We know that the first base situation in the National League is a bit thin this year in drafts. In the NL LABR auction this past weekend, Joey Votto went for $40 while second-year first basemen Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman both went for $22. In a normal year, neither youngster would have gone over $20 but positional scarcity is an issue in the senior circuit with Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Carlos Pena all defecting to the American League.
First base is a unique position for fantasy baseball because of a few factors. One – it is typically an expensive position because there are some big boppers at the position that will cost you money. Votto, Pujols,Fielder,Miguel Cabrera,Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, and Eric Hosmer all went for $25 or more this past weekend in Arizona. The position does not lend itself to helping fantasy owners in batting average or stolen bases so owners are paying big dollars for three to four category production outside of Votto and Pujols who have helped in stolen bases.
If the thought of spending $20+ on second-year players that are far from certain things scares you, planning ahead with your dynasty roster could be your wise play. In one of my local leagues, Freeman is being kept this season at the $1 rate he was rostered at in 2010 rather than the $22 someone paid for him in NL LABR while Goldschmidt is being retained at just $5. The problem with this is that not only is the first-base pool in the majors thin, it is also rather thin in the minors as well.
On the top-100 list that was published last week, just four first basemen made the list: Anthony Rizzo, Jonathan Singleton, Yonder Alonso and Matt Adams with Rizzo being the highest on the list at 47. The good news is that first base prospects come from all sources since the position is down the defensive spectrum. Someone playing some other position now could be tomorrow’s first baseman. Without too many assumptions, here are some of the guys to look at if you are looking for a potential future first baseman in the dynasty phase of your drafts this month.
Anthony Rizzo: Getting him out of Petco and into Wrigley helps his fantasy potential but he isn’t a lock to start the season with the Cubs either. His numbers last year after his callup were not pretty and pitchers quickly found the holes in his swing. That said, if you are looking at Bryan LaHair as your first baseman in the draft, you need to get Rizzo to handcuff him. LaHair could go either way but if he falters and the Cubs season is over by mid-June, there is no reason the Cubs can’t call Rizzo up and let him have the playing time the rest of the way.
Yonder Alonso: Rizzo’s gain is Alonso’s loss as he goes to the graveyard for left-handed hitters. The good news is that he finally has playing time (and is certainly going to be taken in the regular phase of your draft) but the power numbers are going to suffer at Petco.
Jonathan Singleton: The Astros have nothing in his way after Carlos Lee vacates the position in 2012 unless you are worried (and you shouldn’t be) about Brett Wallace. The bad news is that Singleton will be taking his first swings in Double-A this season and unless he pulls a Jose Altuve and blows everyone way, it is hard to see Singleton having a sniff at the starting role in Houston until 2014.
Matt Adams: To quote Bernie from last week: “Remember Matt Stairs? Here he is again. Huge, non-athletic body with very big home-run potential bat. Short, measured swing suits him well. Doesn't always make contact, but knows strike zone and doesn't fish. Not agile at first base. His time will come. Has to keep weight down to stick. I will draft the bat and worry where it will play later.”
Chris Carter: Every one of us has probably owned him at one point or another and are frustrated with him. The power is very real, but so are his flaws. Power like his will continue to get chances (see Wily Mo Pena) so AL drafters would be wise to give him another chance in the late rounds.
Vinnie Catricala: He has played both corner spots in the minors and all he does is hit. The first base logjam in Seattle with Justin Smoak and potentially Jesus Montero makes things a bit crowded but Catricala has hit everywhere he has played so far and Seattle is starving for offense.
Alex Liddi is in that picture somewhat, but he is more of a photo-bomber to the pretty offensive picture that Catricala has painted so far.
Chris Marrero/Tyler Moore: Someone has to replace Adam LaRoche and Marrero would be the first guy in line to do so. While he has disappointed as a former 15th overall pick, he still had a OPS of .825 as a 22-year-old in Triple-A last season. Moore has put up impressive power numbers in back to back seasons in High-A and Double-A but also has just 70 walks to 264 strikeouts over the past two seasons.
Matt Hague: He was added to the 40-man roster this winter after a stellar statistical season in Triple-A where he hit .309/.372/.457 in the spacious park in Indianapolis. He had 52 extra-base hits, but just 12 of them left the yard. Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are on the team and a saving grace for Hague may be that he has experience playing both corners. In a deep NL league, his bat is intriguing at a thin position.
David Cooper: He took advantage of the cozy situation in Las Vegas and raked at a .364/.439/.535 clip with 51 doubles in 545 plate appearances and walked 67 times while striking out just 43 times in Triple-A. He hit just .211/.284/.394 when he was called up walking seven times while striking out 14 times in 81 plate appearances. Adam Lind and likely Edwin Encarnacion are the plan for first base in 2012 but if something happens to either, Cooper is the insurance policy. His career slash line in Double-A is .257/.334/.416 and you would be wise to set your expectations closer to that than the Playstation-like numbers he put up in the PCL last season.