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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
Tigers RF J.D. Martinez leaves Saturday game with injury
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:56 pm ET) Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez left Saturday's game against the Orioles in the third inning with an apparent knee injury.

Martinez fouled a ball off of his knee during an at-bat in the second inning, and was subsequentley lifted for defensive replacement in the third.

Martinez underwent X-rays which came back negative. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and is considered day-to-day.


Dodgers C Yasmani Grandal homers in three-hit outing
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:21 pm ET) Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has caught fire during his team's series against the Angels.

Grandal followed up his three-hit outing on Friday with a 3 for 4 performance on Saturday that included a home run and two RBI.

During his last three games, Grandal is hitting .583 with seven hits, a home run and four RBI.


Angels' Cory Rasmus will start Sunday vs. Dodgers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:17 pm ET) Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus will be tabbed to make the start against the Dodgers on Sunday. Rasmus, who was recalled earlier this week, will make his first start of the season for the Angels.

He did pitch an inning of relief on Friday, his first appearance of 2015. Rasmus has made 10 appearances--including three starts--with Triple-A Salt Lake this year. He is 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with the Bees.


Angels SP Andrew Heaney gives up two runs in loss to Dodgers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:13 pm ET) Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney was overmatched during Friday's game against the Dodgers.

Though Heaney pitched well, he was facing off against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who continued his 37-inninng scoreless streak. Heaney tossed 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out three batters and walked a pair.

With the loss, Heaney drops to 5-1 on the season. He owns a remarcable 1.97 ERA in 45 2/3 innings this season.


Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen avoids trouble, picks up 19th save
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:05 pm ET) Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen didn't have his best stuff on Saturday, but he managed to escape his team's matchup with the Angels with his 19th save of the season.

Jansen gave up a run on two hits and walked a batter during an uneasy ninth inning. He managed to strike out two batters in the process.

Jansen now has a 3.04 ERA in 26 2/3 innings this season.


Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw tosses eight scoreless in win
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7:03 pm ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was simply dominant during his win against the Angels on Saturday.

Kershaw (9-6) tossed eight scoreless innings, while allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters. He seemed poised for a complete-game shutout, but he was pulled from the game before throwing a pitch in the ninth so he could receive a much-deserved standing ovation from the home crowd.

Kershaw has tossed 37 consecutive scoreless innings, striking out 45 batters and giving up just one walk during that stretch. 


Mets option OF Michael Conforto to Triple-A
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:33 pm ET) Mets rookie outfielder Michael Conforto was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday. Conforto's demotion clears space for the newly-acquired Yoenis Cespedes, who was officially added to the roster.

Conforto went 4 for 19 in the first six games of his career. He looked fairly comfortable facing big-league pitching for the first time, so there is a good chance he will be back up with the Mets at some point this season.

The youngster has never played at the Triple-A level, as he was promoted straight from Double-A to the majors on July 24. 


Mets OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis nursing pinched nerve in back
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:30 pm ET) Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been suffering from a pinched nerve in his upper back, which caused him to be unavailable for Thursday and Friday's games, according to ESPN.com.

However, Nieuwenhuis appears able to play through the injury, as the Mets optioned rookie outfielder Michael Conforto to Triple-A in the wake of the Mets' acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

Nieuwenhuis was listed as a reserve on the lineup card for Saturday's game against the Nationals.


Rays SP Drew Smily has rough rehab outing Friday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(6:14 pm ET) Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly was roughed up during a Class A rehab start on Friday, per MLB.com.

Smyly allowed five runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He struck out four batters and allowed a home run.

"It wasn't good," said Rays manager Kevin Cash about Smyly's line. "I heard everything from a health factor was fine. I don't know about the game report. I know he gave up some hits. The velocity was good. He got his pitches in. So that was the priority. We're really not going to start evaluating the numbers right now. We need to keep him going. He got his pitches, he threw close to 70 pitches."

Smyly will continue to throw every five days. He will have a rest day on Saturday before throwing another bullpen session and another rehab start. The Rays, though, are not sure about how soon Smyly will return to the team.

"I think that all kind of goes in part with where we're at in the season with the off-days, we have to factor that in," Cash said. "I know he's itching to get back, but we have to make sure he's ready before we commit to having a set time."


Tale of two Nicks: Rumbelow up, Goody down for Yankees
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:58 pm ET) The Yankees have recalled Nick Rumbelow from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and optioned fellow reliever Nick Goody to the same team.

Rumbelow hurled 3 1/3 innings for the Yankees in late June and early July and allowed one run. Goody got into two games after his Thursday call-up and gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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