Fantasy Baseball 2012: Ranking the Top 20 First Basemen

Eric MatulaContributor IIJanuary 25, 2012

Fantasy Baseball 2012: Ranking the Top 20 First Basemen

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    First base is fantasy baseball's deepest position, so don't fret if you can't get Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera.

    Each year, someone comes out of nowhere to steal the spotlight. Last year, it was Michael Morse. Morse was only one of three first basemen to have at least 30 home runs and maintain a .300 or better average (Miguel Cabrera and Paul Konerko were the other two).

    Plus, there's a solid group of youngsters who are ready to make a name for themselves this season.

    Having said this, five of the top 10 picks could be first basemen (Cabrera, Pujols, Votto, Fielder and A-Gon), so you don't want to wait too long.

    Who should you pick? Continue reading to see the power rankings and projections for the top 20 first basemen for the 2012 season.

    Keep in mind, this list is for anyone who has 1B eligibility, so players who aren't traditionally thought of as first basemen (Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana) could make the list.

No. 20: Gaby Sanchez, Miami Marlins

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    2011 statistics: .266 BA, 19 HRs, 78 RBIs, .779 OPS, 72 Rs, 3 SBs.

    Very quietly, Gaby Sanchez has produced the last two seasons. His numbers are almost identical during that span: 19 HRs, around 80 RBIs, 72 runs scored, and around a .270 batting average.

    Two things he did improve on: more walks and fewer strikeouts. With the addition of Reyes to the top of the lineup and a strong Hanley Ramirez return, Sanchez will be in for another decent year.

    2012 projection: .275 BA, 20 HRs, 75 RBIs, .805 OPS, 75 Rs, 5 SBs.

No. 19: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2011 statistics: .251 BA, 26 HRs, 87 RBIs, .734 OPS, 56 Rs.

    After hitting 35 home runs and 46 doubles with a .305 average in 2009, Lind disappointed his fantasy owners in 2010 with a 23-HR and .237 season.

    Lind showed signs of his old self last year before he got injured and missed 37 games. Lind should bat fourth in a pretty potent offensive lineup, so expect similar numbers.

    2012 projection: .270 BA, 27 HRs, 85 RBIs, .790 OPS, 70 Rs.

No. 18: Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies

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    2011 statistics: .284 BA, 20 HRs, 70 RBIs, .805 OPS, 70 Rs, 11 SBs.

    Although Cuddyer missed 23 games in 2011, he was still able to finish with 20 home runs.

    Now he'll be playing in arguably the best hitter's ballpark and hitting behind guys like Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzi and Todd Helton. He'll have plenty of RBI chances.

    2012 projection: .280 BA, 22 HRs, 80 RBIs, .793 OPS, 80 Rs, 10 SBs

No. 17: Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles

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    2011 statistics: .221 BA, 37 HRs, 86 RBIs, .806 OPS, 84 Rs, 6 SBs.

    Mark Reynolds has averaged 208.5 strikeouts the last four years, but during that span, he's also averaged 35.25 home runs.

    Reynolds is an all-or-nothing guy, so you know what you're getting from him. He'll kill your batting average, but if you can afford to lose points, you know he'll reward you with very good power numbers.

    Look on the bright side; he limited his strikeouts to 196 last year, down from 223 and 211 the previous two years.

    2012 projection: .230 BA, 36 HRs, 85 RBIs, .820 OPS, 85 Rs, 8 SBs.

No. 16: Ike Davis, New York Mets

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    2011 statistics: .302 BA, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs, .925 OPS, 20 Rs.

    Ike Davis had a good season for missing 126 games last year. In his rookie campaign, Davis averaged one home run per 7.74 games, but he improved that to one for every 5.14 games in 2011.

    Davis will most likely hit cleanup and be on the few bright spots for the Mets in 2012. If he stays healthy, he should be able to put up better numbers than his first season.

    2012 projection: .275 BA, 23 HRs, 80 RBIs, .852 OPS, 80 Rs.

No. 15: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2011 statistics: .250 BA, 8 HRs, 26 RBIs, .808 OPS, 28 Rs, 4 SBs.

    Paul Goldschmidt came up in 2011 and quickly hit eight home runs and nine doubles in 48 games. The 24-year-old is 6'3" 245 pounds and hits bombs.

    Goldschmidt struck out a ton last season (53 Ks in 156 ABs), but his average was good in the minors (.314 at High-A and .306 at Double-A).

    Don't expect his average to be that high in the majors, but he's proved that he can put up ridiculous power numbers. Plus, he has some speed, which is always a bonus at first base.

    2012 projection: .260 BA, 30 HRs, 90 RBIs, .860 OPS, 80 Rs, 10 SBs.

