2014 Rankings: Top 15 First Basemen

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:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
  3. Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
  5. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
  6. Prince Fielder – Texas Rangers
  7. Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles Dodgers
  8. Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants
  9. Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs
  10. Albert Pujols – Los Angeles Angels
  11. Eric Hosmer – Kansas City Royals
  12. Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians
  13. Allen Craig – St. Louis Cardinals
  14. Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants
  15. Jose Daniel Abreu – Chicago White Sox

Thoughts:

  • 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.
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15 comments

  1. KB says:

    I’d have Freeman 6th w/ both Votto/Fielder moving up a spot. Depending on league format, I think both David Ortiz (qualifies in Yahoo!) and Brandon Moss have to be on this list. Moss is a savvy play as only Goldschmidt, Davis and Encarnacion from your list hit more HR than him and he did so in only 446 AB. Obviously you’ll need a backup days OAK faces LH, but there is always a 1B like a Lind, Loney, Smoak type on the FA list.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I could see the argument to move Freeman down, but it is a preference thing.

      Ortiz played 6 games at 1B last season, so he can’t be included on the list.

      Moss, on the other hand, is only a viable option in daily formats and honestly isn’t even a Top 20 option for me. The splits are stark and he strikes out way too much to carry a viable average. He’s closer to Adam Dunn than anyone on this list, and I don’t think anyone would argue Dunn should be included.

      • KB says:

        On ESPN’s Player Rater Moss finished as the 61st overall hitter and 96th overall player, ahead of first basemen like Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt who you mentioned. And obviously ahead of both Pujols (injury) and Abreu (rookie). He did so in only 446 ABs. Obviously if you don’t play in a daily league he is far less valuable, but to say a player that finishes in the Top 100 overall isn’t in the Top 20 of his position seems off.

        • Rotoprofessor says:

          First thing, it’s tough to see him getting many more AB than he did last year and it’s also hard to imagine him replicating the #’s. As it is, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hit closer to .220 (high strikeout rate, high fly ball rate) than his .260ish mark.

          Just because he hit 30 HR, it’s not a lock that he maintains it. Playing time is an issue, which is going to impact his other counting stats as well. Throw in significant concerns in his average and he’s a hard player to trust.

          There are definite comparisons to Adam Dunn and could his upside be similar to an Ike Davis (.227, 32 HR in ’12)? I wouldn’t over pay for him.

  2. JF says:

    If Matt Adams sees regular at-bats, where would he rank for you? Do you see him getting at-bats even?

  3. Marky Mark says:

    How would you shake up the order if your league used 6×6 scoring…getting rid of AVG and using OBP and SLG instead?

  4. Bbboston says:

    Rotoprof:

    Others’ early rankings seem to have Hosmer ranked higher (6-7). Clearly they are convinced that the real Hosmer emerged after the first two months… Why were you less convinced?

    Is this a guy with .300-.320 BA and 20+hrs in his bat going forward?

  5. Rotoprofessor says:

    JF – He would be right in the mix for the bottom of the Top 15 ending the season, but with his power he could easily be a Top 10 option. He has the potential to hit for average and has as much power as anyone.

    Marky Mark – I’d have to do a little more research, but we are going to touch on OBP soon ;)

    Bbboston – I’m not sold on him as a 20+ HR guy and he also could lack the RBI (which is why he’s behind Rizzo on my rankings). I do think .300 is there, but I’m hesitant to buy into his power with only 8 HR still in the second half and a lack of FB% (29.1%).

    • JF says:

      Do you see Adams getting at-bats to really challenge for this list?

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        It all depends on how the Cardinals view Taveras and if he’s ready. If not, Allen moves to the OF and Adams is at 1B.

        If they are ready to open with Taveras, only way Adams makes it is if he is traded.

  6. Bbboston says:

    Rotoprofessor:

    What’s a normal per hitters FB%?

    With respect to your comment, I’m sure you’re right with respect to FB% issues, but when you see him hit opposite field hrs, it’s clear there is HUGE untapped power there.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      There were only 35 players who had a FB% under 30% last season. It’s not impossible to hit for power with the low number, but it requires a higher HR/FB. Hosmer just hasn’t shown capable of that yet.

      I do like Hosmer and his potential, just concerned the power won’t be there.

      • Bbboston says:

        Went back to espn game log. First two months, 1 hr. Next four months 4/mo avg, with disappointing 2hr in last mo. However, if we keep last four months and assumed he averaged 4 in April and May, he would have hit 25hr. This is what I think others are focused on…the last four month hr and avg trend.

        • Bbboston says:

          Ps: last three months avg was above .320 and last four all above .300. What’s all most notable about this is there was a distinct exogenous veritable to the performance swing. All of this happened directly after George Brett took over as batting coach.

  7. Justin says:

    I actually like Fielder this year. Frustrated to heck with him last year, but Comerica is a “Man’s” park which makes Cabrera even more impressive. But Fielder will have Andrus, Beltre, Profar, and Martin in a decent Rangers lineup. Plus, not many people know, but Fielder went through a nasty divorce in the early part of the season last year. He hit better by the end, and it was obvious to see it bothered him as he rarely smiled up until the All Star Break. I think he will surpass 30 Homeruns and hit over .300.

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