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2014 Draft Prep: First base profiles

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Al's profiles: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | SSs | 3Bs | OFs | Ps

First base is home to many of Fantasy's top sluggers, and its player pool is deep in run producers and hitters who can bat .280 or higher. If you miss out on the very best first basemen, you can still find players who can deliver in most, if not, all categories. This is why so many owners choose to wait to fill this spot in their lineup.

In Head-to-Head formats, this is not a bad strategy, but waiting for your first baseman in Rotisserie drafts may be riskier than it appears to be. The descent down the ranks of first basemen is somewhat gradual in Head-to-Head scoring, but there's an abrupt dropoff from the elite to the second tier in Roto. The top tier in the latter format is five deep -- Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Davis, Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Edwin Encarnacion -- and aside from Encarnacion's surgically-repaired wrist, there are few sources of concern from this group. Once Encarnacion is off the board, Roto owners stand to lose a full standings gain point by settling for the next first baseman in the projection rankings, Freddie Freeman. (Buster Posey and Mark Trumbo are actually ahead of Freeman, but owners could opt to draft them as a catcher and outfielder, respectively). Freeman is the bridge to the next tier, and passing up on him likely means losing at least one more standings gain point.

Losing two points in the cumulative Roto standings might not sound like a big price to pay, but aside from third base, no other position exacts that much of a sacrifice from owners who forego the elite options. While first base is deep in the sense that you can get 25-homer, 80-RBI threats like Brandon Moss, Kendrys Morales and Adam LaRoche late, it still pays to make getting one of the five best options a priority within the first two rounds.

Two of those elite hitters, Goldschmidt and Davis, are reviewed in this column's half-dozen profiles, as the outsized jumps in value that both made last season might make it tricky to value them this spring. Not everyone can own one of the top five, though (unless you play in a five-team league), so I've also thrown in four more first basemen from the middle tiers for whom establishing value could be a little challenging.

Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

2014 5x5 projections: .310/.398/.554, 33 HR, 118 RBI, 105 Runs, 14 SB in 610 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 19.3 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 1st among first basemen; 601 Fantasy Points, 1st among first basemen

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Just prior to getting to work on this year's projections, I took guesses as to whom I thought would be the projected leaders at each position, and I felt pretty certain that Joey Votto would be my No. 1 first baseman. While I figured it could be close between him and Goldschmidt and conceded that the latter would hit for more power and drive in more runs, I thought Votto would more than make up for that gap with walks and a higher batting average. As it turns out, Goldschmidt projects to have more value than Votto in Roto and Head-to-Head formats, and it's not close. Despite a projected on-base percentage that is 39 points lower than Votto's, Goldschmidt could have a decisive edge in RBI by having two hitters with better on-base skills in front of him (Gerardo Parra and Aaron Hill) than the Reds will put in front of Votto (Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips). He clearly has 30-plus home run power, but given that his batting averages on line drives and flyballs in play were slightly depressed last year, he has the potential to blow away his total of 36 doubles from a year ago. That increase could help Goldschmidt to rival Votto with a batting average around .310. Goldschmidt is also no slouch with walks, and he is the favorite to lead all first basemen in steals. He's not only the runaway top projection at his position, but Goldschmidt should be drafted no later than fourth overall.

Chris Davis, Orioles

2014 5x5 projections: .269/.333/.546, 43 HR, 103 RBI, 93 Runs, 2 SB in 590 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 16.1 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 2nd among first basemen; 477 Fantasy Points, 5th among first basemen

Just about everyone in the Fantasy universe is looking for Davis to regress from his 53-homer season, and while a dropoff seems likely, he still profiles to be Fantasy's home run leader for a second straight year. Davis benefitted mostly from an increase in at-bats and a decreased ground ball rate, as his home-run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB) made a relatively modest jump from 25 to 28 percent. A likely increase in his rate of grounders and of airborne balls that stay in the park will have a dampening effect on his homer output, but the bigger concern is Davis' ability to approach 42 doubles again. I doubt he will, as he is unlikely to repeat a .207 batting average on flyballs, as the league norm is usually around .130. With more flyball outs, look for Davis' overall batting average to fall, as well as his .343 batting average with runners in scoring position, which was obscenely high to begin with. That will also knock his RBI total down to size, plunging from last season's 138 to this year's projected 103. That still leaves Davis with enough home runs and run production to be the second most-valuable first baseman in Roto, but with a high strikeout rate and a middling doubles total, he's merely a second-tier option in Head-to-Head leagues.

Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks

2014 5x5 projections: .245/.303/.484, 36 HR, 103 RBI, 91 Runs, 4 SB in 605 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 14.3 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 7th among first basemen; 457 Fantasy Points, 10th among first basemen

Trumbo's mediocre batting averages prevent him from getting even close to the upper tier, but with three straight seasons in the neighborhood of 30 homers and 90 RBI, it's no surprise to see him as a top 10 first baseman in Roto formats. While owners may want to use him as an outfielder, it makes some sense to employ him as a first baseman in Roto, given the post-Freeman dropoff mentioned above. Trumbo also squeaked into the top 10 in Head-to-Head, which given his high strikeout rate, was a mild surprise. It helped that Trumbo increased his paltry walk rate, played in 159 games and increased his runs from 66 to 85. Moving from Anaheim to Arizona, Trumbo not only gets a substantially friendlier home park, but also a team that should boast a more potent bottom half of the order than what followed him last season. Particularly in Roto leagues where a regression in walk rate would have a minimal impact, Trumbo remains a very good fallback option once the top five first basemen are gone. In Head-to-Head, he's on the wrong side of a moderate dropoff that begins with Davis, so despite his top 10 projection, owners may just be better off holding out for higher-upside options like comeback candidate Albert Pujols or emerging Matt Adams.

Eric Hosmer, Royals

2014 5x5 projections: .285/.343/.444, 20 HR, 84 RBI, 80 Runs, 10 SB in 615 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 13.0 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 12th among first basemen; 461 Fantasy Points, 7th among first basemen

Just maybe Hosmer started to break out in the latter part of last season, as he hit .318 with 16 home runs over his last 98 games after hitting .274 with one home run in his first 61 games. For this season's projections, I didn't really buy into it, as Hosmer's FB rate, HR/FB ratio and Isolated Power were still not all that impressive for a first baseman. Aside from a brief August power surge, Hosmer continued to put roughly half of his hit balls on the ground. Hitters like Hunter Pence and Kendrys Morales have similar ground ball tendencies, and they represent Hosmer's power upside. However, Hosmer still has to put up HR/FB ratios similar to those of Pence and Morales over an extended period. For that reason, even though Hosmer is at a typical breakout age, I don't see him exceeding 20 home runs, and I don't see him hitting .287 on grounders again either. He is good at avoiding strikeouts, so that will help to bump him into the top 10 in Head-to-Head formats.

Jose Abreu, White Sox

2014 5x5 projections: .274/.341/.477, 29 HR, 81 RBI, 66 Runs, 2 SB in 570 at-bats
2014 overall value (projected): 11.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 16th among first basemen; 419 Fantasy Points, 15th among first basemen

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Projections for international free agents are always tough to pin down, and Abreu's may be more so than others. He hit for tremendous power in Cuba -- even more than Yoenis Cespedes -- and he gets to play in the American League's best home run park, while Cespedes has had to play in the worst. Because Abreu's Cuban power numbers dwarf those of Cespedes and Yasiel Puig (he put up stratospheric ISOs over .400 in three of the last four years), I've given the rookie a higher home run rate than either of them, though not by much. If he is really that much better as a power hitter than Cespedes or Puig, then we could have a new member of the first base elite on our hands. I'm not willing to bank on that for a player who has yet to play in the majors or minors. I have also gone conservative on his run production stats, given that the White Sox's lineup is full of question marks. With this projection, though, it should be more than safe to draft Abreu in the middle rounds of mixed league drafts.

Brandon Belt, Giants

2014 5x5 projections: .282/.356/.484, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 74 Runs, 4 SB in 510 at-bats.
2014 overall value (projected): 10.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 23rd among first basemen; 395 Fantasy Points, 18th among first basemen.