No. 14: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    2011 statistics: .282 BA, 21 HRs, 76 RBIs, .795 OPS, 67 Rs, 4 SBs.

    After a slow start in April last season (.225 BA), Freddie Freeman turned it around to finish off his rookie year as a success.

    The 22-year-old showed promise last year, especially in July. Freeman hit .362 with six home runs and recorded a 1.033 OPS during the month.

    I expect Freeman to hit sixth in the order, so he should be in for good RBI numbers this season.

    2012 projection: .285 BA, 23 HRs, 85 RBIs, .811 OPS, 75 Rs, 3 SBs.

No. 13: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

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    2011 statistics: .239 BA, 27 HRs, 79 RBIs, .808 OPS, 84 Rs, 5 SBs.

    Carlos Santana is far more valuable at the catcher position (I'd rank him in the top-four), but if you need him for first base, he's still a pretty good option.

    Although Santana's average was just .239 last year, he still managed to draw 97 walks and post a respectable .351 OBP.

    Santana's discipline should get better, meaning a higher average and more runs scored.

    2012 projection: .255 BA, 25 HRs, 95 RBIs, .830 OPS, 95 Rs, 6 SBs.

No. 12: Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2011 statistics: .301 BA, 31 HRs, 94 RBIs, .959 OPS, 90 Rs.

    After having an awful 2010 season with the Astros and Yankees, Lance Berkman found a home in St. Louis.

    Berkman was able to finish ninth in the National League in home runs, fourth in OPS and third in OBP in 2011.

    With Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday all hitting in front of Berkman this season, the Big Puma will still get plenty of RBI chances. His age might be catching up to him, so I wouldn't expect as big of a year though.

    2012 projection: .285 BA, 25 HRs, 90 RBIs, .900 OPS, 85 Rs.

No. 11: Michael Young, Texas Rangers

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    2011 statistics: .338 BA, 11 HRs, 106 RBIs, .854 OPS, 88 Rs, 6 SBs.

    Michael Young is Mr. Consistent.

    Young has hit .300 or better in seven of the last nine seasons and has eight double-digit home run seasons during the same span.

    Young doesn't put up your prototypical HR numbers for first base, but he's still good for 85-plus RBIs and a .300-plus batting average.

    He should be hitting fourth for the Rangers which is the best spot for him. He'll be hitting behind Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton, and in front of Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.

    2012 projection: .310 BA, 13 HRs, 90 RBIs, .805 OPS, 85 Rs, 5 SBs.

No. 10: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

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    2011 statistics: .320 BA, 30 HRs, 75 RBIs, 1.046 OPS, 72 Rs, 4 SBs.

    Mike Napoli went from a decent 1B option to a monster last season. The power was always there, but last year he showed that he can hit for average too.

    The main reason Napoli was able to keep a high average? He cut down on his strikeouts drastically. In 2009 Napoli had 109 and in 2010 he had 137. Last year, Napoli had 85.

    Don't expect the average to be that high again, but it should still be better than his career average.

    2012 projection: .275 BA, 32 HRs, 85 RBIs, .915 OPS, 75 Rs, 5 SBs.

No. 9: Michael Morse, Washington Nationals

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    2011 statistics: .303 BA, 31 HRs, 95 RBIs, .910 OPS, 73 Rs.

    Michael Morse finally got consistent at-bats in 2011, and he proved what he can do. Morse ranked eighth in the National League with 67 extra base hits, eighth in OPS and ninth in HRs in 2011.

    The only concern here are the strikeouts. Even though Morse struck out nearly once a game, he still managed to hit .303. I don't think he'll be able to keep that up in 2012, especially with pitchers knowing he's a force now.

    2012 projection: .285 BA, 28 HRs, 90 RBIs, .865 OPS, 75 Rs.

No. 8: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    2011 statistics: .293 BA, 19 HRs, 78 RBIs, .799 OPS, 66 Rs, 11 SBs.

    Eric Hosmer was one of the most hyped up prospects going into the 2011 season, and he certainly delivered once he was called up.

    What should get owners very excited is the fact that he caught fire in the last month of the season in '11. In September, Hosmer hit .349 with five home runs and 19 RBIs.

    Throw in a double-digit stolen base total, and this 22-year-old will continue to climb the rankings.

    2012 projection: .300 BA, 23 HRs, 90 RBIs, .835 OPS, 85 Rs, 13 SBs.

No. 7: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

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    2011 statistics: .300 BA, 31 HRs, 105 RBIs, .906 OPS, 69 Rs.

    Just like Michael Young, Paul Konerko continues to put up solid numbers year after year. In seven of the last eight years, Konerko has hit 25 or more home runs.

    Although Konerko is getting older, he has put together great back-to-back seasons. He has hit 70 home runs and driven in 216 runs over the last two years.

