In what is perhaps the deepest position in all of fantasy baseball, there has been a remarkable amount of change at the top at first base. Chris Davis has mashed his way from a risky, mid-tier option to an elite play in true Encarnacion fashion. Speaking of E5, he certainly has done a nice job of proving that 2012 was no fluke while Paul Goldschmidt just keeps getting better and better.
Top-tier stalwart Albert Pujols dips down a bit in our rankings as he continues his career decline, but still remains a top-10 commodity. In tier three, there’s a number of high-upside options that could easily return top-10 value, but carry a bunch more risk than the players above. Ryan Howard and Adam Lind stick out as two guys who are moving in the right direction, but could easily fall back to previous (read: disappointing) levels.
The final grouping is where things get really interesting. Many of the guys provide elite-level contributions in certain categories but with massive holes in their games. A hot streak can easily make them top-flight options, but at the end of the day, you really have to weight their negative impact on certain categories against the positives that they bring to the table, particularly in a roto league. All told, we don’t mind selling any of the players on this list as the replacement level at first base is significantly better than you’ll find at pretty much any other spot around the diamond.
1. Joey Votto – Cin
Phenomenal eye at the plate has him leading the position in runs scored. Consistency keeps him ahead of some more powerful options nipping at his heels.
2. Paul Goldschmidt – Ari
How do you follow up a breakout .286-82-20-82-18 campaign in 2012? Put up a per-162-game pace of .310-111-41-143-13 through your first 76 games of 2013.
3. Chris Davis – Bal
On June 27, he sits just 5 home runs shy of his 2012 total. Whats more impressive is the 54% increase in his walk rate (6.6 BB% in 2012 vs. 10.2 BB% in 2013).
4. Prince Fielder – Det
Fielder has been steady as ever, but the power outage is perplexing. If he doesn’t pick up the pace, we’re looking at his first season with fewer than 30 home runs since 2006.
5. Edwin Encarnacion – Tor
He’s trimmed the K-rate this season and though the speed pace has slowed down a bit, the rest of the numbers fall in line with last year’s performance. Getting Jose Reyes back at the top of the lineup will only help the Blue Jays boppers.
6. Adrian Gonzalez – LAD
The average and RBI have been there all year, now with six home runs in his past 30 games, the power stroke is developing as well.
7. Albert Pujols – LAA
A .252 BABIP (.306 career) is partially to blame for his .256/.328/.443 but even a declining Albert can give you 30 bombs and a 100 RBI.
8. Allen Craig – StL
Like Adrian in LA, Craig took some time to get his power stroke going. He’s coming around with four homers in his last 20 games, though, and if he can get to 25 homers, the .320 average with 110+ RBI will play very nicely in your first base slot.
9. Buster Posey – SF
Solid .314/.390/.515 return so far, but can he replicate last year’s furious second half?
10. David Ortiz – Bos
Health may be a continued concern but the numbers he’s putting up are too good to look away from: 16 homers and 57 RBI in just 61 games.
11. Billy Butler – KC
Sometimes, you just gotta have faith… B-But’s walk rate is nearly double of what it was least year while his HR/FB% has been cut in half. Perhaps he’s not the 29-homer bat we saw last year, but with an excellent eye at the plate, an uptick over the second half remains likely.
12. Freddie Freeman – Atl
Though he’ll need to pick up the power pace to match last year’s number, the run production is bordering on the elite tier. His strides in batting average are likely tied to a .369 BABIP, but we’ll take it anyway!
13. Adam Lind – Tor
Slugged his 11th homer of the season Wednesday (all since May 7) to go along with a superb .322/.386/.542 line. He’s mashing right-handed pitching, as always, and also holding his own in limited work vs. southpaws as well.
14. Anthony Rizzo – ChC
In his first 162 with the Cubbies, Rizzo has put together a nice .272-84-27-94-8 performance. Rock Solid.
15. Ryan Howard – Phi
The Big Dog is simply sizzling, batting .307/.379/.535 since May 21 (32 games). Expect the RBIs to come in bunches now that Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz have returned to add some depth to the Phils’ lineup.
16. Adam LaRoche – Was
Horrid April (.473 OPS) was followed by a lights out May (1.024 OPS), but the power faded in June. If we see his typical second-half surge, however, the numbers will be there come September.
17. Carlos Santana – Cle
We’d like to see a bit more in terms of run production, but his phenomenal 45:55 walk-to-strikeout ratio will keep the statistical floor quite high.
