Fantasy BaseballFront OfficeTotal Run Index

Total Run Index: First Basemen

There are two primary strategies when it comes to fantasy sports. Sure, there are hundreds of “strategies” and I seem to try a new one every year, but the reality is that there are only two: either you take the best player available or you weight players differently based on the position they play. Whether it be fantasy football, baseball, hockey, basketball, or rugby, these are the strategies that are available to you.

When you look at the first base list, keep in mind the  difference between the two strategies. First base has more players with a +20.0 run profile than any other position. We saw only two catchers with that profile and we will see even fewer at some other positions (second base and shortstop). So, you could either load up your list purely by what TRI says or you can consider what we might call “positional scarcity.” So, here are your top 25 first baseman (and/or DHs that are eligible at first base).

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2012

3YR

5YR

Brandon Belt

14.8

—-

—-

Lance Berkman

3.7

19.3

26.0

Billy Butler

26.3

22.0

14.8

Allen Craig

22.1

12.0

—-

Ike Davis

4.2

9.4

—-

Adam Dunn

10.4

3.3

12.1

Edwin Encarnacion

39.6

17.3

10.9

Prince Fielder

37.6

36.7

36.2

Freddie Freeman

13.1

7.4

—-

Paul Goldschmidt

24.4

—-

—-

Adrian Gonzalez

10.1

31.1

33.0

Corey Hart

16.1

20.9

13.9

Ryan Howard

-6.5

8.2

14.4

Garrett Jones

15.1

3.6

4.9

Paul Konerko

19.1

30.1

20.3

Adam Laroche

21.7

5.2

8.2

Kendry Morales

14.0

15.8

8.7

Justin Morneau

3.4

8.5

16.2

David Ortiz

26.1

27.8

19.2

Carlos Pena

-3.0

6.8

13.1

Albert Pujols

26.0

41.6

54.1

Mark Reynolds

5.4

5.1

8.4

Anthony Rizzo

8.5

—-

—-

Mark Teixeira

11.2

17.4

28.0

Mark Trumbo

14.9

7.1

—-

Joey Votto

38.9

47.4

39.0

Joey Votto– Cincinnati Reds

Votto was not the very best first baseman last season because he missed a couple of months, but when you consider that you have to put him at the top of your list based on his single season TRI score. Moreover, when you consider his overall track record, he narrowly edges out Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

Votto is a doubles machine and he matches the ability to hit for average with the ability to draw walks. If you have walks and/or on base percentage in your league then he should be in your top five. He will probably end up being number three or four on my board.

Prince Fielder– Detroit Tigers

The debate between Fielder and Pujols will be an interesting one. Both of them are a part of deep lineups that shouldn’t struggle to produce runs. I give the slight edge to Fielder because he is still in his prime and because the Tigers added two hitters (Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez) in comparison with the Angels one hitter (Josh Hamilton).

Albert Pujols– Los Angeles Angels

Technically, he has a better track record than Fielder or Votto, but there is nothing more dangerous than the memory of a great player. Check out my “Follow the batted ball” piece on Pujols to see what I’m talking about. He is still very good, but he is in decline. There is nothing wrong with decline, but you are better off knowing that going in. He will still hit 30+ home runs and drive in 100+ runs for another year.

Adrian Gonzalez– Los Angeles Dodgers

Last year was a down year for Gonzalez and he still drove in more than 100 runs. That shows you the kind of depth we have at the position. He will bounce back some, but the disappearing power numbers are very disturbing. I would suspect that he would return to the 20 home run plateau, but how special is that really when you have so many good first basemen?

Paul Goldschmidt– Arizona Diamondbacks

Consider Goldschmidt my first sleeper at the position. What I like about Goldschmidt is that he gives you something you typically don’t get with a first baseman. He will give you ten to fifteen steals and that can be the difference between winning and losing. Moreover, it might prevent you from making a selection later on based purely on the steals category. That is how fantasy players can get themselves in trouble.

David Ortiz– Boston Red Sox

Mind you, if he is not eligible at first base then that might affect where you put him on your draft board. Still, he has been a steady performer for years and I think everyone in Boston is due for a bounce back season. Like many others, Bobby Valentine and he did not get along. Valentine torpedoed a lot of fantasy teams by infecting the entire Red Sox clubhouse. He will likely be magically healthy this year.

Edwin Encarnacion– Toronto Blue Jays

Encarnacion will be eligible at first and third base in some leagues and that makes him valuable on his own. The question is whether he will become the second coming of Jose Bautista or whether he will become the 1067th version of the one year wonder. I tend to split the difference on these sorts of things, but you are free to consider him what you will.

Paul Konerko– Chicago White Sox

Konerko is hardly what I would call a sleeper, but he is an example of how you can use the depth at first base to your advantage. Assuming he completes a season healthy, he can give you the same 30 home runs and 100 RBIs that all of the big boys do and you can take care of other needs on your team in the early rounds.

Billy Butler– Kansas City Royals

Again, if he isn’t eligible at first you will need to adjust accordingly, but he is growing as a hitter. This will continue as the Royals continue to grow. While Wil Myers will not be a part of their future, existing players like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer will grow as hitters. Couple that with Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, and Lorenzo Cain and there is enough there to support him.

Mark Teixeira– New York Yankees

The Yankees are a great example of the folly of long-term contracts. We see that they are trying to get out of the Alex Rodriguez contract. The Teixeira contract is not terrible per se, but they are paying him as one of the best hitters in baseball and he is not. Like many of the others at the position, he is still capable of hitting home runs and driving in 100 or more. If you wait until the middle rounds he would be a very good complement to your team.

Allen Craig– St. Louis Cardinals

Here is another prime sleeper candidate. One thing I don’t like about Craig is that he doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but he has the makings of a very good run producer and he is a part of a good lineup. He has never gotten a full time opportunity before this year. That has some good points and bad points. Pitchers will eventually expose his weaknesses, but he will also drive in and score more runs.

Corey Hart– Milwaukee Brewers

The good news is that Hart will also be eligible in right field, but the bad news is that he might not start the season healthy. If you have waited until now to select your first baseman then you can select Hart and then stash him on your IR at the start of the season. Besides, he gives you good flexibility and that will be important later on the season when injuries strike.

Lance Berkman– Texas Rangers

No one wins a fantasy league without taking a few chances. Lance Berkman represents about the biggest risk/reward in fantasy baseball. Over the last four years he has been injury riddled twice and wildly successful twice. The downside is clear. He has become brittle in his mid thirties and might not have anything left in the tank.

On the positive side, he is going to the second best hitter’s park in baseball and a team that has plenty of offensive talent around him. Plus, he should be eligible in right field in most leagues, so he offers positional flexibility. At this point, he would be a really good bench option in the later rounds.

Brandon Belt– San Francisco Giants

When we get beyond the first dozen first basemen we get into the territory where we start building our bench. You can draft guys like Berkman that could be great if they are healthy. You can also pick up someone like Belt. Belt will certainly be healthy in all likelihood, but he represents a different kind of risk. He was terrible in year one and solid in year two. Will he be good in year three or will he remain solid?

Kendrys Morales– Seattle Mariners

Morales is another Allen Craig. He is entering a situation where he will get regular playing time for the first time in several years. Mind you, it will be in a pitcher’s ballpark with a lineup that leaves a lot to be desired, but as a bench guy you could do far worse.

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