Fantasy Baseball Player Analysis - First Basemen
by Bryce McRae
on April 2, 2009 @ 01:00:00
Editor's Note: Player analysis profiles appear in the positions at which the players are projected. Profiles of players who may be eligible at other positions in your league include fantasy baseball advice related to a potential increase in value as a result. A player must have started at least five games or have played at least 10 games to be eligible at another position. Criteria for fantasy baseball leagues vary, so check your league rules.
Pros: He's about as dependable as they come. Pujols' on-base-plus slugging percentage is nearly a lock to be 1.000 or better. He has played through some fairly serious maladies (or threat of them) and still delivered. The slugger declared himself 100 percent after surgery to correct his elbow injury.
Cons: The threat of injury lingers in some folks' minds. Pujols' home run rate has declined slightly.
Fantasy tip: Pujols might be the safest pick, even among the candidates for No. 1 overall. Don't expect double-digit steals, but he's an outstanding foundation for everything else.
Pros: After spending the first half acclimatizing to the American League, Cabrera raked in the second half with a .302 average, 21 homers and 70 RBIs in 68 second-half games. He set career highs in the latter two categories (37 and 127, respectively), and 2008 marked his fifth straight season with at least 112 RBIs.
Cons: Some will worry about his conditioning as he is perennial candidate to report to camp overweight. His average has dropped at least 19 points in each of the last two years.
Fantasy tip: Cabrera, 26 in April, is just entering the prime of his career. He is a safe pick just after the midpoint of the first round as a No. 1 first baseman or third baseman.
Pros: Teixeira hasn't finished with an average below .306 in the last two years, despite playing for three different teams in that span. He has at least 30 homers in the five years since his rookie campaign in 2003. Oh, and his RBI totals in those five years: 112, 144, 110, 105 and 121.
Cons: Can he handle the pressure? His new digs will bring more pressure and media coverage than any of his other stops, and not all are cut out for life in New York (see Chuck Knoblauch or Jason Giambi). He has been a slow starter in his career but has curbed that in recent campaigns.
Fantasy tip: He could be overvalued by some, though he is still a No. 1 first baseman that should be selected near the end of the first round.
Pros: He gets home runs and RBIs, and he gets a lot of them. Howard has smacked at least 47 dingers and 136 RBIs in each of the last three years.
Cons: Outside of the power categories, Howard's average hangs like a stone around his neck (.259 over the last two years). Historically he has been a slow starter with his worst monthly average (.230) and home run rate (one every 19.8 at-bats) in April.
Fantasy tip: If you are looking to corner the market early on power, then Howard is your man. Be sure to pair him with a high-average hitter, preferably one that can steal a few bases, to offset his dismal contributions in those areas. He is a No. 1 first baseman.
Pros: Big Puma, or Fat Elvis if you prefer, has at least 29 homers and 102 RBIs in four of the last five years. He hits at the heart of Houston's batting order and has protection from outfielder Carlos Lee and shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Cons: Don't expect the steals (18 last year) to stay as high - he stole just three in the second half and had never reached double digits before. Berkman, turning 33 for opening day, could be losing some power as his homers have fallen from 45 two years ago to 29 this year, and he had just 12 after May last year.
Fantasy tip: Berkman is a relatively safe pick in the late second round, but given his drop-off the third round might be a better place for him. View him as a No. 1 first baseman.
Pros: Fielder has clubbed 112 homers in his first three full-time seasons in the majors. Turning 25 in May, Fielder's power and batting eye should still be developing. Miller Park favors left-handed sluggers.
Cons: Conditioning will always be a worry for Fielder. Sticking to his homers, his 50 in 2007 might be an aberration as his flyball rate was significantly higher than any of his other three years.
Fantasy tip: If you want to build a solid foundation in the power categories with a No. 1 first baseman, then Fielder is your man. A choice in the late second or early third round is the most logical spot.
Pros: Since receiving a full workload, Morneau has at least 22 home runs in every season, including consecutive 30-homer seasons in 2006 and 2007. He has also finished among the top five at this position in RBIs in each of the last three years. His .281 career average won't kill your team, either.
