The top two players at first base are arguably the two biggest names in the sport. In fantasy baseball, the discussion about sluggers begins and ends with Albert Pujols of the Angels and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. You don’t have to have one of them to win a championship, but it sure does help.
This year finds Pujols with a new team in a new league. Cabrera is relearning how to play third base, the position he played when he came to the big leagues. Each presents their own challenge, but at least Pujols hasn’t had a bone under his eye broken by a bad-hop groundball this spring.
In the end, though, nothing should alter the general consensus that Pujols or Cabrera present you with the very best option if you have the first pick in your fantasy draft. Whatever order you rank these two, you can’t lose.
For the rest of us who are not as fortunate enough to land one of these sluggers, there’s still plenty to choose from.
Prince Fielder of the Tigers, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox and Joey Votto of the Reds comprise the next level of slugger, presenting fantasy owners with five can’t-miss players at first base.
After the Top 5, the talent level drops a bit. Analysts seem to like the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Lance Berkman of the Cardinals and a pair of catchers who are eligible at first base: the Rangers’ Mike Napoli and the Indians’ Carlos Santana.
Also worthy of top 10 consideration are Eric Hosmer of the Royals and Michael Young of the Rangers.
But for my money, and the belief that top sluggers are at a premium, I’m going to do whatever I can to acquire either Pujols, Cabrera, Fielder, Gonzalez or Votto. In that order. If I can get any one of these guys, my chances of winning a fantasy title just increased.
If I find myself without a top 5 first baseman, then it’s time to concentrate on finding a slugger at another power position, probably in the outfield or at third base.
And that brings me to the heart of this report, which focuses on which players present the most value. I think I’ve made it clear that the top 5 here are your best value picks, probably in the entire draft.
But here are a few other players I like who are rated in the middle of the pack. Their preseason rankings at CBSsports.com and stats from the player’s last full season are included:
Kendrys Morales of the Angels, No. 31
(2009 stats) 34 HRs, 108 RBI, .305 BA .924 OPS
Morales is close to making his spring-training debut after fracturing his left ankle while celebrating a walk-off homerun on May 29, 2010. Morales is only 28 and he can flat-out hit. His ankle is in great shape, but his legs need work getting into shape, according to the Angels. The injury risk hurts his preseason ranking, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Ike Davis of the Mets, No. 18
(2010 stats) 19 HRs, 71 RBI, .264 BA .791 OPS
Davis is another case of a player coming off an ankle injury who presents a tremendous upside. Usually I prefer to stay away from players coming back from an injury, but Davis – like Morales – is a special case. And they’ve moved in the fences at Citi Field, too.
Mike Cuddyer of the Rockies, No, 16
20 HRs, 70 RBI, .284 BA .805 OPS
The Rockies’ everyday right fielder will benefit from the move to Coors Field, where the 33-year-old former Twin still has plenty of good offensive production left.
Keep an eye on: Freddie Freeman of the Braves and Mark Trumbo of the Angels. Freeman’s time will come, but it may take the youngster another season to develop fully. That does you no good unless you play in a keeper league. Trumbo is without a full-time position since the arrival of Pujols, so he’s learning third base and will play some outfield as well. Moving around so much can be tough on a young player, but if he hits enough manager Mike Scioscia will find a place in the lineup for him.
Injuries, injuries: It doesn’t look good for Ryan Howard, one of the premier home-run hitters in the game. Put him aside for this season. Do not draft. Maybe he comes back in June and you pick him up on the waiver list, but this is not Howard’s year. Whatever you get out of him will be a bonus. Until further notice, the Twins’ Justin Morneau’s days as an elite hitter are over. Too many injuries, not enough days in the calendar to get better. I wish Morneau the best of luck, but until I see a return to consistent production I will stay away.
This is the fourth of eight fantasy baseball reports concerning best market value for each position. Check back for the next edition: second basemen.
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