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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
Astros pitcher Asher Wojciechowski gives up four runs in outing
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:23 pm ET) Astros pitcher Asher Wojciechowski surrendered four runs (two earned) on five hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched Tuesday against the Braves.

Wojciechowski, who is still competing for a spot on the pitching staff, added three strikeouts and one walk while pushing his ERA to 1.71.

"It was frustrating, but I know it's all part of baseball," he said to the Houston Chronicle. "You're going to have your good days and you're going to have your bad days. You got to find a way to get through it and to adjust. I was starting to find my off-speed stuff late in that fourth inning. It was just one of those games for me."


Chad Bettis still in mix for Rockies' rotation
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(9:16 pm ET) The Rockies sent Chad Bettis to the minor leagues on March 22, but he's still in the running for a spot in the rotation. 

Bettis was sent down to get consistent innings and to work on changes to his motion. Over the last nine days, he's returned to the Major League team twice to pitch in games. 

"We have open competition and he's still in the mix," manager Walt Weiss said. 


Jose Alvarez ready to be Angels' long reliever
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(9:12 pm ET) Angels pitcher Jose Alvarez transitioned from starting to the bullpen, this spring, and it looks like he's landed a job as the team's long man out of the bullpen. 

"It's a little different, but have to do it," Alvarez said per MLB.com. "We're looking for a spot no matter what position, starter or reliever."

Alvarez has a 2.16 ERA this spring. 

"We're definitely impressed with his stuff," manager Mike Scioscia said. "His velocity is better, his slider is tighter. He looks much better than he did last year. ... He has enough stuff to start. But his stuff definitely plays in a bullpen, both as a lefty specialist, but also a guy who can give you some length because he has really good stuff against right-handers also."


Padres' Carlos Quentin making progress at first base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:12 pm ET) Padres new first baseman Carlos Quentin is continuing to make progress as he adjusts to his new position this spring, reports U-T San Diego.

"It takes time for anybody to comfortable at the major league level, the highest level of baseball, to switch positions. That's tough. But he continues to work on it," said manager Bud Black. "It doesn't happen overnight. But he's putting the time in. He's doing a nice job with all the little intricacies of first base."


Padres catcher Wil Nieves receives retention bonus
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:09 pm ET) Padres backup catcher Wil Nieves received a $100,000 retention bonus Tuesday for still being on the team in spring training, reports U-T San Diego.

Nieves, who signed a minor-league contract with San Diego this offseason, may still not make the roster, as the team has until Sunday to make its final roster moves before Opening Day.

Nieves is hitting .214 this spring with one RBI in 28 plate appearances.


Braves' Chris Johnson, Kelly Johnson OK after struck by pitches
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:58 pm ET) Braves infielders Chris Johnson and Kelly Johnson both said they were OK after being hit by pitches Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Chris Johnson was struck on the hand and had it wrapped as he left the ballpark Wednesday. Kelly Johnson was sore after being hit on the back of his right arm.


Yankees' Andrew Bailey must pitch back-to-back days to make roster
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:55 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Andrew Bailey is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. Bailey has pitched four innings this spring without giving up an earned run and just three hits.

But for Bailey to make the Opening Day roster, manager Joe Girardi wants to see Bailey pitch on back-to-back days, reports The Journal News.

"I don't see how you could do that," Girardi said. "And the one thing is, we're not going to rush him. I think it comes down to who we think is going to help us the most is the bottom line. I don't think you necessarily in your mind say (for example) I have to have a third lefty. Is it a luxury, sure it is, but I think it's who we think is going to help us the most."


Braves pitcher Wandy Rodriguez picks up minor issue in shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:36 pm ET) Braves pitcher Wandy Rodriguez gave up three runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts in his start Tuesday against the Astros. 

Rodriguez, who now has a 3.13 ERA this spring, said after the game his shoulder was giving him a bit of a problem after trying to field a ground ball, reports 680 The Fan in Atlanta.

Rodriguez said he was able to get his arm loose shortly thereafter and didn't think it was much of an issue.


Angels pitcher Huston Street surrenders four runs in outing Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) Angels pitcher Huston Street gave up four runs on three hits, including two home runs, in just one inning of work Tuesday against the Athletics.

Street, who is hoping to finish a contract extension before the start of the season next week, pushed his ERA to 8.10 in seven appearances this spring.


Athletics' Coco Crisp feels soreness in elbow Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp felt some soreness in his injured elbow while taking swings Tuesday, Comcast SportsNet California reports.

Crisp was playing in an intrasquad game Tuesday after missing time with the elbow injury, and he appears likely to be shut down again to give the elbow time to heal. Crisp is a candidate to open the season on the disabled list.


 
 
 
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