By Eric Pehowic
The Daily Item
— Unless you’re playing in a dynasty league and your digging for prospects, it’s best to not skimp when it comes time to roster a first baseman.
Not everyone is going to have an opportunity to nab Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt, but everyone will have a chance at a top 10 1B.
I’d recommend getting one of the top eight then adding another 1B from this list as your corner infielder or flex.
Let’s get to the list:
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: These first two guys are slam dunks. I talked about Cabrera and Goldschmidt in the Top 10 Hitters for 2014. …
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks: … If you need some extra words: Cabrera is a 3B until he breaches 1B eligibility, so in most leagues you won’t be able to start him at 1B for a few weeks, making Goldschmidt the preseason No. 1.
3. Prince Fielder, Tigers: Fielder was among the players I considered to top off the overall top 10. Over the course of his career, Fielder has posted seasons with 109 runs, 50 homers, 141 RBIs and a .313 average. Those are probably all career highs, but he’s only 29 and the Tigers are stacked.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are pretty loaded on offense and Encarnacion’s 3-year averages are just too enticing. Even factoring in a 17-homer season, his 3-year numbers say he’s in for 30 dingers. He should also flirt with 95 runs and 110 RBIs and could approach 10 steals. Encarnacion is the last 1B that I really don’t have concerns about.
6. Chris Davis, Orioles: One fantasy rule of thumb is to never pay for a career year, and Davis 2013 performance certainly applies. However, we’re back to the dark ages when 50-homer seasons don’t grow on trees. Don’t expect another 50, but he’s a virtual lock for 40. The .286 average might be sustainable, and that Orioles lineup could help him come close to repeating his run production numbers too.
7. Albert Pujols, Angels: Too many owners are going to draft the Albert Pujols they remember. His indicators have declined along with his stats across the board. We shouldn’t rule out a rebound or count on it, but Pujols still has 30-homer skills and should post moderate run and RBI numbers.
8. Freddie Freeman, Braves: I have Freeman in one of my longtime keeper leagues. We’ll probably still be waiting for his 30-homer season after this year, but he could get to 25. And his batting average on balls in play was absurdly high last year, so don’t’ expect another .319 season. But his 25 homers will go well with .285 and piles of runs and RBIs.
9. Eric Hosmer, Royals: When I look at this trio (starting at Freeman) to end the top 10 I think upside and if I’m ranking them just on upside I’d put Hosmer first. He’s a 20-homer, 15-steal guy with the potential for 25 homers. If he hit more fly balls we might expect a 40-homer season.
10. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: Rizzo’s ineffectiveness against southpaws will hold him back. He hit .189 against LHPs last season and got 16 of his 23 homers against righties. He’s still 24, so there’s time to click, and if he clicks Rizzo could pop 40 homers.
11. Joey Votto, Reds: Votto has been one of my longtime favorites, and after his 37-homer, 16-steal season in 2010, it’s difficult to not be a fan. But that was three years ago. His three-year averages show an average of 145 games a season – that’s with a 162-game 2013 on the books, and he’s never come close to those lofty SB numbers again. The Reds aren’t going to help him much either. He hit .305 last year with 24 homers and only drove in 73 runs in 162 games. Yuck.
12. Mark Trumbo, Angels: I have to admit I started this list with somebody else’s list. I’ve been moving people around based on how I would draft players. I reveal this now because Trumbo didn’t get as much love on the list I cribbed from. But he’s got a good power profile, should flirt with matching his 85-run, 100-RBI stats from last season and his .268 average in 2012 seems doable based on his BABIP. If he hits those numbers and pops 35 homers, he’s a great value.
13. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: Gonzalez is 32, which isn’t old in baseball years, but his stats and indicators say he may have skidded into the downhill slide a little early. His 22-homer, 100-RBI, .293 season in 2013 wasn’t bad and I think that’s what we should expect again in 2014.
14. Jose Abreu, White Sox: Well, that escalated quickly. We go from players we want to own, to some question marks and upside guys to a Cuban import that we cannot predict. Maybe he has 30-homer potential. He set the Cuban single-season mark for dingers. Maybe he’s the next Yoenis Cespedes, with little pop and some average. Maybe he’s going to flop. But like I said in the intro, this pick is for corner infield or flex, which means you want upside and Abreu’s got it.
15. Allen Craig, Cardinals: Craig’s 3-year averages over a 162-game schedule are pretty absurd. He also should hit around .300 and he hit 27 homers in one minor league season. I doubt he ever flirts with 30 homers in the majors, but if you picked him ahead of Trumbo, I couldn’t argue with you.
16. Matt Adams, Cardinals: Look, I’m going to be honest, I really don’t like the rest of the first basemen on this list. Adams is 25 so he might have a few leaps left. He has 30-homer upside, making him another lottery ticket pick.
16. Brandon Moss, Athletics: All players with 30-homer potential, please move to the front of the line. Thank you.
18. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies: A few blurbs ago I talked about how I cribbed this list from another site and I’ve been moving people about. Cuddyer took one of the steepest drops. If it wasn’t for Coors Field I might not even have him here. He’ll be 35 by the end of this month and I don’t care how you futz with the numbers, your not going to make that .331 average from 2013 repeatable.
19. Mike Napoli, Red Sox: A converted catcher who should hit 25 home runs. In the Red Sox lineup he should put up some decent counting stats even with a sub-par batting average.
20. Brandon Belt, Giants: Belt should hit like 17 homers. Maybe he hits 22. He’ll probably hit for a decent average. Maybe even .300. He’ll be a good corner infielder in 2014 and there’s some upside here.
BONUS: 21. Buster Posey, Giants; and 22. Carlos Santana, Indians: Posey and Santana are both eligible as 1Bs, but if draft them as anything other than a catcher you’re doing fantasy baseball wrong.