Top 15 Fantasy Baseball Keepers: First Base

Charlie SaponaraContributor IAugust 10, 2010

Top 15 Fantasy Baseball Keepers: First Base

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 12:  American League All-Star Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers swings the bat during the second round of the 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby during All-Star Weekend at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 12, 2010 in Anaheim, Califor
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images
    Unlike the catcher position, which lacks depth and stability, first base is very deep and filled with players in or around their prime seasons. Who's the number one keeper and who is losing value as the years go by?
    Note: These are NOT rankings for 2010. The focus is on long-term keeper values, looking first toward the next four to five years and then some prospects that could be moving up this charts during those seasons.

Two That Just Missed

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    NEW YORK - JULY 31:  Ike Davis #29 of the New York Mets bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Ike Davis l Age: 23

    The AVG may always be a struggle as Davis' uppercut swing causes a lot of swings and misses and not enough line drives. His current AB/HR rate would translate to about 23 home runs over 550 at-bats. As he adjusts further to big league pitching, there will be potential for 25-plus home runs annually. Recently called up to play left field for the Marlins, Logan Morrison's true and future position is first base. Gabby Sanchez has held his own there this season, but the majority seems to believe that Morrison will be the 2011 starter at first.

    Logan Morrison l Age: 22

    Morrison features a sweet lefty swing that is very contact oriented. He should hit for AVG at the big league level and be a true assent in OBP leagues. However, the big debate is his ultimate power ceiling. He hasn't shown much power beyond single-A and according to has held very high ground ball rates for the past two seasons.

    This has held true in his 45 Major League plate appearances this season as well. At the very young age of 22 years old, there is still a ton of room to grow. The base of skills is there already, but to be an impact 1B we'll need to see some type of progression in power.

    Davis' stock took a big hit after his professional debut in 2008 . That season the power-hitting first baseman hit .256/.326/.362 with no home runs over 239 low-A plate appearances. In 2009, the player that the Mets thought they drafted began to find his swing. That season, Davis hit .298/.381/.524 with 20 home runs between high-A and double-A. He has spent the majority of the 2010 season hitting in the middle of the Mets lineup and holding his own in the process with 15 home runs and a .185 ISO.

15. Matt LaPorta: Age 25

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    Matt LaPorta
    Matt LaPortaGreg Fiume/Getty Images

    Adjusting to the Major Leagues has been tough on LaPorta, but the high-ceiling power potential is still there. After being recalled from triple-A this season, LaPorta seemed like a much more confident hitter as he hit .282 in July. As the confidence grows, the power numbers will begin to show up. We could easily see consistent 25-30 home run seasons in LaPorta's future with an AVG that sits in the .265-.275 range.

14. Kevin Youkilis: Age 31

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    SEATTLE - JULY 23: Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox singles in the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 23, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    A thumb injury has ended Youk's solid season, but he should be good to go by spring training 2011. However, one has to be worried about the drop in line-drive rate this season to around 16 percent as well as the three-year regression in HR/FB rate. Youk will be 32-years-old before the start of the 2011 season, so we shouldn't be expecting any sort of improvement.

    Given what he has done over the past three seasons, no improvement would still make him a very valuable fantasy option, but sooner or later, a slow decline will start to creep in.

13. Chris Carter (A's): Age 23

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    PHOENIX - MARCH 01:  Chris Carter of the Oakland Athletics poses during photo media day at the Athletics spring training complex on March 1, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    All Chris Carter did was catch touchdowns and looking at the stats, one might think that all this Chris Carter does is hit home runs. That is partly true, the A's prospect has some of the best natural power in the minor leagues and has slammed 26 homers so far in 2010. However, Carter also knows how to draw a walk as evident by his .380 minor league career OBP.

    While his swing does generate a ton of power, it also generates plenty of swings and misses, which will lead to fluctuating AVG's at the big league level. Of course, the same can be said about Marlins slugger Mike Stanton and the fantasy world is enthralled by his potential.

    At least Carter has seen improvement in his strikeout rate over the past few seasons, leading prospect gurus to believe he'll have some .290-.300 seasons mixed in over his career. As a seemingly forgotten name in top prospect talk this season, Carter could come at a bargain price should you try and acquire him in your deep keeper or dynasty league.

12. Justin Smoak: Age 23

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    SEATTLE - JULY 10:  Justin Smoak #17 of the Seattle Mariners takes his first at-bat as a Mariner against the New York Yankees at Safeco Field on July 10, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    I was completely on board the Smoak bandwagon when he was called up by the Rangers this season. He has a Mark Texieira-like approach at the plate and projected power to, if not match, at least come close.

    Smoak seemed to be the victim of bad luck as he continued to hit line drives at a rate over 22 percent yet continued to hold an extremely low BABIP. The culprit ended up being an extremely high amount of infield flies (about 20 percent), which are almost always turned into outs.

    Seattle's front office thought highly enough of Smoak's future that they essentially chose him over Yankees prospect Jesus Montero when trading away Cliff Lee. Going from Texas to Seattle is never good for a hitter, but at least Safeco Field is less of a problem for left-handed power hitters than it is for right-handed power hitters.

    Despite not getting the results in his first shot at the big leagues, Smoak's future is extremely bright.

11. Ryan Howard: Age 30

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    CHICAGO - JULY 16: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies watches the flight of the ball against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 16, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    While the power potential is obviously tremendous, Howard is a big risk for quick regression. He chases a ton of bad pitches (34 percent this season) and is consistently among the league leaders in whiff rate (swings and misses). Howard is also a .231 career hitter against left-handed pitching.

    Translated: As soon as his skills start to decline and his bat speed slows, there is very little room for error.