Cons: Don't look for his average to hit the lofty .321 peak it did in 2006, when his batting average on balls in play (.335) was unusually high. Morneau has slumped in the second half in every year except his MVP-winning 2006 season.
Fantasy tip: Morneau is a solid cornerstone for your offense and should be taken near the end of the second round as a No. 1 first baseman.
Pros: The Greek God of Walks has improved his average in each of his four full seasons in the majors. He exploded with 29 homers and 115 RBIs last year and is surrounded by one of the best offenses in the league. His home run rates in each of the last three years: 43.8, 33.0 and 18.6, respectively.
Cons: Although his power has been increasing, Youkilis is a late bloomer, turning 30 this March. He hit career highs in RBIs, homers and average last year, so asking him to improve might be a stretch.
Fantasy tip: Youkilis is one of the low-tier No. 1 first basemen; his eligibility at third base ups his value. He is fair game after the first three rounds, though he could be overvalued.
Pros: The first pick in the 2000 draft, Gonzalez has seen his homers climb from 24 to 36 over the last three years. His runs and RBIs have followed suit in that stretch (runs: 83, 101, 103; RBIs: 82, 100, 119).
Cons: Gonzalez is a one-man army in San Diego. The Friars don't possess great table setters or give him much protection in the lineup, and he hits in one of the worst parks for batters in the major leagues. Unlike his power numbers, his average has declined in each of the last two seasons, down to one that more suits his indicators.
Fantasy tip: Take Gonzalez as a solid No. 1 first baseman somewhere in the early rounds, though his surroundings make him a slight risk.
Pros: The Cubs were the National League's top offense in 2008, and Lee plays his home games in the hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. When healthy, Lee has at least a .291 average, 20 homers, 82 RBIs and 91 runs in each of the last four years.
Cons: Lee has seen his power decline in each of the last two years ever since missing most of the 2006 season with a fractured right wrist. He hit just .266 and had only five homers in 241 second-half at-bats last year.
Fantasy tip: This might be one of the last years to snag Lee as a No. 1 first baseman. With his decline in the power category, he might no longer be able to produce at that level.
Pros: Delgado has cranked at least 30 home runs in 11 of his last 12 seasons. He hit at an impressive .303 clip with 21 home runs and 63 RBIs in 251 second-half at-bats last year, proving he might not be washed up just yet.
Cons: Delgado, 36, is just one year removed from hitting .258 with 24 homers and only 87 RBIs while battling knee and hip injuries. Last year, he was hitting .228 with only 14 home runs at the end of June before going on his impressive season-ending streak.
Fantasy tip: There is no doubting the former Toronto Blue Jay is nearing the end of his illustrious career. If you can snag him as a corner infielder, do so as he is a weak No. 1 first baseman.
Pros: The Canadian finally caught up to major league pitching in the second half, hitting .321 in 218 at-bats and knocking balls out of the park at a rate of one per 19.8 at-bats (both higher than his first-half averages). Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park is one of the top hitters' parks in the majors.
Cons: Votto has just one full season under his belt, and without the proven track record, he could easily fall back to his first-half form, when he hit just .279 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs in 308 at-bats. His strikeout percentage (19.4) was an increase from his 2007 stint.
Fantasy tip: Owners should view Votto as a high-upside but low-tier No. 1 first baseman. Ideally, he'd be a corner infielder, but it isn't likely you will be able to get him after the middle rounds.
Pros: The powerful righty seems a lock for at least 20 home runs, no matter what else is going on at the plate. It helps that he hits in one of the most power-friendly parks in the entire league. After a slow 2008 start hobbled by injuries, he turned things on with a .270 second-half clip with 13 homers.
Cons: His power has decreased steadily since hitting 41 jacks in 2004, and he posted a .438 slugging percentage last year - his worst since 2003. In addition, his .250 average over the last two years makes his power stats barely worth it.
Fantasy tip: Secure Konerko as a potential bargain corner infielder that can boost your power numbers in the middle-to-late rounds. Just be prepared to suffer in the average department.
