2012 First Base Keeper Rankings: Tier Three

First base is pretty much the only position where you can get into the third tier and still find three players (and maybe a fourth) legitimately capable of giving your team 30 homers and 100 RBI next season. Of course most of those guys are likely to drag down your overall batting average, but sometimes that’s a trade-off you have to make because power is becoming harder to find. Major injury is another common theme in this tier.

Zach Sanders’ end of season player values were included for reference, though they were not the sole criteria used to create these rankings.

Tier One (link)
Miguel Cabrera
Joey Votto
Albert Pujols
Prince Fielder
Adrian Gonzalez

Tier Two (link)
Mark Teixeira
Paul Konerko
Eric Hosmer
Michael Morse
Freddie Freeman

Tier Three

Carlos Pena – $7

Pena does not have a home for 2012 yet, but he found one at the winter meetings last winter and might do the same this winter. His batting ball profile has gone through some extreme shifts over the last two seasons, and late this year it was back to where it was during the 2009 season, when he hit an AL-leading 39 homers. A few more balls found grass for Pena this year (.267 BABIP after .222 in 2010), but he still hit in the low-.200’s (.227 to be exact) for the third straight year. His top of the line power (.237) and crazy good batting eye (16.7% walks) allowed him to remain valuable in the counting stats (28 HR, 80 RBI) and in OBP leagues (.357). Pena is a safe bet to stay on the field and produce 25+ homers and 80 or so RBI, but he’ll absolutely kill your team average.

Mark Trumbo – $12

If you weren’t in an OBP league last season, Trumbo was the best fantasy first baseman outside of the first seven names in these rankings. He hit for huge power (29 homers and a .223 ISO) and drove in the appropriate number of runs (87), and even stole nine bases. Trumbo was a killer in OBP leagues though, with his 4.4% walk rate and .254 average leading to a ghastly on-base rate of 29.1%. His minor league track record suggests that a few more free passes could lie ahead, but not an overwhelming amount. It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels fit him and Kendrys Morales into their lineup, but the latter has to get (and stay) healthy first. Trumbo will play somewhere, which could lead to the added bonus of position flexibility.

Ryan Howard – $17

The question with Howard isn’t production, he’s going to hit right around .250-.260 with 30+ homers and an ungodly amount of runs driven in over the course of a full season like clockwork. We just don’t know how much he’ll actually play in 2012. The ruptured achilles he suffered on the final play of the Phillies season is very likely to keep him out at the start of next season, but his actual return date is up in the air at the moment. Could be mid-April, could be late-May for all we know. A healthy Howard would have found himself in Tier Two, likely right behind Konerko. I fully expect him to produce at his usual rate once healthy, so he’s a rather intriguing DL-stash candidate.

Ike Davis – N/A

An ankle injury sabotaged what was a very strong start to the season for Davis (.302/.382/.543 with seven homers in 24 games and 149 plate appearances), a strong start that doesn’t come with any small sample size batted ball funny business. His .344 BABIP will probably come down a touch, but you’re still talking about a guy with a track record of drawing walks in the minors (11.9% as a big leaguer) and big left-handed power. The walls at CitiField are being moved in quite a bit this offseason — a 16 ft. wall at 378 ft. in right field is being replaced by an 8 ft. wall at 375 ft. — which figures to only help Davis’ production. The health of his ankle is still a question, but Ike is a prime candidate for a big breakout season in 2012.

Gaby Sanchez – $8

Sanchez’s season was cut into two pieces in 2011, with a .312/.392/.513 start (12 HR in 309 PA) being followed by a .224/.317/.350 finish (7 HR in 352 PA). Part of the reason is that his batted ball profile got back to normal, with all those early season line drives turning back into regular old fly balls over the course of the summer. Sanchez won’t hit for a ton of power (19 HR in each of his two full seasons) unless the Marlins’ new park ends up playing really small, so you’ll instead have to rely on his unspectacular batting average (.269 as a big leaguer) and RBI total (78+ in his two years) in traditional leagues. He does offer a bit more help in OBP outfits because he does draw plenty of walks, with his 11.2% rate in 2011 lining right up with his minor league totals. Sanchez is right smack in the prime of his career at age 28, so if there was ever a time for him to crank out a .290/25/100 season, this is probably it. There’s a non-zero chance he’ll be traded this winter, which could impact his standing among fellow first baseman.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

10 Responses to “2012 First Base Keeper Rankings: Tier Three”

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  1. pirate says:

    just waiting to see goldschmidt

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  2. B N says:

    I’m a bit confused why anyone would bank on Howard being back before the all-star break. Sure, he might, but history is not exactly on his side for a 6 month recovery (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies_zone/131799168.html). Additionally, Howard is a LOT bigger than any of those other guys. I’m just a bit confused how Contreras can return in 8 months and it being a “surprising recovery” while Howard returning in 6 months seems to be treated like it’s in the bank by a lot of people. For $17, I’d surely pass.

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    • jcxy says:

      surgical intervention to repair the achilles tendon have improved a great deal over the past 10 years, and continue to do so. comparing howard’s injury in 2011 to some from the 90s (or even the contreras one) isn’t really relevant. simply, surgical techniques become become better.

      as such, 5-6 months is the standard quoted recovery time for a ruptured achilles, barring infection or having a few other things go wrong during surgery (none of which have been reported to have occured with howard). for these first 3 to 4 months howard won’t be able to run or put any weight on it. after the walking boot comes off, the rest of the time is PT.

      of course, any player recovering from any injury can face setbacks that prolong the recovery period. but, by mid-february, we’ll have a clearer idea when howard’s ETA is.

      with that in mind, from a fantasy standpoint, (depending on your view of healthy howard) 17 seems fairly reasonable.

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  3. Chicago Mark says:

    I don’t know why Adam Lind is universally thought of so low. He hit 26 home runs and batted 251 in only 125 games. Plus he had a bad wrist while playing much of the second half. Is it beyond belief or possiblity, that he could hit 30+ HR’s in 150 games? Is it possible that his babip normalizes and his average actually goes up? Lastly, he had 87 RBI in those 125 games. So 100 RBI also isn’t out of the picture.

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  4. d_i says:

    I suppose it depends on the league scoring methods, but I’d take B. Butler over I. Davis and G. Sanchez (who seems neearly identical except with lower ave. ability) myself.

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  5. Chicago Mark says:

    I like your thoughts on Butler d_i. He’s still very young and probably developing.

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    • pirate says:

      butler power still hasnt developed enough but that isn’t the point, the point is that butler is no longer a 1b, he is a DH

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      • Chicago Mark says:

        Butler is still just 27/28. The power will probably develope a little more. He played 11 games at 1B last year. That makes him 1B eligible in my league. I’d gladly take him in that third tier. I’d still like to hear any thoughts on Lind.

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  6. Ben says:

    Butler is 25 and will turn 26 on 4/18/12. We’ve been waiting for him to develop more than line drive doubles power for 3 years now.

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  7. d_i says:

    Gabby is 28, hits homers in the teens just like Butler, but has a career average 28 pts lower and OBP 26 pts lower. The stats alone would lead to Butler over Sanchez, but the fact that he’s three years younger and seems to still have somewhat of a chance to break the 25 hr level would make it pretty obvious to me.

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