In our fast-paced, media-spun society many things are constant: global warming, high divorce rates in Hollywood, the use of slow motion in hip-hop videos and depth at first base.
Once dominated by big boppers McGwire, Thomas and Bagwell, unanimous top pick Albert Pujols heads the current generation of power pillars.
Just how deep is the position?
Look at home run totals from 2006. In total, 15 one-baggers smashed 30 tater shots, a mere one digit shy the number of outfielders who blasted the same amount. For a position that largely has a two-vacancy minimum in standard starting lineups (1B and 1/3) that's serious abundance.
So, is it wise to avoid an early-round four-cat first basemen in favor of a productive yet less prolific player at a sparse position? Only if you're a psychotic diaper-clad love-struck astronaut who enjoys long, jealous-enraged drives.
My general rule of thumb: aim for the best player on the board at all times. Since a vast majority of first baseman are elite contributors in homers, RBIs and runs, its smart money to select a Carlos Delgado over a Robinson Cano. Granted draft flow, position runs and categorical scarcity dictate when to jump on the bandwagon, it's heady to stick to your guns.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of this year's bumper crop of first basemen …
Note: In the tier rankings table (right), Travis Hafner, Jim Thome and Frank Thomas were included even though they do not qualify for a position other than Utility in the Yahoo! game – first base was the last position each of them played before full-time DH duties sapped them of 1B eligibility.
In the case of Hafner, there is reason to believe he could regain 1B eligibilty in '07 with rumblings that he may make a weekly appearance there during the season.
|2007 First Basemen: On the Rise|
|Outlook: A-Gon, the number one pick in the 2000 draft, had a meteoric rise as a full-timer in '06. A sharp 6.7 percent increase in second-half walks greatly aided his .336/.411/.960 splits after the break. Plentiful power totals are a luxury at Petco, but Gonzalez, only a toddler at 25, should yield a .300-plus average with 25-30 homers and 90-100 RBI.|
|Outlook: Arguably the best pure hitter in the Diamondbacks system, Jackson achieved reasonable success in his rookie campaign after sporting a gaudy .332 batting average in four minor league seasons. His keen-eyed 54 walks and robust contact rates from a year ago suggest continued development at the plate. Look for this snake to pack a venomous bite as a mid-tiered 20-25 HR, 90 RBI contributor come September.|
|Outlook: The Yeti of the Great Plains will not be an abominable force in '07. Probably a year away from banner totals, if his plate discipline improves (50:15 K:BB ratio in 193 '06 at-bats), he's a lock for 30 homers. Tremendous raw power makes him a top-20 one-bagger in mixed leagues and a bargain buy in the midnight hour.|
|Outlook: A stellar .357 OBP in the first half of '06 showed that Jacobs' ladder is not rickety. Although his OBP dipped below .300 after the break, his improved eye will help him flirt with a .290 BA. With raw 25-30 power, he's a nice corner infield option in deeper leagues.|
|Outlook: There is nothing limp about Johnson's potential. Plagued by double vision as a result of prescription medication, DJ slumped miserably early in '06, which led to a quick-hook to Triple-A. If he can makes strides against southpaws (.217 BA in 46 '06 at-bats) in spring training, his laser-sharp eye (97:90 career K:BB) and 20-25 homer upside should stave off veteran Euribel Durazo for Opening Day corner honors. If you score OBP instead of BA, he's worth every penny.|
|2007 First Basemen: On the Decline|
|Outlook: In a strange twist of irony, the guy with a "sexy" last name has seen his value go the way of "I'm Too Sexy" crooners Right Said Fred. Widely considered one of the finer power sources at first, Richie's untrustworthy inconsistencies and deplorable .264 average as a Mariner have transformed him into a forgettable draft day option. In the same overrated class as Adam Dunn, why reach some 50 picks earlier for a player that will post similar power totals and an absurd 30-point lower batting average than Adrian Gonzalez?|
|Outlook: Garciaparra is the only player in the bigs with favorable Vegas odds to be mauled by a bear at some point this season. The imp of injury, like always, performed admirably when not in the locker-room spa, hitting .303 with 20 homers and 93 RBI in 122 games. With prospect James Loney only one strained tendon away, he's completely avoidable until the smoke-hazed late-rounds of your draft. If he kisses a four-leafed clover: 500 at-bats, .310 BA, 25 RBI, 100 RBI and 90 R.|
