First base has always been the deepest position in fantasy baseball. There are always 20 to 25 first basemen that can get you 25+ home runs, a commodity that has become scarcer in recent years.
There are also a few elite players at this position that can hit over 35 home runs and drive in well over 100 runs with a batting average over .300.
While this is still the case in 2012, the top-end talent is not spread evenly between both leagues. With Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols switching leagues, the American League has five of the top 6 first basemen in fantasy baseball.
Here are my top-15 National League first basemen. Some of these guys may be outfielders on their teams but I am ranking all players with first base eligibility. I'm using an eligibility threshold of 20 games played in 2011. Please comment to make your case for moving someone higher or lower on this list.
Helton is 38 years old and in the latter stages of his career. He did have a bounce back campaign in 2011, however. Helton hit 14 home runs and had a .302 average. To expect him to repeat those numbers is probably a bit of a stretch.
Jones, 30, has hit just under .250 each of the last two seasons and will definitely hurt your average a bit. He has decent power, though, hitting 16 home runs in 423 at-bats last season. Jones may be in a platoon situation with newly-acquired Casey McGehee. As a lefty, he should see the lion's share of the playing time.
We've been wondering for a few years now when Loney's power would come. He has had between 10 and 13 home runs in each of the last four seasons while playing in at least 158 games during that span. Loney, 27, is still in his prime and there's still hope for 15 to 20 big flies in 2012.
Goldschmidt tore up minor league pitching last year and was awarded a late-season cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks. The 24-year-old struck out 53 times in 156 at-bats, but he also popped eight home runs and had 26 RBIs. Goldschmidt seems to be the first baseman of the future, though he may be competing for play with Lyle Overbay in 2012.
Alonso was the big piece heading back to San Diego in the Mat Latos trade. The move to Petco Park definitely hurts his power potential, but at least he is no longer blocked by Joey Votto. Alonso slashed .330/.398/.545 and hit five home runs in 88 big league at-bats in 2011. While a nice sleeper pick, he is not a lock to hit more than 15 home runs.
LaRoche was a model of consistency before his injury-plagued 2011 campaign. He had 32, 21, 25, 25 and 25 home runs in 2006 through 2010, respectively. If his shoulder is fully healed, I like LaRoche heading into 2012. He will be hitting around the middle of a Nationals lineup that also has Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse.
El Caballo, 35, is way past his prime but put up decent numbers in 2011, even if they weren't up to his standards. His .275/66/18/94 line should be repeatable, and he'll be pretty cheap. Trade rumors have been surrounding Lee and he may end up being an AL team's DH before or during the 2012 season.
Reports suggest that Davis should be ready to go for spring training after missing most of 2011 due to a sprained ankle and bone bruise. Before the injury, Davis hit 7 home runs with 25 RBIs and a .302 average in 129 at-bats. He is a great sleeper pick this year, but you may want to monitor him this spring to make sure he's at 100%.
Sanchez has hit 19 home runs in exactly 572 at-bats each of the last two seasons. Even though this will only be his third full season, Sanchez is 28 years old so what you see is probably what you're going to get from him. With Hanley Ramirez presumably returning to his normal self and, along with the acquisition of Jose Reyes, the Marlins' lineup should be a very solid one. I can see .270/75/20/85 from Gaby in 2012.
Cuddyer will mostly play outfield for the Rockies but he has first base eligibility and just missed second base eligibility. Cuddyer has hit 32, 14 and 20 home runs the last three seasons, respectively, so he could be a bit of a wild card in 2012. His numbers should be helped by the thin air at Coors Field. A line of .280/75/25/80/5 is a fair projection for the 32-year-old.
If it weren't for the injury concern, he would probably be as high as second on this list. Howard is a perennial 35HR/125RBI player that can help you down the stretch this season, as long as he stays healthy. Keep an eye on his progress this spring. You may end up getting close to a full season out of Howard at a deeply discounted price.
Berkman had a fairytale 2011 season, hitting 31 home runs and driving in 94 runs while maintaining a .301 average, but I'm not so sure I'd draft him expecting those stats. Berkman will be 36 when the season starts, and it's reasonable to expect a statistical decline in 2012. Also, the St. Louis lineup lost a lot of its punch when Albert Pujols left town earlier in the offseason.
Freeman was second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2011. The 22-year-old has plenty of potential to get better and could find himself in the middle of a talented Braves' lineup in 2012. A .290/75/25/90 line is a reasonable expectation.
A favorite of mine last year, Morse broke out in 2011 with a .303 average, 31 home runs and 95 RBIs. Those numbers were no fluke. He put up similar numbers in the second half of 2010. Look for much of the same.
Votto is an obvious choice as the top option in the NL. The former MVP is the only lock for 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs. He'll also hit well over .300.
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