Going into last season, I saw Belt as a potential breakout who could combine the home run power from his minor league career and rookie season with the doubles power and higher batting average that reemerged in his sophomore season. Belt didn't disappoint, as he clouted 10 more homers and tacked on 14 points to this batting average last year, yet a .289/.360/.481 slash line is nothing special for a first baseman. Belt's second-half .326 batting average was impressive, and while he cut back on strikeouts, he also benefitted from a once-in-a-lifetime .392 BABIP. As good as Belt is at hitting line drives, he's due for a little batting average regression, and his power potential might be tapped out as long as he calls AT&T Park home. Thanks to a sizable jump in his HR/FB, Belt hit 11 homers with a .216 ISO in away games, but he was limited to six homers at home. Those splits make me bearish on Belt's prospects for a 20-homer season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:05 pm ET) Nationals third baseman/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman will likely shift over to first base in 2015, MLB.com reports. He's currently resting his right hamstring after suffering a Grade 3 strain in July.

"I'm sure I'll talk to them soon or they will talk [to the media]," Zimmerman said. "I think Anthony [Rendon] is the future third baseman. Obviously, he played great there. He played some second and some third. If he goes into Spring Training knowing that he is playing third base, he has a chance to be a very good third baseman.

"Obviously, I love playing third base. But some of the injuries over the last two or three years made it tougher for me to be an above average third baseman. It's hard to accept that, but I think that's the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts sometimes. But Anthony has a great chance to be very good over there. I could be an above average first baseman if I work at it during Spring Training and the rest of this offseason. But that's not just my decision. Obviously, I'll talk with [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and Matt and see what their plans are. I'm sure we'll find out in the next week or two."

The Nationals have first base open due to the impending free agency of 2014 starter Adam LaRoche.


Diamondbacks add Enrique Burgos to 40-man roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) The Diamondbacks have added pitcher Enrique Burgos to their 40-man roster, the Arizona Republic reports. He's now protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Red Sox OF Rusney Castillo day-to-day with hand/thumb injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:06 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is day-to-day after suffering a bruised hand/thumb during Arizona Fall League play Monday, WEEI.com reports.

Castillo suffered the injury while getting jammed during an at-bat. He signed a $72.5-million deal in August that runs through 2020.


Report: Mike Zagurski joins Hiroshima Carp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) Pitcher Mike Zagurski has agreed to a deal with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, SportsNet reports. He delivered a 2.08 ERA and 83:29 K:BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level in 2014.

Royals schedule Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas for Games 3, 4
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) The Royals will start pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in Game 3 of the World Series Friday, with Jason Vargas scheduled to pitch Game 4 the following day, the team announced Tuesday.

James Shields takes the mound in Game 1 Tuesday, while rookie Yordano Ventura is slated to pitch Game 3. If the series reaches five games, Shields would likely be in line to start Game 5 Sunday.


MRI on Michael Wacha's shoulder comes back clean
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:34 pm ET) An MRI on the injured shoulder of Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha came back clean, MLB.com reports.

Wacha has been dealing with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, but he is expected to follow his normal offseason program. "Even the doctors were a little surprised on how that looked," general manager John Mozeliak said.


Giants 2B Joe Panik batting second in World Series Game 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik remains in the second spot in the team's announced starting lineup for Game 1 of the World Series against the Royals Tuesday.

Panik has hit second in all nine of the Giants' postseason games so far, but he's hit just .239/.271/.348 in 46 at-bats, with three of his 11 hits coming during the Wild Card game to open the postseason. He bat just after leadoff man and center fielder Gregor Blanco. Catcher Buster Posey bats third, followed by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brandon Belt, designated hitter Michael Morse, left fielder Travis Ishikawa and shortstop Brandon Crawford.


Royals tab SS Alcides Escobar to lead off in World Series Game 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is leading off in the team's announced lineup for Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday against the Giants.

Escobar led off just 16 times while playing all 162 games during the regular season, but he's been the man atop the lineup in each of the Royals' first eight postseason games -- all wins. He'll be followed by right fielder Norichika Aoki, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, first baseman Eric Hosmer, designated hitter Billy Butler, left fielder Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez, second baseman Omar Infante and third baseman Mike Moustakas.


Phillies sign Jerome Williams to one-year deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2.5-million deal with pitcher Jerome Williams, the team announced Tuesday. The contract includes performance bonuses.

Williams went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 38:17 K:BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings over nine starts after joining the team off waivers in August. He has pitched for seven teams while compiling a 4.40 ERA in 891 1/3 career innings.


 
 
 
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