I posted my very early 2015 closer rankings a couple of weeks ago. In continuing with the trend, I present to you my preliminary, but mostly complete, rankings for first basemen. The prices are based on a standard 5×5 rotisserie league with a budget of $260 per team. In this instance, I assume 60 percent of all teams’ budgets are spent on hitters, as is done in mine.
In a later version of this, I will enable the spreadsheet to be dynamic and allow users to input their own budget amounts and percentages spent. In the meantime, here is the static version.
Let me try to be as clear as possible about how I determine prices: I do not discount or add premiums based on positional scarcity or relativity. I like to know exactly what a home run, a steal, a run, etc. is worth, no matter who it comes from. It gives me a better idea of the depth at each position and how urgently I need to overspend at the so-called shallower positions, such as catcher and third base, as y’all will see in future installments of these rankings.
- The statistics, to my eye, are all scaled down slightly (except for maybe home runs). However, this effect happens to every player, so the changes are relative and, thus, the prices are theoretically unaffected.
- Jose Abreu is the #2 first baseman, and it’s not even that close of a call. I honestly thought Paul Goldschmidt‘s stock would be a bit higher — remember, my computer calls the shots here, not me — but the projections believe more in Goldy’s 2014 power (which paced out to 27 home runs in a full season) than his 2013 power, when he dropped 36 bombs. He’s also no lock to stay healthy. Which no one is, really. Still, I may take the over on all his stats, but not by a large margin.
- I will, however, take the over on Edwin Encarnacion‘s statistics, as he has bested all the projected numbers each of the past three seasons, and he does it all while battling injuries. I will take him at the price simply because of what I will call “health upside” — everyone assumes he will get hurt, but if he can play a full 162, he’s a monster — and because if his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) ever reaches a normal level, his batting average boost will send his stock through the roof.
- No surprise to see Anthony Rizzo at #5 after last season. I’m a believer, and he will be surrounded by a slew of talented youngsters next year.
- Freddie Freeman, hero of my hometown, is simply not where I expected him to be after his 2012 season. Granted, he’s an excellent player, but until he chooses to hit for power rather than spray line drives (again, not a problem in real, actual MLB baseball), and until the Braves stop sucking (which may not be any time soon), he may not be that great of a first base option.
- The two Chrises — Chris Davis and Chris Carter — round out the top 10 with almost identical profiles. Lots of power, lots of strikeouts, low batting averages. The shift may have suffocated Davis’ batting average, but it shouldn’t happen again, and I am considering investing in him if his stock has devalued enough after last year’s atrocity.
- Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Ryan Zimmerman are shells of their former selves.
- Lucas Duda is for real, but his batting average is a liability, as is a lot of the Mets’ lineup.
- The projections have what amounts to almost zero faith in Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer and Brandon Belt. Mauer may be the saddest tale of them all. He’s still good for a cheap batting average boost, but single-digit homers? I just feel bad for the guy. And the owner who banks on the rebound.
- Looking at Adam LaRoche‘s projection, I’m starting to really like that move by the White Sox. Part of me feels like he’s going to be undervalued or maybe even not considered on draft day, and that’s appealing to me.
- Steve Pearce at #16 is an upside play, given his 2014 looks all sorts of legit.
- Jon Singleton: the poor man’s Chris Carter.
- And just because Matt Adams is beating the shift instead of hitting home runs doesn’t render him without value. He’s not my cup of tea, but 19 home runs could be conservative for him.
Rankings are based on a standard 5×5 rotisserie league.
Name – R / RBI / HR / SB / BA
- Paul Goldschmidt – 106 / 116 / 34 / 17 / .292
- Edwin Encarnacion – 101 / 109 / 41 / 6 / .294
- Chris Davis – 102 / 119 / 43 / 3 / .272
- Prince Fielder – 92 / 110 / 33 / 1 / .290
- Albert Pujols – 97 / 102 / 29 / 4 / .295
- Joey Votto – 90 / 90 / 26 / 7 / .310
- Freddie Freeman – 94 / 105 / 27 / 2 / .286
- Adrian Gonzalez – 89 / 102 / 24 / 1 / .297
- Allen Craig – 87 / 112 / 21 / 2 / .293
- Brandon Moss – 85 / 96 / 31 / 2 / .250
- Jose Abreu
- Mark Teixeira – 82 / 96 / 28 / 2 / .259
- Mark Trumbo – 76 / 99 / 34 / 4 / .242
- Eric Hosmer – 78 / 78 / 20 / 13 / .276
- Kendrys Morales – 68 / 83 / 27 / 0 / .283
- Just to be clear: these are my projections, so I’m very familiar with the system and most players’ outputs. Still, it doesn’t mean a few don’t surprise me now and then.
