Stat lines don’t lie, and there’s a lot to learn from them for fantasy baseball aficionados in 2010.
For example, check out these stat lines from last season:
1. Who hit .302 with 39 home runs and two stolen bases?
2. Who hit .306 with 34 home runs and three stolen bases?
Both are first basemen. One was drafted in the first two rounds of every fantasy draft last season. The other barely made most people’s opening day fantasy roster. And both help me illustrate just how deep the first base pool is again this season.
Player No. 1 is Mark Teixeira , who was a major piece of the New York Yankees’ successful 2009 World Series season. He was in a lot of discussions as a potential MVP candidate.
Player No. 2 is Kendry Morales , the guy who took Teixeira's place in the Angels’ lineup and didn’t miss a beat in replacing the vaunted slugger.
Sure, Teixeira out-produced Morales in runs scored and RBI, but both these stat categories had a lot to do with supporting cast. Teixeira had much more talent to drive in during each at-bat. He had better hitters driving him in.
When it comes to drafting a first baseman this season, it’s OK to wait and snag a value hitter later in the draft. There are plenty to consider. Guys I really like as solid value bats in 2010 at first base include :
Kendry Morales, LAA
As mentioned above, Morales was an amazing fantasy value last season, and for some reason, he looks like he’ll continue to be a value in 2010. Not many think Morales will have enough staying power to place him higher than 13th in overall rankings at the position.
However, Morales is still really young and has his prime playing years ahead of him. He showed no signs of breaking down or tiring after the All-Star break in 2010, hitting .330 with 19 dingers and 59 RBI down the stretch. This time next season, Morales will be getting a lot more love in fantasy circles. For now, enjoy him at his bargain basement price.
Billy Butler, KC
As a closet Royals fan, I’ve been big on Butler for years now. However, his vast potential hadn’t translated into fantasy success. Until last season. Butler cranked out 21 homers with 93 RBI and a .301 batting average. All three were easily career bests, and Butler is just 23 years old.
An even more telling nugget of statistical info includes his stats from after the All-Star break...a paltry .314 batting average with 13 homers and 55 RBI. In September alone, he hit .361 with six long balls and 26 RBI. Butler’s defensive skills are a liability, but he did just enough to maintain his spot at first base this season. The lineup around him is questionable, as well, so temper your runs scored expectations...and, to a degree, your RBI projections. Still, Butler is a player on the rise, and looks to be a solid value pick this season.
Chris Davis, TEX
There have been plenty of players with vast power potential in the majors who squander their talents with mediocre plate performances. Davis was one such player last season, striking out 114 times in 258 at-bats to start the season before being demoted to the minors. Some say he was trying too hard to live up to the hype surrounding him. Others said at that time that he was just a plain talent-bust.
However, Davis resurrected himself after returning from the minors, hitting .308 with six homers and 26 RBI in his final 133 plate appearances. I’m not convinced Davis will be a .300 hitter in the bigs, but his long-ball potential is massive and he could have a coming out party in 2010. As an additional note, Davis also played 11 games at third base for the Rangers last season, so he could come with an added 3B-eligible bonus this year in some league formats.
Joey Votto, CIN
Sure, Votto is coming off a very impressive 2009 campaign where he hit a torrid .322 and improved in every statistical category across the board (except RBI, where he stayed even at 84 the past two years). Sure, Votto did this despite a month on the DL grieving the death of his father. And sure, he will be drafted well ahead of the other guys on this list. However, Votto is still a value, in my opinion, because he has all the makings of a top-tier, elite corner infielder.
You’ll draft him in the fourth or fifth rounds in many leagues, but here’s predicting that he’ll produce first-round stats in 2010. We had big expectations for him last season; we have even more for him this year.
Nick Johnson, NYY
Johnson’s star has fallen drastically over the past few seasons, hitting just eight home runs in 133 games in 2009 with 62 RBI and 71 runs scored. What lands him on this list was his recent change of venue. Johnson was extracted from the fantasy wastelands of Washington and given the primary DH gig on a stacked Yankees lineup.
Johnson can still make contact consistently, as proven by his .291 batting average last year. While I’m not advocating Johnson as your starting 1B option, he does deserve attention in a utility role or, even better, off your fantasy bench for high-potential depth.
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