Pros: Pena proved his 41-homer season in 2007 was no fluke as he finished with 31 dingers and 102 RBIs last year. The Rays offense is young and should mature, which would give Pena some more offensive help. A fractured index finger and muscle tears in his lower abdomen hurt Pena last year, though he finished strong.
Cons: Suffering from the Ryan Howard syndrome, Pena hits homers but will kill your batting average. Pena has hit above .248 only once when receiving at least 260 at-bats in a season.
Fantasy tip: He doesn't have the track record of some of the other No. 1 first basemen, but he is a definite plus in the RBI and home run categories. Stabilize your team's batting average before considering him.
Pros: The talented slugger enjoyed a solid first full season in the majors, hitting .289 with 13 homers and 90 RBIs. He flashed signs of budding power with 35 doubles (eighth at his position) and 13 homers last year. A solid contact rate suggests his average could return to its .300-plus level from 2007.
Cons: Loney, entering his age-25 season, could still experience growing pains in the majors. Despite his double increase last year, he hit two fewer home runs despite registering more than 200 extra at-bats. He has the power but needs to demonstrate it in the standard roto categories.
Fantasy tip: A solid prospect, Loney has the talent to produce like a No. 1 first baseman, which would be good value in the middle rounds in a fantasy corner slot.
Pros: Huff chipped in a .304 average, 32 home runs and 108 RBIs in 598 at-bats last year. Don't discount his numbers as a fluke: He has hit .300-plus with a .500-plus slugging percentage in the past.
Cons: The past referred to above doesn't include his recent past. From 2004 through 2007, Huff's average and slugging percentage were below .283 and .493 in each year. The O's have a couple of other options (Melvin Mora, Ty Wigginton) at the corners, and outfielder Luke Scott may vie for at-bats at DH.
Fantasy tip: The spike in home runs looks to be an aberration for Huff, who at 32 should start experiencing a decline in power. Consider him a solid corner infielder, which means he's likely a little overvalued.
Pros: Davis wasted no time in transferring his considerable power from the minors to the bigs. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 55 RBIs in just 295 at-bats last year after averaging one jack every 14.1 at-bats in three minor league seasons.
Cons: He has around half a season of experience in the majors, so there isn't much of a track record for success. His poor batting eye and high BABIP suggest his average will come down.
Fantasy tip: Many pundits have hyped Davis this offseason, which could lead him to be overvalued from his more comforting corner infield spot. He is typically falling to the early middle rounds, though at such a key offensive position, conservative owners might not be willing to risk Davis' selection.
Pros: Helton had a streak of 10 seasons with at least a .302 average, 15 homers and 79 RBIs end last year, though he missed just under half the season. Helton is back swinging a bat full speed, and he still plays in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. He has been on fire this spring, hitting .486 with four dingers and 15 RBIs in 37 at-bats.
Cons: A back injury is never a good sign, especially for a 35-year-old slugger. He had the worst home run percentage on flyballs of his career last year - a rate that has been declining five of the last six years - which could be a sign his power is waning. He may play part time this year, and who knows when a back problem will flare up again?
Fantasy tip: Even with his declining power and health, Helton should still be able to provide at least a boost in the average category. He should be chosen in the late rounds of most drafts, especially since his spring performance has invoked flashbacks.
Pros: LaRoche's home run-to-flyball ratio bounced back closer to his career average last year. He should be good for at least 20 home runs. In fact, he has hit at least 20 homers and driven in at least 78 runs in each of the last four years.
Cons: Outside from his power, he doesn't help out much in any other category - he has a career .273 average and his power numbers are rather pedestrian for the position. He is a slow starter, hitting .251 or worse in the first half of each of the last three years.
Fantasy tip: One thing to keep in mind with LaRoche: He is, historically, a far better second-half player. Take him in the last rounds of drafts as a midrange corner infielder.
Pros: Power. Jacobs cranked an extra-base hit every 7.8 at-bats last year, improving on his 9.3 pace in 2007. He finished eighth among first basemen with a .514 slugging percentage last year, despite playing in park unfavorable for sluggers. Despite a logjam behind him at first, Jacobs should remain in the lineup every day with some time at DH.
