Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Every fantasy lineup needs a power hitter at first base and fortunately there are plenty to go around in 2012. Even the guys who just missed the top-10 could serve as useful anchors for your team.
On a side note, I'd hate to have to vote for the American League All-Star first baseman this year, now that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have left the "Senior Circuit" and joined Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko in the American League.
1) Miguel Cabrera. Detroit - There is nothing that Cabrera can't do with his bat. And as good a hitter as he was in Florida, he's been even better in Detroit. In his four seasons as the Tigers first baseman his average year is a .322 batting average with 100 runs scored, 34 homers, 115 RBI and an OPS of 0.950. The only thing that could derail Cabrera is trying to play third base. Worrying about his glove and throwing arm could seep into his thinking while at the plate. But my guess is that Jim Leyland is smart enough to make sure that doesn't happen. He should play first base enough to keep his eligibility, but at the weaker third base position, if the experiment works, he is probably the No.1 overall pick.
2) Albert Pujols, Anaheim - Drafting the St.Louis Cardinals first baseman from 2001-2011 has been a near guarantee of a .300 batting average, 30+ homers, 100+ RBI and an OPS near 1.000. Now, however, Pujols is a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a member of the American League and so the future isn't quite so crystal clear. Still, over the previous three seasons he's batted .339 in interleague play with 12 HR and 25 RBI in 36 games. Those statistics bode well for his continued success. A fantasy owner should still draft Pujols with complete confidence that he will perform as expected.
3) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston - Gonzalez's 2011 season was a year of contradictions. He led the American League in hits with 213 and grounding into double plays (28). He smacked fewer homers in hitter-friendly Fenway Park (27) than he did in each of the four previous seasons in spacious Petco Park. Of course he did all that in his first year in the AL after off-season shoulder surgery. A year removed from that, the shoulder should be 100% and, he could have a monster year, particularly if Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia keep getting on base at last year's pace.
4) Joey Votto, Cincinnati - In 2011 Votto found out what winning an MVP award does to your statistics. They go down because of the respect shown by opposing pitching staffs. Votto hit less homers, knocked in fewer runs and scored fewer times while walking a league-high 110 times. He'll continue to be pitched carefully (a.k.a. around) until clubs fear Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips or whoever is batting behind him in the lineup. Until then he has a limited upper end of 35-38 HR and 110-115 RBI.
5) Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees - "Tex" hit a career-low .248 last year and seemed to be a bit "pull-happy." Of course, pulling the ball in Yankee Stadium, particularly as a left-handed hitter, has always been a successful strategy and Teixeira also produced 39 homers, 111 RBI and 90 runs scored. His OPS over the past two seasons is about 70 points below his career average, but in his 12th season and with an aging Alex Rodriguez protecting him in the order, its not likely to change. You will have to live with the bad average in exchange for big power numbers.
6) Prince Fielder, Detroit - Like Pujols, Fielder has spent his entire career in the National League. His career interleague play numbers (.269, 26 HR, 61 RBI, 0.913 OPS in 96 games) are a bit below his overall career statistics so there could be an adjustment period at the beginning of the season. He's also heading to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark than Miller Park. Add in his history in "even-numbered" years (.266, 87 runs, 31 HR, 88 RBI versus .295, 102 runs, 44 HR, 126 RBI in "odd-numbered" years) and you will understand why he has been dropped to sixth-best at his position.
7) Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox - After trending downward from 2007-2009, Konerko has re-awakened into quite a hitter the last two seasons averaging 35 HR, 108 RBI, 79 runs and batting .306 with an OPS of 0.941. The question is whether at age 36 he can continue to produce at this level. Konerko will give you value in every statistic except speed. A better hitting Adam Dunn behind him in the lineup would help a lot now that Carlos Quentin has left town.
8) Lance Berkman, St. Louis - After struggling in his final years in Houston and a brief stint with the New York Yankees, Berkman was a huge surprise in 2011. As a late-round pick (Yahoo preseason ADP 279), Berkman was one of the best bargains in baseball as he posted a .301 batting average with 31 HR and 94 RBI. The problem with Berkman is twofold; he's a 36-year old with bad knees and his team lost the "engine" (read Pujols) that drove the Cardinals offense. There will be a lot more pressure directly on Berkman to produce and that's a lot to ask of him in his 14th season.
9) Mike Morse, Washington - Morse played most of the season at first base for the injured Adam LaRoche and will likely return to the outfield in 2012, but should play enough to be first-base eligible. He's become a dangerous hitter since coming to Washington, hitting a home run every 17.1 at-bats. The 30- year-old should hit 30-35 HR with 100 RBIs and a batting average near .300 for the next few seasons. If the Nationals can improve the top of their order, he could even lead the league in RBIs.
10) Eric Hosmer, Kansas City - As a May call up, Hosmer was "as good as advertised." But as a rookie he had his ups and downs. Given a full season, Hosmer should hit around 25 HR, knock in 90-95 runs and hit between .290 and .300.
Just missed; Ryan Howard, Freddie Freeman, Gaby Sanchez, Paul Goldschmidt.
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