Without question, first base is the deepest position for everyday players. The top seven or eight first basemen will likely be drafted in the first two rounds of your 12-team league.
Some players on our list played 10-19 games at first base in 2010, which means the player may or may not qualify as a first baseman in your league. For example, Yahoo! leagues require a player to appear in at least ten games at that position in the previous year. For ESPN leagues, the requirement is 20-plus games.
Based on lower eligibility requirements, first base is even deeper for participants in Yahoo! leagues than those participating in ESPN leagues.
Here are the top 20 fantasy first basemen for 2011:
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals: Through ten seasons, Pujols has had career lows of .312 batting average (2010), 32 home runs (2007) and 103 runs batted in (2007). While that is the worst-case scenario, a typical (average) season for the career .331 hitter is 41 home runs and 123 runs batted in.
2. Joey Votto, Reds: While first base is loaded with talent, Votto finished no lower than top-five in all five standard rotisserie categories. The reigning N.L. MVP set career-highs in runs scored (106), home runs (37), runs batted in (113), steals (17) and batting average (.324) as well.
3. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: During his five years as a Padre, Gonzalez hit .267 and 57 home runs (one per 24.7 at bats) with 201 runs batted in at home. On the road, however, Gonzalez hit .307 and 104 home runs (one per 15.1 at bats) with 300 runs batted in. The change of scenery can only do Gonzalez some good despite finishing 2010 with an average of .298, 31 home runs and 101 runs batted in.
4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: Over the past three seasons, only two first basemen have hit over .300 with 100 home runs and 350 runs batted in: Cabrera and Pujols. If it weren't for his alcohol problems highlighted by his run-in with the law in February, Cabrera would have been ranked ahead of all first basemen not named Albert Pujols.
5. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Teixeira, who hit a career-low .256 in 2010, hit .280-plus every season and over .300 three times from 2004 to 2009. With seven consecutive seasons of 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs, you know what you'll get in the power department from Teixeira. But will Teixeira hit .256, .280 or .300?
6. Prince Fielder, Brewers: Last year, Fielder set a four-year low in home runs (32) and runs batted in (83) while hitting a career-worse .261. The year before, Fielder set career highs in runs batted in (141) and average (.299) while posting the second-highest homer total (46) of his career. Splitting the difference would be 39 home runs, 112 runs batted in and a .280 average. Sounds good to me.
7. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: Over the past five seasons, Youkilis has not played more than 147 games in any year. Provided he stays healthy for a full season, Youkilis could/should put up around or more than 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, 30 homers while hitting .300. His bigger value will come once he gains eligibility at the much more talent-scarce position of third base.
8. Ryan Howard, Phillies: Over the past five years, no player has more home runs (229) or runs batted in (680) than Howard. In addition, Howard leads the majors in strikeouts (922) during that span.
9. Adam Dunn, White Sox: From 2004 to 2010, Dunn has hit 38-plus home runs and driven in 100-plus runs six times (the 'off' season of 2006 was 92 RBIs). Trading in a half-season of games in Washington for U.S. Cellular Field can't hurt Dunn's power production and it wouldn't surprise me to see Dunn lead baseball in home runs. However, will he hit .260-plus for a third straight season?
10. Justin Morneau, Twins: Although he hasn't played a regular-season game since suffering a concussion in July, a full season from a healthy Morneau would make him a huge bargain at this spot. Morneau played exactly one-half of a season (81 games) last year and hit .345 with 18 home runs and 56 runs batted in. Before last season, Morneau drove in 100-plus runs for four straight years and hit 30-plus homers in three of those seasons.
11. Buster Posey, Giants: As one of the top three catchers in our fantasy rankings, however, you will more likely use Posey as your team's catcher despite his eligibility at first base. Manager Bruce Bochy has stated that Posey will get full days off when he's not catching, which means a season of around 135 games. That said, Posey should hit around .300 and 20 home runs in 2011.
12. Billy Butler, Royals: If there's one thing you can bank on from Butler, it's his strong batting average. Whether we see a power surge from Butler remains to be seen, but he's only 24 years old and has hit the most doubles (96) in baseball over the past two years combined. If only he could turn a few of those doubles into homers ...
13. Pablo Sandoval, Giants: With 11 games logged at first base in 2010, Sandoval may be eligible at first base in your league. He disappointed in the follow-up performance to his breakout season of 2009 (.330 average, 25 homers, 90 runs batted in). Sandoval, who is only 24 years old, could be primed for a bounce-back season after losing weight in the off-season and shortening his swing.
14. Paul Konerko, White Sox: It's unlikely that Konerko will duplicate his 2010 numbers (.312 average, 39 home runs and 111 runs batted in). Then again, only five other players hit .300-30-100 or better last season. Three of those other five were first basemen: Pujols, Cabrera and Votto.
15. Kendry Morales, Angels: Morales, who will begin the 2011 season on the disabled list, hasn't played a game since May 29th. In his only full season or close to it (152 games), Morales hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in.
16. Carlos Lee, Astros: Ending a four-year streak of hitting .300-plus, Lee posted a career-low batting average (.246) while hitting only 24 home runs (lowest total since 2001) with 89 runs batted in (lowest since 2002). Considering Lee also had his lowest BABIP (.238) of his career in 2010, an improvement over last season seems reasonable.
17. Aubrey Huff, Giants: Last year, Huff hit .290 with 26 home runs and 86 runs batted in. Huff, who is a career .283 hitter, should hit relatively close to .290 again although I would be surprised to see him exceed his home run total from 2010.
18. Carlos Pena, Cubs: The good news? Pena will go yard in one out of every 13.4 (or so) at bats, which was his average during his four years in Tampa. The bad news? He got a hit in less than every five at bats last season. (Take small consolation in the fact that only Aaron Hill had a lower BABIP in all of baseball than Pena last year.) The moderate news? He was tied for 11th in baseball in walks (87) last year so his on-base percentage isn't horrible if that helps you.
19. Adam Lind, Blue Jays: After a breakout season in 2009 (.305 average, 35 homers, 114 runs batted in), Lind disappointed fantasy owners in 2010 (.237-23-72). Not only did he hit .174 and .156 last May and June, respectively, but he hit only one home run in 90 at bats during June. Perhaps his better second-half performance and solid spring (hitting .341 through 16 games) bodes well for Lind.
20. Adam LaRoche, Nationals: LaRoche is a career .295 hitter that hits a homer every 18.3 at bats. In the second half, that is. LaRoche is notorious for his poor first-half performances (career .252 hitter and homer every 24.8 at bats before the All-Star break) and his (relative) strong performances (noted earlier) after the break.
As we noted above, first base is exceptionally deep. Players outside our top 20, such as Gaby Sanchez (Florida), Ike Davis (Mets), Mitch Moreland (Texas) and Brandon Belt (San Francisco) as a few examples, of players with upside that are viable fantasy options.
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