Welcome to the second installment of the tier ranking series. In this article I’ll be discussing the fantasy first basemen you should be targeting in each part of the draft. Much like previous years, first base is ridiculously deep with solid options throughout the draft. If you miss out on one of the top five, you can just sit back and wait for the best possible value in the lower tiers while filling more shallow positions.
Tier 1: Round 1
First base is incredibly deep this year with five sluggers as consensus top 10 picks. Pujols is going to go top two in pretty much every single draft and some combination of Howard, Fielder, Cabrera and Teixeira will likely go seventh through tenth. All of them are great options to build a team around and are some of the most risk-free picks you can make.
Tier 2: Round 3
The second tier isn’t quite as deep as it seems as Reynolds, Sandoval, and Youkilis will all most likely be drafted as third basemen. Still, Gonzalez, Votto, and Morneau bring plenty of thump in the third round should you miss out on one of the top tier guys. Don’t fret if you aren’t able to nab a first baseman from this tier, however, as there are plenty more solid options throughout the draft.
Tier 3: Rounds 5-6
The first base power hitter trend continues into tier four with Dunn, Berkman and Morales. Dunn didn’t seem fazed by the move from hitter’s paradises in Cincinnati and Arizona as he continued to blast homeruns in the more spacious Nationals Park. His .267 average (the highest in his career) may scare some owners off, but there’s no doubting his consistency with the long ball as he came just two short of his fifth straight 40 (exactly 40) homerun season. Berkman had a down year in 2009 by his own standards; however, he continues to be a top notch fantasy first baseman and could easily outproduce his MDP. Kendry Morales broke out in a big way last year, but be cautious as I doubt his ability to sustain a .300 average or 18% HR/FB. In many drafts he’s going closer to the second tier, but if he does manage to fall to you in the late fifth or sixth round don’t hesitate to grab him.
Tier 4: Rounds 7-8
The top-notch first basemen run out after tier three, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t anymore solid options to fill the position. Derrek Lee and Billy Butler are guys who provide solid all-around production (though they won’t steal many) and Carlos Pena provides a big power bat at the expense of batting average. Lee bounced back in a big way last year and looked to be in vintage form, however, he is starting to get up there in years and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to continue at last years pace. Still, he’s a solid bet to put up a .290 average with 25 or so homeruns and good counting stats. Butler had a breakout year in 2009 and at only 23 years old heading into this season; he’s on the upswing of his career and should continue to get better. As he heads into his physical peak we could definitely see a few more of his 51 doubles leaving the yard. Pena continues to be a three-category stud, but his average can bring some hurt to your team. While he shouldn’t hit down near .227 again, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to get the average back over the .250 mark. If you head into this tier with a few high average guys that can absorb Pena’s weak batting average, he’s worth the pick for the power boost he’ll bring to your team.
Tier 5: Rounds 12-13
Tier five is where it starts to get a little sketchy. Michael Cuddyer had a huge year in 2009 bashing 32 homeruns whiel approaching 100 runs and RBIs with a reasonable average. However, I doubt his ability to maintain his 17.1% HR/FB (12.9% career) and would expect him to hit closer to 20 jacks this year. Even so, hitting behind Mauer and Morneau should give him plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and keep his RBI total high. Jorge Cantu should continue to be the clean up hitter for the Marlins giving him plenty of opportunities to knock in Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, and Hanley Ramirez. In 2009, Adam LaRoche bounced from the Pirates to the Red Sox and then back to the Braves where he started his career. He was a beast with the Braves hitting .325 with 12 homeruns in 212 at bats. This year he’s headed to the Diamondbacks and the hitter’s paradise at Chase Field. His first and second half splits over his career have been pretty crazy, but if he is able to figure it out a little quicker this year he could be great value at the 210th pick. Loney is as advertised, he won’t really wow you in any category but he’ll put solid numbers all around and won’t really hurt you in any category either. Garrett Jones is a bit of an enigma as he burst onto the scene last year crushing 21 homeruns in only 314 at bats. He doesn’t really have the track record in the minors to support the kind of numbers he put up so be wary drafting him this year.
Tier 6: Rounds 14-18
|Gaby Sanchez||N/A||.290||55||16||55||4||314||in AAA|
By this time it’s pretty likely that you’ll have drafted at least one of the guys in the first five tiers, but if you haven’t or you need someone to slot in at a corner infield or utility position, there are still a few solid options in tier six. Everyone knows about the power potential of Chris Davis, however, his strikeout rate almost reached 40% last year and that won him a trip back to the minor leagues. He’s going to have to do more than hit a few bombs to keep a major league starting job and a 150:24 K:BB just isn’t going to cut it. He still has plenty of potential and and 24 years old has plenty of time to figure it out, but unless he can find a way to fix his plate discipline it’s going to be another rough year for the Rangers’ first baseman. Konerko, Johnson, and Helton aren’t very flashy but they all have ways to help a fantasy team without really hurting anywhere. If Johnson stays healthy and lands in the second hole of the Yankees line up his world-beating OBP could lead to him scoring a ton of runs while knocking his fair share in as well.
Michael Marinakis is a 24-year-old fantasy addict. You can find him roaming the Cafe all day where he posts as GiantsFan14 and waits for Buster Posey, the savior of the Giants, to arrive in the majors.
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