Fantasy Baseball 2013: Early Look at the Top 35 First Basemen

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterFebruary 22, 2013

Fantasy Baseball 2013: Early Look at the Top 35 First Basemen

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    The following countdown details my early top 35 first basemen heading into exhibition play, with an emphasis on 5x5 roto leagues.

    Generally speaking, I favor power-average-speed guys over one-dimensional sluggers who rely on their immense but sporadic power to get through a given season.

    I'm also a sucker for positional versatility, which may explain why Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Victor Martinez warrant special mention here.

    Enjoy the show!

Best of the Rest: Nos. 21-35

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    First Base Rankings—No. 21 to No. 35


    21. Chris Davis, Orioles (above)
    22. Carlos Santana, Indians
    23. Ike Davis, Mets
    24. Mike Napoli, Red Sox
    25. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
    26. Corey Hart, Brewers
    27. Justin Morneau, Twins
    28. Nick Swisher, Indians
    29. Kendrys Morales, Mariners
    30. Jordan Pacheco, Rockies
    31. Yonder Alonso, Padres
    32. Brandon Moss, Athletics
    33. Brandon Belt, Giants
    34. Justin Smoak, Mariners
    35. Mark Reynolds, Indians

20. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 41 HR, 96 RBI, 87 Runs, 2 Steals, .204 BA  

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Last year, Adam Dunn posted his second-greatest homer tally of his career (41)—and that's coming from a guy with eight different campaigns of 38 or more bombs.

    2. Of his last six seasons, Dunn has notched 96 or more RBI five times.

    3. Check out Dunn's monster numbers from May: 11 homers, 21 RBI, 20 runs, .386 on-base percentage, .590 slugging and .976 OPS.

    4. Dunn racked up double-digit runs in every month last season. For 2013, he's a reasonable bet to break 80 again. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Dunn's highest month of batting last year was .231 (April). Ouch.

    2. On the bright side of that, Dunn is a low-risk flier pick in the latter rounds. If he's not doing the job...just dump him.

19. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

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    2011 Stats: 12 HR, 103 RBI, 76 Runs, .330 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. For 2009-11, Victor Martinez was a virtual lock for 18 homers, 95 RBI, 85 runs and a .305 batting average.

    2. In a stacked lineup with Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Martinez will undoubtedly see a steady stream of juicy pitches.

    3. Over 10 MLB seasons (2002-11), V-Mart boasts stellar career marks with OBP (.370), slugging (.469) and OPS (.840). 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. There are two obvious concerns: age (34) and the stability of his reconstructed knee.

    2. We'll monitor V-Mart's progress during spring training, meaning a rankings shift may be in order before Opening Day.

18. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 28 Runs, .219 BA  

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. In limited action last year, Ryan Howard belted at least four homers in July, August and September.

    2. From 2006 to 2011, Howard launched a minimum of 31 homers in each of those six seasons.

    3. Heading into his age-33 campaign, Howard still has a chance of replicating his 35-homer, 100-RBI days of seasons past. Especially now that he's recovered from a torn Achilles (October 2011). 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Howard's track record suggests he won't be a late-round flier pick in March. Prospective owners will probably have to bite the bullet on a Round 14, 15 or 16 selection.

    2. The Philly slugger only had 11 multiple-hit games last year.

17. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

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    2012 Stats: 24 HR, 84 RBI, 66 Runs, 2 Steals, .251 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Mark Teixeira missed 39 games last season, and yet, he still finished with 24 homers, 84 RBI, .475 slugging and an .807 OPS. Not bad.

    2. This time last year, Teixeira was seemingly a lock for 30-plus homers, 105 RBI and 90 runs. He's still young enough (33 on April 11) to produce a bounce-back campaign.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Teixeira hasn't cleared .260 batting in any of the last three seasons (2010 to 2012).

    2. The Yankees' lineup isn't as dominant as previous years, likely halting Tex's chances for 80 runs.

16. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals

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    2012 Stats: 33 HR, 100 RBI, 76 Runs, 1 Steal, .271 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. In 2012, Adam LaRoche matched or eclipsed previous career highs in homers, hits (155) and RBI.

    2. LaRoche has racked up 100 RBI twice in the last three seasons.

    3. From a splits standpoint, LaRoche had three months of .300-or-higher batting, four months of double-digit runs and six months of double-digit RBI.

    4. LaRoche enjoyed a monster September—10 homers, 19 RBI, 19 runs, .324 batting and 1.057 OPS.

    5. LaRoche still racked up 20 RBI in his .239 month of August.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Forget about the all-world September for a second. LaRoche remains a better bet for 25 homers than 33 this season.

15. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox

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    2012 Stats: 26 HR, 75 RBI, 66 Runs, .298 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Paul Konerko has cracked 26 or more homers in each of the last four seasons (2009 to 2012).

    2. Konerko has notched an on-base percentage of .344 or higher in each of the last nine years (2004 to 2012).

    3. The White Sox slugger posted top-three numbers—among first basemen—for the months of April and May, totaling 11 homers, 33 RBI, 31 runs and scintillating batting average of .380.