    Just because there's an invasion of young first basemen coming into the league, doesn't mean you should overlook the veteran Konerko.

    2012 projection: .280 BA, 30 HRs, 95 RBIs, .872 OPS, 86 Rs.

No. 6: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

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    2011 statistics: .248 BA, 39 HRs, 111 RBIs, .835 OPS, 90 Rs.

    The .300 batting average days might be gone for Mark Teixeira, but he's still one of the game's best home run hitters. In each of the last four seasons, Teixeira has hit more than 30 homers and driven in over 105 runs.

    Just remember to be patient with Teixeira. He's notorious for starting slow in the early months (he has a .196 batting average in April the last three seasons), but he'll always turn it around.

    Teixeira is a switch-hitter who plays his home games in one of the best hitter's parks on one of the best teams, so you can deal with the lower batting average.

    2012 projection: .265 BA, 37 HRs, 115 RBIs, .879 OPS, 105 Rs.

No. 5: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

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    2011 statistics: .338 BA, 27 HRs, 117 RBIs, .957 OPS, 108, Rs.

    For the first time in his career, Adrian Gonzalez went over 200 hits last season. With his sweet stroke, and the Green Monster in left field, you can expect another great year from A-Gon.

    Gonzalez's best attribute might be the stat that is most overlooked: his OBP. Even when Gonzalez only hit .277 with San Diego in 2009, his on-base percentage was .407. He'll find a way to get on base, which is extremely beneficial if you're in leagues that include OBP and OPS.

    What's there not to love about Adrian Gonzalez? He's played in more than 155 games in each of the last six years, and he'll hit around .300 with 30 HRs and 100-plus RBIs.

    2012 projection: .300 BA, 30 HRs, 110 RBIs, .905 OPS, 100 Rs.

No. 4: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    2011 statistics: .299 BA, 38 HRs, 120 RBIs, .981 OPS, 95 Rs.

    Prince Fielder will team up with Miguel Cabrera to create one of the game's best three-four hitter combos.

    Fielder is a career .282 hitter and has averaged 38 homers since becoming a full-time starter in 2006. If you add his plate discipline to the mix (he has averaged 110 walks the last three years), Fielder is a fantasy stud.

    Don't let the bigger stadium in Detroit bother you. Fielder will hit moonshots wherever he goes.

    2012 projection: .290 BA, 36 HRs, 110 RBIs, .967 OPS, 110 Rs.

No. 3: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    2011 statistics: .309 BA, 29 HRs, 103 RBIs, .947 OPS, 101 Rs, 8 SBs.

    Although Joey Votto only had six home runs through May in 2011, he turned it around and still finished with 29 for the year.

    The former National League MVP doesn't have many weaknesses. As a left-handed batter, he hit .333 against lefty pitchers with seven HRs in 2011.

    He hits for power and for average and will steal close to 10 bags a year. You can't go wrong with a guy who hits third for a solid offense in a friendly hitter's park.

    2012 projection: .310 BA, 31 HRs, 110 RBIs, .965 OPS, 105 Rs, 10 SBs.

No. 2: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

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    2011 statistics: .299 BA, 37 HRs, 99 RBIs, .906 OPS, 105 Rs, 9 SBs.

    Albert Pujols is a machine. Since coming into the league in 2001, Pujols has hit at least 30 homers in every season, scored 100 or more runs every year except for once (99 runs scored in 2007), driven in 100 runs every year except once (99 in 2011), and had a .300 or better average every year but once (.299 in 2011).

    There's no reason to think the 32-year-old can't continue.

    Why is he No. 2 then? Moving from the NL Central to the AL West is more of a challenge, and Pujols will most likely have Torii Hunter hitting behind him. Still, Pujols will continue to do his thing.

    2012 projection: .310 BA, 40 HRs, 110 RBIs, .985 OPS, 110 Rs, 10 SBs.

No. 1: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    2011 statistics: .344 BA, 30 HRs, 105 RBIs, 1.033 OPS, 111 Rs.

    In a day where sabermetrics is known to all (thanks to Moneyball), Miguel Cabrera is the best fantasy player. Not only he is No. 1 at first base, but he should be No. 1 overall in your league.

    Cabrera will hit for a high average (he won the AL Batting Title last year) and mash home runs. He also walked more times than he struck out last season, leaving him with an incredible OBP (.448) and OPS (1.033).

    Plus, now that the Tigers welcomed Prince Fielder to the team, Cabrera might eventually earn 3B eligibility, making him even more valuable (third base is much more shallow than first base).

    Cabrera is a no-brainer with the first pick.

    2012 projection: .330 BA, 33 HRs, 120 RBIs, 1.012 OPS, 110 Rs.