Few positions in fantasy baseball can compete with the overall depth of talent you can find at first base. Sluggers. Guys who hit for average. Early-round fantasy studs that you can anchor your squad around.
My early 2011 fantasy first baseman rankings include:
1. Albert Pujols, STL
No surprise here. Pujols has been the cream of the crop for quite some time and there’s no reason to doubt he’ll continue in this role, despite the contract negotiations that seem to be going nowhere.
Despite the small dip in each of the five major fantasy statistical categories in 2010 from what he did in 2009 in spite of his 19 more at-bats.
To Pujols, this is all about as important as a pimple on a super model. A minor inconvenience, but nothing to worry about.
2. Miguel Cabrera, DET
Few things have been as consistent as Cabrera the past half-decade.
In fact, he saw an increase in homers, RBI, runs scored and batting average last year despite 63 fewer at-bats.
If only he stole some more bases, then perhaps Pujols would have some stronger competition for the top overall slot.
3. Joey Votto, CIN
The chinstrapninjas.com fantasy baseball gurus were plugging Votto hard for quite some time now. It was easy to see Votto was on the cusp of greatness.
He complied with a breakout 2010 campaign in which he produced numbers eerily similar to those of Pujols and Cabrera.
Factoring in his 16 stolen bases (four times as many as he swiped in 2009), I was tempted to push Votto ahead of Cabrera. The only reason I didn’t is because Cabrera has produced elite numbers for quite some time.
Votto needs to pad his resume a little more before I bump him up this list. However, I could see myself ranking him first overall by this time next year.
4. Ryan Howard, PHI
Here’s where the debates may begin. After the top 3, I see a significant drop to my second tier of first baseman, currently led by Howard. This group has the potential to be a first-round fantasy talent, but comes with more question marks.
For Howard, the red flags are fewer than the next three guys on this list, so he gets the nod here. His homers have seen a five-year fall-off since the 58 he smacked in 2006, but he still crushes the ball enough to keep ahead of the competition.
The Phillies lineup struggled at times last year, but the team has too many playmakers not to rebound, and Howard should reap the benefits.
5. Mark Teixeira, NYY
I’ve always been a big fan of Teixeira’s, even before he landed on my beloved Yankees. He has hit 30 or more homers seven consecutive years and counting.
He plays in one of the most feared lineups in the sport today, and that protection is hard to overlook. However, where in the world did the .256 batting average come from in 2010?
For a guy who has consistently hit right around .300 the past six years, the .256 is a big red flag. Of course, he is much too talented and protected to not bounce back in 2011.
6. Prince Fielder, MIL
Another big slugger who struggled majorly out of the gates in 2010, Fielder is about equal to Teixeira in my book, except I trust Teixeira’s lineup more.
A plus for Fielder is that he was able to turn an abysmal start to the season to a decent second half, but those who took him in the first or second round had several months of agony to endure first.
He still has ample talent and ability to be a force at the position from a statistical standpoint, and for now, I’ll consider 2010 a fluke.
7. Adam Dunn, CWS
Some will think it heresy to rank Dunn this high over younger, more athletic options. But have you looked at his numbers the past bazillion years?
No one has cranked out the homers like he has consistently the past seven years, even while playing on a woeful Washington Nationals squad with very little protection.
The one major knock on Dunn has been his abysmal batting average. And for years, the guy’s plate discipline had been nearly non-existent.
Except, look closely at 2009. he finished with a .267 batting average. He followed that up with a .260 in 2010, meaning was basically the same as Teixeira and Fielder while hitting more homers.
His signing with the White Sox will put him in a lineup with protection he hasn’t seen in years, and he has the potential to be a really solid first base option at a fraction of the cost of guys higher (and even a few lower) on this list.
For the rest of my early 2011 fantasy baseball first baseman rankings (with full analysis), go here.
And don’t miss our early look at the Top 10 fantasy baseball players per current ADP.
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