2012 Fantasy Baseball Peckin’ Order: Top Five First Basemen To Draft in 2012
With the NFL post-season kicking off this past weekend, and just six measly weeks left until pitchers and catchers report, it is only logical that we start getting into some good ole fantasy baseball talk for 2012. For those of you starting out for the first time, fantasy baseball is a much bigger monster than that of football. For starters, the regular season is considerably longer, opening day for most teams will begin the first week of April, and the end of the season can go until the middle of October, a total of 7 months, longest of any of the major sports in existence. What makes it tougher is that, not only is it 7 months long, but it is also a daily game, at least basketball gives you a couple of days between games to recuperate.
So where do we begin? Well you have to get your league set up. There are multiple ways to play this game, from how many categories do you want contributed to your score, to whether you want it to be head to head like football or rotisserie where you get points for how you rank among the league for each given statistic. Next you have to figure out if you want the advantage of daily line up changes, or if you want to lock the line ups Monday morning and make it a weekly league like football. While the latter might be more fun it is certainly a disadvantage for when you lose a player on Monday and can’t replacement him for another 7 days as opposed to football where you only lose that players production for one game and can switch them out the next. And finally, you have to figure out how long you want your season to go, and whether or not you want full MLB rosters or one specific league.
It may seem like a lot to think about, but in the end these are essential aspects of your game that you’ll need to figure out. Once you have all that down it’s now time to begin ranking your players. But for those of you who don’t want to take the time to do that, you have found the right place. From this point forward you can find my bi-weekly columns of the top 5 players to draft at each given position, and the top 5 players that may be on the decline in 2012.
Because, I was a first basemen for 18 years of my life that’s where we will begin, and with the amount of new faces at the position and some old faces in new places at the position this shall be a great place to start.
Top 5 First baseman to draft in 2012:
Miguel Cabrera (1B, DET) has been one of the most consistent 1B in baseball since he broke into the game back in 2003. Miguel has taken residency in two of the biggest parks in baseball during his tenure in the league, so his numbers are slightly mind-boggling. However, his production has been nothing but stellar including his last four seasons in Detroit where he has been able to blast an average of 40 HR and 115 RBI per year. What makes him even better, is his ability to get on base. Just last season Cabrera was second in all of baseball in walks with 108 good for an On Base Percentage (OBP) of .448 nearly 30 points higher than the second highest OBP for first baseman. Because most leagues include Hits (H), Runs (R), Runs Batted In (RBI), Home Run (HR), Stolen Base (SB), and OBP as the six offensive categories Cabrera reaches the top of all first baseman. He isn’t going to steal, but when you have a guy who is top 5 at his position in the other 5 categories it’s very difficult to pass on him come draft day.
Adrian Gonzalez (1B, BOS) was an absolute MONSTER in 2011. His numbers were slightly inflated due to him playing in a much smaller park from 2010 to 2011 (making the switch from San Diego to Boston), so it may be a little difficult to predict similar numbers out of this lefty first baseman. The fact of the matter is, he plays in Fenway, as a lefty with that short porch in right field he should do just fine. In 2011, Gonzalez recorded the most hits of any first baseman in baseball, was 2nd in Runs batted in (RBI) and Runs Scored, and top 5 in OBP. Like most 1B, Gonzalez isn’t going to blaze the base paths, but he will certainly garner you excellent production for the other five categories.
Joey Votto (1B, CIN) had what most people would say to be a “down” year in 2011. He stroked just under 30 HR, but drove in 103 runs, scored another 106 on his own and walked nearly 20 times more than he did in 2010. However, his average, homers (by 8), RBI (by 10), and Runs Scored (by 5) were all down in 2011 causing him to have a “down” year. While the numbers suggest him to have slumped his overall production was good to be a top 5 first baseman last season. Votto plays in one of the most hitter friendly parks and that isn’t changing any time soon. The Reds young players around him are only getting better with Jay Bruce, and others, which will eventually allow Votto to see better pitches as teams will be forced to get him out more frequently, this is when Votto will be able to use his amazing eye to select the right pitches for him to take advantage of.
Paul Konerko (1B, CHW) used to be known for his amazing ability to put the ball into the stands. From 2004 – 2006 Konerko averaged 38 home runs per season, however besides a .313 average in 2006 just couldn’t get his average to be consistent. The following three seasons weren’t so kind to Konerko, never scored more than 75 runs, never more than 31 HR, couldn’t drive in more than 90 runs, and never hit higher than .277 average. So why would he be one of the top 5 players to draft? Well, since then, Konerko is back to his HR mashing ways averaging 35 HR per season, driving in more than 100 runs per year, but where the real jump goes to is his average has jumped back up and over the .300 mark to a two year average of .306 per year. Konerko isn’t really walking enough for a first baseman but his OBP of .388 and .393 over the last two years is nice. If the rest of the White Sox line up can drive him in he could be even more valuable at the first base position.
Just because of his name I think you have to talk about Albert Pujols (1B, ANA). However, I am a bit hesitant to draft Pujols in 2012. Pujols has never been hampered by his ball park as he has done what he has in one of the worst hitting parks in baseball, so knowing that Anaheim’s isn’t that much better isn’t a true worry for me. What has me hesitant is his jump from the National League to the American League. He plays in a league that holds the best starting pitchers in the baseball like Felix Hernandez (SP, SEA), Justin Verlander (SP, DET), CC Sabathia (SP, NYY), Jon Lester (SP, BOS) and others around the league. The argument could be made that he also faced big time starting pitchers in the National League, with Roy Halladay (SP, PHI), Clayton Kershaw (SP, LAD) and others, but overall the amount of talent can’t be compared to that of the American League. He doesn’t know these pitchers, for the most part he has never faced them, or if he has it’s only been for a few at bats, and the pitchers in the American League will use this to their advantage.
Notable 1B To Draft in 2012
Freddie Freeman (1B, ATL) and Eric Hosmer (1B, KC) were the heart of the rookie 1B class of 2011. Averaging 20 homers between the two of them, they were both able to drive in nearly 80 runs, steal multiple bases and batted over .280 higher than star 1B like Ryan Howard (1B, PHI), Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY) and Adam Lind (1B, TOR).
Prince Fielder (1B, FA) still doesn’t have a team, news around the league state that the Nationals are going hard for him, which may hurt Mike Morse (1B, WSH) value. But will also help Fielders. For now, we have to wait to see what team he lands on, but keep an eye on this situation because it could determine whether he is a draftable 1B or not.
The first base position is known for its power output. 12 first basemen in 2011 hit more than 25 homers and 13 first basemen drove in more than 80 runs. If you are one of the lucky ones to go out and grab the guy who not only hits for power but also hits for average then you’re in a perfect position. Because other positions like Catcher, Short Stop, and some Out Fielders don’t put up the power numbers that a first basemen can it is nearly imperative to get one of these top sluggers on draft day.
Written exclusively for The Fantasy Fix by Justin Mandaro.
As always you can follow me on twitter @PeckinTheFix
I am available to answer any draft and keeper related questions any time of the day.
Every week I will have two articles offering the top 5 players to draft at each position, and the top 5 players to let slip down your board culminating with my top 200 rankings for 2012 in mid march.
(October 2, 2011 – Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America)