Fantasy sports are all about projecting value. Sure, what a player has done in the past is important, but future production is what matters most to the fantasy owner.
Anyone who picked up Chris Shelton a couple years back knows this. So, in order to help fantasy baseball lovers everywhere, here's the first in my eight-part series ranking the best players at each position from now until the end of 2008. All analysis will assume a standard 5 x 5 mixed league. To the rankings!
Top Fantasy First Basemen
1. Lance Berkman, Astros
So far, Berkman has been the number one player in fantasy baseball, and there is no reason to believe he will not continue to be, considering the powerful lineup surrounding him.
He leads first basemen in each of the five statistical categories, including steals with a whopping 10. The speed numbers might decline, but even finishing with 20 would make him a huge contributor as a first sacker.
Also, don't expect his .384 average to remain where it is, but as a career .304 hitter, it should still stay fairly high. Expect him to finish with 130 runs, 48 homers, 130 RBI, 22 steals, and a .335 average.
2. Derrek Lee, Cubs
After struggling for two years with a wrist injury that kept his power numbers down, Lee seems to have returned to his 2005 form. That year, he belted 46 homers and scored 120 runs.
Hitting third in the stacked Cubs' lineup, Lee should see plenty of RBI opportunities and score a ton of runs with hitters like Aramis Ramirez and rookie Geovany Soto behind him. Lee doesn't steal as much as he used to, but he still won't put up a goose egg in the stolen bases category.
Although he has only driven in 100 runs one other time in his career, expect him to pass that number for the second time in 2008. Lee should finish around 125-38-150-12-.320.
3. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Pujols has been one of the premier first baseman in baseball since he came into the league in 2001. Amidst injury concerns and a sub-par 2007, Pujols dropped out of the top three in most drafts this season.
Many of the concerns owners had regarding Pujols seem now to be unwarranted, as he has put up solid numbers across the board.
However, I do not like the Cardinals' lineup, with players like Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick certain to come down to earth. That keeps him below Lee. Count on 110-40-110-8-.330 for this Redbird at year's end.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
Just 25 years old, Gonzalez has been one of the lone bright spots for the Fathers this year. He has shown excellent power and a solid batting average.
Gonzalez has traditionally bumped his average after the All-Star break, so expect him to get even better. This young player should be a staple at first base for fantasy seasons to come. By October, Gonzalez should be at 100-40-120-0-.305.
5. David Ortiz, Red Sox
He might be a DH in some leagues, but in mine he's eligible at first, so he gets a spot on my list. Ortiz has bounced back from a putrid start to put together a very nice May for fantasy owners. Last year saw his power numbers take a dip, but his average was an excellent .332. The knee that was troubling him seems to have healed.
I see him finishing with similar numbers in 2008, with slightly more power and a slightly lower average. Pencil in 105-39-125-0-.300 for Big Papi.
6. Ryan Howard, Phillies
This spot might seem high for a guy hitting .209 so far this season, but we're projecting for the rest of the season, so I like Howard here.
First base is a power position, and you know the big Phillie is going to get you lots of homers and lots of RBI, especially with guys like Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino (the Flyin' Hawaiian), and Chase Utley ahead of him.
Plus, Howard has historically been a second half hitter. I don't see why he can't hit .280 the rest of the way so that average doesn't do too much damage. There is some risk here, so Howard still falls behind Ortiz. Expect Howard to finish with 110-45-120-0-.260.
(After Howard, I feel there is a significant drop in ability at the first base position. So the gap between the sixth and seventh positions is far greater than between five and six.)
7. Mark Teixeira, Braves
Teixeira has been a disappointment this season, producing only five homers and a .267 average. The good news is the 28-year-old traditionally turns it on in the second half in both the power and average departments.
The bad news is, his run, homer, and RBI totals have declined each season over the past three years. Teixeira's strong second half should make him valuable to many fantasy teams. He should finish with 85-30-110-2-.290.
8. Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks
Jackson had a fantastic April, but has followed it up with a less-than-stellar May. Still, he's the clean-up hitter in one of baseball's best lineups, so he should see plenty of run scoring and producing opportunities.
Jackson has been remarkably consistent month to month over his career, so he should bounce back with a fine June. He also steals a few bases, giving him a value many other first basemen don't have. Count on 100-30-105-10-.300.
9. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
The man who actually plays first base for the Red Sox has been off to a hot start this season. Youkilis has always had a great eye at the plate, and it is finally being reflected in his batting average and other offensive numbers.
Hitting in a powerful Sox lineup, Youk should continue to score and produce runs. Expect 105-27-95-5-.305 out of him this season.
10. Justin Morneau, Twins
Morneau has put together a nice little season so far in 2008, hitting eight homers and driving in 39 runs.
He has kind of slipped below the radar after a lackluster 2007 following his MVP 2006 campaign. Morneau should continue to be valuable in the power categories, but don't expect him to ever regain that MVP form where he hit .321.
Considering his batting averages in the months of August and September have been terrible over his career, don't count on his .350 average over the past month to continue. Morneau should finish with 80-30-105-0-.280.
Just missing the cut: Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Mike Jacobs.