Fantasy Baseball 2011: Fantasy First Basemen Grow on Trees in 2011

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIMay 2, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011: Fantasy First Basemen Grow on Trees in 2011

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    If you have this guy, you need to read another article
    If you have this guy, you need to read another articleDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    So you didn't get the first overall pick and missed out on Albert Pujols.

    You decided to go with a non-first baseman like Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, or Roy Halladay.

    We're in the same boat. I went with Tulo to make sure I didn't run into trouble at shortstop but missed out on Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, and Joey Votto before my second pick even came up!

    Maybe you're stuck with the anemic Justin Morneau or are waiting desperately for Kendrys Morales to get back. Adam Dunn might man your corner, but his .160 batting average is leaving a lot to be desired to say the least.

    If any of the above describes you, never fear. It's the deepest infield position by far on the waiver wire. Not only can you find a nice player to fill in until your star gets back on track, you might find a diamond in the rough to play all season.

Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners, Owned in 65% of ESPN Leagues

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 16:  Justin Smoak #17 of the Seattle Mariners connects during the game against the Kansas City Royals on April 16, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    I place a lot of weight on the past expectations of a player. Was he supposed to be good? This helps me feel more comfortable dedicating a couple weeks to trying the guy at first base.

    Smoak was taken 11th overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2008 draft. At age 24, he's still on the very early side of his prime years, which means he's ripe for the taking.

    He sports a .273 batting average with 4 HRs and 17 RBIs, which puts him on track to hit 26 HRs and knock in 110 RBIs if he reaches 500 at-bats, highly likely to occur as long as he keeps playing well.

    Smoak is a switch hitter, drawing comparisons to Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones in his prospect years. As the cornerstone of the Cliff Lee deal, you know that the so-called experts like him, too.

    He's on my team. Is he on yours? 

Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers, Owned in 87% of ESPN Leagues

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 11:  Mitch Moreland #18 of the Texas Rangers bats against the Cincinnati Reds during the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on March 11, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I know, I know. He's certainly not an unknown, but he's also no household name. If you're one of the lucky ones who sees him available, strongly consider snatching him up.

    Moreland breaches my "was he supposed to be good" rule having been taken in the 17th round of the 2007 draft. But he has impressed the Rangers organization since day one with his bat and his glove.

    Indeed, a lot of Moreland's value lies in the fact that he either has or will soon have outfield eligibility in nearly any fantasy format.

    Had Moreland gotten 500 at-bats with the team last year, his numbers would've been 69 R, 31 HRs, and 86 RBIs. That kind of production warrants early round consideration, which makes him a waiver wire steal today.

    I can't believe I dropped this guy...

Matt LaPorta, Cleveland Indians, Owned in 5% of ESPN Leagues

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    SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 08:  Matt LaPorta #7 of the Cleveland Indians bats against the Seattle Mariners during the Mariners' home opener at Safeco Field on April 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    So thus far I've made a case for two players that could potentially be contributors for your team the entire year.

    Now for a small step back.

    Matt LaPorta, the key piece in the C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee Brewers deal, is finally waking up. An Olympic medalist with the national team, LaPorta is certainly a player that people thought could be great.

    Had the Brewers not moved him for Sabathia, the outlook of Prince Fielder's future would be extremely different.

    As it stands, LaPorta is projected to accumulate a nice balanced stat line of 81 R, 25 HRs, 94 RBIs, and even 6 SBs. He has the ability to improve his .263 batting average, making him one waiver wire first baseman to keep an eye on.

    Is it just me, or does every Indian seems to be able to do it all? Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, and soon Matt LaPorta.

Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates, Owned in 40% of ESPN Leagues

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 01:  Garrett Jones #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates bats while playing the Chicago Cubs during opening day at Wrigley Field on April 1, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Jones is the senior of this bunch so far at the old age of 29.

    Now might be a great time to buy-low on the Pirates' first baseman/outfielder because he is a notoriously fast starter and slow finisher. Last season, he batted .302 in May and .330 in June, picking up 33 RBIs along the way.

    If you're in the waiting-for-Kendrys group, this is your man.

    At his current rate, which we know won't keep up, he would hit .278 with 63 R, 34 HRs, and 69 RBIs.

    Of course, the actual RBIs would skyrocket with that batting average and homer total, but the fact remains that he's on a very quiet tear.

Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies, Owned in 17% of ESPN League

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    DENVER, CO - APRIL 17:  Todd Helton #17 of the Colorado Rockies takes an at bat against the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field on April 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Right when I gave Garrett Jones the title of senior first baseman, Todd Helton shows up.

    Let me get this out of the way first: Todd Helton will not be the kind of first baseman you need for the entire year.

    But at 37 years old, Helton still provides a steady force at first for Colorado as well as a consistently high batting average.

    At the moment, he's pumping out some other stats, too. He has smacked a modest 3 HRs with 11 RBIs with an excellent .307 average so far. An average that high is nearly impossible to find on the waiver wire.

    He is on track to hit 20 HRs and 73 RBIs if he stays healthy, but even if he's only a stopgap for your team, you can count on .300 and several homers in the thin air of Coors Field.

    Don't forget about Helton. He's a consistent veteran who is still playing for a reason.

Make It Happen!

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    Alright, so not ALL first basemen grow on trees...
    Alright, so not ALL first basemen grow on trees...

    So there's five quality fantasy first baseman, four of which you can probably go grab right now for free.

    Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland, and Matt LaPorta are the kind of players you'll be having to draft in the next few years because their careers are just taking off.

    Garrett Jones and especially Todd Helton are nice pickups that can help bridge the gap from month to month until you find a nice fit. Maybe they'll have a resurgent year for you.

    Focus your attention to third base in fantasy baseball, where the pickings are slim because first baseman grow on trees.