by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
No one can argue that first base isn’t deep. In fact, you could probably name 25+ players who could conceivably produce Top 15 seasons in 2014. That said, not all options are created equal. Who should be viewed as the best entering the season? Let’s take a look:
- Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
- Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
- Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays
- Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
- Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
- Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers
- Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers
- Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
- Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs
- Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels
- Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals
- Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
- Allen Craig – St. Louis Cardinals
- Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants
- Jose Daniel Abreu – Chicago White Sox
- The last two spots are very much in flux, with Billy Butler, Joe Mauer, Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Teixeira all realistic options to grab one of them as the offseason progresses. Abreu, specifically, is going to continue to be evaluated as the preseason begins and we get a little bit of a better idea as to how his abilities will translate to the Major Leagues. He’s a good gamble, but he’s clearly a gamble.
- Prince Fielder’s move to Texas will likely help his production, though we already would’ve been assuming a rebound after hitting just 25 HR in 2013. While he falls just outside of the Top 5 entering the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him perform like a Top 3 first baseman as he looks to make a good impression in his new home.
- It may be a bit of a surprise to see Anthony Rizzo in the Top 10, but there’s a lot of upside in his numbers from 2013. While he hit just 23 HR, he did have 40 doubles showing that there could be a lot more in that department. He also may have struggled with his average, but a lot of that was attributed to playing away from Wrigley Field (.215 courtesy of a .239 BABIP). Let’s not forget that he hit .285 over 337 AB with the Cubs in 2012, so we know what the upside looks like. There’s too much to like not to think of him as a viable option.
- How the mighty have fallen, huh? Remember when Albert Pujols was a lock to go among the top two or three picks overall? He looks like a shell of his former self and is coming off a season where he missed significant time due to injury (he was limited to 99 games). While he should see an overall improvement on his production (.258 BABIP), the HR/FB has been falling and he’s never been a line drive (19.0%) or BABIP (under .300 for five straight seasons) monster. In other words he’s no longer a .300 hitter and 30 HR is likely a ceiling rather than a floor.
- Joey Votto is often seen as a lock to sit atop first base rankings, but fantasy owners need to reevaluate their expectations from him. His 37 HR from 2010 clearly looks like the aberration and he almost appears too willing to take a walk (18.6% in ’13, but 26.4% with runners in scoring position). If he’s not willing to swing the bat, especially with men on base, he isn’t going to drive in a lot of runs without being able to hit over 30 HR.