If Anthony Rizzo has fun this year, first base will get even deeper. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
By RotoRob, Josh Johnson, Jake Watroba and Tim McLeod
The 2014 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today with the release of yet another cheat sheet. So while you wonder what took Alex Rodriguez so long to come to his senses and accept his fate, let’s review the top 55 first basemen in Fantasy baseball for 2014.
First base is deep this year, and as a result, you can expect to also get your corner infielder from this group. Because it’s so deep, if you don’t get the stud you like early on, wait until the middle tier and cherry pick some bargains with potential upside.
You’ve got the young wave (Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman and Eric Hosmer) that are already start worthy and likely to improve. Certainly Chris Davis’ emergence has made this an even deeper group.
Breakout candidates include Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt — two youngsters that could each make a play into the upper tiers. Cuban Jose Abreu is a wild card, but we’ll learn more about him this season.
Veterans that should bounce back include Albert Pujols, who can’t be as bad as he was the last couple of years (can he?), Prince Fielder, who should take to his new home park very nicely, and Joey Votto, who should recover from a power perspective.
Guys like Yonder Alonso, Corey Hart and Ryan Howard are all trying to bounce back from injuries, while another veteran in a new place — Justin Morneau — could stand to gain much from his new ballpark. — RR
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (7): Holy shit, Goldschmidt was an absolute beast last season. He was arguably one the most dangerous hitters in baseball, which is scary when you consider that he was only 25 years old. Goldy’s ability to hit for a high average and for power makes him a great player for Fantasy baseball, but what makes him an elite player is when you throw in his potential to steal 20 bags. While he’s never done that in his young career, Goldschmidt has shown that he has the capabilities to do so as he flirted with 20 stolen bases in 2012. In his last three seasons, he has improved in nearly every statistic that matters for Fantasy baseball. As he enters his fourth season in the show, Goldy should continue to progress and develop into a better hitter, which is ‘effing scary if you’re an opposing pitcher. After tying for the NL home run lead last year, Goldschmidt — who has tremendous and simple mechanics (see video below) — could pace the Senior Circuit this time around. — JW
2. Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers (3): Fielder has played in at least 157 games every season since 2006. Considering his body mass that is pretty remarkable. Now he steps in the Texas heat, which concerns us slightly. However what kind of hitter he can be down south outweighs our fears. He will be the focal point of the Ranger lineup, which something he hasn’t been in a while, playing just behind Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera in recent years. Now, Fielder will be the major run producer and we think he’s up to the challenge. Late first, early second round is where you will have to draft him. If he slips further, pounce! — JJ
3. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (22): To say Davis figured things out the last two seasons in Baltimore is an understatement. He’s hit 86 of his 130 career homers in the last two seasons after totalling 44 in his first four years. So, yes, Davis is in his prime. We never feel comfortable predicting 50 homers but if we had to, he would be our choice. Expect this punisher of baseballs to be off the board in the first round. — JJ
4. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (1): Fans of the Reds will tell you Votto had a sub-par season last year and if you’re looking purely at his power numbers and RBI totals, then yes he did. His 24 home runs were the fewest he’s hit in a season in which he’s played at least 120 games since 2008. Still, Votto was a monster last season, whether Reds fans want to admit it or not. He hit at a high average, drew a ton of walks (career-high 135), scored a bunch runs and played in every game for the first time. What actually has hurt Votto’s home run and RBI totals is the fact he’s never really had any table-setters in front of him in the lineup and that 2B Brandon Phillips hit behind him. Even with those two factors, Votto is still a threat to repeat his MVP season of 2010. — JW
5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (11): When people talk about bright young players, Freeman’s name does not come up often. He is basically Allen Craig but a lot younger. When Freeman first hit the majors, he immediately started hitting like a pro. Those that knock him think he could hit more homers. To that we say just wait. Freeman has already accomplished a lot in his young career, but now we believe the power will surge. He already has the swing and the plate presence to be productive. So those gap doubles will turn into round trippers. To say Freeman is a top player at his position is like saying cheese is creamy. He is the kind of cream that rises. — JJ
6. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (5): For years, Encarnacion was to supposed to develop into a superior power hitter. He was always a player with a lot promise. Finally, over the course of the last two seasons he has found his stroke and remained healthy. Having Jose Bautista in the same the lineup next to him has helped immensely, but given Joey Bats’ injuries issues the past couple of years, much of the credit has to go to Double-E himself. Father Time will eventually become a factor for the recently-turned-31-year-old Encarnacion but we see no reason for a regression this season (assuming his wrist is fully healed). A healthy Jose Reyes could mean 100 RBI for Encarnacion and for that he is a high-end option. — JJ
7. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (2): You know what $240 million over 10 years gets you? Disappointment. And that’s exactly what Angels fans have felt ever since Pujols has put on a halo uniform. Simply put, he hasn’t played like the Phat Albert we saw in St. Louis since he signed with LA. His overall plate production has been on a decline since signing that lucrative contract in 2012. A nagging injury, which eventually ended his 2013 season, was to blame for his lack of production last season. While Pujols is always capable of recapturing the form he once had with the Cardinals, owners should proceed with caution when thinking about drafting him. For where he is likely to be taken and the risks that come with him, owners could find better value later in their draft if they wait on 1B. Pujols has “high risk-high reward” written all over him. — JW
8. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (4): Fantasy championships are thickened by steady pacesetters like Gonzalez. His splits are ridiculously even — regardless of the situation, he just hits. A-Gon is not flashy, he simply gets it done. Sure, his power numbers have regressed somewhat, but when you draft him you know what you are getting. Gonzalez has at least 170 hits in each of last five seasons. The Dodgers have a massive payroll and a load of talent to protect him, so you know opportunity will surround him all season long. — JJ
9. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (16): Maturity is a funny thing. Just when you think a player is doomed they can turn it around. Hosmer had an alarming sophomore season when people expected the moon from him. We believe in this 24-year-old kid. Okay, so Hosmer hit .232 in his second year while figuring things out. The rest of his percentages have held steady. Hosmer recovered to hit .300 last season which included a .320 average against LHP, which for a lefty hitter is frickin’ amazing. Feel comfortable nabbing him to man first base every day for your squad. No, he is not Votto, but we bet Ryan Garko and Gaby Sanchez wish they would have prospered at Hosmer’s age. — JJ
10. Mark Trumbo, Arizona Diamondbacks (18): An offseason trade landed Trumbo in Arizona, where he will be asked to protect Goldschmidt. Trumbo will spend much of the season playing outfield, so we hope his legs are ready to handle that. He can mash and we think the change of scenery won’t change that (especially since Chase Field is usually more friendly to hitters than Angel Stadium of Anaheim). This will be his fourth full season in the bigs and that excites us as most players reach their high point of maturity at the age of 27 or at the three-year experience level. Trumbo is ready to jump through both of those windows. His splits show no weaknesses, so that means his everyday status in on the field and in the lineup is assured. Trumbo is also listed in our Outfield Rankings, coming shortly. — JJ
11. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox (33): Napoli is longer catcher eligible so his value takes a hit this year. He strikes out a lot, but he is always a shoo-in for 20 homers — something he has done many times in his career. The lineup around Napoli will certainly make pitchers challenge this fastball hitter and his power should suffice. Playing first base should keep him in the lineup as much as possible. — JJ
12. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (19): We all know Rizzo can rake. He is also the perfect example of a player with a bad batting average that produces in many other ways. Rizzo is just 24 and while his future is very bright we expect some bumps along the way. If healthy, he will crush at least 20 homers, so feel safe nabbing him the middle rounds. — JJ
13. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals (8): Lost in all the RISP hoopla is Craig’s career K/BB rate of 2.52. But how can we bang on a guy who strung together back-to-back 90-RBI seasons? Easy — he is human, even though he is a .300 hitter. Craig will turn 30 in July and though he has delivered at a great rate, we aren’t ready to anoint him as a Top 10 first baseman. The fact that he often plays the outfield contributes to his durability issues. Craig is also listed in our Outfield Rankings. — JJ
14. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (NR): The South-siders tapped into the Cuban market this offseason, landing the 26-year-old Abreu. The Cuban is a big dude at 6′3”, 255 pounds – and just wait until he fills out. His numbers in the 2013 WBC suggest he could hit for power, but since most of the pitchers in the WBC were far from mid-season form and the fact that he has never played at any level of professional baseball, it’s purely speculation at this point. The White Sox gave this kid $68 million over six years, so obviously they think he could do big things. He absolutely mashed in the Cuban league, posting an OPS over 1500 in the 2010-11 season. Abreu has been compared to compatriot Yoenis Cespedes. The only question is, is he the 2012 version of Cespedes or the 2013? — JW
15. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (9): Teixeira only lasted 63 plate appearances last season before suffering a wrist injury that cost him the remainder of the campaign. Let’s hope he can surpass that total this year. We see Tex as a player that will drop in drafts — no one is saying “I want Teixeira to be my first baseman.” Rather, he is a fallback option. He is a powerful cat and the Yankees will need that power stroke. Teixeira’s 162-game averages are 37 homers, 119 RBI, .278/.368/.525. Those numbers are more than satisfactory and if he can stay healthy, perhaps he can come close to attaining them. However, reports suggest that his wrist could be problematic again this year. — JJ
16. Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Adams is built like an NFL tight end and he can crush baseballs. He is a prototypical first baseman (lefty power hitter), but struggles vs. lefties, so he may still sit against the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Francisco Liriano. Who knows? In limited action last year against Cliff Lee and Jordan Zimmermann, he more than held his own. With more at-bats, Adams will slowly realize he can slap the ball instead of crush it and still help his team and yours. His age (25) combined with the valuable experience he now has under his (rather hefty) belt suggest Adams could be primed for big things. — JJ
17. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (17): Unless you’re playing in an OBP league, Dunn offers one thing and one thing only when it comes to Fantasy baseball – the long-ball. Last season, his home run total declined somewhat and perhaps a part of that could be attributed to Paul Konerko’s lackluster year as teams were unwilling to pitch to Dunn. The White Sox revamped their lineup for this season, adding youngsters like Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson and Abreu. Dunn should have plenty of protection if those three guys can be productive. While he doesn’t offer much more than home runs, Big Donkey is a cheap source of power owners can find in mid-to-late rounds of their draft. — JW
18. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (29): Heading into the 2011 season, Belt was regarded as one of the best prospects in the Giants organization. That season, injuries opened the door for him to break camp as the starting 1B, but he struggled in the bigs and his 2012 season, while an improvement, wasn’t much to brag about. Last season, Belt finally starting to figure it out as he hit for a higher average and more power, and drove in more runs. Yeah, sure, his home run totals aren’t what you’d expect out of a first baseman, but he’ll be 26 at the end of April and he’s still developing as a major leaguer. AT&T Park won’t help his cause, but don’t be surprised if Belt smacks 20-to-25 home runs and drives in around 80 runs. Likely a mid-to-late round pick, Belt could be a steal this year. — JW
19. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (20): For Posey’s profile, see our Catcher Rankings.
20. Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians (24): Nicky Swish made the move from the Big Apple to everyone’s favourite city in America, Cleveland. All right, so I may have made that up, but Cleveland rocks, right? Well, if you’re Swisher you may not think so after last season. In his first season with the Indians, he saw a decline in virtually every hitting statistic. He looked more like the Swisher with the Athletics/White Sox than the Swisher with the Bronx Bombers. While you can pencil him in for 20-to-25 homers a season, owners may wish he was still with hitting coach Kevin Long and the Yankees. Swisher is also listed in our Outfield Rankings. — JW
21. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (10): Frankly speaking, LaRoche is in the twilight of his career. He did smash 20 homers last season but his OPS was a career low for a full season. Still, LaRoche is a veteran with automatic double-digit power in a lineup with a lot of promise. His OBP has always been stellar even when his average is not. Don’t spend too much on him, but if you miss out on the big boys, LaRoche is decent fallback option. — JJ
Others to Consider
22. Brandon Moss, Oakland Athletics (49): Moss is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
23. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (12)
24. Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies (23)
25. Corey Hart, Seattle Mariners (39): Hart is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
26. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres (28)
27. Chris Carter, Houston Astros (45): Carter is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
28. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (26): For Santana’s profile, see our Catcher Rankings. Note that he could also qualify at third base early this season as the team plans to try him at the hot corner.
29. Ike Davis, New York Mets (13)
30. Mark Reynolds, Milwaukee Brewers (31): Reynolds is also listed in our Third Base Rankings, coming shortly.
31. Kendrys Morales, Free agent (14)
32. James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays (47)
33. Logan Morrison, Seattle Mariners (102 in OF)
34. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays (36)
35. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners (41)
36. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers (34)
37. Garrett Jones, Miami Marlins (21): Jones is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
38. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (15)
39. Lucas Duda, New York Mets (90 in OF): Duda is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
40. Jon Singleton, Houston Astros (145 at OF)
41. Mike Carp, Boston Red Sox (43): Carp is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
42. Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies (140 at OF): Ruf is also listed in our Outfield Rankings.
43. Juan Francisco, Milwaukee Brewers (40 at 3B): Francisco is also listed in our Third Base Rankings.
44. Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates (50)
45. Jesus Guzman, Houston Astros (NR): Guzman also qualifies in the Outfield.
46. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros (46): Wallace was designated for assignment by Houston, and as of press time, it’s unclear whether he’ll be traded, sent outright to the minors or released.
47. Nate Freiman, Oakland Athletics (62)
48. Carlos Pena, Los Angeles Angels (42)
49. Jordan Pacheco, Colorado Rockies (54)
50. Lyle Overbay, Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
51. Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays (49 at 3B): Rodriguez also qualifies in the Outfield.
52. Tommy Medica, San Diego Padres (NR)
53. Mat Gamel, Atlanta Braves (44)
54. Ed Lucas, Miami Marlins (NR): Lucas is also listed in our Second Base (coming shortly) and Third Base Rankings.
55. C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels (NR)
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with our rankings.
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