- Hosmer at No. 14 is certainly one of the aforementioned surprises. I’m not as bullish as most other projections, but other projections honestly aren’t too different, either. It’s mainly in the runs and RBI categories where you can find the biggest difference. It’s a toss-up.
- I can’t project Abreu, but I would project him to be almost an identical clone to Moss: 30-homer potential, a batting average that may drag along and modest counting stats (for a first baseman) while playing for a lackluster White Sox team.
- I’m big on Freeman — I think he’s due for a breakout of sorts — but I think being as bullish as ESPN is on his batting average is a mistake. Count on Freeman to provide everywhere else, but I’m expecting more modest numbers, and anything better will be gravy.
- I’ have my doubts about Teixeira, as does everyone else, I’m sure.
- Matt Adams barely missed the cut at No. 16.
- Lastly, yes, Encarnacion is better than Davis, even with injury risk. But as I’ve confessed before I have a huge man-crush on Edwin. Regardless, whether you pick one or the other won’t make a huge difference, barring an unpredictable injury to either one.
Nothing looked unusual when the Detroit Tigers traded first baseman Prince Fielder to the Boston Red Sox for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, despite the trade being very high-profile. It appeared as if the Tigers were clearing up salary space to sign starting pitcher and 2013 Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to a long-term deal. Instead, they dealt pitcher Doug Fister and signed outfielder Rajai Davis and former Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain (great last name, by the way) for depth. So… now what? The salary they freed up has been spent, and all the moves made have been lackluster. And, in a latest turn of events, Scherzer is on the market. What the heck is going on?
(Although, honestly, I think Scherzer’s value peaked in 2013. Dude had control issues his whole career until the 2012 All-Star Break, and he’s about to enter the latter half of his career. 0
The Bucs have been worse. The Tigers’ moves have been sensible; the Pirates moves have been indefensible. Charlie Morton for three years? Edinson Volquez for one year? These guys are rotation fillers who expect to not contend. These are not the moves a contending team makes. Unfortunately, it appears they’re sold on Morton’s illusory 2013, and unless Volquez is merely for depth (beyond a No. 5 starter), this is money wasted.
Meanwhile, the New York Mets may fancy themselves contenders.
NYM sign OF Curtis Granderson
I didn’t realize the Grandy Man was so divisive. I guess Yankees fans are bitter or something. Maybe I’m overexposed to a microcosm of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. Regardless, four years, $50 million for a proven power hitter and decent defensive outfielder ain’t bad. I like it a whole lot more than the Jacoby Ellsbury signing, based mostly on the length. The Mets think they’ll contend, and while I think they won’t realistically do it until 2015 or later, they plan to make a 2013-Kansas-City-Royals-type of splash next season. Either that, or it’ll be a Blue Jays-caliber flop, but without the hype, so it won’t be as bad.
Preseason rank: Top-50 OF
NYM sign SP Big Fat Bartolo Colon
BFB revived his career, got caught with steroids, then continued to impress afterward. I have no idea how he does it, because metrics all point to some sort of regression, but his excellent command of his fastball must keep him afloat. (Other than, well, all his fat. OK, that was mean. Sorry!) Two years isn’t bad, especially if the Mets think they’ll contend this year… But I really don’t. But 2015? Maybe. World Series team? Probably not. So I don’t know. And, again, I can’t imagine Colon will repeat his 2012 and 2013. But who knows? He could be even better. Baseball is a funny sport. As far as fantasy baseball implications go, he’s going to arguably a worse team, and his strikeout rate is, well, pretty miserable. He’s a three-category contributor at best, but if he regresses, it could be more like zero categories.
Preseason rank: 69th
I been gone a long time. Sorry, folks. Let’s break down some recent trades now that the stove hath been declared “hot.”
DET 1B Prince Fielder for TEX 2B Ian Kinsler
With the emergence of second baseman Jurickson Profar, the Rangers had a logjam in the middle infield, especially after extending Elvis Andrus‘ contract. Trading Kinsler was the solution, and any chatter about trading Profar to St. Louis for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras was promptly silenced. The Rangers will take on about $10 million more in salary per year, not to mention all the additional years at the tail end of Fielder’s contract, but will be able to replace the floundering Mitch Moreland at first base. Some analysts (and Detroit fans) have sworn off Fielder and declared his power decline already in motion. I’ll get to that.