    4. Last year, Konerko had three months of five-plus homers/.300 batting and five months of double-digit RBI.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Father Time is seemingly catching up with Konerko, who turns 37 in March.

    2. The days of Konerko rolling for 80 runs and/or 100 RBI have likely passed.

14. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    2012 Stats: 15 HR, 48 RBI, 44 Runs, 3 Steals, .285 BA (87 games) 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Including the minors, Anthony Rizzo accounted for 38 homers and 110 RBI last season.

    2. At 23, Rizzo is arguably the Chicago Cubs' best power-hitting prospect of this century.

    3. Check out Rizzo's monster tallies from last July (MLB)—seven homers, 17 RBI, 14 runs and .330 batting average.

    4. Rizzo has the reasonable capacity for 27 homers and 90 RBI this year.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. As a follow-up to the big-time July, Rizzo batted only .252 with two homers last August.


13. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals

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    2012 Stats: 22 HR, 92 RBI, 76 Runs, 2 Steals, .307 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Last year, Allen Craig set new career highs in homers, RBI, runs, doubles and hits (144).

    2. Assuming 140 games, Craig has the realistic capacity for 28 homers, 100 RBI, 85 runs and a .310 batting average.

    3. Craig is the equivalent of an unflappable golf pro who routinely drives the ball 260 yards into the middle of the fairway, without much drama. He's a rock-solid performer with a tangible upside.

    4. For example, Craig had five homers and a range of 16 to 19 RBI for May, June, July and August last season.

    5. Craig currently has an ADP value of 31 on Mock Draft Central. In this special case, I'd be OK with a 24 or 25 draft slot.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    There's no apprehension here. Craig will be a bedrock asset for a slew of championship teams in 2013.

12. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 60 RBI, 65 Runs, 16 Steals, .232 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. I will bet my life that Eric Hosmer finishes with a batting average above .232 this season. It's one of the easiest calls for 2013.

    2. Heading into his age-23 campaign, Hosmer has the reasonable upside for 165 hits, 17 homers, 82 RBI, 75 runs and 15-plus steals.

    3. I'm a sucker for power-hitting corner infielders with the potential to steal 15 bases.

    4. When everything's right, Hosmer is the American League version of Paul Goldschmidt. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. It's a little disconcerting that Hosmer produced fewer tallies in runs, doubles, triples, homers, RBI and batting average last season—despite 24 more games than 2011.

    2. Based on last year's flameout, Hosmer would be a risky pick before Round 8.

11. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

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    2012 Stats: 10 HR, 85 RBI, 81 Runs, 8 Steals, .319 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. In addition to the five-category goodness, Joe Mauer posted stellar marks in doubles (31), hits (174), OBP (.416) and slugging (.446) last season.

    2. In 2012, he also enjoyed four months of double-digit runs/.300-plus batting, five months of double-digit RBI/.400-plus OBP and six months of 26 or more hits.

    3. Just like Buster Posey, Mauer has dual eligibility (catcher/first base).

    4. Of the last five seasons, Mauer has played in 137 or more games four times. Not bad for a so-called injury risk. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. The only reason to pass on Mauer after Round 6: Your roster desperately needs power.

10. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 32 HR, 95 RBI, 66 Runs, 4 Steals, .268 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Mark Trumbo has accounted for 61 homers and 182 RBI in his first two full seasons.

    2. In 2012, Trumbo showed steady improvement in runs, hits, triples, RBI and batting average.

    3. Check out Trumbo's big-time tallies from May, June and July: 24 homers, 61 RBI and 40 runs.

    4. For April, May and June last year, Trumbo enjoyed three straight months of an .899 OPS or higher.

    5. Trumbo has dual-position versatility (OF/1B). 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Trumbo needs to flirt with 75 runs to garner more respect in the first-base community. The power numbers are certainly there.

    2. Barring a major injury to Albert Pujols, fantasy owners shouldn't expect first-base eligibility with Trumbo next year.


9. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    2012 Stats: 23 HR, 94 RBI, 91 Runs, .259 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Freddie Freeman notched good numbers last season (23 HR, 94 RBI, 91 runs in 2012), despite being hindered by finger and eye ailments for a good chunk of the campaign.

    2. Assuming he logs around 550 at-bats, Freeman's a reasonable bet for 26 homers, 101 RBI, 96 runs, .269 batting average and OPS that eclipses .800.

    3. Last year, the consistent Freeman tallied three months of .489-plus slugging, four months of 15 runs/17 RBI and five months of four-plus home runs. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    Freeman's a safe pick with tangible upside. Just make sure to buttress his selection with another corner asset in the top 20.

8. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    2012 Stats: 20 HR, 82 RBI, 82 Runs, 18 Steals, .286 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Among first basemen, Paul Goldschmidt holds the best odds of posting 25 homers and 20 steals.

    2. In his first full MLB campaign, Goldschmidt notched excellent marks with OBP (.359), slugging (.490) and OPS (.850).

    3. Last season, Goldy tallied three months of .500-plus slugging, four months of .300-or-higher batting and five months of double-digit runs/RBI.

