Here is the second article in the series for our 2012 fantasy baseball rankings looking at the position of first base. Right now I have Kendrys Morales and Justin Morneau ranked just outside of the top 20 because I have them projected with around 400 at bats until we learn more about their status as they work their way back from injury.
Injuries have robbed Morneau of playing time the last two seasons and he has not been the same since suffering a concussion in July of 2010. He is still experiencing concussion symptoms today which makes him a major question mark in 2012. Given the depth of the first base position, I would be looking for a much safer alternative rather than trying to roll the dice on Morneau or Morales in annual leagues.
Here is a look at the top 20 fantasy baseball first basemen for 2012 with my comments. A longer list with 2012 fantasy baseball projections are available in the 2012 FBT Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is on sale now.
1. Albert Pujols – moves to the American League and should have no issue maintaining his numbers for the next few seasons. Fell one RBI short of 100, one steal short of double digits and one hit short of batting .300. Statistically this was the worst season of his career, but he is still one of the most consistent players from year-to-year which counts for a lot given the amount of first round busts each season.
2. Miguel Cabrera – batting average has gone up for three straight seasons to a career-high of .344 and he broke 100 walks for the first time in his career. Had a few less home runs and RBI in 2011 but no reason for both of those numbers not to come up a little bit in 2012.
3. Joey Votto – now assumes the throne of the best first basemen in the National League with the move of Pujols to the A.L. All of his numbers slightly dropped in 2011 but those numbers are still at a top tier level.
4. Adrian Gonzalez – the move away from PECTO Park was expected to help his offensive numbers, but his home run total ended up being the second lowest total of his career. Given the jump in batting average and a career-high in runs scored, most fantasy owners are willing to live with that trade off. He failed to take advantage of Fenway Park, hitting only 10 home runs in 314 at bats and he only managed to hit three long balls against left-handed pitching and both of those numbers should correct in 2012.
5. Mark Teixeira – came close to 40 home runs again, thanks to a career-high 15 home runs against left-handed pitching. Batting average has dropped three straight seasons but I am not concerned about that. His contact rate has held steady as has his average against southpaws so it is has been more a matter of bad luck than loss of skill. I would expect his average to rebound in 2012.
6. Prince Fielder – average has alternated up and down all seven seasons in his career plus he has yet to hit over .300 in his career so I expect that number to be going down in 2012. Regardless of where he signs as a free agent, his power numbers should not be impacted at all..
7. Ryan Howard – two straight seasons of less than 100 runs scored and his home run total looks to be in the low 30′s going forward. The biggest issue of course is the Achilles injury that occurred at the end of the NLDS this past fall that could case him to miss part of the first month of the season. Turned 32 in November and given his injury I would be looking for other options at first base in 2012.
8. Paul Konerko – solid second tier option at first base who has seen his numbers take a step back up in his mid-30′s. Home run rate dropped off the second half of the season with one home run every 24 at bats compared to one every 15 at bats before the All-Star Break. He has been an underrated option at first base for many years, but he does turn 36 in March so a decline is going to start happening at some point.
9. Eric Hosmer – stellar rookie season that figures to only get better in his second year. Check out his second half numbers where he hit .313 in 284 at bats with 11 home runs, 44 RBI and nine stolen bases. Then look at the fact that he hit only one home run in 152 at bats against left-handed pitching in 2011. His draft status will likely be claiming the closer it gets to draft day so those in leagues that draft earlier will have a better shot at him.
10. Mike Morse – has performed better in the major leagues than he ever did in the minors and it is not too often that players close to 30-years-old all of a sudden start hitting 30 home runs. On the plus side though, if you doubled his 2010 at bats to get to his 2011 totals, all of his other numbers were right in line and held up over a full season.
11. Gaby Sanchez – made slight improvement in his plate discipline though it wasn’t reflected in his overall numbers in 2011. Needs better endurance in order to be able to put two solid halves of baseball together. Because he did not improve on his numbers last season, there is a good chance he falls a couple of rounds later than he should in drafts this season.
12. Lance Berkman – hit left-handers like he did back in 2008 and was healthy for the majority of the season which was a surprise given he moved to the outfield. The loss of Pujols puts Berkman back at first base in 2012, but given what he did last season, he is going to be overvalued this year so let someone else own him.
13. Mark Trumbo – no doubt about his power, the only question is how many at bats he is going to get if Morales is healthy. The plan was to try him at third base but he has been bothered by a stress fracture in his foot this offseason which has not allowed him to start working at the position.
14. Carlos Lee – average bounced back as expected and he still is making good contact at age 35. Runs scored are going to be low in a light-hitting Astros offense but still has decent value after the middle of the draft and he qualifies at first base and in the outfield which gives additional flexibility.
15. Paul Goldschmidt – it is easy to get caught up in his power after he his 30+ home runs his last two minor league seasons. Remember that he did jump from AA last season and he had a 34% strikeout rate in his first season. In keeper leagues, yeah, I am all in. In annual leagues, I am a little bit more cautious for 2012.
16. Adam Dunn – hard to hit the baseball when striking out 43% of the bat. His first year in the American League was a total disaster as he hit .064 against left-handed pitching and managed just three home runs on the road. It could have been simply a matter of adjusting to new the league and trying to justify the four-year $56 million contract the White Sox had given him. I expect some bounce back though not all the way to his 2010 season.
17. Adam Lind – his batting average against-left-handed pitching rebounded but it made only a little bit of difference as fewer balls fell in for hits once again. His first half was stellar with a .300 batting average and 16 home runs in 260 at bats before hitting .197 after the All-Star Break in 239 at bats.
18. Ike Davis – missed the majority of the 2011 season with an ankle injury that he failed to have surgery on at the end of the season which makes him a slight injury risk in 2012. Before the injury, he looked like he was on his way to an increase in power with seven home runs in 129 at bats. The one negative was his .163 batting average against southpaws although it was a small sample size of 43 at bats.
19. Freddie Freeman – showed a little bit more power that expected in his rookie campaign but otherwise all other numbers were in line with projections. Held up well against left-handed pitching with a .247 batting average and seven home runs in 186 at bats.
20. Aubrey Huff – the spoils of success: was out of shape physically and not in the game mentally as well and his numbers fell off a cliff in 2011. He was overvalued in 2011 and will be undervalued in 2012 making him a decent end game target for astute fantasy owners.
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