|Outlook: As his first name implies, Johnson is always "Nick-ed." A walking infirmary, Johnson has logged an average of 45 DL days since 2002. Now sidelined by a broken femur that team doctor's have said has yet to "completely heal," the worst case scenario has Johnson not returning to the lineup until June. Given the injury news, he's a reputable late-round buy, who will produce acceptable numbers in three fantasy categories (BA, HR, and R), but have a contingency plan.|
|Outlook: Sharing a similar last name with the former Rage Against the Machine front-man, LaRoche was a "Bull on Parade" in Hotlanta last year blasting 32 homers with 90 RBI in 492 at-bats. Now in the Steel City after the Mike Gonzalez swap this past winter, LaRoche will play half his games in a ballpark known as a hook black hole – PNC ranks second since 2004 in fewest lefty homers allowed. In his power prime at 28, you would think 40 homers is attainable, but a repeat '06 performance is more likely. Don't overpay.|
|Outlook: There have been few Rocky Mountain highs for Helton of late. No longer the 30-homer, 100-plus RBI bopper he once was, Helton's ability to drive the ball was limited significantly by a nasty intestinal virus in '06. His still spectacular, albeit dwindling, career .430 OBP suggests he could rebound at anytime, but he should only be trusted as a viable source of batting average with 15-20 homers and 85-95 RBI. It's only a matter of time before Helton is shipped out and Garrett Atkins moves to first to give super prospect Ian Stewart his day at third.|
|2007 First Baseman: Top Prospects|
|1||Howie Kendrick||LAA||2B, 1B||136.8||$6|
|Outlook: The object of my colleague Brandon Funston's upmost affections, you could say Kendrick is a popular sleeper around the Yahoo! offices. A likely batting champ within five years, Kendrick is a free swinger (9 BB in 267 at-bats) who could make solid contact with a peanut. Despite his enormous upside, be careful – he had a spike in strikeouts last season and is still an inexperienced 22 years-old. Although growing pains are forecasted in '07, his eligibility at second is an Abe Lincoln well-spent: .290 BA, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 70 R, 17 SB.|
|2||Scott Thorman||Atl||1B, OF||332.7||$1|
|Outlook: The Norse god of thunder is a strong contender for NL ROY honors. Don't be discouraged by the signing of veteran, and Viking doppelganger, Craig Wilson, the rookie is the Braves unquestioned Opening Day starter. Thorman generates a tremendous amount of power with his short swing, which has translated into numerous long-distance shots in the minors. If his discerning eye carries over from Triple-A Richmond (48:31 K:BB in 309 '06 at-bats) his numbers will mimic predecessor Adam LaRoche's 2005 totals: 20 HR, 78 RBI.|
|Outlook: Once Nomar is accidentally flattened by a runaway Oscar Meyer wiener mobile, the "Lone Ranger" era will begin. After a nine-RBI explosion at Colorado in September of '06, many fantasy owners scoured the waiver wires for Loney's services. A disciplined hitter who uses his plus bat speed to spray rocket shots to all fields, scouts have compared his game to a more powerful version of Cubs great Mark Grace. He's Major League ready, but needs an injury to Nomar or Luis Gonzalez to land a regular gig – I'd say the odds of that happening are sweet.|
|Outlook: Possibly the greatest mobster movie name in the bigs, Votto is a punisher who pounded 22 homers and collected 77 RBI earning Southern League MVP honors at Double-A Chattanooga in 2006. An all-fields hitter, Votto is a future .300 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI player once he refines his defensive skills at first base. With the offensively boring Scott Hatteberg No. 1 on Jerry Narron's depth chart, look for the lefty beefcake to don big league threads by September.|
|Outlook: Acquired from St. Louis in the Mark Mulder deal in December 2004, Barton is a textbook hitter with a strong, fluid swing who will hit .300 annually. A bit raw defensively and an average power hitter, honestly, he's no better offensively than current depth chart topper Dan Johnson. Still, with a ridiculously acute eye (197:235 K:BB in 1134 minor-league at-bats) he could develop into what Todd Helton is currently.|