This is my second in a series of articles I'll be doing on ranking position players and pitchers.
It's important to note that I have several criteria for my rankings.
I won't go into those each week, but they are listed on the catcher edition that was posted last week.
This first base crop of players is a little bit weaker than I have seen in the past. There are more question marks for me than “sure things.” For example, I remember when ranking Mark Teixeira as a prominent fantasy stud was an annual event. It took longer for us to learn to spell his name consistently then it did to figure he would blast homers, hit for average, drive in runs and steal bases. While I think he will have a better year than last, his slip is showing.
My first base rankings reflect a general trend in the game; power is diminishing. Grab power when you can. The game will see more stolen bases, more situational play and even more emphasis on pitching matchups.
1. Prince Fielder - home runs, average, runs, RBI
2. Albert Pujols - average, home runs, RBI, runs, some SB
3. Edwin Encarnacion - home runs, RBI, runs, SB, average
4. Joey Votto - average, RBI, runs, home runs, some SB
5. Buster Posey - home runs, RBI, average, runs
6. Adrian Gonzalez - average, runs, RBI, home runs
7. Paul Goldschmidt - SB, home runs, RBI, runs, average
8. Allen Craig - average, RBI, runs, home runs
9. Billy Butler - home runs, RBI, average
10. Mark Teixeira - RBI, home runs, runs,
11. Joe Mauer - average, RBI, runs, some stolen bases
12. David Ortiz - average, home runs, RBI, runs,
13. Corey Hart - home runs, RBI, runs, some stolen bases
14. Freddie Freeman - runs, RBI, home runs
15. Lance Berkman - home runs, RBI, runs, average
16. Adam LaRoche - home runs, RBI, runs
17. Paul Konerko - home runs, RBI, runs, average
18. Ryan Howard - home runs, RBI, runs, average
19. Eric Hosmer - RBI, home runs
20. Anthony Rizzo - home runs, RBI
21. Adam Dunn - home runs, RBI
22. Ike Davis - home runs, RBI
23. Chris Davis - home runs, RBI
24. Garrett Jones - home runs, RBI
25. Carlos Santana - home runs, RBI
26. Nick Swisher - home runs, RBI, runs
27. Mark Trumbo - home runs, RBI, runs
28. Kendrys Morales - RBI, runs
29. Justin Morneau - RBI
30. Mike Napoli - RBI, runs, home runs
31. Yonder Alonso - average, RBI, runs
32. Michael Young - average, runs
33. Brandon Belt - RBI
34. Mitch Moreland
Here are some of my thoughts on first basemen:
I do believe that a year under his substantial belt will only help Prince Fielder get even more from his offensive game. He now has an additional two bats in the lineup to help him - V-Mart and Torii Hunter. It was difficult for me to do, but I have now placed Prince at the top of the heap when ranking first basemen. He could have a monster, monster year. I want to be the one who reaps the benefit.
I don't know how much first base Lance Berkman will play in Texas, if any. If he does, and if he's healthy, picture his swing in that home ballpark. It's a swing of beauty when Puma is healthy. He'll also DH and he might even get you some eligibility in the outfield. I love the versatility potential and the bat when his game is together.
I do look for Adrian Gonzalez to return to the form that made him A-Gon. While the park isn't ideal for his swing, quality hitters that could help with a boost in RBI opportunities will surround him. He has to cash in those chances for the Dodgers to win. I think he will. He's still a very dangerous hitter.
I think Edwin Encarnacion is for real. I was skeptical. The more he stays out of playing defense, however, the better. I hope he is able to concentrate only on hitting. Having the likes of Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes hanging around won't hurt.
Those that have followed my in the past know that I was the original member of the Paul Goldschmidt fan club. Now he has added a new tune to his songbook - stealing bases. What a bonus that was. And where did it come from? I am still very bullish on Goldschmidt and I like that he can give me value in every category. First base in Arizona belongs to him; no platooning. I may have him ranked a bit high for your tastes, but we're talking another year of maturity and Chase Field. It could be a lethal combination.
I think Paul Konerko and Ryan Howard regress. I have thought that about Konerko for two years. This could be the year. I really don't like the lack of protection in either lineup, but I also balance that with their home parks. Both should still hit bombs.
While he's still a force this year, might this be the last year I have Albert Pujols aboard the quarter inch club of my Leader Board? Maybe. I see Prince as THE MAN. Having said that, Albert will still deliver. It might be like the U.S. Post Office - maybe not as often.
