Top 10 Fantasy First Basemen for 2014
As the white snow-covered ground gives way to green grass, it's time for fantasy baseball owners everywhere to shift their focus to this year's top players.
The list of top players begins with the traditional power hitters: the first basemen. They're the spot in fantasy baseball owners' lineups that can make or break a season.
Based on past years' stats, especially stats from 2013, injury history and career arcs to this point, here are the top 10 first basemen primed to help fantasy owners in the 2014 season.
No. 10: Allen Craig
The only thing keeping the Cardinals' Allen Craig from being a borderline top-five fantasy first baseman is his injury history. In the last two seasons he has played 119 games and 134 games, respectively. Obviously, the less often a player plays, the less he can produce for a fantasy team.
However, when healthy, Craig has been one of the more productive first basemen in the majors. One major stat that sticks out about Craig is his sterling batting average. In his two full seasons in the major leagues, .307 is the lowest average that the slugger has had.
Where power numbers go, Craig is about average for a first baseman, but he can drive in runs with the best of them. Anytime a guy can drive in over 90 runs in two seasons in which he played fewer than 134 games, he's a fantasy asset.
As far as steals go, Craig doesn't provide much speed. He has just two steals in each of the past two seasons. Not many first basemen possess much speed, though, so his lack thereof isn't a deal-breaker.
No. 9: Prince Fielder
No. 9 may seem a little low for a slugger like Prince Fielder, but his move to the Rangers is likely to hurt his fantasy production.
For one thing, Fielder is going to be in in the 3-slot in Texas as opposed to the cleanup spot he had become accustomed to in Detroit. For a high-strikeout, high-home run rate kind of player like Fielder, the cleanup spot is a better fit.
Moving from cleanup to third in the order may improve some aspects of Fielder's fantasy value, however. Where pitchers would usually see Fielder after facing slugger Miguel Cabrera in Detroit, he is more likely to be pitched around in Texas.
That means that his on-base percentage and walk totals are likely to rise along with his runs. However, that also means that his biggest statistical categories, home runs and RBI, are likely to decrease in 2014.
Versatility has never been an issue for Fielder, who has played in at least 157 games every season since 2006. Anything can happen of course, but when drafting Fielder, fantasy owners know that they are likely to get almost an entire 162-game season out of him.
Due to his long track record of success in the major power categories, Fielder is still a borderline elite fantasy player.
No. 8: Freddie Freeman
Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman had a breakout year last season and is set to maintain a high level of production hitting in the Braves lineup.
Even though his power numbers remained mostly the same from 2012, Freeman's batting average jumped 60 points, from .259 to .319. While he had 23 home runs in both 2012 and 2013, he jumped from 94 RBI in 2012 to 109 in 2013.
In fact, Freeman's spike in numbers was good enough to help him finish fifth in National League MVP voting.
It's hard to believe, but Freeman will be just 24 years old this season and is set to enter his prime. There may be no other first baseman in the league more on the rise than Freeman.
No. 7: Joey Votto
The Reds' Joey Votto has been a relatively consistent force in the league for the last six seasons. Other than in 2012, Votto has managed to stay healthy and put up some big numbers.
Especially impressive is Votto's average and on-base percentage over the course of his career. Since 2009, his lows in both categories are .305 and .414, respectively. Since he gets on base so much, Votto scores more runs than most first basemen do, surpassing 100 in three of his last four seasons.
The only reason that Votto is this low on the list is that his RBI numbers don't always match up with his home run numbers. Given the fact that he hit 24 home runs a season ago, 73 RBI certainly isn't great.
Although not a huge threat, Votto is capable of stealing a base here and there; he had six steals a season ago and five in 2012.
As long as he stays healthy, Votto should be a sure 20/80 guy to go along with at least .300/.400.
Those numbers are good enough to make Votto a top-three-round pick once again in 2014.
No. 6: Eric Hosmer
After three years in the league, the Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer finally seems ready to realize his potential in 2014. It seemed like he started piecing things together in 2013, and this season could bring bigger and better things.
