Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We are just five weeks away from Opening Day. Today we will continue our evaluation of talent with a stop at the first base position.
First base is usually a glamour position in fantasy and in 2011 you will find plenty to like. At least seven first basemen will go in the first two rounds of your draft, but waiting to select your starter until a little later won't kill you because there is a lot of depth here.
On the other hand, taking Albert Pujols with the top pick assures you of having at least one great player in your lineup.
1) Albert Pujols, St. Louis (ADP 1) - He is simply the best, machine-like in his ability to pump out great season after great season. In 10 years in the big leagues, he's never hit less than 32 HRs, knocked in less than 103 runs, scored less than 99 runs or hit less than .312. At this point the only negative thing you could say about Pujols is that his contract problems might be a distraction, but he should still be the No.1 overall pick.
2) Joey Votto, Cincinnati (ADP 6) - Votto went from a very good player to a great player last season - improving in every category. With a big contract in hand, Votto should be able to relax and reproduce last season's 37 HR, 113 RBI, 106 run, .324 batting average season. What puts him ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez is his ability to steal a base. He had 16 last season after just seven and four in his first two years. Hopefully, it was not a fluke and he'll continue to run.
3) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston (ADP 12) - Despite playing half his games in "Death Valley" a.k.a. Petco Park, Gonzalez has averaged 32 HR a season for the past five years. Now he's got a short porch in right and the Green Monster in left and fantasy owners will expect 40+ long balls this season. So do I. Throw in an explosive lineup around him and he should produce top-three numbers.
4) Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (ADP 3) - Cabrera has problems which unfortunately aren't contract related, but that shouldn't stop you from picking Miguel. Although this will be his ninth season in the majors, he'll be just 28-years- old in April. Since coming to the Tigers three seasons ago, he's averaged 36 HR, 118 RBI and a .314 batting average. With an improved lineup that will include Victor Martinez, Cabrera should continue to produce big numbers across the board...except for stolen bases.
5) Prince Fielder, Milwaukee (ADP 20) - Those who have been reading my pieces on Fielder over the years know that he plays much better in odd numbers years. In even numbered years he averages 31 HR, 88 RBIs and a .269 batting average. In odd seasons, the numbers look like 48 HR, 130 RBIs and a .293 batting average. It's 2011 and it's a contract year.
6) Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (ADP 19) - Many fantasy owners were disappointed with Teixeira's 2010 season, but he really wasn't that bad. Except for a lower-than-usual batting average (.256 versus a lifetime average of .286), he still posted 100+ runs, 100+ RBIs and 30+ homers. Forget the negative talk from last year, as a late second-round pick he's a solid bargain.
7) Ryan Howard, Philadelphia (ADP 22)- From 2006-2009, Howard was a home run hitting, RBI machine (averaged 49 HR and 143 RBIs). But he struggled in 2010 (31 HR, 108 RBI) and he'll have less protection in the lineup in 2011 now that Jayson Werth has signed with the Nationals. If you were a pitcher and hitting behind Howard was Ben Francisco, an aging Raul Ibanez or Jimmy Rollins, would you throw him a strike in an important situation? Neither would I. A repeat of last season's statistics is likely.
8) Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (ADP 35) - There is no more consistent home run hitter than Dunn. In the last six seasons he's hit 40, 40, 40, 40, 38 and 38. Although there will be an adjustment period now that he's in the American League after 10 years in the NL, he'll play half his games at U.S. Cellular Field - a home run hitter's paradise. If he could hit higher than .265 he'd move up the charts and as a late third-round selection he is a bargain.
9) Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels (52) - Morales will likely be overlooked by many fantasy owners - the ones who look at numbers only. They'll see his 11 HRs and 39 RBIs and skim right past. Don't you be one of those guys. Morales had a great 2009 season and was on his way to repeating it in 2010 when he hurt himself during a home run celebration. He should be good to go in 2011.
10) Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox (ADP 57) - Konerko's 2010 (39 HR, 111 RBI, .312) was his best effort since 2006 and a huge surprise to fantasy owners. His 2010 ADP was 267, meaning he was a 23rd-round selection. He finished the year as a top-20 fantasy value. He'll be 35-years-old in March, but with the addition of Adam Dunn to the White Sox roster, Konerko should be able to DH more often and save energy. Therefore, while I don't believe he'll hit over .300 again this season, he should hit 30-35 homers and knock in 100 runs.
11) Justin Morneau, Minnesota (ADP 37) - Morneau was in the midst of a monster season when he took a knee to the head while sliding into second base. That was July 7th, 2010. He hasn't played an inning since. It's February and he has still yet to even swing a bat and is not guaranteed to be ready for Opening Day. He's a high-risk, high-reward player because of the concussion and at this point I'd rather look elsewhere in the fourth round for a sure thing.
12) Gaby Sanchez, Florida (ADP 162) - Playing in his first full season in the majors, Sanchez put up solid rookie statistics - 19 HR, 85 RBI, .273 batting average. Those numbers already put him ahead of guys like Billy Butler and James Loney. Assuming he improves even slightly, he's a low-end fantasy starter.
13) Adam LaRoche, Washington (ADP 159) - LaRoche received very little attention last season for a guy who hit 25 homers and knocked in 100 runs. He'll replace Adam Dunn in Washington, but he can't reproduce Dunn's numbers. He's hit between 25 and 32 homers in four of the last five seasons, but his 100 RBIs was the first of his career. Ryan Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche should make a solid middle of the order for the Nationals so don't be afraid to pick him as a low-end starter.
14) Aubrey Huff, San Francisco (ADP 110) - After playing for four different teams in the previous four seasons, Huff seems to have found a home at first base in San Francisco. He scored 100 runs for the first time in his career and his 26 HR and 86 RBIs were an important part of the Giants offense. He can also play the outfield too which means he's likely going to be in the lineup every day and he's played in 150-or-more games in each of the past four seasons. His 2010 statistics are repeatable and could even be improved upon if Pablo Sandoval will return to form.
15) Carlos Lee, Houston (ADP 131) - Lee's bat as well as his legs have begun to slow down and the Astros will move him from left field to first base for 2011. More disturbing, however, was the .246 batting average from the perennial .290 hitter and just 24 home runs, his lowest total since 2001. Hope for a rebound season, but don't build your team around it.
16) Billy Butler, Kansas City (ADP 69) - Butler is a high average guy, but his mediocre home run total doesn't translate well in fantasy baseball. He's a better version of James Loney, but on an inferior offensive team like the Royals (20th in runs scored) he has limited upside value. He's overpriced in the sixth round.
17) Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs (ADP 149)- Pena changes teams and leagues in 2011 which usually calls for an adjustment period. That's a scary thought for a hitter who batted just .196 last season in Tampa Bay. He's an all-or-nothing guy, who can carry you for a couple of weeks, but will also disappear for a month at a time. Wrigley Field is a better hitters park than Tropicana Field, but if you pick him be prepared for a rollercoaster ride. You will need to draft another starter-quality first basemen if you choose Pena, to survive his "down time."
18) Derrek Lee, Baltimore (ADP 198) - Like Carlos Lee, Derrek's numbers fell to all-time lows. The last time he hit 19-or-fewer homers or batted .260-or- lower in a full season was 1998. Perhaps the change of address will help, but he's a backup at this point in his career.
19) Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh (ADP 215) - Jones has the power to be a low-end fantasy starter, but he'll need to prove he can hit better than .246. He's also limited by the Pirates offense which consists of four players Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jones and Pedro Alvarez.
20) Ike Davis, New York Mets (ADP 197) - Davis has the talent to be a low-end fantasy starter at first base, but Citi Field is going to keep him from being a full-timer.
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