First base is typically a surefire bet for offensive production. This year you can make a case for several different rankings within the top 5. Beyond that though, there are several distinct tiers and the talent does drop off if you wait too long.
- Miguel Cabrera
He’s been great for years and now has protection, so he may wind up seeing better pitches. Since 2004 he only has 2 seasons below a .320 AVG and has never played below 150 games. Add that to 30+ HR’s and 100+ RBI’s and there is nothing to dislike. I’m not worried about a defensive change impacting his hitting at all.
- Albert Pujols
40+ HR’s are attainable along with triple crown threatening stats in the other categories. As a valued bonus, he’ll approach or reach double digit SB’s. My only reservation keeping him from the top of the list is that he will be adjusting to a new league of pitchers, though I don’t expect any ill effects to be long lasting.
- Adrian Gonzalez
He is seemingly a different hitter in Fenway, which resulted in a .338 AVG. That will likely come down a bit, but he should still hit for a high AVG. His HR total was lower than expected, but this is a man who hit 40 out of Petco. I expect him to reach into the 30’s for HR’s.
- Joey Votto
Votto is another guy who contributes in a big way across the board. He hits in the middle of a solid lineup and a hitter friendly ballpark. The scary part is that he’s young enough to improve.
- Prince Fielder
He doesn’t have the AVG upside that the top 4 do, but he’ll be on par with them in the other categories. He also plays every day.
- Mark Teixeira
Once the cream of the crop, he can no longer be considered elite. He can still put up big HR and RBI totals, but his AVG has been trending downward. You shouldn’t have to take on that risk from your 1B slot.
- Paul Konerko
People have an irrational hatred for Konerko on draft day and I’m not sure why, he’s 36, but people act like he’s old enough to be Jamie Moyer’s father. He was written off after a poor 2008 (in which he had a low BABIP of .244), but he has performed well since then, and I don’t see a sudden drop-off coming.
This is where the drop-off begins in my view. There is definitely still great talent remaining, but from here on out it all comes with substantial question marks.
- Eric Hosmer
He seems to do everything well, and eventually should reach the upper echelon of first basemen. Overall I’m a believer, but there is some risk for a sophomore slump. You’ll also be passing up players with more of an MLB track record.
- Mike Napoli
If you have him he’ll likely be in your lineup at catcher, but he also qualifies for this group. His AVG and HR/Fly Ball ratio were unsustainably high last season, so there will definitely be some regression in his numbers.
- Michael Morse
He was the talk of spring training last year and followed it with a good season. It is possible that pitchers may have better scouting to work with, but the power seems legit and the Nationals lineup is improving.
- Lance Berkman
Even without Pujols, the Cardinals have a decent lineup. Berkman will be in the middle of it. I don’t think he’ll match last years totals, but he should still be a solid performer.
- Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer has always been worth having on your roster, and now he gets the Coors field bump. He’ll give you multi position eligibility, and should produce 20 HR’s, 80 RBI’s and a .275 AVG on the low end, with better numbers as a possibility.
- Carlos Santana
Another catcher with first base eligibility, which is definitely a trend that will continue for the top hitting catchers. He was a big time prospect, and should only improve on last season’s numbers.
- Gabby Sanchez
He has some less than ideal righty/lefty splits, however there are some things to like. He’s in the middle of an improved lineup, so he should be able to improve his RBI total, and rumor is the new ballpark may be more hitter friendly.
- Freddie Freeman
It pains me to put the Braves young first basemen above the Mets, but he performed well aside from the first and last months of the season. I expect him to handle the rigors of a full season better his second time around, and with some improvement against lefties he can improve his overall numbers.
- Ike Davis
He started last season really strong, only to have it cut short by an injury. I originally thought he’d be higher on the list with 30 HR potential, but reports of Valley Fever and possibly needing days off for rest red flags in addition to recovering from an ankle injury.
- Adam Lind
If he can split the difference between his good and bad season, it would settle around a .270 AVG with 25ish HR’s and 80-90 RBI’s. The concern is that if he doesn’t land in the middle, he could hit .245.
- Carlos Lee
His years of fantasy stardom are long gone, but he can still be a productive player realistically putting up .275/20/80.
- Kendrys Morales
He’s capable of elite numbers when he’s healthy, and this is about the range that the risk is worth it.
- Paul Goldschmidt
Similar to Mark Reynolds, but he had some decent AVG’s in the minors, so hitting .250+ isn’t unrealistic.
- Lucas Duda
At his size (6’4”, 254lbs) it’s surprising when you don’t see him hitting HR’s. He’ll never lead the league, but with the walls coming in at Citi Field he could hit 20+ and put up a good AVG.
- Edwin Encarnacion
He won’t do anything incredible, but could be a good fill-in option for the corner spots.
- Mark Reynolds
At this point you know what he is and you need to figure out if the power is worth the burden of finding others to help your batting average.
- Carlos Pena
See Mark Reynolds, unless you get credit for OBP. In that case, Pena moves way up.
- Mark Tumbo
He’ll need to find his at bats at DH or 3B, but as long as he’s in the lineup, he should put up decent numbers.
- Ryan Howard
I think it’s entirely possible that he comes back and hits. I’m just concerned about when he’ll come back. He’s already had one set back and I’m fearful of the waiting game that happened with Morales last season, which wound up yielding nothing.
- Adam Dunn
I don’t think anyone saw that collapse coming. He has to be better than last season right? It’s worth taking him late in the draft to find out.
- Mike Carp
He put up good numbers in half a season, and in any other ball park I would be a lot more interested. He’s worth a shot late.
- Mitch Moreland
Adequate is the best way to describe him, but he’ll need to improve to avoid falling into a platoon. His AVG was 30 points higher and 15 of his 16 HR’s came against right handed pitchers last season.
- Chris Davis
He’ll put up HRs if he plays, but AVG and playing time are the questions. If he loses the job in Baltimore to weak competition, then I think it’s time to write him off.