2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: First Base Rankings
Adrian Gonzalez (right) — and his predictably hot woman — should shine at Fenway.
By Phillip Heilman and Tim McLeod
And we’re back with another cheat sheet as the 2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward. So while we wonder if Miguel Cabrera can defeat his demons, let’s take a look at the top first basemen in the game.
First base is about filling your power needs and there are no shortage of options. Albert Pujols remains the most feared hitter in the game today and occupies his usual spot as the consensus first pick off the board. When it comes to first basemen, the first two rounds are absolutely loaded — Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Mark Teixeira will all provide 30+ homer potential and triple digit RBI opportunities. If you don’t get one of the “big boys,” the options are deep and plentiful. Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Kendrys Morales, Justin Morneau and Billy Butler will all get the job done. If you prefer to wait, the later round options like Aubrey Huff, Ike Davis, Adam LaRoche, Gaby Sanchez and James Loney are capable of providing solid numbers. Many a corner-infield slot will be filled in 2011 from this very deep and power laden pool of talent.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (1): King Albert is an absolute machine. He has been for the last 10 years and 2011 should be no different. His stats compare favourably to anyone that has ever played the game, and the fact that negotiations on a long-term deal have been put on hold meaning Pujols will be playing in a contract year should only add more fuel to his fire. Look for the three-time MVP to top not only this position, but the entire NL with another outstanding campaign with his reward being a fat ass cheque.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (5): We all thought he was past his alcohol problems but a DUI charge earlier this week has again clouded his immediate future. Let’s just hope now that Cabrera can nip his alcohol abuse in the bud and continue his abuse of American League pitching instead. Following a MVP runner-up season, Cabrera will have even more opportunities this season now that the Tigers have added Victor Martinez. Assuming he can rein in his demons, Miggy is a strong candidate to bring home the MVP this year, as well as anchor any Fantasy team.
3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (6): A year after winning the NL MVP and carrying the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 1995, Votto has huge expectations to fill. He relied on the final vote to even make the All-Star team last season, but absolutely raked in the second half. While we’d prefer him to have a better clean-up hitter than Scott Rolen to hit behind him (if Jay Bruce breaks out like expected, he’d be an ideal candidate), Votto should continue where he left off and if he does he might surpass Justin Morneau as our favourite Canadian baseball player (besides Stubby Clapp, of course).
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (10): Gonzalez is the most intriguing guy on this list because of his trade to the Red Sox, one of a couple of big-ticket additions to the Boston lineup. This is a player that hits to the opposite field as well as anyone else, and his swing fits Fenway perfectly. Combined with being in a better lineup and getting out of the mother of all pitcher’s parks in San Diego, Gonzalez is set for a huge season. The only question that remains is whether he can stroke in Boston the way he could in his hometown of San Diego.
5. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (3): Mr. Five Dollar Foot Long comes in at number five after regressing a bit in 2010. His 143 games played were his least since ’05 and this led to a dip in his counting numbers across the board. On a promising note, RyHo did much better against lefties last year; the flip side, of course, is that his numbers against righties really plummeted. Although he strikes out like a bad Nicolas Cage movie, Howard should return to form and post his usual outstanding power numbers in 2011.
6. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (4): Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, and 2010 was no different. However, his numbers never fully recovered and his average barely topped .250. Some nagging injuries might have been to blame (probably from having to scoop out so many pansy ass throws from Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez). Even so, look for Tex to rebound this season and get back to his career averages. An early second round pick seems fair; just don’t expect much from him until mid-May. There’s speculation that he’ll be dealt to the Cardinals for Pujols, but Teixeira said he won’t waive his no-trade clause and he clearly wants to finish his career in pinstripes.
7. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (9): If you draft “Big Donkey,” you should know exactly what to expect from him. The guy absolutely has the ability to hit the ball a country mile and the switch to U.S. Cellular Field from Nationals Park makes it seem like a lock that he will get back over the 40-homer plateau. Dunn probably won’t hit above .260, but you aren’t drafting him for that anyways. He is a mid level starting first baseman with his real value depending on what role he plays on your team, one that should be targeted around the fourth round or so.
8. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers (2): Fielder is the quintessential wild card. For someone that looks like he could be playing alongside B.J. Raji as opposed to Ryan Braun, Prince is surprisingly durable. He hasn’t missed more than five games in any season since he has been in the big leagues. That said, Fielder was a bust in 2010. His power outage cost the Brewers and many Fantasy teams. He is in the final year of his contract and will be looking for a big year and a big payday, so he is worth a look early in your draft and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him rebound and put up a season that will vault him back into the top four or five players at this position.
9. Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels (7): Morales was a popular choice to make a run at the 2010 AL MVP, but broke his leg in a freak accident following a walk-off grand slam. Because of that, he is flying under the radar in many leagues. If Morales is back to full health, he should be capable of producing stats comparable to almost anyone else at the position (remember than in 2009 — his first full year — he spanked 34 dingers, drove in 108 runs and hit .306). He should be a steal in most drafts; he has proven he is very capable of slipping, but this slip should make him available later than he probably should be.
10. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox (12): Youkilis is another guy that hurt Fantasy owners in 2010 because of a fluke season-ending injury, part of a wave of health woes that destroyed Boston’s campaign. However, he has a chance for a career year in 2011. The Red Sox have re-tooled with the addition of Carl Crawford and Gonzalez, and that should provide Youk with more chances to drive in runs, as well as score more runs this year than ever before. When his third base eligibility kicks in early this season, he’ll offer even greater value.
11. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins (8): In the first half of 2010, with their man putting up MVP-type numbers, Morneau owners were as happy as Rex Ryan looking at a nice pair of feet. Then, he was done. Lingering post-concussion symptoms never fully cleared up and Morneau was unable to make it back on the field. Before the concussion, he was on pace for career highs in homers, hits and ribbies. Concussions can be tricky situations, so drafting Morneau will require taking a capable backup in case he can’t fully recover.
12. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (21): Anyone that picked up Konerko as a sleeper last season reaped huge benefits as he did better than some of the big names at this position. He parlayed a career year into a new three-year deal with the White Sox, but I just don’t see another season like that coming from this guy. The 39 homers he hit last season is more of an aberration than the norm at this point in his career. The addition of Dunn should help Konerko’s stats, but those that draft Paulie should temper expectations and maybe look to him as a utility guy (if you manage to bag one of the higher-ranked first basemen, that is). At the very least, Konerko’s batting average is going to drop this season.
13. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (NR): For Posey’s profile, see our catcher rankings.
14. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals (13): Last year was supposed to be the breakout season for Butler. And while he took a baby step forward, things never panned out as expected. It looks as if the ceiling on Butler’s power numbers may be lower than expected, but he’s still a few years from his power prime, so there’s hope that a monster year is coming for the 14th overall pick of the 2004 draft. Certainly he has proven he can hit for average, but first base is loaded with guys that will give you more power. You have to root for a fat, white guy that looks like he should be guzzling beer and grilling out rather than playing ball, but his ceiling is just too low and at this point he is not much more than a backup or someone that you’d use in your corner infield or utility slot.
15. Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants (35): You can learn a lot about an athlete by typing his name into Google and seeing what comes up first. For Aubrey Huff, it is “thong.” This is clearly an eccentric dude, and although he did have a resurgent 2010 and has generated some hype this offseason as a result, it is unlikely he will produce the same type of stats again this year, especially after a World Series hangover. Leave Huff and his thong for someone else to play with. He is also listed in our outfield rankings.
16. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (20): After a very productive season in Arizona, LaRoche landed a nice (read: ridiculously overpaid) contract with the Nationals after rejecting a deal with Orioles. His strikeout numbers rose drastically last year, and the combo of him and Jayson Werth (another player the Nats overpaid to bring in) is sure to produce both strikeouts and a fair amount of runs this season. The Nationals have an underrated lineup as they have put pieces around Ryan Zimmerman, so LaRoche should have more chances this season.
17. Carlos Lee, Houston Astros (NR): Things may be coming to an end for El Caballo as he’s declined in homers in each of the last four seasons and in ribbies in three straight. Last season, in particular, Lee experienced a significant drop in RBI, failing to reach the century mark for the first time since 2004. He is still capable of jacking 20+ long bombs and can be used as an outfielder, so his versatility is a plus. However, Lee’s 30-homer days seem to be behind him, meaning he’s not a good starting option at first and definitely not a top outfield candidate either. He will either man the outfield (if Brett Wallace can win the first base job), or play first if Wallace is deemed not ready. Lee is also listed in our outfield rankings.
18. Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs (15): What happened to this guy? Last year was an abysmal season for Pena. His average dropped below the Mendoza line and for the third straight season he topped 150 Ks. A change of scenery in Chicago (so much for the Cubs going into rebuilding mode) may be what Pena needs to get back on track, but it would seem doubtful he could replicate his numbers of ’07 and ’08. He is a potential sleeper, but definitely left best for the second half of your draft (round 15 or later).
19. Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins (40): Unlike some other sleepers that will be around in the late rounds, you know what to expect from Sanchez after his solid rookie effort. No one thing is going to impress you from him, but he does have the ability to hit for some average, power, and score runs. At 26, he is still young and his numbers could increase in his second full season in Florida. While not a candidate for a Fantasy starting first base position on your mixed team, he is a solid corner-infield guy and someone that can provide depth if you roll the dice on a guy coming off injury like Morneau.
20. Ike Davis, New York Mets (NR): Davis busted onto the seen in New York in 2010, breaking or tying a few Met rookie records in the process while establishing himself as a legitimate long-term solution at first base for New York. His patience at the plate is uncharacteristic for such a young player and he also showed his power, hitting the longest home run by a Met at Citi Field. The Mets as a team look like a damn disaster heading into this season, but they do have good individual offensive talents. Davis’s sophomore season should lead to even better numbers, and he is worth a look as a sleeper sometime before the 20th round of your draft. Plus, you have to love a dude named Ike.
21. Derrek Lee, Baltimore Orioles (11): As mentioned in our recent article about crossovers, Lee could be on pace for a comeback year. His production flatlined the last few seasons, but Baltimore has brought him into a fairly young team that has more offensive talent. Also, the addition of Vladimir Guerrero as another veteran presence should only help Lee. If Lee can avoid injuries and find enjoyment playing 35 games out of first place, he should rebound decently this season.
22. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (NR): Freeman struggled mightily in 20 games after being called up to Atlanta last year, but you are grasping for straws at this point anyways. He is still very young at only 21 years of age, and has shown that he’s a capable hitter in the minors. After a wrist injury in 2009, Freeman looked like he was back to full health by the end of 2010 and he has a real chance to develop in Atlanta this year. Still, he’s probably little more than a last-round flier at this stage of the game as he’s sure to take his rookie lumps.
23. Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics (34): Barton hits for a solid average and decent power, however – in true Billy Beane-era Oakland fashion — his greatest strength appears to be his patience. In 2010, he drew 110 walks, which eclipsed his strikeout total of 102. This is a trend, as Barton’s minor league numbers were very much the same. He won’t supply your team with power numbers, but his walks and on-base percentage are useful from a utility position. And hey, at least Barton has a starting job.
24. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers (NR): For Napoli’s profile, see our catcher rankings.
25. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers (19): Loney was seen in the Dodger organization as someone that could develop into a star player. So far, this hasn’t panned out. His average and power numbers been in decline for a few years, and last year he put up a career high in strikeouts. There may yet be upside here, and the Dodgers desperately need him to bounce back, but the ceiling on Loney appears to be relatively low, as he doesn’t do anything above average. You could use a spot on your roster for a better sleeper than Loney, and at this stage, he’s only an option in NL-only leagues or as a weak UT option in a mixed league.
Others to Consider
26. Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (16)
27. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates (23) Jones is also listed in our outfield rankings.
28. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners (NR)
29. Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins (24) Cuddyer is also listed in our outfield rankings.
30. Kila Ka’aihue, Kansas City Royals (NR)
31. Ty Wigginton, Colorado Rockies (31) Wigginton is also listed in our 2B and 3B rankings.
32. Lyle Overbay, Pittsburgh Pirates (32)
33. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers (NR)
34. Russell Branyan, Arizona Diamondbacks (39)
35. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (NR)
36. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (22)
37. Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians (NR)
38. Xavier Nady, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR) Nady is also listed in our outfield rankings.
39. Melvin Mora, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR) Mora is also listed in our 3B rankings.
40. Brandon Allen, Arizona Diamondbacks (49) Note that Allen played more outfield than first base in the minors.
41. Troy Glaus, FA (27)
42. Jorge Cantu, San Diego Padres (28) Cantu is also listed in our 3B rankings.
43. Eric Hinske, Atlanta Braves (NR) Hinske is also listed in our outfield rankings.
44. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros (NR)
45. Leslie Anderson, Tampa Bay Rays (NR) Anderson also qualifies at outfield.
46. Chris Davis, Texas Rangers (26)
47. Mark Kotsay, Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
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