RankingsMarch 2, 2009

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Positional Tiers: First Base

By Chris Routledge

In this edition of the Cafe’s Positional Tiers, we look at the players who man first base. These guys are your basic sluggers: some of them will provide a decent average, and there are maybe a couple who will throw in ten or so stolen bases, but it’s home runs and RBI that are the staple diet at this position. (Note: this article also includes those fantasy-relevant players who are DH-only eligible).

Tier 1: Round 1

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
Albert PujolsStL3.40Yes.357100371167524
Miguel CabreraDet7.56Yes.29285371271616
Mark TeixeiraNYY12.84Yes.2836320780381
Ryan HowardPhi11.82Yes.251105481461610

There are only two first basemen who are stone cold locks to be drafted in Round One, and they are Pujols and Cabrera. Teixeira and Howard tend to be borderline first-rounders; they will often be drafted around picks 10-12, but may slide to the early part of Round Two in some drafts. If they slip any further, they’ve slipped too far.

Tier 2: Rounds 2-3

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
Lance BerkmanHou17.24Yes.3121142910618554
Prince FielderMil23.58Yes.27686341023588
Justin MorneauMin25.88Yes.30097231290623
Adrian GonzalezSD37.53Yes.279103361190616

These guys are all solid options if you miss out on the top four. The biggest thing to note here is that Gonzalez’s Median Draft Position has him being drafted at the end of Round Three, which suggests to me that he is falling further than he should. He managed 36 bombs in San Diego last year. There is no reason to think he cannot repeat in 2009, and I would take him in the early part of Round Three if I needed a first baseman.

Tier 3: Rounds 4-7

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
David Ortiz (DH)Bos47.55No.2647423891416
Kevin YoukilisBos42.58Yes.31291291153538
Joey VottoCin80.31Yes.2976924847526
Chris DavisTex73.05Yes.2855117551295
Adam DunnWas63.24No.23679401002517
Derrek LeeChC76.37Yes.2919320908623

This is an unusual tier in that Lee and Votto (who seems slightly undervalued to me) are the only ones who you would want to put in your first base slot. Youkilis and Davis will be better value at third base, as is Dunn in the outfield. Ortiz is DH-only for 2009.

Tier 4: Rounds 8-10

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
Garret AtkinsCol72.49Yes.2868621991611
Carlos PenaTB78.68Yes.24776311021490
Carlos DelgadoNYM103.18Yes.27196381151598
Aubrey HuffBal85.53Yes.30496321084598

Any of the guys in this tier could join the crowd in Tier Three; for me, they all come with risk attached. I have no problems with anyone bumping them up into the next tier. Huff and Atkins are again better value in your third base slot, while Delgado and Pena are the last two options that I would be OK with at first base. If you haven’t got your starting first baseman by this point in the draft, you’re in trouble.

Tier 5: Rounds 11-15

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
James LoneyLAD128.61Yes.2896613907595
Jim Thome (DH)ChW163.78No.2459334901503
Jorge CantuFla147.72Yes.2779229956628
Conor JacksonAri176.73Yes.30087127510540

Apart from Thome (who is DH-only), these are all good options for your corner infielder slot, if your league has one. Loney is somewhat overrated in my opinion, and should not be targeted as your starter at first base. Cantu is a borderline starter at third base, and I like Jackson as the guy in this tier who has the best chance of out-performing his current Median Draft Position.

Tier 6: Rounds 16 onwards

 TeamMDP20 games?2008 AVGRHRRBISBAB
Pablo SandovalSF223.76No.345243240145
Paul KonerkoChW190.13Yes.2405922622438
Nick SwisherNYY204.68Yes.2198624693497
Jason GiambiOak217.13Yes.2476832962458
Adam LaRochePit241.65Yes.2706625851492
Mike JacobsKC232.93Yes.2476732931477

These are the final few who are really worth considering towards the end of a standard 12-team draft. Sandoval, of course, should be drafted as a catcher if eligible (11 games in 2008); the others are your typical 20+ home run hitters with a package that includes a mediocre to terrible batting average. Any of these six could outperform the rest in 2009, so it comes down to a matter of personal preference for which one you decide to take.

For deeper leagues, other players who are eligible at first base and have some fantasy value include Hank Blalock, Billy Butler, Carlos Guillen, and Casey Kotchman. Travis Hafner is a late-round designated hitter who might be worth a flier.

Yesterday’s “Positional Tiers: Catcher” can be found here. Check back tomorrow for the next installment of the Positional Tiers: Second Base.

Chris Routledge is one of a growing number of Brits infiltrating the Cafe, and also plays centrefield for his local baseball team, Croydon Pirates III (Division A Champs in 2008). Catch up with him in the Cafe under the username chris8.
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