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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
Jacoby Ellsbury taking BP for Yankees
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:47 pm ET) Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury continues to make progress in returning from the oblique injury that has plagued him since March 15. 

Ellsbury took indoor batting practice on Friday, and manager Joe Girardi reported that everything went well, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.

Ellsbury will take batting practice on the field on Saturday. 


Jon Edwards looks to lock up Rangers' long-relief spot
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Jon Edwards has a chance to land the long-reliever spot in the bullpen, especially with Ross Ohlendorf's groin strain having the chance to keep him from being ready to start the season.

Edwards has a 2.08 ERA in eight appearances, all in relief, this spring.

Edwards will get a start on Saturday, as he tries to show he can pitch multiple innings.

"You’d like to have a long guy that you can hand the ball off to and then not have to go and rescue him," manager Jeff Banister said, per the Dallas Morning News. "There are options; guys who are still in contention for the starting rotation who could be options."


Orioles pitcher Bud Norris not worried about spring struggles
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:37 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris had another tough outing Friday, giving up three runs in four innings of work. But Norris, who has allowed 12 earned runs over 11 2/3 innings, isn't concerned just yet, reports MLB.com.

"Every outing I've given up a home run," said Norris, who has allowed five homers in four official spring starts. "But you are trying to work on things, trying to get comfortable out there. We had a great year last year and [now we're] just trying to get the ball rolling again. Different beast, obviously in the regular season and postseason."

Manager Buck Showalter noted his command has been off.

"Command has not been very good, as good as he's capable of," Showalter said. "He's an athletic guy, can throw it where he wants to most of the time. He hasn't been very consistent with that yet. He's crisp with most things, just not [with the] consistency of command."


Yankees pitcher Scott Baker to throw Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Scott Baker is expected to throw Wednesday after having his scheduled start rained out Thursday, reports the Journal News.

"We wanted (Baker) to go long," manager Joe Girardi said. "I called him in before that (last) inning and I said, 'We're going to wait, because we don’t want you to go just an inning or a half an inning and all of a sudden it starts pouring and they call the game.' So he'll start tomorrow."


Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda tosses five strikeouts in outing Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:13 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda threw five scoreless innings Friday against the Phillies with five strikeouts and five hits allowed. 

Pineda, who has a 1.32 ERA so far this spring, did not allow more than a single to any hitter in his appearance.


Drew Storen returns to mound for Nationals
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:09 pm ET) Drew Storen pitched one inning in the Nationals' game on Friday, returning to the mound for the first time since having hand surgery on March 13.

Storen had surgery on his left, non-throwing, hand to remove a hook on the hamate bone. He has been throwing bullpens and making minor league appearances to prepare for the game back, per Jamal Collier of MLB.com.

Storen pitched one inning, allowing one hit and one walk.


Denard Span takes swings for Nationals
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:06 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Denard Span was able to swing a back for the first time since abdominal surgery on March 9. 

Span had a procedure to fix a small tear in his right abdomen. 

Span was able to swing a fungo bat in the batting cage, per MLB.com's Jamal Collier.

"It's good progress," manager Matt Williams said. "It's part of the rehab progression. Of course, yeah, we want him back as quickly as possible, keeping in mind that he's just coming off of surgery. So any time you have to go in there, you have to take time to get well again. But yeah, it's encouraging."


Nationals' Anthony Rendon tests knee with lateral movement
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:04 pm ET) Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon tested his knee by running in the outfield on Friday. Rendon has been out with a sprained left knee since March 9. He can run straight ahead, but in his Friday workout, he tested the knee with lateral movement, per MLB.com's Jamal Collier. 

Rendon still hopes to be ready for Opening Day. 


Mookie Betts hits second spring homer for Red Sox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:46 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts hit his second home run of the spring, and this one left the ballpark. 

Betts' first homer of the spring was an inside-the-parker in his first game back. On Friday, he hit one the old fashioned way, lining a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left center for a two-run homer.

Betts was two for three on the day and improved his spring average to .487.


Report: Delino DeShields closing in on breaking camp with Rangers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Delino DeShields, a Rule 5 draft choice, is nearing a spot on the Opening Day roster, according to the Dallas Morning News. Manager Jeff Banister wouldn't confirm DeShields would break camp with the club, but did reveal that he envisions him as a late-inning speed weapon.

"He has a skill set that can help you win games," Banister said. "If he makes this club and stays with this club, he adds value in winning situations.

"Given the construction of the core guys on our roster, he's unique" Banister said. "I'd hate for us to have a double late in the game and not be able to score from first on the play. I think he has the potential to be a contributor, but there is a ways to go to finalize the roster."

DeShields would be sent back to the Astros if he is not on the Rangers' opening day roster.


 
 
 
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