Last time we took a look at the game callers behind the plate, the Catcher Rankings (click through to also view our introduction). Today we turn up the heat and look at the boys who bring the heavy lumber to the ballpark, cause last I checked, chicks still dig the long ball. Let’s rank us some first basemen!
Natural Tier 1
The cream of the crop. These two stand alone in their own world atop most drafts, 1 and 1a, though these rankings show that it’s still “The Machine” they trust more. Couple that with Cabrera’s speculative move to the hot corner and that could mean that in 2013, Pujols is back to being on an island by himself as the top dog at first. What do these two offer? As guaranteed a production as there exists in this crazy game. A superior batting average, blistering power, and elite run and RBI totals are par for the course, which is why they find themselves, more often than not, being the first two players off the board. It’s difficult to make an argument against either of them, and if you’re lucky enough to score an early enough pick to have one on your team this season, kudos.
Natural Tier 2
It is after this point that we stop considering 1B “elite.” These are the reasonable 35-plus HR threats (not as much with Votto, but he’s so good all around it doesn’t matter) at this corner spot. The guys who can carry you through the lean times. For me they’re ranked appropriately, as Votto brings a level of 5×5 production that the others just don’t, despite his lack of power comparatively (which really isn’t that much). Teixeira could skyrocket up to the top of this tier if he just changes his approach in 2012. On the surface it appears that his severe drop-off in average (.256 and .248 the past two seasons to .271 career) is a product of some bad luck (.268 and .239 BABIP over the same stretch to .281 career), but when you look at Teixeira as a hitter these days, he’s simply stopped going over the way, relying simply on pulling the ball, which either results in him popping one over the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium when batting left-handed, or essentially pounding the ball into the defensive over-shift. Unless this approach changes, expect his average (and BABIP) to remain at a level that will upset you as an owner.
Natural Tier 3
This is a motley looking crew. An aging veteran, a player who came out of nowhere to everyone except a select few last season, and the prodigal son of the 1B world all wrapped together in a tier of players who are on the cusp of greatness, but could also not live up to expectations; and their rankings reflect that. Sure, there are a lot of people expecting Konerko to just keep on plugging along, batting .300 and belting 30 bombs a year in his mid-30s. There are also people who are downright convinced that Morse will not only repeat his 2011 season, but surpass it. And Hosmer… no words do justice to the hype surrounding Eric Hosmer. You’d think he was Joey Votto in disguise, and you know what, he might be. But he also may suffer a sophomore slump; it happens. Still, he has the highest ceiling of the group, and his success last season was sustained for more than just the cup of coffee that gets people excited these days (Dee Gordon, anyone?), and he’s the guy I want on my team in this group. A realistic possibility of approaching 30 HRs and 20 SBs out of the 1B position is like the Holy Grail (ask Joey Votto owners). Hosmer-mania is in full effect. Or is it Hosmerpalooza? I can’t even keep up.
Natural Tier 4
I had a long (about 8 to 12 seconds) inner debate on whether or not I was going to include the Catchers in these rankings, and how I would maintain some form of continuity throughout this process with respect to multi-eligible players. The conclusion I came to was this: I’m just going to decide based on whether or not I feel they deserve to be in a specific position’s rank, whether or not it adds any insight or information to the reader, and the level of laziness I’m feeling at a particular moment. We’re still early in this thing, so I’m jazzed up, so here are Napoli and Santana (and to a lesser extent, Young as well), who you likely won’t see plugged into the 1B slot on many rosters this season. That said, at least there’s some perspective here with respect to their perception in comparison to the other 1B. Remember that Napoli was the No. 1 ranked catcher in our previous rankings, so seeing him here at No. 10 helps put a little perspective on things, in my eyes at least. The thoroughbred of this tier, who stands a real chance at elevating his level of play to a higher level, is Billy Butler. It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for Butler to really “bust out,” but he did exactly that, albeit in mini-fashion, last season. You know you have absolutely zero worry about his average, and Butler did manage to belt 13 HRs over the final 70 games last season, after Hosmer was really ingrained in the lineup and raking. A 1B who bats .300 and hits 25-plus homers is a lot sexier than one who hits 15. Add to that the fact that over the same span Butler drove in 57 runs and scored 38 himself, and you see the makings of what could be a huge 2012 at a severely discounted price. I’m not one for extrapolating small samples, but to see Butler go .300 with 25 HRs, 110 RBIs and 90 runs would not shock me in the slightest. Then again, neither would another 13-HR season, which explains why he isn’t ranked higher.
Natural Tier 5
Remember that zone of “starting to reek of desperation” in the Catcher Rankings? Well, we’re here. Glad you could join us. None of these three are bankable for production in 2012, but all three offer a nice upside at a very reasonable price. Ryan Howard, lest we forget, has been a fantasy monster for essentially his entire career. How he recovers from the Achilles he tore striking out swinging as he ended the Phillies’ season in October will be the deciding factor on how he performs this season (obvious statement is obvious). Right now he isn’t projected to see game time until at least May, and even then it will take time to get into the swing of things, if he does at all. Freeman, by all counts, had an excellent 2011 season with the Atlanta Braves. However, .282 with 21 HRs, 76 RBIs, 67 runs and 4 SBs isn’t that exciting out of the 1B position on draft day. It’s exciting when the 1B you drafted tears his ACL or gets suspended for PED use and you’re able to replace that for free off the waiver wire, which is why so many people fell in love with Freeman last season. Davis was on an absolute tear last season, hitting at a blistering clip, until he bumped into David Wright and literally missed the rest of the season as if he were Samuel L. Jackson’s character Mr. Glass from the movie Unbreakable. (How’s that for an obscure reference to a movie that’s not only pretty old but also terrible?) We didn’t get a long enough look at Ike in 2011 to know if that production was real and could be sustained, or if he was just off to a scorching start. The fences being moved in at Citi Field can only help him though, and you could certainly do worse this season.
If you end up with a 1B not on this list, and you’re in a standard league, chances are you’re in a bad way. Sure, it’s possible we see the resurgence of Carlos Pena back in Tampa Bay, but it’s nothing anybody is banking on come draft day. Maybe this is the year Chris Davis stops behaving like a Quadruple-A player. Stranger things have happened. Keep this little thought nugget in mind though: has anybody ever ranted and raved to you about how angry they were that they drafted Albert Pujols?
Thank you to all those who contributed their personal rankings for this compilation (credit to come at the end of this series), and don’t miss the next installment of Cafeholic Rankings, when we take a look at the middle infield, starting with 2B!
Brendan Horton is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Brendan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bigh0rt.
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