Cons: Average. He hit just .247 last year, which was the worst among all qualified first baseman in the National League. This followed consecutive years of .262 and .265 in 2006 and 2007, respectively.
Fantasy tip: Jacobs is going as a late-round option in deep mixed fantasy drafts, which is where you should grab him as a significant power source. Keep in mind he has been a streaky player.
Pros: He has three straight seasons with at least 20 home runs. His power hasn't deserted him yet as he has stayed fairly consistent with his percentage of flyballs that leave the yard.
Cons: The Orioles may start him at first base or use him as a superutility player; his role is unknown. He doesn't make contact at a high rate, and his poor batting eye leaves him prone to slumps.
Fantasy tip: He is going in the early late rounds, but this appears to be too early for him until his playing time is defined. He's more useful as a fantasy bench player, but someone will probably overpay for him given his positional versatility and recent power displays.
Pros: Giambi will serve primarily as the A's designated hitter, which should leave him plenty of time to focus on his hitting. He has a career .318 average with a home run every 15.9 at-bats at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. That isn't confined to his MVP-level years in Oakland; he hit .333 with two homers and four RBIs in 24 at-bats at the stadium in the last two years. In three of his last four years, he has recorded at least 30 homers and 87 runs.
Cons: Despite the Athletics' acquisition of outfielder Matt Holliday, Giambi probably won't have the benefit of at least an average offense - the A's ranked dead last in the American League in runs by a large margin. His .248 average since 2002 is disappointing.
Fantasy tip: The 2000 MVP is a decent choice as your corner infielder, particularly if you need to pick up some late-round power.
Pros: He hit .296 and .287 in 2007 and 2008 (with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), respectively. His BABIP should trend upward this year (.273 last year), which could raise his average with it. His rate of at-bats per homer increased slightly last year. If he is going to have a prime, he should be entering it this year.
Cons: Kotchman failed to take to his new home in Atlanta, hitting just .237 with only two homers in 152 at-bats after his midseason trade. His power numbers are subpar for a first baseman (.410 slugging percentage last year).
Fantasy tip: Owners are taking Kotchman in the last few rounds of the draft. He is a decent option as a corner infielder, though he doesn't appear to offer much power for the position.
Pros: The Indians plan to work out Garko in the outfield - while this might not help Cleveland defensively, it should open up his eligibility. His RBIs have gone up in each of the last two years, and he is a moderate contributor in the power categories. He hit .319 after the All-Star break last year, and his batting eye saw considerable improvement.
Cons: Garko's average has dropped in consecutive years (.292 to .289 to .273), and his home runs declined last year (from 21 to 14) while his slugging percentage plummeted 79 points. The positional uncertainty could see him focus more time on fielding than hitting.
Fantasy tip: Owners are generally taking Garko near the end of most drafts, if they are even selecting him at all. Select him as a low-end corner infielder.
Pros: A midseason demotion seemed to spark Butler, who hit .305 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in the second half. He spent most of his time at designated hitter last year, leaving him ample time to focus on his hitting. Butler, who will turn 23 this year, should still be maturing. He reportedly is in the best physical shape of his playing career.
Cons: He doesn't provide great power as he posted just a .400 slugging percentage last year and his home run percentage on flyballs has been low in his first two MLB seasons.
Fantasy tip: Butler offers more upside than the other players ranked this low, and he should be a corner infielder for deep mixed leagues.
Pros: Morales finally has the starting first base gig to himself. At Triple-A Salt Lake last year he smacked 15 bombs and drove in 64 runs in just 317 at-bats; he cleared the fences once every 20.9 at-bats in his minor league career along with posting a .337 career farm clip. He has raked in both the Dominican winter league and spring training.
Cons: Will that carry over to the bigs? He needs to make contact. The switch-hitter has mustered a .249 clip in 377 at-bats and had a terrible 0.29 batting eye ratio in his 119-at-bat stint in 2007.
Fantasy tip: There's potential here, but don't invest in him as anything more than a low-end corner infielder in deep mixed leagues. He may be a bit overhyped.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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