Rest of Season Rankings: Top 15 First Basemen (as of May 23, 2013)

Ranking players on what they have done so far isn’t too much help for fantasy owners, is it? While it’s great to know what someone has done, what we care about more is where we think they are heading. While these rankings do take a players performance to date into account, where we think they are going is weighted much more into the equation.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our current Top 15 catchers (number in parenthesis is their final preseason ranking):

1) Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks (7)
Can he maintain his current 25.5% HR/FB? Probably not, though we all knew he had significantly more power than he showed last season (20 HR). With that coming out, coupled with his ability to ht .300 and steal bases (18 in 2012, 4 thus far in 2013) he is a complete player in the mold of Albert Pujols in his prime. Is anyone going to complain about that? He’s entrenching himself as one of the elite players in the game, let alone first baseman.

2) Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds (1)
We all know he can hit, the question had been if his power would come back.  After hitting his final 2012 HR on June 24 (he was out from 7/15 through 9/5) it was a fair concern.  He now has 7 HR on the season, however, to go along with 10 doubles and a triple.  It’s not quite as much power as we’d like to see, the problem is that he just isn’t putting the ball in the air enough (26.1% fly ball rate).  The HR/FB is there (19.4%) and there is a good chance that the power improves.  However, there is enough concern to keep him out of the top spot for now (but barely). 

3) Prince Fielder – Detroit Tigers (3)
It’s not a lock that he improves his average (.276 based on a 18.4% line drive rate), but he is on pace to one again hit over 30 HR and drive in well over 100 RBI. As teams try to avoid Letting Miguel Cabrera beating them, the opportunities for Fielder to produce are just going to continue to grow.

4) Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels (2)
He’s off to another poor start, but it is hard to imagine things not getting better. While his strikeout rate is the highest it has been since 2001, it’s still just 13.9%. He’s had poor luck with a .259 BABIP. His power has been decent, but he should improve on a 12.3% HR/FB (19.0% for his career, 14.0% in 2012). Is he the same player he once was? Absolutely not, but he still has the ability to be a Top 5 option the rest of the way.

5) Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs (8)
The biggest concern with Rizzo was whether he was going to be able to maintain last seasons’s power (15 HR over 337 AB). Not only has he maintained it, but he has actually improved upon it with 10 HR over 176 AB. Even if his 20.0% HR/FB regresses a bit, he is proving that he can hit 30+ HR to go along with a solid average. Throw in his 4 SB (in 7 attempts, showing the Cubs will let him run) and he is quickly becoming one of the better options in the league.

6) Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays (10)
The preseason concern was that he was going to start trying to swing for the fences, making him susceptible to a low batting average. He’s hitting .250, but it’s not due to his approach. His fly ball rate is actually down (49.5% to 44.1%) and his strikeout rate is similar (14.6% vs. 14.8%). The problem has been luck, with a .233 BABIP despite a 21.4% line drive rate. The average should rise and, with the power still being there, he is proving to be a very good option for, here on out.

7) Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves (9)
Granted, he did miss time due to injury, but when he has played he has not taken the step many thought he would, at least on the surface. He is hitting the ball extremely hard (28.7% line drive rate) and has his strikeouts down (18.3% vs. 21.4% for his career). He’s also driving in plenty of runs (26 RBI in 127 AB). The problem? He hasn’t been hitting for enough power, with 2 HR courtesy of a 5.7% HR/FB. Since stepping onto a Major League field he has proven he has more power than that. When it starts coming, and it will, coupled with his other numbers he could be in store for a significant hot stretch.

8) Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
He’s not going to be a .329 hitter given his strikeout history (he’s currently at 24.5%, though there’s risk of regression), .376 BABIP and inflated fly ball rate 45.2%). That said, thus far he has virtually matched last seasons HR/FB (25.2% vs. 26.9%), showing that his power is for real. Even if he falls to .265-.270 from this point forward, the power is going to make him a must use option.

9) Allen Craig – St. Louis Cardinals (12)
He has proven that he can hit, backing up last years numbers is far. While he could regress a little bit, improved power would help to offset that. He owns a career 14.7% HR/FB, yet is at 4.4% this season. While he doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls, he still should be able to post 20+ per season if he stays healthy.

10) Billy Butler – Kansas City Royals (4)
While he got off to a slow start in the average department, that is not the biggest concern. We know he is going to ht for a good average, the big question was if he could maintain last seasons’s power surge. At this point it doesn’t seem likely. His HR/FB is down to 12.8% (from 19.9% in 2012). When coupled with his consistently low fly ball rate (33.3% for his career) he is looking more like a 20-24 HR threat as opposed to last year’s 29. He’s going to remain a good option thanks to his average, but he is not going to be one of the elite.

11) Mark Trumbo – Los Angeles Angels
What is the major difference from 2012 to 2013? Not much, actually, except that his line drive rate is up from 16.0% to 20.3%. That should increase his chances to hit for a good average and, when coupled with the power, what exactly is there not to like? He doesn’t score many runs, which is a knock against him, but the other numbers make that something we can overlook.

12) Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers (5)
We were supposed to take him out of Boston and watch his power return. Instead it seems like it has gotten even worse, with 4 HR on the season. He is showing the ability to hit for a good average, but he’s not scoring runs (11 after scoring just 75 in 2012). It’s the latter that really knocks him below someone like Billy Butler. He can get away with hitting 20 HR, but he needs to score at least 85 R to do so. At this point there appears to be little hope he does that, especially if Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez (when he returns) continue to hit in front of him.

13) Michael Cuddyer – Colorado Rockies (NR)
His coming off the DL later this week and had been producing big numbers before getting hurt. Over the past two seasons he has posted HR/FB of 18.2% and 22.6%, so it’s clear the move to Coors definitely gave him a power boost. A career .272 hitter and playing in a productive lineup, he should continue to put up solid numbers upon his return.

14) Adam LaRoche – Washington Nationals (NR)
A notoriously slow starter, LaRoche is starting to pick up steam (.314, 4 HR in May). That said, 2012 is looking more like the outlier than the new rule. His years from 2008-2010 are probably better baselines, where he hit between .260-.280 with 25 HR. Considering where he is, if he can get to that average he is going to really help many fantasy owners.

15) Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants
He was awful in April, but things are finally starting to turn around for him. Is he a major risk? Absolutely, but he also has significant upside ability. With the potential to go 20/15, or better, the upside is there to produce.

Catchers Excluded From The List:
Buster Posey, Carlos Santana and Joe Mauer all have the talent to be included on this list, but their value clearly lies more as a catcher (where there isn’t as much talent to replace them).  For that reason I have ommited them from this list.

Also Considered:
Mark Reynolds – Cleveland Indians
He’s been hitting for a lot of power, but his average is always a major risk (.236 for his career). There’s too much potential downside to consider hima Top 15 option.

Yonder Alonso – San Diego Padres
Not enough power upside to warrant a spot on the rankings.

Mark Teixeira – New York Yankees
Until he proves that he’s healthy he falls just short of the rankings.  Once he returns to the  field he should jump into the 12-13 range, immediately, with the potential to move up further.

Make sure to check out our previous Rest of Season rankings:

Stock Watch: Bull on Gausman, Bear on Rodney & Much More
Around the Majors: May 21, 2013: Justin Verlander's Struggles, Fernando Rodney Implodes & More

6 comments

  1. Joey Gladtsone says:

    Glad I reached for Goldschmidt this season :) Nice write-up as usual!!

    Would you mind helping with a trade question please?

    I’m debating on if I need to trade an OF for pitching. I really like my offense at this point… and Craig and Cespedes aren’t the best at staying healthy :)

    12 Team, H2H
    R, H, HR, RBI, SB, TB, AVG, OBP
    W, L, SV, K, ERA, WHIP, OBPA, QS

    C – Lucroy
    1B – Goldschmidt
    2B – Neil Walker
    3B – Beltre
    SS – E. Cabrera
    MI- Prado
    OF – J. Upton
    OF – A. Gordon
    OF – Choo
    UT – Votto
    UT – Cespedes
    Bench – Allen Craig
    Bench – Span
    Bench – Profar
    Bench – Jeter
    Bench – Hanley Ramirez

    P – Price
    P – Samardzija
    P – Cliff Lee
    P – Cashner
    P – Niese
    P – Gausman
    P – Mujica
    P – Cishek
    Bench – Arroyo
    Bench – Brett Anderson
    DL – Beachy
    DL – Madson

    I am close to trading Profar (for a closer) and Jeter (would be included in a larger deal for a frontline pitcher). I have Arroyo at the moment (picked him up for a spot start last week).. and debating on whether to cut bait on Brett Anderson or see if I can find someone to take him.

    He wants Gordon, Samardzija and Jeter… I think I can get Hamels, Kenley Jansen and one of: CC, Latos, Scherzer, Shields. Given my depth on offense, is that something you would do? That’d leave me with Price, Lee, Hamels, Niese, Cashner, Gausman and Latos/Scherzer/Shields. Again, Craig and Cespedes seem likely to get hurt at some point. Not sure if I should do that or not.

    If so, can you please rank these 4… Scherzer, Latos, CC, Shields?

    Thanks!

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      There’s a lot to process there…lol

      I don’t think acquiring a SP is a bad thing and dealing Jeter is obviously no lose. IS there anyone on waivers that could be worth grabbing?

      Off the top of my head I’d probably go Latos, CC, Scherzer, Shields, but that’s w/o looking at numbers yet.

  2. Joey Gladtsone says:

    hahaha, yea sorry.

    Basically – given my roster, would you trade:

    Gordon, Samardzija, and Jeter for Hamels, Latos, and Jansen?

    Thanks :)

  3. Mark says:

    I’m really enjoying these rankings (and the rest of your comments and advice). Would you consider ranking the top 15 “heirs to closer”? It’d be helpful to see how you rank Jansen, Brothers, Hernandez, etc, based on the probability that they get save opportunities and their actual ability to pitch. Just a thought.

    Thanks!!!

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