Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 30 First Basemen

Before signing a mega contract with the Angels last offseason, Albert Pujols was "El Hombre" and "machine-like" during his 11 seasons with the Cardinals.

Even though he added some steals to his game more recently, he was a lock for a line of .300/100/30/100.  In fact, he only missed 100 runs once (99 in 2007), 100 runs batted in once (99 in 2011) and a .300 batting average only once (.299 in 2011).

With the switch to the American League in 2012, things did not start nearly as well for Pujols.  In his first 27 games and 114 plate appearances, Pujols was homer-less.  In addition, he had only five runs batted in and nine runs scored during that 27-game span.

Despite his slow start, Pujols ended up with respectable year-end numbers.  He drove in 105 runs, but he set career lows of .285 average, 30 home runs and 85 runs scored.

The biggest concern with Pujols as we head into the 2013 season is his recovery from offseason knee surgery.  He initially suffered the injury in August, but he has told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that "if the season started tomorrow, I'd be playing, but there's no reason to push it."

With the team's offseason addition of Josh Hamilton to an already-potent lineup, Pujols will have more opportunities to score runs and drive in runs and I expect a bounce-back season.

More Blues for Gonzalez Owners in 2013?

The 2012 season was one that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez would like to forget.

Traded near the end of the season back to his home-state Dodgers, Gonzalez hit a home run in his first at-bat.  Unfortunately, he hit only two more in his other 144 Dodger at-bats last season.

Gonzalez felt as though his swing never felt right last season and attributed that to "trying too hard."

That said, he closed the season with a 15-game hitting streak, the longest by any Dodger in 2012.  Looking ahead to 2013, will Gonzalez bounce back?

Based on this report from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, it appears that Gonzalez is in great shape.  Provided he doesn't try to do too much in 2013, Gonzalez has the potential to provide fantasy owners a huge discount in 2013.

Feeling lucky?

Dunn: You Know What to Expect

Chicago White Sox first baseman and designated hitter Adam Dunn had a season to forget after signing a free-agency deal with the club in 2011.

An extremely productive power hitter, Dunn had 38-plus homers each year and drove in 100-plus runs in six of the previous seven seasons.  Not only was he productive, but there was minimal variability in his power production.

After hitting 46 homers in 2004, Dunn hit exactly 40 home runs for four consecutive years and then 38 homers in back-to-back seasons before joining the White Sox.  In addition, he had 100-plus runs batted in six times during that seven-year span.  The lone exception was a 92-RBI season.

While he was never going to win a batting title, Dunn's batting average was not as much of a negative in the recent past before getting to Chicago.  He hit .260-plus in three of the four previous seasons.

Virtually nothing went right in 2011.

Not only did he hit a career-low .159 (.064 vs. LHP) and strike out a career-worst 35.7 percent of the time, his power production evaporated.  For the first time in his career, he had a single-digit HR/FB ratio (9.6 percent).  His previous career low of 17.8 percent was set as a rookie in 2002.  It has been 20-plus percent in every other year of his career.

Last year, Dunn's HR/FB ratio skyrocketed to a career-high 29.3 percent as he hit 41 home runs and drove in 96 runs.  More than 37 percent of his base hits were round-trippers.

While Dunn's power production returned and his batting average jumped 45 points, the bad news is he still hit only .204, the second-lowest of his career.

Drafting Dunn will give you an affordable source of power production, but draft accordingly to compensate for the damage he will do your team's batting average.  With an average draft position of 162 (19th among first basemen) from Mock Draft Central, Dunn won't be your starting first basemen unless you're in a deep league or sustain injuries.

But let's say you have someone else like Philadelphia's Ben Revere (ADP: 189) on your bench.  Like virtually all base-stealers, Revere stole a large majority of his bases (31 of 40) last year when facing righties.  If I owned both Dunn and Revere as possible utility options, I would alternate them based on which player was facing a right-handed starter that night.  If they both were, then I'd go with whichever stat I needed more (steals or homers).

The Real Deal or a Fluke Season for Encarnacion?

Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion broke out in a big way in 2012 shattering his previous career highs with 42 home runs and 110 runs batted in over a career-high 151 games.  In addition, he scored 93 runs and stole 13 bases, both of which are career bests.

In his previous two seasons combined, Encarnacion hit a total of 38 home runs and drove in 106 runs over 230 games and 813 at-bats.  Previous single-season career highs for Encarnacion were 26 home runs (2008), 76 runs batted in (2007) and 75 runs scored (2007).

With all of the team's offseason moves, the Blue Jays will continue to score runs and Encarnacion will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs.

From my perspective, however, I will always be skeptical about a breakout season that occurs in a player's eighth season in the big leagues.  Not that I expect him to revert to pre-2012 production, the chance that he duplicates his 2012 numbers is extremely low.

For 2013, I see a season of 30 home runs, 80 runs batted in and a .270 average for Encarnacion.  Based on his average draft position of 21 (via Mock Draft Central), I'll pass and let someone else in my leagues take the chance that Encarnacion comes closer to his 2012 numbers than I expect.

Here are my 2013 fantasy first basemen rankings:

1. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
3. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
4. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
6. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
7. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
8. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
9. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
10. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
11. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
12. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
13. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
14. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
15. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
16. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
17. Ike Davis, New York Mets
18. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
19. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
20. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
21. Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
22. Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners
23. Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
24. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
25. Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners
26. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
27. Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians
28. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
29. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
30. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds

For a second opinion, check out Duncan Sanford's first basemen rankings. (Or view our consensus catcher rankings here.)

Other positions: C - 1B - 2B - 3B - SS - OF - SP - RP

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