2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: First Base Rankings
Yonder Alonso should be set free now that he’s been dealt to the Padres.
By Tim McLeod and RotoRob
We’re back with another batch of the 2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit. So while you wonder where to slot Yoenis Cespedes on your cheat sheets, why not take a look at at how we’ve ranked the top 58 first basemen in Fantasy baseball?
When searching for the big power bats, you need look no further than first base. In 2012, the early picking will be dominated by the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixiera. In the wake of the Tigers’ recent acquisition of Fielder, Cabrera will be moving to the hot corner — a move that could cause Miggy to vault to the top of the Fantasy charts in 2012.
Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman are both coming off solid rookie campaigns and could be moving closer to that upper tier in 2012. Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee aren’t getting any younger, but still should have one more quality year left in the tank. The young guns are led by Paul Goldschmidt and newly-acquired Padre Yonder Alonso.
The talent level at first base is high and relatively deep, but it is also a position filled with question marks.
Can Ike Davis bounce back after missing most of 2011 with an ankle injury? When does perennial early pick Ryan Howard take to the field this season, and can he rebound from the Achilles’ injury he suffered on the final play of the Phillies’ season? Will Justin Morneau ever recover from his recurring concussion syndrome symptoms (not to mention all his other health woes)? Adam Lind had a dreadful second half and the jury is still out as far as his ability to consistently hit for average. Can Kendrys Morales bounce back from the broken ankle that has cost him the better part of the past two seasons? Similarly, Adam LaRoche is looking to rebound from shoulder surgery surgery to repair a torn labrum. And where will Mark Trumbo play with some dude named Pujols joining the Halos?
The serious shortage of quality bats at the hot corner this year may mandate that your corner infielder comes from a group of talented but risky players in the first base pool. Don’t get caught short in your chase for power numbers by leaving first base as an after-thought come draft day.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (2): We think Cabrera deserved the Silver Slugger last year after his huge season helped propel the Tigers to an easy win in the AL Central. While Miggy’s homer total dipped, he still reached 30 long balls for the fifth straight season and seventh time overall to put himself within shouting distance of 300 career – at the age of 28. Similarly, while his RBI count dipped, he still enjoyed his seventh season of at least 105 RBI to move within 16 of 1,000 for his career. Toss in a new personal high in walks plus the career-best .344 Cabrera hit last year (for his first batting title) and you can see that he is starting to put together a Hall of Fame worthy career despite still being a couple years shy of his 30th birthday. It’s really hard to imagine that he could still be getting better, but last year’s percentages seemed to suggest as much and the fact that he may qualify at 3B this year vaults him to the top of the charts.
2. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (1): Perhaps you heard a thing or two about Pujols jumping ship in St. Louis and landing in LA this winter. Watching what kind of impact he’ll have on the moribund Angel attack will fascinating, and we spent plenty of time talking about that very topic in the debut of RotoRob’s Fantasy Baseball 365 Podcast last month. Last year, Pujols reached 105 runs for the ninth time as he closes in on 1,300 for his career, but his extra-base pop and batting eye has been in decline the past couple of years. Should the Angels be worried? Well, they did just sign a 32-year-old to a 10-year deal, so clearly money is not a concern. We know he’ll improve LA’s attack this year, but how much protection he’ll have remains an open question. Yes, Pujols can rake, but there’s no doubt that the Halos paid way too much for his services given his age and defensive position.
3. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (4): Well, one thing we know for sure is that Gonzalez doesn’t bring any speed to the table. However, whatever else you need, he can supply. Part of the big splash the Sox made in the 2010 offseason, the Gonzalez acquisition did not pay off in a trip back to the playoffs for Boston, but don’t blame him. I mean all the durable slugger did was display more superb extra-base pop (although perhaps not as superb as you would have expected after getting out of Petco) and shatter his career high in BA, while setting a new high water mark with a .410 OBP. As you’d expect from a 29-year-old, his isolated power has regressed the past couple of seasons, and for the first time in four seasons, he failed to hit at least 30 big flies. Still, the tradeoff with a much higher BA made it worthwhile for his Fantasy owners.
4. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (3): Despite setting a new career high in hits, Votto was unable to duplicate his 2010 MVP season, but I guess that’s no big surprise. It was nice to see him stay healthy enough to also reach 40 doubles for the first time and set a new personal best in walks (clearly pitchers knew better than to challenge him after his monster 2010). With Votto’s strike zone judgment continuing to progress, it wouldn’t shock us to see him go the A-Gon route: hit a few less dingers, but win a batting title. Cleared of having to look over his shoulder to watch prospect Yonder Alonso (um, ya… like that was going to happen), Votto is capable of hitting over .300 with nearly 30 homers and over 100 RBI in a “down season.” Yup, this Canadian dude can rake.
5. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (8): The NL Silver Slugger winner at first base, Fielder is a borderline first round Fantasy talent, yet with less than a month before Spring Training, he was still seeking a new job. Then the Tigers – fresh off losing Victor Martinez for the season – came pouncing. It was pretty hard to believe Fielder lasted so long after a 2011 in which he reached 95 runs for the third time, 170 hits for just the second time and wound up with at least 120 RBI, also for just the second time. Toss in a new personal best in OBP, and you were left scratching your head that he was still on the market. The dude is an impact bat, and even though he’s headed to a tougher hitter’s park, he’ll still be a top five player at a very deep position.
6. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (6): Part of the Yankees’ massive offseason spending spree in 2009 (he was signed to an eight-year, $180-million deal), Teixeira’s run total dipped to its lowest since 2007 – when he missed 30 games. On the plus side, he made better contact, but the fact is, he’s been in slow decline for the past few seasons. Teixeira remains a highly productive hitter, but his steady regression has knocked him out of the top tier at this position.
7. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (12): As we discussed in our 2011 White Sox Team Review, it’s a scary thought to think how bad offensively the Pale Hose would have been without Konerko in the lineup. He rewarded the faith the Sox showed in him when they re-signed him last winter even though his extra-base sock dipped after that monster 2010. Still, Konerko was extremely productive and also hit for average as Chicago’s captain continued to surprise us all with his mid-30s renaissance. Personally, I think the White Sox should blow it up and deal him before the real regression starts, but hey, I don’t run the team.
8. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (NR): Our pick as the top first base waiver wire pickup in the AL last year, Hosmer quickly established himself as one of the best young players in the game. Average, pop and a surprising show of speed – what’s not to like? This dude has a chance to be a serious slugger, as anyone that puts up a near-800 OPS at the age of 21 is clearly a special talent in the making. One caveat: as a left-handed hitter in KC, his homers could be held in check – last season, he only hit three of his 19 dingers at home.
9. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (22): Freeman’s fine rookie effort earned him consideration as the RotoRob 2011 Fantasy Rookie of the Year and he just missed out on the NL ROY honours as well, getting edged by teammate Craig Kimbrel. Freeman displayed developing patience, and as part of one of Atlanta’s best draft classes ever (also including Kimbrel and Jason Heyward), he’s become a key component of the Braves’ rebuild-on-the-fly movement. Freeman will play next season at age 22, so you know the power he flashed last year has plenty of room for growth.
10. Michael Young, Texas Rangers (NR): For a dude that was supposed to spend the entire season DHing, Young not only wound up qualifying here, but also at the hot corner. And considering how bad Young wanted out of Texas heading into 2011 in the wake of the Adrian Beltre signing, he wound up enjoying a superb comeback effort, putting up the second highest OBP of his lengthy career. Young’s batting eye was substantially better last year, helping him to his highest BA ever. Unfortunately, he once again failed to duplicate his regular season success in the playoffs. Young is also listed in our Third Base Rankings. coming shortly.
11. Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (26): Berkman’s wonderful comeback season earned him a coveted RotoRob Award in 2011. Now that Pujols has moved on, first base will be Berkman’s principle home in 2012, which is probably a good thing as you’ll really don’t want him spending much time in the outfield considering he’ll be 36 in a couple of weeks. Berkman stayed moderately healthy last year, scoring 90 runs for the first time since 2008 although his base stealing skills are definitely a thing of the past. Clearly, rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Berkman is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
12. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (5): In late-June, we bemoaned the fact that Howard was barely playing like a top 10 first baseman, and things got even worse from there as he finished last season as a low-end No. 1 first baseman despite a strong September. Considering Howard’s whopping five-year, $125-million extension kicks in this season, he better pick up the pace, but a ruptured Achilles’ tendon will keep him out for the first several weeks, and possibly much longer. RyHo’s extra-base sock actually bounced back a bit last year, as did his walk rate, but a major tumble in BA helped dragged his OPS down. Don’t expect much in BA – somewhere between the .253 he hit last year and the .276 the season before sounds about right – but the power will be there. Just make sure you pay close attention to his medical progress this spring before pulling the trigger.
