The first base position is easily the deepest in fantasy heading into the 2013 season. Three stud options make up our top tier, but there is a strong crop in tier two as well that all sit within out top-50 overall. In a standard 10- or 12-team league, we are targeting three of these guys in the first three tiers that makes up 19 solid options and the positions (when we include a couple of catchers that see significant time at first base).
1. Albert Pujols – It’s easy to say that Albert is slowing down into his mid-30s, especially after a couple of “down” seasons, but there is also a lot to like about Pujols heading into his second jaunt in Anaheim. For as bad as this guy was over the first month-plus of the season (.197 average and 1 home run entering the day on May 15), Pujols rallied to a .312/.374/.589 line over his final 119 games.
2. Prince Fielder
3. Joey Votto
4. Adrian Gonzalez
5. Buster Posey
6. Allen Craig
7. Billy Butler – I like B-But and I cannot lie. Really, what is not to like? Butler was finally able to convert all of those doubles into home runs, knocking a career-best 29 balls out of the park to go along with 107 RBI and a rock-solid .313 average. The power boost was actually coupled by a decrease in FB% and a 5+% jump in his line-drive rate. Entering the prime of his career at age-27, expect 25+ home runs from the slugger with something in the neighborhood of a .300/.370/.480 slash line moving forward.
8. Edwin Encarnacion – E5 wrapped up his breakout 2012 with a career best 42 long balls as well as a solid .280 batting average, providing one of the biggest returns on draft cost heading in to the 2012 season. The interesting thing is that the power didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Over the first seven seasons of his career, Edwin had put up 25 home runs per 162 games played. His biggest issue has really been staying on the field and while we wouldn’t bank on another 40-homer season, 30 long balls are certainly in reach in 2013.
9. Paul Goldschmidt
10. Carlos Santana – Carlos came on down the stretch in 2013, batting .281 with 13 long balls and 46 RBI after the all-star break. Though he has been a tad inconsistent over the past three seasons, both the career 23.7 HR/AB and the .363 OBP for his career are quite impressive for a player entering his age-27 season.
11. Ryan Howard – The Phillies lumbering slugger managed to get onto the field for 71 in 2012 after missing several months due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Despite some obvious rust and a downright ugly batting average, the Big Dog slugged 14 home runs and drove home 56 RBI in the partial season, numbers that project to 32 taters and 128 RBI over a full complement of at-bats. Now a full year and a half removed from surgery, Howard makes a primary bounce-back candidate for the 2013 season.
12. Joe Mauer – The premiere bat at the catcher position over the past decade has settled in as a perennial top-3 option at his position. Though the 28 home runs Joe blasted in 2009 seem like a clear aberration—he’s hit more than 10 home runs just two other times in his career—there is no question that Mauer’s high contact gap-to-gap approach remains a very valuable fantasy asset. Take 85 runs, 85 RBI and a .310 average to the bank when acquiring Mauer on draft day.
13. Ike Davis – An ugly .227 batting average marred Ike Davis’ “breakout” season. That’s right, when a 25-year-old first baseman hits 32 home runs and 90 RBI, we consider that a breakout. A closer look at Davis’ line reveals a guy who batted .253 with 22 home runs from June 30th on (82 games), flashing the upside that made him a trendy sleeper heading into 2011. Davis’ draft value will likely slip as your opponents take a gander at that pitiful .227 batting average, but don’t fret, Davis will be just fine this year and makes quite the draft-day bargain.
14. Freddie Freeman
15. Mike Napoli
16. Paul Konerko
17. Eric Hosmer – My what a difference a year makes. The hype machine was in full gear on Hosmer last spring, but his stock has slipped significantly after a sophomore slump. It’s difficult to imagine that poor luck (.255 BABIP) didn’t play at-least some role in his struggles. On top of that, Hosmer swiped 16 bases last season, second only to Paul Goldschmidt at the positions. The Bill James Handbook has Hosmer slated for a .275-65-79-17 season in Hosmer in 2013 and if he can that (we think he can) it looks stunningly similar to Goldy’s breakout 2012. There is value to be had here betting on a bounce-back.
18. Adam LaRoche
19. Justin Morneau – Morneau has just not been the same player since a concussion ended his 2010 campaign midway through the season. Last year however, he was able to bounce back to a respectable .267-63-19-77-1 5×5 line. A closer look reveals a player who hit .289/.354/.439 after the all-star break last season. Health is always a concern with Morneau but if he can stay healthy, he’ll represent a major low-risk/high-reward investment on draft day.
20. Matt Wieters
21. Todd Frazier
22. Victor Martinez
23. Corey Hart
24. Mark Trumbo – I get the power. Trumbo has launched 61 home runs in just over 1,000 at-bats over the past two seasons. The problem is, many will remember the hot start he had out last year and not the miserable finish. While you were prepping for your fantasy football draft, Trumbo’s numbers took a nose-dive and a guy who was batting an elite .326/.380/629 entering the day on June 19, scuffled with a .235 average and a sub-.300 OBP over his final 85 games, leading to an less-than-stellar .268 average and downright ugly .317 on-base. The power is real and there is no doubt that Mark will drive in quite a few runs in that stacked Angel’s lineup, but I will stay away from the guy at his mid-7th round ADP.
25. Nick Swisher
26. Kendrys Morales
27. Anthony Rizzo
28. Kevin Youkilis
29. Chris Davis
30. Mark Reynolds
31. Tyler Colvin
32. Adam Dunn – Dunn enjoyed a bounce-back campaign on the South Side in 2012, blasting 41 home runs in 539 at-bats for the Pale Hose. His current game may leave fantasy owner yearning for the days when Adam was capable of putting up a .250-.260 but it appears at this stage you are going to have to accept a negative impact in that category from the slugger. Still, 40-homer power is hard to find and at the right price, Dunn makes a solid late-round investment as a corner-man/outfielder and can provide huge value in leagues that count on-base percentage or OPS.
33. Mark Teixeira
34. Yonder Alonso
35. Garrett Jones