The Tigers had more needs to fill. Infielders Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante are free agents, and both are coming off solid years and will likely test the market. Trading for Kinsler fills one of these needs, and quite soundly, too. Kinsler will bring veteran presence and skills to an already highly-talented team. Moreover, moving Fielder away from Detroit, where his (alleged) declining production, poor postseason performance and lukewarm-at-best fan relations have alienated him, frees up salary space to offer Cy Young pitcher Max Scherzer a long-term contract. The one thing I haven’t seen discussed much: two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera was plagued by nagging injuries the last month of the season. Moving him to first base will alleviate defensive problems, yes, but it will also give him a chance to heal at a less intensive defensive position. I don’t know who will play third base, but rookie Nick Castellanos played third base before the Tigers moved him to left field.
As for Fielder’s power and production, let’s do a simplistic blind resume.
Player A – .313, 30 HR, 82 R, 108 RBI
Player B – .279, 25 HR, 83 R, 106 RBI
Player B is Fielder in 2013; Player A is Fielder in 2012. The big difference? He hit fewer than 30 home runs for the first time in forever, and his on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) is way down. You can complain about the batting average, too, but the 2012 average is the anomaly here, not the 2013 average. Looking more deeply into his peripherals, though, Fielder his a boatload of line drives — 26 percent of all balls in play, in fact. Fielder’s average line drive percentage is 21 percent; the MLB average is 19 percent. He also put the most balls into play in his career with the lowest ratio of home runs to fly balls (HR/FB). Unless Fielder was trying to hit line drives all last year, which he likely wasn’t, I expect 32-or-so home runs from Fielder in 2014. My one concern is his depleted walk rate (although his on-base percentage is still very solid), but the dude also dealt with a divorce all year, too. I can’t say I’ve ever been divorced before, so I don’t know what it’s like, but I can’t imagine it’s always pretty.
I understand both sides of this trade, though, and hesitate to declare one team the winner over the other. Kinsler and Fielder are getting old, so declines in production should be expected. I think the winner of this trade will be decided in if Profar pans out and Scherzer lives up to his ace potential and reputation.
Winners: Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers
SF Giants sign SP Tim Hudson
Even as someone who doesn’t identify as an Atlanta Braves fan, it’s sad to see Hudson go. However, I don’t know how much good this does the Giants. Their farm system is weak and their rotation pitiful. Adding Hudson for a couple of years for back-end rotation help and veteran presence is not going to produce another championship. The team needs to focus on rebuilding, and shedding salary may be a good first step in doing so. Also, why didn’t the Braves re-sign him? Their rotation is very young with zero veteran presence. At least Hudson could fill up a back-end spot that would surely be better than what Paul Maholm could muster. Then again, they could probably turn me into a quality starting pitcher with the magic they evidently possess.
Winner: Tim Hudson
Loser: San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves
KC Royals sign SP Jason Vargas
Who considers this a major baseball-related announcement? Jokes aside, Vargas was probably the Angels’ most reliable pitcher and has been better than decent the past two or three years for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Seattle Mariners. For a team that’s working toward a postseason berth, this isn’t a bad play. Besides, who could be worse than Bruce Chen?
Winners: Kansas City Royals, Jason Vargas
STL 3B David Freese for LAA OFs Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk (AAA)
David Freese is an average third baseman who is widely (and incorrectly) perceived as an above-average player because of his postseason heroics. Freese is simply average, though, and shipping him to Anaheim makes it clear that the Angels are going to shop Mark Trumbo. It’s their best chance at getting some prospects, of which their depleted farm system has none.
Trading Freese allows the once-utility second baseman Matt Carpenter to move to third base in order to free up space for rookie Kolten Wong. With outfielder Carlos Beltran, a free agent, likely on the move, I expect to see über-prospect Oscar Taveras man center field while Matt Holliday and Allen Craig play left and right field, with Matt Adams at first base. Another scenario could see Taveras getting the call sometime in May or June and Bourjos manning center field until then. Yet another possibility — the least optimal of them — would see an outfield of Jon Jay, Bourjos and Holliday, with Craig at first base and Adams relegated to the bench.
Either way, the Cardinals are even more stacked than they were before the trade. Ridding of Freese was probably difficult, but it was necessary for progress. The Angels made a decent move in ridding of extra outfield pieces, but sending Randal Grichuk, the Angels No.-2 prospect, to a loaded St. Louis farm system (where Grichuk will likely rank no better than 10th) further guts the Angels minor league system. Rancho Cucamonga is a barren wasteland at this point. (Thank you, Cliff Clinton, for enlightening me as to who Grichuk is. Even as an Angels fan I sure as hell didn’t know.)
We’ll have to wait and see who the Angels get in return for Trumbo, but it won’t change the fact that they lost this trade.
Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
Loser: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Fan report: Dan Uggla has put his Atlanta home up for sale. (Thanks, Charles Henninger, for this tidbit.)
Let’s get his ass out of there. I’ll never forgive you, Dan, for singlehandedly losing me the 2012 fantasy baseball title.