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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
Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


Royals' Alex Gordon plans to take it slow in recovery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is still recovering from his wrist surgery this offseason and plans to take it slow in his rehab.

"We really don’t have a timetable," Gordon said. "We’re just going to see how it feels. Obviously, it’s spring training. So we don’t want to rush anything. If it feels good, we’ll be aggressive with it. But if it’s not feeling good, we’ll take it slow."

Manager Ned Yost wants to continue to take things slow with Gordon.
"We’ll just take it slow," Yost said. "We’ll see how he feels. We’ll play him one day. Then we’ll give him a day off. Play him another day, five or six innings, then give him a day off. We’ll just see how he’s doing."
Gordon hit .266 in 2014 with 19 home runs and 74 RBI.

Angels, Garrett Richards settle on $3.2 million for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have agreed to a contract for 2015 for $3.2 million, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Richards was asking for $3.8 million while the Angels offered $2.4 million. Richards posted a 13-4 record in 2014 with a 2.61 ERA and 164 strikeouts for Los Angeles.


Orioles' Manny Machado expects to be ready for spring training
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is progressing through his rehab and says he's "ready to roll" for the upcoming season.

"I have a lot of time to get ready. That is the key: having a regular offseason," Machado said Saturday. "Was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went to Miami to do my regular weightlifting and get ready for the season. Been exciting. Looking forward to spring training."

Machado has taken part in baseball activities for the past few weeks since having surgery on Aug. 27 after tearing a ligament in his knee.

"It will be awesome," he said of the prospect of having a normal spring. "I'm dying to get back on the field. Spring training is key for a lot of players to get your at-bats and your reps. I think some take it for granted but it's a very big key for success for the year."

Machado hit .278 in 2014 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI for Baltimore.


Bud Norris remains without update for contract extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Bud Norris said Saturday nothing has changed between he and the organization for a new contract.

"I haven't heard anything of that," Norris said. "I don't see a reason why I'd want to leave, but that's out of my control."

Norris and the Orioles are preparing for arbitration, when Norris filed for $10.25 million and Baltimore offered $7.5 million. He went 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 139:52 K:BB ratio in 165 1/3 innings over 28 starts in 2014.


 
 
 
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