18. Joe Mauer – Min
The elite average (.337) and OBP (.417) are always bankable, and Joe is quietly on-pace to post his best home run total (16) since his 28-homer outburst in 2009.
19. Mark Reynolds – Cle
Reynolds leads of the “flawed” tier of players, we love the power (14 HR, 44 RBI) but it comes with a boatload of Ks (90 so far) and a .235 batting average.
20. Mike Napoli – Bos
Napoli has cooled since a really hot start and while his injury does not appear to be an issue, a declining walk rate and a 31.9 K% could certainly make it tough for a player to sustain a respectable batting average. The .377 BABIP (.307 career) screams sell!
21. Mitch Moreland – Tex
Though he’s been handling left-handed pitching well so far this year (.278/.381/.456) we question his ability to do so in the long run after batting just .246 against southpaws for his career.
22. Matt Carpenter – StL
Should finish near the top of the NL in runs scored and continue to provide a solid average but with limited power/speed upside, he slips on this list.
23. Mark Trumbo – LAA
Batting just .186 in June, we can’t help but be reminded of his hot start to 2012 before taking a serious dip in the second half. Still, the power is real and he’s a solid two-category contributor.
24. Eric Hosmer – KC
The .381 SLG is pretty awful for a first baseman, but he’s been making better contact of late with three home runs, four double and a triple in his past 12 games.
25. Brandon Moss – Oak
Excellent .267-85-35-92-2 line over 157 games dating back to the start of last season. The 30.4 K%, however, makes us believe he’s more the .239 hitter he’s been in 2013 than the .291 hitter he was in 2012.
26. Michael Cuddyer – Col
Strong start to the season, but that .382 BABIP (.308 career) is coming down. He’s also had trouble staying on the field and makes for a fine sell-high right now.
27. Justin Morneau – Min
Bounce back campaign from Morneau is marred by the lack of thump in his bat. Still, his .281 average and 42 RBI through 69 games can help.
28. Nick Swisher – Cle
Shoulder injury appears to be hampering his power stroke but with K/BB rate in line with career norms, better days are likely ahead.
29. Kendry Morales – Sea
Useful corner option even in cavernous Safeco Field. Expect similar production to his .273-61-22-73-0 line from 2012.
30. Paul Konerko – CWS
Three-year decline in OPS heading into 2013 speaks to an aging power bat who just does not have the pop he used to.
31. Todd Frazier – Cin
Batting .263/.352/.553 with six homers and 18 RBI on April 24, he’s been a .228/.329/.339 player since with just three home runs in 53 games. Streaky players still have value, but he’s hard to trust in a head-to-head format.
32. Kyle Blanks – SD
Finally Blanks appears to be putting it all together with eight homers and 31 RBI in just 175 at-bats while posting a career-best 22.7 K%.
33. Chris Carter – Hou
Carter’s 108 strikeouts are most in the majors, but aside from a poor .231 batting average and lack of speed, he’s bringing the goods across the board with 37 runs scored, 15 home runs and 40 RBI for a better-than-you-think Houston offense.
34. Adam Dunn – CWS
Remarkably on pace for a second straight season with 40 homers and a Mendoza-ish batting average. You know the risks, the question is: how much do you need the power?
35. Logan Morrison – Mia
With 13 hits in his first 43 at-bats including a homer, a triple and three doubles LoMo is looking solid coming back from offseason knee surgery. He’s got 20-homer upside, but he’ll need to keep that average up to be a true asset.
36. Michael Young – Phi
The light-hitting veteran is swinging a strong stick in the month of June to the tune of a .326/.333/.478 slash line.
37. Garrett Jones – Pit
As always, solid production against right-handed pitching, lots of bench time versus left-handed pitching.
38. Ike Davis – NYM
Certainly the year’s biggest bust at the position, Ike put up a paltry .161/.242/.258 slash line in 55 games before being demoted. Davis has been mashing in the minors with 5 homers in 49 at-bats, but apparently will need to show a bit more bfore he is back up with the big club.
39. Tyler Colvin – Col
Miserable 7-for-44 performance with 19 strikeouts in 15 games could land the talented Colvin back in the minors shortly.
40. Yonder Alonso – SD
Though he was off to a solid, if unspectacular, start to the season, you may be waiting another couple of weeks for Alonso to return and wiht any hand injury, there is risk that the swing will not be right out of the gates.