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Total Run Index Sneak Peaks: First Basemen

It’s certainly been awhile, but the process of deciphering total run index can be a little tedious. The good news is that when it’s done you have a great head start on your fantasy drafts next season. Today, we will look at first basemen. You can’t get anymore different than the comparison between catchers and first baseman.

For those a little late to the party, total run index (TRI) is something I’ve developed over the past couple of years. It provides an accurate representation of the number of runs above or below average a player contributes offensively to his team. Data is broken down between hitting and base running. A fielding element used to be included, but it was removed for fantasy purposes.

The beauty of TRI is that it allows you to compare players from different positions. Those of you that read my article about a week ago will immediately notice the difference between catchers and first basemen. The best catcher from 2013 would rank eighth on the first base list. This of course is where we start looking at the strategy of it all. First base is a deep position, so do you select an elite catcher before a first baseman or do you select the best player available? Well, those decisions won’t be coming for awhile. Let’s take a look back at 2013.

1. Chris Davis— Baltimore Orioles

Hitting: +52.9

Running: +1.4

TRI: +54.3

So, in terms of offense, Davis was more than 50 runs better than the average hitter. In sabermetric circles, 10 runs equals one win, so he was more than five wins better than the average player. When we look at replacement value that is obviously higher. This is also only including offense. The question with Davis is whether he will come anywhere close to producing this again. I have my doubts.

2. Joey Votto— Cincinnati Reds

Hitting: +45.3

Running: +0.1

TRI: +45.4

Votto represents the disconnect that often happens between fantasy baseball and real baseball. In real baseball he is actually more valuable than Chris Davis. Add in his defense and this is absolutely true. In fantasy baseball terms this isn’t even close. Votto doesn’t drive in a lot a of runs or hit a lot of home runs, so it looks more lopsided that what it really is. Votto walks a ton, so he is golden for OBP leagues and he will score a ton of runs.

3. Paul Goldschmidt— Arizona Diamondbacks

Hitting: +44.9

Running: 0.0

TRI; +44.9

For my money, Goldschmidt is the perfect marriage of Davis and Votto. Davis produces numbers and likely will continue (though not at his current pace) but doesn’t have the percentage numbers you would want. Votto has all of the percentages, but lacks the counting numbers. Goldschmidt does both and is likely to continue producing. I might even pick him above Votto in tradional 5×5 leagues.

4. David Ortiz— Boston Red Sox

Hitting: +37.3

Running: -2.7

TRI: +34.6

The World Series MVP continues to produce as if he is ageless. What we know is that Father Time catches up with all of us eventually. It will be interesting to see how he is treated when he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame. Ortiz defines clutch performance in the playoffs and he certainly has some gaudy numbers, but something says he needs one or two more prime seasons. Does he have that left in the tank?

5. Edwin Encarnacion— Toronto Blue Jays

Hitting: +33.0

Running: +1.6

TRI: +34.6

The Blue Jays added a ton of talent last offseason and still finished in last. That can’t be blamed on Encarnacion. He produced huge numbers for a second consecutive season. The Blue Jays somehow seem to add up to less than the sum of their parts. That shouldn’t concern you in fantasy terms because Encarnacion will likely continue to produce runs.

6. Freddie Freeman— Atlanta Braves

Hitting: +34.6

Running: -0.2

TRI: +34.4

Freeman’s final numbers shows us a perfect use of TRI. You’ll notice that the difference between the fourth best first baseman and the sixth best first baseman is next to nothing. So, why not go ahead and punt first base and select some premium guys at other positions. Once Goldschmidt leaves the board there really are no ultra stud first baseman out there. As for Freeman, he took a giant step forward last year and like Goldschmidt, that should continue into the future.

7. Brandon Belt— San Francisco Giants

Hitting: +27.6

Running: +0.8

TRI: +28.4

Belt took a giant leap forward while his teammates took a leap backwards. Buster Posey wasn’t his dominant self last year, but this Giants team has plenty of offensive talent to help Belt move forward. His numbers aren’t elite, but they are good enough to be serviceable while you dominate at other positions.

8. Brandon Moss— Oakland Athletics

Hitting: +26.3

Running: -2.2

TRI: +24.1

Like John Jaso, Moss presents a fantasy player with an interesting dilemma. In terms of quality production, there are few better and he can be had relatively late in the draft. However, since he is a part of a platoon, you have to pay attention to the matchups to take advantage of his skills. It’s a brilliant way to play regular baseball. The A’s get quality players for fractions of the cost, but for the fantasy player it can create some headaches. It might be worth it in the end though.

9. Allen Craig— St. Louis Cardinals

Hitting: +20.8

Running: -3.7

TRI: +17.1

Pay attention to the news wire this offseason. If Carlos Beltran turns down the Cardinals tender then that clears the way for Craig to be the everyday right fielder and for Matt Adams to take over at first. Adams ranks 16th among first baseman in TRI in spite of playing only the last two months. Meanwhile, Craig becomes eligible at first and in the outfield. He isn’t much of a fantasy first baseman, but make him eligible in the outfield and infield and he is an intriguing fantasy prospect.

10. Adam Lind— Toronto Blue Jays

Hitting: +19.0

Running: -3.0

TRI: +16.0

When we get down to the bottom of the top ten we notice the TRI numbers beginning to bunch up. The 14th ranked first baseman finished with a +15.1 total. So, no one needs to jump all over Lind in the draft. He doesn’t have a clear future in Toronto, so this situation bears watching. If he lands at a good destination he could be a nice dark horse candidate, but the reverse could also be true.

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