his career high in RBI while managing to reach .280 for the first time in five years. Encarnacion’s best previous season was likely 2010, when he recorded a 1.4 WAR; last year, he put up a 4.5. How many Fantasy teams rode this dude’s coattails to a championship as he drew walks at a higher rate than ever before? Encarnacion has guaranteed himself the full-time job at first base this year based on his monster campaign, and while he’s unlikely to duplicate it, expect another 30+ homer season out of E-5.
6. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals (1 in DH): Butler’s breakout is a topic we covered in depth late in the season. It’s clear that he is still on the upward trajectory of his career after turning in his highest slugging percentage ever. Butler won the 2012 Edgar Martinez Award as the top DH, although as an added bonus he qualifies at first base this year. There’s been talk Butler could be shopped in an effort to land young pitching, but for now KC is hanging onto to its young All-Star, even if his walk rate dipped to its lowest rate since 2008.
7. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (33): A year ago, we had Goldschmidt in the top 35 in our First Base Rankings but by season’s end, you could argue he was a top 10 player at the position, a fact that is indicated by his placement here. In his first full season, Goldschmidt entrenched himself at first in Arizona, seeing tons of action and quickly morphing into a 20-homer man. His walk rate was down, but so was his strikeout rate as he proved he’s on the cusp of becoming a legitimate slugger and a real fine keeper league asset. One thing to consider: expect Goldschmidt’s BA to dip this year, given his unsustainable .340 BABIP. Maybe he didn’t completely deliver on the hype last season, but this year we’re expecting a big breakout, so this may be the last time you can get him this cheap.
8. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals (69 in OF): An honourable mention for our coveted Wire Troll All-Star Team, Craig could be dealt this winter if the Cards look to bring in a big bopper. Last year, his extra-base pop slipped a bit, but the former second baseman shattered career highs in almost every counting category. We’re expecting him to receive even more PT this year (assuming he can finally avoid major injury) and take his game to a new level. Not bad for a dude that only got a shot at first base last year because Pujols left, Lance Berkman got hurt and Matt Adams did not deliver. Craig is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming soon.
9. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (6): In a late-May Podcast, we talked about Teixeira’s early-season struggles and whether he’d come out of it. Well, his numbers were even worse in June before he finally started hitting well in July and then his production slipped again in August before getting hurt and missing most of the remainder of the campaign. Part of the Yankees’ massive spending spree in 2009, Teixeira has steadily regressed since then. Last year, his slugging percentage dropped to career worst levels. His flyball rate dipped and so did his HR/FB rate, leading to the first sub-25-homer season of his career. And despite a higher BABIP, Teixeira’s BA didn’t rise much last year. He’ll be on Team USA in the WBC, so let’s hope that sparks him to turn things around in 2013.
10. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (26): Perhaps it took Boston sniffing around him for the Nats to finally re-sign LaRoche – something that was considered a foregone conclusion after the season. The only surprise was how long it took for this deal to be consummated. After failing to land a three-year deal on the open market despite a career year, he returned to Washington for two years and $24 million. Poor Adam… however will he survive on that pittance of a salary? He’s coming off a career high in hits and homers and matched his personal best in ribbies. LaRoche also reached 35 doubles for the fifth time while enjoying his best slugging percentage since 2006. It was a hell of a nice recovery for a dude that lost most of 2011 to injury, but we’re expecting his strikeout rate to keep heading north.
11. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (9): Despite seeing slightly less action last year, Freeman took another slight step forward, mostly on the strength of an improved power game. There’s no doubt his overall work as a hitter slipped slightly and a reduction in BA took his OBP down. Still, we remain bullish on Freeman’s chances to be a star in time and a drop in BABIP last year suggests that his BA will rebound this season. Bear in mind how young he was during his first two full seasons in the bigs and you begin to get the sense that a real breakout is coming – very soon.
12. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (12): It was obvious that Howard’s injury would really hurt the Phils’ offense in the first part of the season. That his return kept getting pushed back only exacerbated the issue. Thanks to a toe woe that shut him down early, he wound up getting less than half a season’s worth of at-bats and his extra-base pop never looked less potent. Pitcher were unafraid to pitch to RyHo, so his walk rate also plummeted and, as usual, he was a complete non-factor on the bases. Howard’s lower leg is now basically 100 per cent healthy, so expecting a rebound this year is completely reasonable. At the very least, he better get his OBP back over .300! It’s pretty damn obvious that Howard’s best years are in the rear view mirror, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he still could make a run at 35 homers and 100 RBI.
13. Ike Davis, New York Mets (16): In June, we recommended Davis as a waiver wire pickup and it turned out to be an excellent choice as he slashed 14 extra-base hits in June, saw his most action in July and hit better in August before wrapping up with a productive September/October. He timed his healthy season well as a Super Two player eligible for arbitration for the first time, and earned a sweet raise to $3.125 million for the upcoming season (six times more than he earned last year). Davis’ extra-base pop actually dipped slightly last year, but he did manage to establish himself as a productive hitter with absolutely zero speed. He actually had his lowest OPS ever last year, but we believe there’s room for growth – especially in the power department. Davis’ walk rate dipped, and that will be something that he’ll need to address this year if he’s truly going to bounce back.
14. Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels (30): Morales has now been peddled to Seattle for starter Jason Vargas, a move that will likely slightly hurt his overall numbers. Another first baseman that won’t steal a base to save his life (especially after all his leg woes), Morales had a much tougher time finding his way on base last year, but he avoided arbitration, signing a new $5.25 million contract with his new employers. Now let’s see if he can live up to that for a team that desperately needs an infusion of offense and has also brought in Robert Andino, Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez in an effort to score more runs. We worry about Morales’ BA as not only does he move to a tougher hitter’s park, but he’s coming off a season in which his BABIP was rather high, so he was likely going to regress even without the downgrade in home stadium.
15. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (7): In an August Podcast, we talked about how much we admired Konerko, although he wasn’t very productive that month before picking things up a bit to wrap the season up. He’s headed into another walk year, and after regressing the past couple of years, it will be interesting to see what Paulie will do in 2013 with likely his final contract on the line (assuming he wants to bag another deal, that is). Konerko’s extra-base pop has been in decline the past couple of years and his productivity really dropped off the table last season. He’s never had speed, so don’t even go there, but he’s now fully recovered from offseason wrist surgery, so should hit the ground running this spring. Konerko has become a perfectly average choice at first base, but he is no longer a starter in standard formats. We expect one more 30-homer season out of him before the regression really kicks in, but could this season be the 36-year-old’s swansong? Don’t bet against it.
16. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (8): A candidate for 2012 Fantasy Dud of the Year, Hosmer is poised to rebound in a big way this year – he’s just too young and talented not to. Last year he saw more action, yet failed to match his rookie counting cat numbers and he struck out more often. To cap an ugly season, Hosmer had to shut it down early with a shoulder woe. He’s currently lasting until the 13th round in some drafts, and at that price, he’s a steal – you have to believe that low .255 BABIP will rise and bring his BA back with it. This Florida product is about to spread a little sunshine on his Fantasy owners’ teams this season – bank on it.
17. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (29): Dunn received honourable mention from us as the Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year, but he did bag the award from both the MLBPA and the Sporting News. He hit so much better last year, and his extra-base pop bounced nearly all the way back. Dunn’s walk rate also recovered and while he’s never going to hit for even a respectable average again, he proved he can still mash the long ball. His extra-base numbers will likely regress somewhat this year, and that’ll hurt his RBI count – especially if Dunn is dropped from third to fifth in the batting order as rumoured.
18. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (22): Part of what should be a very potent Angel lineup this year, Trumbo will likely shift full time to designated hitter (or at least most of the time) now that Morales has been dealt – something to bear in mind in keeper leagues. Last year, Trumbo continued to trend upwards, enjoying his most productive season, but struggling on the basepaths. One worry here: after a massive first half, the slugger really stumbled after the break, hitting just 10 homers and struggling with his BA. Expect Trumbo to swipe a few bags, hit plenty of dingers and post a middling BA. Trumbo is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
19. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (35): An honourable mention for last year’s Wire Troll All-Star Team, Rizzo’s extra-base power took a major step forward and he more than doubled his BA. All told, 2012 represented a massive improvement for the youngster, who now seems poised to deliver on the hype. Rizzo, who will play for Team Italy in the WBC, was a beast in the minors, and now we’ll get a chance to see if he can do the same in the majors. His high BABIP may be difficult to sustain (and hence his BA may dip), but look for this kid to flirt with 35 dingers in his first full season in the bigs.
20. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (6 at C): For Posey’s profile, please see our Catcher Rankings.
Others to Consider
21. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates (40): Jones is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
22. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (50): Davis is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
23. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins (24)
24. Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians (45 at OF): Swisher is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
25. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (7 at C): For Mauer’s profile, please see our Catcher Rankings.
26. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (14): For Santana’s profile, please see our Catcher Rankings.
27. Kevin Youkilis, New York Yankees (10 at 3B): Youkilis is also listed in our Third Base Rankings, coming shortly.
28. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres (31)
29. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (42)
30. Lance Berkman, Texas Rangers (11)
31. Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians (19)
32. Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies (21): Cuddyer is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
33. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox (15): For Napoli’s profile, please see our Catcher Rankings.
34. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers (28)
35. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds (NR): Frazier is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
36. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays (18)
37. Tyler Colvin, Colorado Rockies (132 at OF): Colvin is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
38. Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox (35 at 2B): Keppinger is also listed in our Second and Third Base Rankings.
39. Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers (31 at OF): Hart is also listed in our Outfield Rankings. (Note that we lowered Hart because of anticipated knee surgery, which has now been delayed as he seeks a second opinion. If he does not require surgery, bump him up the list.)
40. Carlos Lee, Miami Marlins (23)
41. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners (27)
42. Carlos Pena, Houston Astros (20)
43. Mike Carp, Seattle Mariners (38): Carp is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
44. Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers (41): Note that Gamel will drop down the rankings if Hart is healthy to begin the season.
45. Chris Carter, Oakland Athletics (NR)
46. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros (NR)
47. James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays (36)
48. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (37)
49. Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics (NR): Moss is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
50. Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates (17)
51. Casey Kotchman, Free agent (49)
52. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Carpenter is also listed in our Third Base Rankings and qualifies in the Outfield.
53. Mauro Gomez, Boston Red Sox (NR)
54. Jordan Pacheco, Colorado Rockies (46 at 3B): Pacheco is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
55. Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies (10): Young is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
56. John Mayberry, Jr., Philadelphia Phillies (68 at OF): Mayberry also qualifies at Outfield.
57. Ty Wigginton, St. Louis Cardinals (47): Wigginton is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
58. Yan Gomes, Cleveland Indians (NR)
59. Juan Rivera, Free agent (34): Rivera also qualifies in Outfield.
60. Hunter Morris, Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
61. Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians (45)
62. Nate Freiman, Houston Astros (NR)
63. Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics (56)
64. Matt Downs, Miami Marlins (39 at 2B)
65. Travis Ishikawa, Baltimore Orioles (NR)
66. Brett Pill, San Francisco Giants (NR)
RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast
Crave more in-depth Fantasy analysis? Then join us every Thursday at 9 p.m. EST for RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball Weekly Podcast on Blogtalkradio. Tim McLeod and I will entertain and edify you for a half hour or more each week. Tune in here.