    4. Goldschmidt, who cracked 65 total homers in the minors for 2010-11, has the capacity for 30 MLB homers this year. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    No complaints here...at least for the fantasy owners who wait until Round 4.

7. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals

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    2012 Stats: 29 HR, 107 RBI, 72 Runs, 2 Steals, .313 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. In 2012, Billy Butler posted four months of five-plus homers, five months of .312-or-higher batting, five months of double-digit runs and six full months of double-digit RBI.

    2. Mark him down for 27 homers and 108 RBI this year.

    3. Butler barely qualified for first-base status in 2013 (20 games).

    4. The remarkably consistent Butler has a range of 672 to 679 plate appearances over the last four seasons (2009 to 2012). 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. History tells us Butler isn't a good bet to eclipse 80 runs this season.

    2. With keeper leagues, there's a good chance Butler won't have first-base eligibility next season.

6. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2012 Stats: 18 HR, 108 RBI, 75 Runs, .299 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Adrian Gonzalez gets a relative free pass from last year's 18 homers...since he averaged 32.8 bombs from 2007 to 2011.

    2. I'm OK with Gonzo's 2012 production—from the perspectives of hits (188), doubles (47), RBI (108) and batting average (.299).

    3. With the Red Sox and Dodgers last year, Gonzalez posted nearly identical high marks with batting average and OBP. 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Gonzalez had only three homers in 145 at-bats with the Dodgers.

    2. Similar to Prince Fielder, the days of Gonzo belting 40 homers are likely over.

5. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

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    2012 Stats: 42 HR, 110 RBI, 93 Runs, 13 Steals, .280 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. By a long shot, Edwin Encarnacion established new career highs in homers, RBI, runs, steals, hits (152), OBP (.384), slugging (.557) and OPS (.941) last season.

    2. In 2012, Encarnacion posted three months of .300-or-higher batting, five months of six-plus homers/17 RBI and six months of a slugging rate comfortably north of .500. BOOM! 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    1. Unlike last year, Encarnacion only has eligibility at first base.

    2. The Blue Jays slugger had two months of under-.240 batting last season.

    3. It's ambitious (but not implausible) to think Encarnacion will replicate his homer/RBI production in 2013.

4. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

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    2012 Stats: 24 HR, 103 RBI, 78 Runs, .336 BA 

     

    Reasons To Like This Ranking

    1. Buster Posey may be a world champion and the reigning National League MVP, but there's also room for growth in runs (78), steals (one) and home runs (24).

    2. Posey's monster tallies with OBP (.408) and OPS (.957) are worthy of a Round 2 or 3 pick—a rarity for catchers.

    3. Posey has the reasonable capacity for 28 homers and .340 batting.

    4. For 2013, he will have catcher/1B-eligibility in all leagues.

    5. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect a repeat of 39 doubles, but Posey could certainly narrow last year's gap in walks to strikeouts (69-96).  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    Roto owners shouldn't rush to draft Posey in standard leagues, if he won't be playing first base three or four times a week. Take advantage of his flexibility.

3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    2012 Stats: 30 HR, 108 RBI, 83 Runs, .313 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Last year, Prince Fielder became the first Tigers left-handed hitter to notch 30 homers since the club relocated to spacious Comerica Park (2000).

    2. Of the last four seasons, Fielder has amassed 146 homers and 452 RBI...for annual averages of 37 homers and 113 RBI.

    3. Within that span, Fielder is a perfect 4-for-4 in posting an OBP north of .400.

    4. Last season, Fielder established a new career high in hits (182) and registered a career low in strikeouts (84). Speaking of which, Fielder produced a Joey Votto-esque K-BB ratio of 85-84.  

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    Playing 81 games at Comerica, the days of Fielder launching 40 or more homers are probably gone.

2. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    2012 Stats: 30 HR, 105 RBI, 85 Runs, 8 Steals, .285 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Albert Pujols has crushed 30-plus homers in all 12 MLB seasons.

    2. He has also amassed 103 or more RBI 11 times.

    3. Even in a down campaign, Pujols still posted rock-solid marks with on-base percentage (.343) and slugging (.516).

    4. For June, July and August last year, Pujols produced the following numbers: 21 homers, 63 RBI, 52 runs, six steals and .323 batting.

    5. The greatest hitter of this century is only 33 years old. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    There is no downside to snagging Pujols after the eighth overall pick in 12-team drafts.

1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    2012 Stats: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 59 Runs, 5 Steals, .337 BA 

     

    Reasons To Love This Ranking

    1. Joey Votto gets a relative free pass from last year's pedestrian power numbers, thanks to a substantial knee injury (July).

    2. In 2012, Votto had few peers in the revealing categories of K-BB ratio (84-95), OBP (.474), slugging (.567) and OPS (1.041).

    3. Last season, Votto posted two months of .355-or-higher batting, two months of six homers and four months of an OPB at .439 or higher. Wow!

    4. When healthy, the Reds slugger is a reasonable lock for 33 homers, 38 doubles, 107 RBI, 104 runs, 11 steals and a .332 batting average. 

     

    Reasons To Loathe This Ranking

    No complaints here.