2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Players – First Basemen

First base is by far the deepest position and that doesn’t even count the fact that most designated hitters are classified as first basemen. So, most fantasy players use first basemen to fill their utility slot. Add in the occasional first basemen on the bench (or as a first baseman/third baseman in some leagues) and you can see that virtually every player in the top six at the position was drafted. In point of fact, most of these guys were selected within the first half of the draft.

It’s truly one of the ironies of fantasy baseball. You have plenty of productive first baseman and yet so many people rush to select them in the draft. The top six demonstrate again that there is a tremendous amount of wisdom in being patient. Sometimes, hot prospects don’t get it the first go around, but if you (and teams) are patient then they will eventually come of age and blossom before your very eyes.

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Unlike our last series, we are using the standard fantasy categories (minus stolen bases) and runs created to judge where to put these guys. We also will include runs produced (runs + RBI – HR) to help give us an idea of where these guys stand. The pre-draft rankings come from Yahoo. However, as you will find, most platforms tend to be fairly similar in how they rank guys before the season.

PRE

AVG

HR

Runs

RBI

RP

RC

Jose Abreu

110

.304

31

60

86

115

86

Anthony Rizzo

118

.279

25

75

61

111

84

Miguel Cabrera

2

.304

17

69

84

136

77

Freddie Freeman

27

.288

16

72

64

120

81

Victor Martinez

156

.321

23

55

68

100

79

Edwin Encarnacion

15

.277

26

57

70

101

70

Of course, some of these guys are more established. So, we will hone in on the three guys that have surprised us this season. What we will see as a recurring theme is the theme of patience. Many of these guys have really not come out of nowhere. They were there all along, but they have slowly developed over the years into the star performers that they have become. It also doesn’t hurt that a few prominent first sackers have taken a step back.

Jose Abreu— Chicago White Sox

I’m really not sure how you get anymore break out than Jose Abreu. He is on pace to surpass 40 home runs and 120 RBI in a time when those numbers mean something again. For the White Sox, this comes in the nick of time. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn are likely going to go their separate ways, so having Abreu to take over full-time at first base has turned into a godsend. Abreu was heavily bid on in the offseason, but I don’t think anyone saw these numbers coming. Whether he winds up the season number one in runs created is still in doubt. There are two others with five runs created at first base alone, but there really is no doubt that he is the breakout player of the year at first base.

Anthony Rizzo— Chicago Cubs

Back in the good ol’ days, baseball teams were all built through the draft and amateur scouting. Sure, beginning in the mid 1970s you saw the occasional free agent, but as fans, you literally grew up with the same core of guys. Your hopes and dreams were linked to their progress. Losing didn’t necessarily mean you were destined to lose for an eternity. If a team had enough guys like Rizzo, they could elevate themselves from the cellar to the penthouse.

Everyone knew Rizzo had the talent to become a top flight first baseman, but the internet age is full of people unwilling to wait around for the slow development phase. There are just enough Mike Trouts out there to ruin it for everyone else. Most players don’t get it right away, but now the Cubs just might be the most exciting young team in the National League. Fans of Kris Bryant and Javier Baez might heed the lesson we learned with Rizzo. You might not get exactly what you want overnight.

Victor Martinez— Detroit Tigers

Another of my favorite pastimes is watching fans freak out over long-term contracts supposedly gone bad. They’re doing it in Texas with Prince Fielder on the shelf and Shin-Soo Choo underperforming. Sure, those moves may not work out for the Rangers in the long run, but we’ll need a lot more than 2014 to make that determination. Victor Martinez missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, but his tenure in Detroit has to be seen as an overwhelming success anyway.

With a reasonable finish, he will average over 100 RBIs a season in the three seasons he was healthy. That is precisely what he was brought in to do. He’s done that with a .300+ average and likely around 20 home runs a season. Who knows what the future holds for Martinez. He really can’t field any particular position, so he is stuck in the American League. That being said, as long as he remains healthy, he is a nice guy to have in the utility slot.

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