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2010 First Base Tiers: The Deep End of the 1B Ocean
Tim Lee, FantasyJuice.com

The deepest position in fantasy baseball has been First Base for many years. What you usually get at this position are strong power hitters who donít move around that well, thus they man the base where they can just stand on the bag and catch a ball. Speed is noticeably absent from these players, but they more than make up for it with the best power numbers of any position on the field.

How does the outlook for First Base look for the upcoming season? The conversation has to start with Albert Pujols. He is the most consistently outstanding fantasy performer. He is a lock to hit .320, 35 HRs, and 100 RBIs. Your early picks are all about consistency. You canít win your season with your first round pick, but you can sure lose it if you pick a bust like last yearís Jose Reyes or Grady Sizemore. Bottom line is if Pujols falls to you with the number 2 overall pick, you should be extremely thankful.

Now comes the tricky part. You didnít get the first overall pick, so youíre looking at the next best 1B. Who do you pick? The next 4-5 First Basemen are so close that experts have them ranked in all different orders, all of which can be reasonably defended. The best way to decide which player to pick is to decide who else you plan on drafting to complement your 1B.

Howard and Fielder

Letís start with Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. These two players have a good chance to produce nearly identical statistics in 2010. Both have extraordinary power. Howard is a lock for 45+ HRs, while Fielder has had seasons of 50, 34, and 46 HRs in the last 3 years. Howard is the safer bet to have more homeruns because of that one year where Fielder dropped to 34 HRs. Howard has been consistent since he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2005. When it comes to average, however, you have to give the edge to Fielder. With all the strikeouts that Howard racks up, I expect his BA to dip below .270. Fielder, on the other hand, showed great improvement in plate discipline last year, evidenced by his .412 OBP. An average around .290 seems to be a reasonable estimate.

So your choice between Howard and Fielder revolves around picking the former for a guaranteed power numbers and subpar BA, or the latter for great power potential (with a little risk) and a slightly above average BA. So if you plan on going for Ichiro Suzuki or Joe Mauer, you can probably live with the BA hit you will take with Howard. If you want Adam Dunn or Grady Sizemore, you probably want to go with Prince.

Cabrera and Teixeira

The next pairing is Miguel Cabrera and Mark Teixeira. Both players have less power potential than Howard and Fielder, but both are capable of hitting above .300. So if you draft Ian Kinsler, you may want to take a look at someone like Cabrera, who has hit as high as .339 in his career. While Teixeira wonít hit for that high of a BA, his run and RBI totals will be solid because of his supporting cast. A full year with A-Rod batting behind him should lead to a spike in runs to perhaps 120. Plus, you donít have to worry about the off-the-field issues detracting from his performance, which can't be said about Cabrera.

The Next Tier

After Howard, Fielder, Teixeira, and Cabrera, the talent level drops to the next tier of players. This includes Justin Morneau, Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales, and Mark Reynolds.

The debate among Morneau and Gonzalez revolves around risk, consistency, and potential. Morneau is coming off back and wrist surgeries in the off-season. His average is consistently inconsistent (.271, .239, .321, .271, .300, .274). His ceiling for power is probably just a little over 30 HRs. Gonzalez plays in an awful ballpark with an even more awful lineup around him. You can count on his average being right around .280. His RBI totals will likely be lower than Morneau, assuming the latter stays healthy. If Gonzalez gets traded to, say, the Boston Red Sox, then his RBI and HR totals are likely to receive a significant boost. Even if he doesnít get moved, I would bet you see more HRs from Gonzalez.

So, to recap, Gonzalez has less risk than Morneau because heís not coming back from multiple surgeries and more upside in the event he gets traded to a team that doesnít have David Eckstein hitting in front of him.

The Young and the Old

Morales, Votto, and Reynolds are all young, exciting players, while Youkilis, Lance Berkman, and Derrek Lee are older, proven veterans. Morales had a terrific season, batting .306-34-108. The one thing to be concerned about is his subpar walk rate that could translate into a BA regression in 2010. Votto seems destined to have a breakout season and could easily be in the top 2 tiers if he continues with his progression at the plate. Reynolds has the potential to outclass everyone in terms of his power/speed stats. However, he is likely to be high up on at least one of your competitorís list which could mean an inflated price tag.

With Youkilis, you have a very dependable, predictable stat line: 25-30 HRs, 90-110 RBIs, 90+ runs, and a .300+ BA. Losing Jason Bay to free agency might hurt his numbers slightly. Berkman could be a good value play. You can expect him to bounce back with close to 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. Heís not going to steal 18 bases again like he did in 2008, but his average could increase back up to .290-.300.

As for Lee, one great year doesnít erase three years of mediocrity- just ask Aubrey Huff owners. I expect him to hit someone in the low 20s for HRs with a corresponding drop in RBIs. His speed looks like it has all but disappeared. In summary, if you feel like taking a chance that Morales, Votto, or Reynolds will exceed expectations, you will have to use an earlier pick. If you have other holes on your team, you can probably fill those and pick up Youkilis, Berkman or Lee on the cheap a few rounds later.

The Rest

The best of the rest includes Carlos Pena and Adam Dunn. Both players are basically power mashers who can kill your average. Billy Butler is an improving young hitter. Note that Victor Martinez and Pablo Sandoval were left off this list because they are more valuable at other positions on the field.

When drafting your first baseman, keep in mind what the rest of your team currently looks like and where you intend to take it in the draft. Balance potential with consistency, sluggers with pure hitters, and personal expectations with player perceptions. Keep the roadmap of players at each position in mind to foresee where the path starts going downhill to the next tier of players.


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