This post is the latest in Ryan’s fantasy baseball position primer series. To view his primers for all other positions, click here.
1B Stock Watch: Rising
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
There are so many reasons to love Eric Hosmer.
Last season, the rookie hit 19 homers in his first 128 games as a big leaguer, while also managing to still hit .293. Obviously, those numbers are solid, especially when you throw in the 11 steals he also provided. The 22-year-old hit .349 in September, adding in 5 home runs and 19 RBI in that stretch.
Hosmer did struggle against left-handed pitching, which he is sure to see much more of this season, but he seems to be on the verge of greatness in this league.
Expect his stock to keep rising this season as he gets more comfortable in the majors.
Michael Morse, Washington Nationals
Morse launched 15 homers in 2010, displaying that he did have a power stroke, but it was almost impossible to envision him blossoming into the hitter he was last season.
For a fair comparison, Morse’s 31 homers last season were more than Troy Tulowitzki, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez or Josh Hamilton. The Nats’ first basemen also hit .303 in one of the most impressive all-around seasons in the National League.
I do not expect him to repeat the performance he had last season, but watch for Morse in the middle rounds of your draft.
1B Stock Watch: Rising
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard will at least miss a few months of the season with an Achilles injury suffered on the final out of the Phillies’ postseason last year. Even before that injury, it was easy to see Howard’s rapidly deteriorating production.
Howard’s home run and RBI totals have drastically decreased in the last two seasons. Before 2010, Howard had not played a full year without hitting at least 45 home runs. The last two have been quieter outputs, of 31 and 33 homers respectively.
The Big Piece does not provide much other than his power totals, with subpar averages and no speed to speak of. These declines plus the depth at 1B should make drafters beware the aging left-handed slugger.
Two Big 1B Questions
How good is the Tigers’ one-two punch at first base?
No pitcher in the league today has faced a more dangerous 3-4 punch than the Tigers have put together in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Cabrera has put up MVP-caliber numbers for the last seven seasons, averaging over 30 home runs and 110 RBIs a season, while maintaining a .317 average. Fielder is the most dangerous power hitter in the game not named Jose Bautista.
If you are worried that Comerica Park is a dead zone for power hitters, think about this. Comerica Park’s right field fence is 339 feet away from home. Prince Fielder’s shortest home run to right field last season flew 363 feet to right. Hopefully, that alleviates some of that worry.
Cabrera should be the number one overall player with the protection that Fielder provides, while Fielder is a also a top 3 first baseman.
How will the sophomore slump affect the first base position?
First base has several promising young sluggers who will enter their second full year at the position, such as Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Santana, Mark Trumbo, and Paul Goldschmidt.
Freeman and Hosmer had the most success out of the five and seem to be well on their ways to becoming stars in this league.
Santana had problems with his average, hitting just .239, yet he showed great power with 27 homers. The Indians first baseman is a rising star, expect another breakout campaign for him.
Mark Trumbo will in all likelihood not play first base this season because of the addition of Albert Pujols, but he is another big power bat that can be added later in the draft as a low-risk pick.
Top 1B Sleeper
Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt is another sophomore poised for a breakout season.
The young Diamondback slugger has immense power, reaching the upper deck multiple times in the desert. Even though he tends to strike out quite a bit, Goldschmidt’s raw power and the protection he has around him should earn him a look as this season’s Mike Stanton– mediocre average with great power and run producing numbers.
Strategy Tips at First Base
First base has to be a power position at all times. There is not much of a point to having a first baseman who cannot provide high RBI and home run totals (I am looking at you, James Loney). Consequentially, a good first baseman is a necessity on any fantasy team.
First base is actually a relatively deep position with the fresh blood coming out of the minors. However, there is a clear top tier that includes the Tigers’ two-headed monster, Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto. If you can get one of these first baseman, take them in a heartbeat. Other than that you can wait a few rounds and still be comfortable with someone like Hosmer.