For those of you who don't have time to dig through an entire position primer right now, here's an executive summary of the first base situation: You can't possibly screw it up.
First base is still Pujols and everyone else, but the everyone else is pretty darn good.
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First base is loaded. It's the deepest position in the player pool – possibly the deepest in the history of player pools. In all likelihood, your fantasy team's first baseman, whoever he is, won't be its biggest problem.
And if you do somehow manage to screw up at first base … well, perhaps you should give Fantasy Auto Racing a try. Baseball just isn't your game.
Here are a few numbers that help express the absurd depth at first:
• Nineteen players with first base eligibility finished within the top 100 in the Yahoo! ranks in 2009
• Fourteen first basemen hit 30 homers, and another 16 hit at least 20
• Eleven first basemen finished with both 90 runs and 90 RBIs
• Five of last year's top 10 batting averages were posted by first basemen
• Of the 66 players in major league history who've posted a career OPS of .900 or better (minimum 3,000 plate appearances), 10 are currently active and eligible at first base
And this might be my favorite fact …
• In 2009, the average fantasy line for the top 30 first basemen looked like this: 85 R, 30 HR, 99 RBI, 4 SB, .285 AVG.
That's ridiculous. Again, those were the average stats of the ownable population of players eligible at this position. That's basically Alex Rodriguez's(notes) season (78-30-100-14-.286), minus a few steals.
Of course those numbers were influenced in no small way by the obscene totals delivered by the position's elite stars. First basemen will dominate the opening round of your 2010 draft. Five are usually selected within the first 12 picks – Albert Pujols(notes), Mark Teixeira(notes), Prince Fielder(notes), Miguel Cabrera(notes), Ryan Howard(notes) – and they're all exceptional talents in their prime years. Each is a high-end outlier in multiple categories. Those five players have combined for six home run titles, five RBI crowns, one batting championship, and 20 seasons with at least 100 runs scored.
Recall that there's very little actual profit to be made on first-round picks (or on the $40 players in an auction). Instead, you're looking to avoid massive losses. Pujols, Teixeira, Fielder, Cabrera and Howard aren't likely to disappoint statistically, and they rarely fail to reach 150 games. They're absolutely deserving of their ADPs.
But first base isn't merely a top-heavy position. After the elite talents are gone, there's still a thick layer of brand-name fantasy commodities in tiers three and four (see below). In fact, the position is so talent-rich that you'd be wise to address other areas of need while competitors are paying for small differences between similarly excellent players. You don't need to reach for Adrian Gonzalez(notes) in a mixed league at his current ADP (31.0) when you can select Kendry Morales(notes) two rounds later (54.6) or Derrek Lee(notes) four rounds later (88.1).
This position, in short, is stacked. It's so deep that Russell Branyan(notes), Hank Blalock(notes) and Carlos Delgado(notes) still can't find work. The position isn't even particularly tricky in NL/AL-only formats. Todd Helton(notes), our 12th highest-ranked National League first baseman, delivered a 79-15-86-.325 line last year; Paul Konerko(notes), our 12th highest-ranked American League first baseman, finished at 75-28-88-.277.
Again: You can't possibly screw this up. These tiers are like an all-you-can-draft buffet …
First Basemen -- Tiers
Albert Pujols, $52
Miguel Cabrera, $44; Mark Teixeira, $43; Prince Fielder, $42; Ryan Howard, $40
Carlos Pena(notes), $12; Chris Davis(notes), $11; Jose Lopez(notes), $10; Michael Cuddyer(notes), $9; Garrett Jones(notes), $4; David Ortiz(notes), $3; Jorge Cantu(notes), $3; James Loney(notes), $2; Paul Konerko, $1; Todd Helton, $1
Mark DeRosa(notes), $1; Nick Swisher(notes), $1; Martin Prado(notes), $1; Adam LaRoche(notes), $1; Conor Jackson(notes), $1; Nick Johnson(notes), $0; Luke Scott(notes), $0; Mark Teahen(notes), $0; Garrett Atkins(notes), $0; Aubrey Huff(notes), $0; Daniel Murphy(notes), $0; Jake Fox(notes), $0; Matt LaPorta(notes), $0;
Five First Basemen I Love
1. Prince Fielder – He's averaged 43/121/99 the past three years, and he's not even 26 yet – he's my No. 2 1B with a bullet.
1. Mark Reynolds – He's Adam Dunn with 20-steal speed and third base eligibility. And speaking of Dunn...
1. Ryan Howard – The batting-average risk is overblown; he's got a career .279 mark and a zesty line-drive rate (23.3 percent).
