This year's crop of first basemen is very top-heavy.
After the top five are off the board, there is a lack of hitters who can hit for both average and power. In fact, in standard 10-team rotisserie leagues this season, there are only 11 first basemen I would be content with as my starter.
There are many players who have potential to develop into elite hitters, namely Matt LaPorta and Kila Ka'aihue. However, entering this year's draft, I would advise drafting a first baseman early due to the lack of depth between the sixth- and 15th-ranked players.
Before releasing my first set of rankings for the top 30 first basemen for 2011, I would like to clear up who qualifies as a first baseman in these rankings. For the purposes of this article, first basemen are players who first base is their most valuable position. Therefore, I will not have Kevin Youkilis on this list because I consider him more valuable at third base.
On to the rankings! Feel free to comment below on players you believe I may have overrated or underrated. (Compliments accepted as well.)
Tier One: The Elite
(Name, Team, 2011 Projection)
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals: .323/44/121/10/117
There should honestly be no debate about this. While Pujols may not always finish as the No. 1 player in the league, he is consistently a top-10 player and it is his consistency that makes him so appealing at No. 1. Cabrera will certainly challenge him throughout the entire season, though I still feel more comfortable with Pujols on my team.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .327/36/118/2/101
Cabrera is without a doubt one of the best fantasy baseball players entering 2011; he has actually been very consistent throughout his career, hitting 33-plus home runs in every year since 2004 except for 2006. Cabrera has the ability to carry your team all the way through the season; there was not a month in 2011 during which Cabrera hit fewer than five home runs.
3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: .317/35/113/9/99
Votto has now hit .322-plus in two straight seasons, and while his 37 home runs were not expected in 2011, they are reachable for Votto again in 2011. Minus April, Votto hit .306-plus with five-plus home runs in every month in 2011, a very impressive feat. The key to Votto in 2011 is where he will be drafted. I would argue that he is fair value around ten to 12, so if he is being taken earlier, he is actually a player I would avoid.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox: .318/33/127/1/104
According to ESPN's Player Rater, Gonzalez was the No. 5 first baseman in 2010. If you consider that he was hitting in a much more difficult field than Fenway Park, and also that his support for the Padres offense was minuscule compared to what he will receive in Boston, Gonzalez is a threat to pass Votto this season. I would not be surprised to see Gonzalez finish this season top 10 overall.
5. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees: .282/35/112/1/105
To expect Teixeira to repeat his 2010 .256 batting average in 2011 would be a little ridiculous, though do not expect him to repeat his .290-plus batting averages in the past. Yankee fans will argue that Teixeira had a poor start, which will not happen again in 2011. Consider this, though: Teixeira hit only .259 in the second half of 2010. He'll be very good, elite even, though he is not a threat for top-three consideration anymore.
Tier Two: The Rest of the Legitimate Standard League Starters
6. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: .310/30/103/0/82
Morneau's 2010 injury should have no effect on his 2011 production. In the 81 games he was healthy enough to play in, Morneau hit .345 with 18 home runs. Those are not stats to ignore; if he had continued at that rate, Morneau would have been a top-five first baseman, hands down, this season.
7. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies: .274/37/123/1/92
Fielder is on my lists of players to avoid this season. For an explanation on why, click here.
8. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: .271/41/103/2/101
Fielder had a down year in 2010, hitting only .261 with 32 home runs. Therefore, I am taking a conservative approach with him this season in terms of batting average. He is still Prince Fielder, the guy who hit 46-plus home runs twice since 2007.
9. Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels: .298/29/106/1/88
Morales is very similar to Morneau in my eyes entering 2011. He was very productive in the games he playing in before injuring himself, hitting .290 with 11 home runs in just 51 games. Morales' injury was to the leg, thus I do not expect any sort of decline in power in 2011.
10. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox: .253/42/108/1/90
Dunn in one of the most consistent power hitters in the recent history of the MLB. He is moving to the easiest park to hit home runs in this year. That's enough for me to draft him, and it should be for you.
11. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals: .305/17/80/0/75
He is a consistent hitter, though he is not somebody who will carry your team in 2011, or ever likely. If you are looking for somebody to hit stabilize your team's batting average while not killing you in power, Butler is your guy. Butler has now hit over .300 in two straight seasons along with 15-plus home runs in each of the two.
Tier Three: Should Be Rostered
12. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox: .276/31/98/1/80
13. Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs: .236/35/96/4/76
14. Adam Lind*, Toronto Blue Jays: .271/27/83/0/74
15. Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants: .280/23/85/3/87
16. Derek Lee, Baltimore Orioles: .273/25/86/2/77
17. Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins: .274/23/89/8/77
His potential to steal bases is appealing, especially in deep leagues or NL-only leagues where stolen bases are limited in abundance.
18. Kila Ka’aihue, Kansas City Royals: .262/27/98/2/71
To find out why Ka’aihue is poised for a breakout year, click here.
19. Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians: .261/20/76/1/70
20. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
21. Ike Davis, New York Mets: .282/22/79/2/78
22. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: .271/17/82/2/76
23. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers: .274/16/72/3/68
24. Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins: .278/17/84/6/78
25. James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers: .274/12/84/9/72
Tier Four: Scraping the Barrel
26. Wilson Betemit, Kansas City Royals: .254/20/78/1/67
27. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros: .265/18/71/0/66
28. Dan Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays: .236/21/74/0/61
29. Juan Miranda, Arizona Diamondbacks: .262/18/80/1/69
30. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners: .254/16/62/1/58
Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your opinions and thoughts about this list.
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