13. Michael Morse, Washington Nationals (NR): Morse has already shown us glimpses of what he’s capable of in partial seasons. Imagine how much better Washington will be once this dude finally plays a full season. The Nats obviously think he’ll be an important cog, avoiding arbitration with him by penning Morse to a two-year deal worth $10.5 million. Washington’s best stick last year enjoyed an extremely productive campaign and managed a pretty nice .360 OBP even though his walk rate regressed. Morse has established himself as a bona fide slugger, and because Washington failed to sign Fielder, he won’t be pushed to the outfield full time. Whether Morse will continue to hit over .300 is questionable, but no one is doubting that his pop’s for real. He is also listed in our Outfield Rankling.
14. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (NR): For Santana’s profile, see our Catcher Rankings.
15. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers (24): For Napoli’s profile, see our Catcher Rankings.
16. Ike Davis, New York Mets (20): Depending on who you believed, Davis was rumoured to be part of the package the Mets were offering in their failed attempt to land Gio Gonzalez. Unfortunately, last season was a lost cause for Davis, as a fairly harmless looking ankle injury in mid-May wound up costing him the remainder of the campaign. It was a real shame as he was in the early parts of what looked like a serious breakout. Davis was putting up sweet counting numbers and had slightly improved his batting eye before getting hurt. He didn’t have much speed before the injury, but after this issue it’s unlikely he’ll ever offer any help in that department. Now the question becomes whether Davis can maintain or build on the improvements he flashed in the first few weeks of last season. In NL-ony leagues, he is much more attractive now that Pujols and Fielder have left the Senior Circuit.
17. Gaby Sanchez, Miami Marlins (19): After a fine rookie season in 2010, Sanchez’s numbers were almost identical last year. He dodged a bullet when Miami failed to land Pujols and will now try to get his isolated power to bounce back after a slight regression last year. While Sanchez is not a bad Fantasy option, there are plenty of sexier choices in either mixed or NL-only leagues. Let’s put it this way: Berkman is just a few slots ahead of Sanchez, but is a much better Fantasy option worth spending several more dollars on.
18. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays (3 at DH): After a superb first half (.300, 16 homers, 864 OPS), Lind crashed and burned in the second half (.197, 10 homers, 586 OPS) thanks to a wrist issue. Combined with a back problem that sidelined him a month earlier in the season, Lind wound up playing in just 125 games, and while his overall performance at the plate was a slight improvement on his disappointing 2010, that second half plunge really levelled things off. He’s now had back-to-back seasons in which he’s failed to get on base even 30 per cent of the time, and while his batting eye bounced back somewhat last year, it’s still miles from acceptable. If that doesn’t turn around, Lind’s only asset will be his power.
19. Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles (NR): Two seasons ago, Reynolds made major league history by becoming the first position player to have a higher strikeout total (211) than batting average (.198). Yikes. In his first season in the AL, however, he managed to reverse that trend, batting a lofty (for him) .221 and ‘only’ striking out 196 times in 155 games. Unfortunately, his walk rate also dipped. And let’s not even broach the topic of his defense. Okay, we will: Reynolds was the worst third baseman in baseball last season, costing the O’s about 23 runs. There’s one constant you can bank on with Reynolds – and that’s plenty of dingers. Reynolds is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
20. Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays (19): In an NL Central Preview Podcast last spring, I pretty much guaranteed that Pena would never hit his weight again. Well, despite a shocking .133 mark against lefties (can you say platoon player?), Pena managed to bat exactly his weight (.225) last year to make a liar out of me. Bastard! Now the aging slugger has parlayed somewhat of a comeback season with the Cubs into a one-year deal back in Tampa Bay, where he averaged 36 homers between 2007 and 2010 (however, 116 of those were smoked in his first three seasons as a Ray). Last year was Pena’s least productive season since 2006, but his percentages were much more palatable than during his awful 2010. You know the drill with Pena: if you draft him, you better make sure you load up on hitters capable of batting .300.
21. Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies (29): A free agent this winter, Cuddyer landed in Colorado for three years and $31.5 million – a move that should increase his Fantasy value. What surprised me about this move (and several others the Rox made this offseason) is that Colorado seemed to be in rebuilding mode when it dealt away Ubaldo Jimenez, but is now bringing in vets right, left and centre (besides Cuddyer, it’s added Casey Blake, Ramon Hernandez and Marco Scutaro). What up with that? Last year, a variety of minor ailments (and a crappy Twins offense) limited most of Cuddyer’s counting stats, but he did have a better season, power-wise. In fact, after a somewhat down season in 2010, overall it was a nice rebound effort and perfectly timed for free agency. In three of his last six seasons, Cuddyer has posted an OPS of at least 800 and the move to Coors should guarantee that this run continues. Note that in leagues where players only need to play 10 or 15 games at a position to qualify there, Cuddyer’s second base eligibility means he should be bumped up this list a few notches. Cuddyer is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
22. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (NR): Trumbo’s fine effort last season earned him consideration as the 2011 RotoRob Fantasy Rookie of the Year, but the Angels’ addition of Pujols leaves the youngster without a clear position in 2012. Trumbo is expected to platoon at DH with Bobby Abreu but is also going to get a chance to play third base. Trumbo didn’t score many runs last year – mostly a product of a poor Halos’ attack and his walk rate was horrific, but at least he made better contact. What worries me here is that he may not cut it at the hot corner. When he played there briefly after being drafted, things did not go well. What’s changed in the last seven years? The other concern is that Trumbo has been slowed by a stress fracture in his foot. If he’s not fully healthy in Spring Training (very much a possibility), he may be a man without a job when LA breaks camp. (Don’t forget that Kendrys Morales is supposedly finally healthy, and he’ll factor into this mix).
23. Carlos Lee, Houston Astros (17): When we last checked in on Lee at the beginning of May, he was slumping and it was hurting the value of other Astros. Well, our moaning seemed to work, as Lee shook off his April woes and wound up playing much better for the remainder of the season. Despite his advancing age, he’s remained fairly durable the past few seasons and while his strikeout rate rose, he still makes excellent contact for a power hitter. It was definitely nice to see Lee’s BA bounce back (definitely helped by the second-best walk rate of his career) after a career-worst showing in 2010. His six-year, $100-million deal ends after 2012, so Lee will be motivated to build on last year’s renaissance. His declining power is a concern, but as long as he’s not hitting .246 like in 2010, it won’t sting quite as much. Lee is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
24. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins (11): Former MVP Morneau has been decimated by injuries the past couple of years, but he’s apparently healthy again and ready to resume his duties at first for the Twinkies. Last year, concussion woes – and four operations – limited him to less than half a season worth of action, and he managed a mere four dingers. Simply put, Morneau was a shell of himself offensively in what was an extremely unproductive season last year. He struggled to get on base, and remains a big question mark heading into this season. Do not reach for Morneau too early expecting a full rebound, but if he falls to you at an acceptable place (say, the 14th round) go ahead and pull the trigger on this Canadian slugger.
25. Lucas Duda, New York Mets (NR): Duda enjoyed a good enough rookie season last year to earn a spot on our coveted NL All Wire Troll Team. While his season ended early because of a concussion, he has long since shook off the effects of that woe, and should be good to go for 2012. Last year, Duda emerged as a near full-time player, but he didn’t quite smack as many homers as we would have liked to see. Still, it was a productive first full season, and we were especially bullish about the on-base skills he flashed. Duda is expected to occupy the strong side of a platoon in RF for the Mets this year, and if you can nab him late enough in your draft, he has the upside potential to be a very fine pickup. Duda is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
Others to Consider
26. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (16)
27. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners (28)
28. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers (33): Moreland is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
29. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (7)
30. Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels (9)
31. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres (NR): Note that he mostly played outfield in minors last year, but he’s ticketed for first base in San Diego.
32. Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants (15): Huff is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
33. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
34. Juan Rivera, Los Angeles Dodgers: Rivera is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
35. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (NR)
36. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers (25)
37. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (36)
38. Mike Carp, Seattle Mariners (NR): Carp is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
39. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (NR): Encarnacion is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
40. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates (27): Jones is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
41. Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
42. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (35): Belt is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
43. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (NR): Murphy is also listed in our Second Base and Third Base Rankings.
44. Brandon Allen, Oakland Athletics (40)
45. Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians (37)
46. Brent Lillibridge, Chicago White Sox: Lillibridge is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
47. Ty Wigginton, Philadelphia Phillies (31): Wigginton is also listed in our Third Base and Outfield Rankings.
48. Jesus Guzman, San Diego Padres (NR)
49. Casey Kotchman, Free agent (NR)
50. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (46): Davis is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
51. Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
52. Chris Parmelee, Minnesota Twins (NR)
53. Lyle Overbay, Arizona Diamondbacks (32)
54. Derrek Lee, Pittsburgh Pirates (21)
55. Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies (NR)
56. Daric Barton, Oakland A’s (23)
57. Kila Ka’aihue, Oakland A’s (30)
58. Xavier Nady, Free agent (38)
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