Last year, Hosmer's average shot up to .302 to go along with 17 home runs and 79 RBI. As far as power numbers are concerned, Hosmer is about average for a first baseman, but he will grow more into his power as he will only be 24 next season.
One thing that sets Hosmer apart from others in fantasy value is his ability to steal bases. The big first baseman stole 11 bases in 2013 and stole 16 in 2012.
When it's all said and done, Hosmer's youth and ability to do everything well make him a borderline top-five first baseman for the 2014 fantasy season.
No. 5: Mark Trumbo
Even though he was shipped to the Diamondbacks, who already have Paul Goldschmidt at first base, Mark Trumbo will be eligible at first base for the 2014 fantasy season based on the amount that he played there last season.
In essence, the fact that Trumbo will be eligible at different positions adds to his fantasy value as a utility player.
To go along with his eligibility at different positions, Trumbo's numbers in past years are nothing to scoff at. Even though he's not the biggest name in baseball, Trumbo has slugged an average of over 30 home runs and 90 RBI over the past three seasons.
Those numbers don't come every day, even from a first baseman, traditionally a power-heavy position in fantasy.
One concerning aspect of Trumbo's game is the fact that he strikes out regularly. His high strikeout numbers have led to low averages and on-base percentages.
Likely hitting behind Goldschmidt this season, Trumbo's average should rise because instead of chasing when pitchers are throwing around him, he will be chasing when pitchers are going right at him.
No. 4: Edwin Encarnacion
Based on the gaudy numbers that he's put up in the last two seasons, Edwin Encarnacion may be the most undervalued player in fantasy baseball.
In 2012, Encarnacion hit 42 home runs to go along with 110 RBI and in 2013 hit 36 home runs to go along with 104 RBI. More impressive is that in those two seasons, .272 is the lowest average that Encarnacion posted. He's a relatively efficient power hitter, which is rare.
Additionally, Encarnacion scores runs at a high clip for a first baseman. He's hit at least 90 runs for the past two seasons.
The slugger stole seven bases last season to add to his value just that much more, as steals are hard to come by from first basemen.
Still in his prime at 31, Encarnacion is set to have another big year. For fantasy owners, he shouldn't continue to fly under the radar.
No. 3: Chris Davis
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Baltimore's Chris Davis slugged 53 home runs and drove in 138 runs in 2013. Even in 2012, Davis hit 33 home runs.
Now, it's not likely that Davis will duplicate his numbers from a year ago, but he's made it very clear that he's a premier power threat in the league. He hits for a decent average, especially considering the power numbers that he puts up.
The short track record of success is a cause for concern because the consistency isn't there yet, but the power numbers are too good to pass up.
However, that alone shouldn't make him a top pick in a fantasy draft. His value slots better in the late first, early second round.
No. 2: Paul Goldschmidt
Last year's National League MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt might be the overall most valuable first baseman for the 2014 fantasy season. His lack of a track record is the only reason that he doesn't occupy the top spot on this list.
A season ago, Goldschmidt clubbed 36 home runs to go along with 125 RBI, both good for tops in the National League. Those are elite power numbers to go along with the .302 average that Arizona's franchise player put up a season ago.
Surprisingly, Goldschmidt is also very capable of stealing bases. Last season he swiped 15 bases and two years ago he stole 18. Goldschmidt's penchant for stealing, grouped with his great power numbers, make him a top-level fantasy player.
No. 1: Miguel Cabrera
Baseball's best hitter is headed back to first base where he belongs. Miguel Cabrera has been the picture of consistency over the course of his career, especially since 2007.
He has knocked 44 home runs in each of the past two seasons and hasn't had a season in which he drove in fewer than 100 runs in any of his full seasons in the majors.
It is that consistency that makes Cabrera a no-brainer as the top first baseman for the 2014 fantasy baseball season. Group the consistency with Cabrera's durability and he will always put up big numbers.
Even though he will have slightly less protection in the lineup with the departure of slugger Prince Fielder, Cabrera will continue to hit because he's just that good.
Along with Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Cabrera is in a select group of players who are worthy of being taken as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy baseball drafts.
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