2. Joey Votto – Other than an anxiety-induced hiatus, he spent '09 (be it WBC, spring training, regular season) crushing the ball – .981 OPS was fourth-best in MLB.
2. Adam Dunn – Over the past six years, he's averaged 41 HR and 101 RBIs. You can always manage around a low batting average if you know it's coming.
2. Kevin Youkilis – A two-position grab, friendly park, unsexy but safe.
3. Adam Dunn – Always a fairly cheap 40/100 lock, especially when he hits north of .260 (like two of past three seasons)
3. Billy Butler – He belongs to Evans, of course. I'd just like to lend support to the movement.
3. Adrian Gonzalez – Don't freak out about Petco, there's a reasonable chance he's not there all season.
4. Conor Jackson – Valley Fever wiped out his much-anticipated '09 campaign, but he raked in winter ball – at minimum, he should produce James Loney value at a cheaper price
4. Nick Johnson – As a final-round flier, jump on this guy. (Don't jump too hard, though. He's fragile).
4. Billy Butler – So long as Brad Evans isn't in your league, you'll like the price.
5. Aubrey Huff – He's a year removed from a .304, 32 HR, 108 RBI campaign, and he's got a likely regular cleanup gig in SF – great NL-only and deep league flyer.
5. Adam LaRoche (July to September) – Every year, the story repeats. LaRoche's career second-half OPS is .909. The first half doesn't go as well (see below).
5. Nick Johnson – A great endgame play if the replacement value is high; an on-base machine going to a perfect park and lineup.
Five First Basemen I Hate
1. Adrian Gonzalez – I don't hate the man, but until he gets traded, you have to hate the home-split drag – career OPS of .805 at Petco, .935 on the road.
1. Justin Morneau – It's the ADP (38.4), not the player. There's too much talent at the position later in drafts; the as-yet-unknown impact of Target Field is a worry, too.
1. Mark Reynolds – Contact woes bring average risk into play; good luck repeating that HR/FB rate (26 percent last year).
2. Justin Morneau – Bi-polar as a hitter, prone to go in the tank just when it looks like he's in the midst of an epic season – there's been a HR or BA issue in each season since '06 MVP.
2. Justin Morneau – You better like the price, given that he's coming off back and wrist problems.
3. Chris Davis – Volatility factor is way too high, especially with one of the top 1B prospects (Smoak) on the verge of being ready.
3. James Loney – After back-to-back seasons that were virtually identical (and unimpressive for our purposes), perhaps it's time to admit that Loney is what he is.
3. Adam Dunn – I'll always avoid the softball players, those guys who give you two plus categories (power), one neutral category (runs), problems elsewhere.
4. Carlos Pena – Chasing '07 numbers is a fool's game. Everything else about his career tells us that he's no better than a .247 hitter.
4. Keith Hernandez – Nothin' but a mustache and a batting title. You can have him.
4. Chris Davis – The BB/K rate scares me away, and Texas has plenty of options if he starts slowly.
5. Todd Helton – I respect him as a hitter, but he's still likely to be the most expensive one-category helper at the 1B position.
5. Adam LaRoche (April to June) – For his career, he's hit .195 in April, .258 in May and .272 in June. He might break the pattern in 2010, but I'd prefer not to wager on it.
5. David Ortiz – Old man skills, can't be confidently started against lefties or on the road.
Top 5 First Basemen Prospects
1. Justin Smoak – He's a better player than Chris Davis in all ways except, perhaps, raw power.
1. Chris Carter – Over his past two minor league seasons, he's delivered 67 homers, 219 RBIs and 162 walks. The path to Oakland is relatively. uncluttered, too.
1. Justin Smoak – Oblique problem wrecked his 2009 but he'll eventually push Chris Davis out of the way.
2. Justin Smoak – His power is modest and he runs like Billy Butler with a peg-leg, but the switch-hitter was an on-base machine at Double-A last year (.449 OBP).
3. Logan Morrison – If things go according to plan, Morrison will edge Gaby Sanchez for the Marlins' first base job this spring.
3. Chris Carter – Oakland's got a bunch of 1B/DH types, which probably keeps Carter in Triple-A for most of 2010.
4. Logan Morrison – Wrist injury sapped his power in '09, but he definitely has it. He also has an excellent plate approach and a real shot to open in Florida in '10.
4. Brett Wallace – Toronto seems to view him as a first baseman, long-term. My dynasty portfolio approves of the move.