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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
Rangers DH Mitch Moreland (elbow) hopes to return to lineup on Saturday
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(2:03 am ET) Rangers designated hitter Mitch Moreland sat out of Friday's game against the Mariners with a sore elbow but said afterwards that he's feeling better and hopes to play Saturday, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Moreland has played in nine of the Rangers' 11 games this season, hitting .259 with a homer, two doubles and five RBI.


Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw strikes out 12 Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:01 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw struck out a season-high 12 batters and only walked one during Friday's win over the Rockies.

Kershaw surrendered three runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings of work to earn the win. Kershaw's lone blemish were home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon. He was able to lower his ERA from 5.84 to 4.42. Kershaw (1-1) has yet to throw more than seven innings in any of his three starts this season.

His next expected start will be Wednesday at San Francisco.


Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz throws perfect ninth for second save
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(1:55 am ET) Rangers reliever Neftali Feliz (S, 2) collected his second save of the season on Friday by throwing a perfect ninth inning against the Mariners.

Dodgers 2B Howie Kendrick drives in three during Friday's win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:50 am ET) Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick connected on his first home run of the season to help lead the Dodgers to a victory over the Rockies on Friday.

Kendrick hit a two-run home run off Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick in the first inning of the game. Kendrick finished the game 2 for 4 with three RBI. He is now batting .342 on the season.


Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki hits first home run of season Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:48 am ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki connected on his first home run of the season during Friday's loss to the Dodgers.

Tulowitzki hit the home run in the fourth inning off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. Tulowitzki finished the game with two hits over four at-bats. His batting average now stands at .359. 


Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick gives up six runs Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:46 am ET) Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick failed to get past the fifth inning during Friday's loss to the Dodgers.

Kendrick's troubles began in the first inning when Howie Kendrick hit a two-run home run. Kendrick did not surrender a run over the next two innings. However, he gave up one run in the fourth and was pulled in the fifth after giving up two more runs. He ended up with six strike outs and four walks. 

Kendrick (1-2) received the loss for his 4 2/3 innings of work and now has a 7.56 ERA. His next scheduled start is expected to be Wednesday against the Padres.


Diamondbacks SP Josh Collmenter shuts out Giants on Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:38 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter threw a complete game shutout to defeat the Giants on Friday.

Over the nine innings of work, Collmenter gave up four hits while striking out two and walking one. He is the first pitcher to toss a complete game this season.

Collmenter had failed to get past the fifth inning in each of his previous starts this season and was 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA heading into the game. He was able to lower his ERA to 3.86. He had one complete game shutout during the entire 2014 season.

His next scheduled start is expected to be Friday against the Pirates.


Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock collects four hits Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock had his first four-hit game of the season to lead the Diamondbacks to a 9-0 win over the Giants on Friday.

Pollock went 4 for 5 with one walk and a strikeout. His lone RBI came in the top of the ninth inning when he drove in pitcher Josh Collmenter on a double. Pollock was able to raise his batting average from .265 to .333.


Red Sox's Pablo Sandoval not sorry about slide that lead to beaning
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(1:33 am ET) Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected Friday for hitting Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval with a pitch as suspected payback for a hard slide by Sandoval earlier in the game, according to BostonHerald.com.

"It’s the game ... I do clean slides," Sandoval said. "I slide through the base. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

First baseman Mike Napoli added that Sandoval’s slide was in line with the way the Red Sox like to play.

Giants P Jake Peavy fails to get past fourth inning Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:30 am ET) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was able to get through the first two innings of Friday's loss to the Diamondbacks without any trouble, but he began to unravel in the third.

Peavy surrendered four hits and three runs during the third inning. He returned for the fourth, but was only able to record two outs before he was taken out of the game.

"I didn't make good pitches. I was plenty good enough to be out there. I've gotta help the team more than I did," he said, per CSN Bay Area. 

Over the 3 2/3 innings of work, Peavy gave up four runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out two.

Peavy has yet to get past the fourth inning in each of his two starts this season. He is now 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA.

His next scheduled start is expected to be Thursday against the Dodgers


 
 
 
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