My real sleeper? The guy I want everywhere this year if I can get him? Allen Craig. I've watched him mature. I've said in the past he has a middle of the order bat. He does. He hits on a team that will still score runs. If he stays healthy, I think he will help your team tremendously.
The little bell in my head is going off about Joey Votto. No, I can't explain it. Maybe I thought he was the new Wonder Bread, but I'm just not sure. When I'm not sure about a player I tend to back off. I've backed off a bit. Probably by one notch on the ladder, but I've backed off.
Guys on my watch list - I hope they both exceed my expectations. I really like them both.
1. Robinson Cano - home runs, RBI, runs, average
2. Aaron Hill - home runs, runs, RBI, stolen bases, average
3. Jason Kipnis - stolen bases, runs, RBI
4. Ian Kinsler - home runs, runs, stolen bases, RBI
5. Brandon Phillips - home runs, average, stolen bases, runs
6. Dustin Pedroia - average, runs, stolen bases, home runs
7. Jose Altuve - stolen bases, runs, average
8. Howie Kendrick - average, stolen bases, runs, RBI
9. Ben Zobrist - home runs, RBI, runs, stolen bases
10. Neil Walker - average, home runs, runs, RBI, stolen bases
11. Marco Sctuaro - average, some stolen bases
12. Rickie Weeks - home runs, RBI. stolen bases, runs
13. Omar Infante - stolen bases
14. Daniel Murphy - average, stolen bases
15. Dan Uggla - home runs, runs, RBI
16. Danny Espinosa - home runs, stolen bases, runs
17. Emilio Bonifacio - stolen bases
18. Chase Utley - home runs, RBI, runs
19. Mark Ellis
20. Josh Rutledge
21. Dustin Ackley
22. Darwin Barney
23. Jurickson Profar
24. Chris Getz
25. Johnny Giavotella
My second base rankings are a bit strange this year.
I haven't totally given up on Howie Kendrick like some other people have done.
I still like him in that lineup, and I probably have him ranked higher than most people. I just think the Angels are going to score runs in bunches and he'll be in the middle of it.
I do think Aaron Hill can repeat his 2011 season. This is the guy that hit for two cycles. Two. Maybe the numbers won't be quite as great as last year, but he can hit. Especially playing half his games in Chase Field. The D-Backs like him enough to extend him. I like him enough to grab him anywhere I can. Especially when other guys are still looking at the Pedroia and Kinsler's of the world.
I have really elevated Hill, Jason Kipnis and Jose Altuve. I just think that trio could be the next wave of long-term hold second base stars. Each has some quality or tool that plays - especially in fantasy.
I've had enough of Dan Uggla ruining my batting average. Yes, he can hit with power. But he just can't hit breaking balls with any consistency to raise his average. Maybe this is his year. And maybe it'll be like all the rest. I'll allow someone else to reap the benefits of Uggla as well as the prolonged slumps. I'm too old to fret.
Chase Utley? I don't know if the guy will play through an entire year or limp through part of it. He has a great park-and he still has skills. He's a risk for me and that's why I've dropped him. I don't want to get burned.
Rickie Weeks will be Rickie Weeks. For three weeks he'll set the house on fire with his bat. Then the following three weeks he'll stand around and watch it burn. I want more consistency, but when he hits, he hits. I won't mind if he falls to me, but I'm not reaching.
I don't trust Danny Espinosa to do it yet again. I have no good reason for my lack of faith.
And I'll leave Dustin Ackley for the next guy. He has become what I had projected after scouting him as a rookie. I see other options (Robert Andino and Nick Franklin) breathing down his neck in Seattle.
Ben Zobrist is Ben Zobrist. He can do so many things well. And his position versatility and eligibility never hurts. He can be streaky.
AND ON MY MIND THIS WEEK:
I heard Joe Torre speak about how motivated he, his coaches and the players are to win the World Baseball Classic. I just can't imagine the feeling it must be to have USA written across your chest in world competition. Believe me, these guys will be trying.
Terry Francona will find a way to get Jason Giambi on his 25-man roster. And probably Dice-K as well.
Look for Dayan Viciedo to have a big year. Those that have followed me in the past know how much I liked him when I first saw him a few years ago. We will now see even more of that line-drive pop from his more mature approach.
I will be covering spring training from Phoenix beginning with the first game Friday February 22nd. I will be in Florida to cover spring training from March 8-17th, then back to Phoenix. I'll be On The Scene to share my thoughts of every game I watch on Twitter. Please follow me @BerniePleskoff and bring your friends along as new followers.
I'll be sharing my scouting profiles on MLB.com twice weekly. You can find me under the Voices section. Your comments are always welcome.