10. Adam Dunn: Age 30

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    PHOENIX - AUGUST 04:  Adam Dunn #44 of the Washington Nationals at bat during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 4, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks 7-2. (Photo by Chri
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I'm convinced that there is no ballpark in the world that could hold Dunn's home run totals down.

    No matter if he stays with the Nats or heads elsewhere this offseason, Dunn should continue to produce high-end power numbers. However, his AVG seems a bit inflated this season due to a .343 BABIP.

9. Billy Butler: Age 24

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals poses during photo media day at the Royals spring training complex on February 26, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Many were hoping for a huge power breakout from Butler this season, but instead found a regression in that category.

    Given his consistent ground ball to fly ball ratios (1.37 in 2009, 1.38 this season), it's impossible to simply assume that Butler will hit for 25-30 home runs in the near future.

    Even without the power, Butler should consistently hit around .300 with plenty of doubles and the upside to drive in 100 runs should Kansas City put together a better lineup. He's only 24-years-old, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

8. Kendry Morales: Age 27

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    ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 29:  Kendry Morales #8 of the Los Angeles Angels at bat against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on May 29, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Morales was on his way to another fine season before a celebration from a walk-off home run went horribly wrong. While he should come back next season as a productive hitter, there is a very good chance he never comes close to duplicating his huge 2009 numbers due to an aggressive approach that had not produced high line-drive rates in the past.

7. Adrian Gonzalez: Age 28

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    SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 13:  Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the San Diego Padres bats against the San Francisco Giants during an MLB game at AT&T Park on May 13, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Even while playing home games in spacious PETCO Park with very little lineup protection—no, I'm not going to say that Ryan Ludwick is enough—Gonzalez continues to approach another 30 home run, 100 run, 100 RBI season.

    The Padres continue to stand atop the NL West and all trade rumors that surrounded Gonzalez this preseason have been silenced. However, don't be surprised if talks heat up this winter. A move to just about any other ballpark would increase his overall keeper value.

6. Justin Morneau: Age 29

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    OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04:  Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins bats against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 4, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    What was shaping up to be a tremendous MVP-like season for Morneau was put to a sudden halt when he took a knee to the head in early July. The resulting concussion has kept him out of action ever since.

    It would have been nearly impossible for Morneau to sustain his .385 BABIP (22 percent line-drive rate) anyway, but there is no doubt that he was in a groove since opening day. It may be too much to expect such a high AVG from Morneau in the future, but .285/30/100 are very realistic targets as he enters his 30's.

5. Mark Teixeira: Age 30

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    NEW YORK - JULY 18:  Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees in action against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 18, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 9-5.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Known for being a slow starter, Teixeira took a bit too long to heat up this season, causing his AVG to suffer. However, he may have been a bit unlucky at times as evident by a low .262 BABIP with a solid 19.4 percent line-drive rate.

    He's just now entering his early 30's so his production should level off over the next few seasons in the neighborhood of .285-.295/35/100.

4. Prince Fielder: Age 26

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    ATLANTA - JULY 15:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 15, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Fielder swings and misses a lot and chases pitches outside the strike-zone rather frequently. Because of those two factors, we should continue to see fluctuations in his AVG going forward. However, he still is a lock to hit 30-plus home runs with the potential for 45-plus. He manages to draw plenty of walks and not strike out too much (like say, Mark Reynolds).

    Due to his body type—which can be described as large—Fielder may decline faster than the likes of Joey Votto or Mark Teixeira, but at age 26, he should have several more big seasons left in his bat.

3. Joey Votto: Age 26

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    CINCINNATI - MAY 18:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds watches his home run leave the park in the 8th inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park on May 18, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 5-4.  (Photo by A
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The year 2011 could be a huge season for Joey Votto as everything seems to be lining up perfectly. Votto is hitting the prime age of 27 in 2011 (He'll be 27 years old this September) and he has a three-year track record of progression in BB/K rate, ISO, and OPS. He plays his home games in a great hitter's park and until this season, had shown no problems with hitting left-handed pitching. There's no reason to think Votto can't improve on an already MVP-like 2010.

2. Albert Pujols: Age 30

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    ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 1: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 1, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Pirates 9-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Interestingly, in some categories Pujols has shown a three-year regression (though this season is not over yet, so no numbers are final). Most notable is the drop in OPS and wOBA.

    This season, Pujols has been chasing more pitches outside the strike zone this season while showing a three-year regression in contact rate. These are intriguing trends, but Pujols is still putting up MVP-type numbers despite them.

    While there has been whispers about Pujols' true age, the official information says that he'll be 31 years old in 2011, which is a plateau stage in a hitter's career. With that in mind, we should expect continued top-level production from Pujols next season.

1. Miguel Cabrera: Age 27

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 22:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers at bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 22, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The three-year progression for Cabrera has been almost the exact model of how a player enters their supposed prime at age 27.

    He is currently the best overall hitter in baseball, trumping the amazing Pujols, which is an amazing statement in itself. Cabrera has improved his BB/K rate while hitting the ball harder than ever before in his career.

    Cabrera is on pace to set career highs in ISO (Isolated power) and SLG (Slugging Percentage) as well as challenge for the triple crown. He's still only 27 years old and right at the start of his prime seasons.

About The Author

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    BOSTON - AUGUST 01:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers hits an RBI double in the ninth inning as Victor Martinez #41 of the Boston Red Sox defends on August 1, 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox defeated the Tigers 4-3.  (Pho
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Charlie Saponara is the owner/author of and can be contacted at

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    Charlie also writes for Fire Brand of the American League and Project Prospect.