Front Office

A Look Back at the 2013 Draft: AL First Basemen

Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America
Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

As we continue our journey through the 2013 draft, we find ourselves shifting gears to the most offensively dominant position on the diamond. Obviously, this means that more players will be owned than at any other position. Still, we must remind ourselves that we are talking about designated hitters in addition to first baseman. In the American League, at least half the teams employ a DH that could be classified as a first baseman on any given night. That means that there are over 20 viable first basemen in that league alone.

This is one of the main reasons why the positions have been split down league lines. We do have a number of players playing in AL or NL only leagues, but we also just want to make sure that every player gets their just due. For those arriving to the party late, we are evaluating players on three different statistics. These statistics help us differentiate between quality and quantity of performance as you would evaluate them on draft day. These numbers include total average from Baseball Prospectus, batter runs from Fangraphs, and runs created from Baseball Reference. It’s also nice to have a potpurri of sources when looking at player performance.

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Owned

TAV

BR

RC

Albert Pujols

99

.307

25.0

104

Prince Fielder

99

.326

42.8

128

Edwin Encarnacion

98

.329

39.4

123

Billy Butler

98

.304

31.4

113

Mark Trumbo

96

.290

15.3

81

Chris Davis

95

.289

13.2

83

Paul Konerko

88

.300

21.8

95

Eric Hosmer

86

.242

-13.5

62

David Ortiz

85

.343

30.7

84

Adam Dunn

82

.288

10.8

90

Lance Berkman

73

.296

2.8

14

Mark Teixeira

71

.298

9.7

73

Justin Morneau

68

.274

5.6

72

Mark Reynolds

64

.270

5.3

64

Kendrys Morales

62

.298

10.7

70

Brandon Moss

23

.336

20.7

56

Adam Lind

9

.260

-1.0

41

Chris Carter

9

.317

11.2

41

Justin Smoak

6

.236

-9.2

51

Mitch Moreland

5

.264

1.6

48

Median

—-

.297

11.0

72.5

To put the median in perspective we should keep in mind the league averages for all of these categories. In total average, the league average is said to be .260 although you won’t see this from most of the positions. The league average includes pitchers and pinch hitters. Here (and at each position) we are looking at regular players, so the average will normally be between .265 and .270. For first baseman it is nearly .300, so you obviously have to make sure you are getting an all-star level performer at the position.

This brings us to our first sore thumb. Eric Hosmer is a promising young first baseman that went through a horrible 2012 campaign. Furthermore, he looked overmatched in the World Baseball Classic this spring, so I’m struggling to figure out why he was so coveted on draft day. Sure, I suppose he is a guy that could be stashed on a bench in the hopes that he will discover the magic he found in 2011, but that seems like an awfully high price to pay for someone that hasn’t proven anything of note.

Let’s consider the case of Justin Smoak for a second. Both he and Hosmer were first round picks in the amateur draft. Both were selected in the top half of the first round and both brought excellent hitting pedigrees to professional baseball. Both also shot up the minor league ranks with relative speed. Both players also looked like dog feces last year at the plate. Smoak is getting another opportunity this year, but for someone that is now going into his fourth season at the big league level, you have to think opportunities will be rather limited. Hosmer is one year behind Smoak, but is on a similar career path. Who knows, maybe one or both busts out this year, but their concurrent situations are proof enough that we should watch for actual production and not theoretical production.

Since the league is so deep in terms of being owned, we only have a handful of candidates for sleepers, but a couple of names shine through. Chris Carter was traded to the Astros and while that might seem like the kiss of death, it hasn’t been early on in the 2013 season. He has three home runs so far and appears to have left off exactly where he was in 2012. The difference is that he is now eligible at first base and in left field. That makes him a really nice bench option for your squad should he be languishing on the waiver wire in your league. Like many of the Astros, Carter is not a perfect fit. He will have periods of minimal contact mixed in with periods of powerful outbursts.

His former teammate, Brandon Moss, is a similar player. The Athletics brought in Nate Freiman to complement him against lefties. As we discussed during the platoon advantage series, most players play against right-handers between 75 and 80 percent of the time. It is amazing how players get downgraded when they prove incapable of succeeding that 20 to 25 percent of the time. Yes, that makes them less valuable than someone that can hit against both righties and lefties, but the drop in value is not proportional to where these players normally get drafted. After all, Moss is unowned in more than 75 percent of mixed leagues.

The funny thing about first base is that we could easily go another five deep and still remain relevant. In particular, there are some part time players that will be relevant for at least the next few weeks. Both Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay have found themselves in the regular lineup in New York due to some untimely injuries. Overbay in particular is a short timer, but if you are into churning your bench, he could be a decent option for at least the next couple of weeks. Hafner appears to be a much more stable solution over the course of the full season.

In the end, guys like that will end up being better solutions than the James Loneys and Carlos Penas of the world. Yet, they are there as living proof that there will be some regulars left on the waiver wire to die on the vine. It’s a buyers market out there for first basemen and utility platers. Shop carefully boys and girls.

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