With nine players capable of hitting 40 or more homers and several others good bets to hit over 30, first basemen provide the type of power that’s simply unobtainable from most other positions in the fantasy world.
You know all of the big names, but which untapped sources of power should you try to swipe late in your drafts?
All rankings are based on a standard 5×5 category, 10-team rotisserie league scoring system.
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
It should come as no surprise that the best player of his generation is the best player in fantasy baseball as well. Pujols worst year? 2007 when he hit .317 with 32 homeruns and 103 RBI. Don’t over-think it if you end up with the first pick in your league. Take Pujols and reap the rewards of yet another .320-40-125 campaign.
2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Fantasy owners may be leery of drafting Cabrera in lieu of his recent arrest, and it does add an element of uncertainty to his status going forward. But until it’s officially announced that Miggy is going to miss time, he’s still a surefire first-round pick and fully capable of hitting .325 with 40 home runs and 120 RBI.
3. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
The reigning NL MVP, Votto is a definite Top 15 and borderline Top 10 pick heading into 2011. He might never reach the 40 homer plateau, but he’s an excellent bet to hit at least .325 with 100 RBI, and should swipe 10 bases to boot. Votto should arguably be considered a Top 5 pick in leagues that count OBP as a category.
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
It’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of A-Gon playing half his games in Fenway Park, and I do believe the transition will have a positive impact on his numbers — especially his home run total. But while optimism is appropriate, be careful not to put Gonzalez on Pujols’ level, and accept that he’s more likely to put up a .280-40-120 line in 2011.
5. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
Teixeira’s 2010 campaign was his worst since his rookie season way back in 2003, yet he still hit 33 homers and knocked in 108 RBI. His notoriously slow starts are beginning to hurt his season-ending totals, but advanced statistics suggest he had terrible luck last season. A probable .280-35-120 line in 2011 means Teixeira is still a Top 15 fantasy player.
6. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard saw his power numbers plummet last season, but he did miss some time thanks to a sprained ankle and still managed to post 108 RBI despite playing in just 143 games. Howard shouldn’t be considered a first-round pick like he was a few seasons ago, but a .270-40-125 performance means he’s still a solid late-second or early-third rounder.
7. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
Youkilis was on his way to a third-consecutive 25-plus homer, 90-plus RBI campaign before a freak thumb injury derailed his season in August. He may not hit as many homers as some other players on this list — he’ll likely max out at 30 — but he’s a safe play for a .300 average and 100 RBI, and gets bonus points for his third base eligibility.
8. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Similar to Teixeira, Fielder had the worst post-rookie season of his career in 2010, but should experience a mild if not extraordinary bounce back in 2011. That Fielder is headed into a contract year can’t hurt, and the Brewers figure to be competitive enough to keep Fielder all season. A .275 average with 40 homeruns and 100 RBI is well within his reach.
9. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
One of the most consistent players in all of fantasy baseball, Dunn is always a safe bet to hit right around .260- 40-100. He may need some time to adjust to the American League, but Dunn is going to one of the most homer-friendly parks in the majors, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go deep 45 times with a low average in 2011.
10. Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels
While many players on this list missed significant time with injuries last season, no one was out longer than Morales, whose season ended after just 51 games due to a leg fracture. There’s a decent chance Morales starts the year on the disabled list, but if he gets 500 at-bats, .300-30-100 is a real possibility thanks in part to the revamped Halo’s offense.
11. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Morneau would have ranked a little higher on this list, but I have serious concerns regarding his long-lasting case of post-concussion syndrome. As of now, it seems doubtful that Morneau will play in more than 150 games next season. He’s capable of hitting .280-30-100, but should be considered a high-risk, high-reward pick.
12. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Konerko’s 2010 campaign was his best since 2004, and the aging slugger hit .312-39-111 while finishing fifth in the AL MVP vote. I wouldn’t expect Konerko to repeat those numbers, but with an improved lineup behind him, it’s reasonable to expect a more modest but still solid .270-30-100 line. Konerko is the last first baseman who can be called a passable starter in standard 10-team leagues.
13. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
Butler is an excellent hitter and should have little problem hitting over .300 or reaching 15 home runs, but lacks the type of power fantasy owners are searching for in a first baseman. That being said, he’s a very good corner infield option and is especially valuable in leagues that include OBP as a category. Victor Martinez will put up similar numbers and is eligible at first base, but someone will have drafted him as a catcher long before Butler is selected.
14. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
Many will be surprised to see Lind ranked this high after his abysmal 2010 campaign, but there are several signs that point to a turn-around for the 27-year-old lefty. For one, Lind’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was a low .277, and his numbers were somewhat skewed by a miserable May and June. If he improves his atrocious .117 average against lefties, Lind is capable of putting up a .280-25-80 line in 2011. He should be eligible at first base by mid-April.
15. Aubrey Huff, San Francisco Giants
Huff had a surprisingly good season in 2010, hitting .290-26-86 with a career-high .385 OBP while batting in the middle of the Giants’ lineup. I can see Huff matching his RBI total from last season, but would expect a modest reduction in homers and batting average, as he has little in terms of lineup protection except for Buster Posey.
16. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
A model of both consistency and mediocrity, LaRoche is slightly undervalued in the fantasy world because of his utter lack of upside and the sub-par teams he usually plays for. It’s true that his ceiling is as a .275-25-85 player, but it’s also true that he’s quite likely to reach that plateau for a fourth consecutive season.
17. Luke Scott, Baltimore Orioles
Scott is perhaps the most underrated player in all of fantasy baseball, and while he’s far from a glamorous acquisition, he’s steadily produced and improved for each of the past three seasons, and has added positional versatility to boot. With a solid Orioles’ lineup surrounding him, expect Scott to produce a quiet .275-25-80 season. He makes a passable corner infielder or third outfielder.
18. Ike Davis, New York Mets
Davis is a solid fantasy option who tends to be slightly over-drafted thanks to the market he plays in. He’s a big, powerful player capable of reaching 25 homers and 80 RBI next season, but he’s unlikely to hit above .270 or post an OBP above .350. He’s still a Top 200 fantasy player, but isn’t a star-in-the-making.
19. Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs
Pena is one of the few players in the majors genuinely capable of hitting 45 home runs in 2011. His batting average and OBP have plummeted over the past three seasons and I don’t expect that trend to change, but fantasy owners won’t mind a .220 average if it comes with 40 homers and 100 RBI. He’s certainly a gamble, but is worth a late-round flier.
20. Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins
Matt LaPorta or Justin Smoak are the high-upside plays here, but Sanchez is a low-risk, low-reward option and a solid late-round pick. Sanchez won’t make a tremendous impact in any one category but can make modest contributions to four of them, and is capable of putting up another .275-20-85 line in his second full MLB season.
Prospects To Watch For 2011
1. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Freeman came close to beating out the last three members of the Top 20 list, and has to be considered the early favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year. He lacks the type of 30-homer power fantasy owners like from their first basemen, but should regularly hit above .300 with plenty of doubles and RBI.
2. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Belt wasn’t viewed as much of a prospect when he was drafted, but he exploded through the Giants’ minor league system, reaching Triple-A in the first year of his professional career. Belt has a similar offensive profile to Freeman, and will likely force Aubrey Huff to the outfield by July.
3. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is a better bet to be fantasy-relevant in 2012, but his bat is so good that he can’t be ruled out as a potential 2011 contributor. The Royals’ No. 3 hitter of the future, Hosmer has true .300-30-100 potential and is a good defender as well. Hosmer is an excellent grab in keeper leagues.