2013 First Base Tier Rankings: May

Not a whole lot changes during the first month of the season. There simply haven’t been enough plate appearances yet to knock established players for poor performances, ditto boosting them due to strong performances. Injury is the biggest reason why players move from tier to tier at this point of the season. Our preseason consensus rankings can be found right here while the April tiers are right here.

Tier One
Joey Votto
Prince Fielder
Albert Pujols

How much longer do we consider Pujols an elite player? He’s off to another slow start (89 wRC+) and it’s painful just watching him run these days because of his knees and plantar fasciitis and whatever else. The homers and RBI totals are still there, but everything else is going south. Pretty scary.

Tier Two
David Ortiz
Paul Goldschmidt
Buster Posey
Billy Butler
Allen Craig
Edwin Encarnacion
Adrian Gonzalez

Big Papi is back from his Achilles/heels problem and he is mashin’ (246 wRC+). His performance will return to Earth as the season progresses, no doubt about it, but the track record is there. The only reason he’s not in Tier One are the lingering injury concerns. Gonzalez’s declining power, which Eno Sarris looked at in depth yesterday, is pretty terrifying. He can still hit for average and drive in runs with the best of them though.

Tier Three
Chris Davis
Anthony Rizzo
Carlos Santana
Joe Mauer
Freddie Freeman
Mark Trumbo
Nick Swisher
Brandon Moss

I buy into Davis breaking out as a top first baseman thanks in part to the adjustments he’s made to get to the outside pitch, but I’m going to need to see a little more before running him higher up the ladder. Before this year he was just a homer source. Trumbo got off to a torrid start last year before disappearing in the second half, and I won’t made the mistake of buying into it so soon again.

Tier Four
Mike Napoli
Paul Konerko
Adam LaRoche
Ryan Howard
Justin Morneau
Ike Davis
Michael Cuddyer
Eric Hosmer

Konerko and Davis are just bad at this point. They don’t look good at the plate and there really hasn’t been much of a hint of a breakout. I have (much) more faith in Konerko becoming useful again than I do Davis, but I’m still staying away right now.

It’s early, but Hosmer is really bumming me out. Outside of Freeman and Goldschmidt, when was the last time a true first base prospect legitimately hit their ceiling? Hosmer still has time of course, but the track record of young players at his position isn’t great.

Tier Five
Mark Reynolds
Todd Frazier
Garrett Jones
Kevin Youkilis
Kendrys Morales
Chris Johnson
Brandon Belt
Lance Berkman
Yonder Alonso
Chris Carter
Daniel Murphy
Michael Young
Dustin Ackley
Lyle Overbay

Reynolds is off to a ridiculous start but at some point he’ll come back to reality with a low-.200 average, lots of pop, and not much else. I’d rank Berkman higher if he was showing a little more power and just wasn’t so damn injury prone. Overbay is worth owning in super-deep leagues if you only play him against righties and at Yankee Stadium.

Tier Six
Corey Hart
Adam Dunn
Mark Teixeira
Mitch Moreland
John Mayberry Jr.
Martin Maldonado
Logan Morrison
Matt Carpenter
Carlos Pena
Adam Lind
Chris Parmelee
James Loney
Jordan Pacheco
Tyler Moore
Greg Dobbs
Jeff Keppinger
Brandon Laird
Todd Helton
Justin Smoak
Luke Scott
Alex Gonzalez
Nate Freiman
Tyler Colvin
Brett Wallace
Mike Olt
Daric Barton
Carlos Lee
Casey Kotchman
Chad Tracy
Justin Turner
Joaquin Arias

Sorry, but I’m not buying into Loney as a legit hitter just yet despite his awesome start. Dunn is partying like it’s 2011 while Hart and Teixeira are hurt with no real return date in sight. Could be two weeks, could be four. Hopefully you have a strong stopgap if they were your projected starters.




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


71 Responses to “2013 First Base Tier Rankings: May”

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  1. Metsox says:

    Rizzo seems low.

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    • Eric Dykstra says:

      Agreed. I had him higher pre-season, and he’s been fantastic.

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    • All Balls No Brains says:

      I think with the big uncertainty around him he is about right. If he keeps up the last two weeks, I’m sure he’ll rise by June or July into that second tier, but he was atrocious there for a while, and it didn’t appear to be bad luck but bad hitting. So, yeah.

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      • Dan says:

        He had a very low BABIP, which is still below average (albeit slightly). Why do you say it was bad hitting?

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    • maybe a little low, but what really got me was the comments re: hosmer about how freeman and goldy were the only 1B prospects to pan out recently…

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    • James says:

      He’s really turned it around the last few weeks. Ugly average to start the season, but the power was there.

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    • Jeff says:

      His 4 steals so far are a nice surprise as well. The fact he could produce 10+ on a season is unexpected.

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  2. dscottncc says:

    Dustin Ackley qualifies?? this suprises me.

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  3. Kevin says:

    Lance Berkman seems seriously underrated here. Yes he takes some days off, but his rate stats are still great, and he hits in the middle of a very potent offense. To put him 15 spots behind someone like Paul Konerko, who he’s beating/is equal in nearly every category this season seems pretty illogical to me.

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    • mark a says:

      this. as long as you have bench space and daily lineup changes, Berkman is more valuable than most of the Tier 4 guys.

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    • l1ay says:

      This. I understand Mike’s concerns but he’s a tier lower than guys who should be FAs in most leagues at this point. Berkman is an every day start right now even without the power.

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  4. Shouldn’t Cuddyer be a bit higher? Currently hitting .333/.400/.613 and could conceivably have a 20+ HR/10+ SB season.

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  5. Antonio bananas says:

    Rizzo is low I think. I’d put I’m up there with goldschmidt.

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    • Joey Belle says:

      Agreed, especially if you consider Rizzos 4 steals. If he can get 10 this year, that would be huge

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    • drewcorb says:

      Really? We have more data on Goldschmidt (906 PA), and it’s better than the small sample (659 PA) we’ve got from Rizzo. Why rank Rizzo near Goldy before he’s proven himself?

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    • Clifford says:

      Rizzo’s near 50% increase in K-rate is a bit disconcerting if you ask me.

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  6. AngMohClay says:

    I agree we shouldn’t overreact to his start, but Mark Reynolds should be higher. There is nobody in tier four (outside of Napoli because of his C eligibility, and maybe Konerko because of the much better AVG) that I would rather have than Reynolds.

    I mean, yeah he has some question marks about whether or not he can sustain this (and he clearly won’t sustain the AVG), but Ike Davis is the same type of player but isn’t hitting well, Ryan Howard is similar but with more injury risk, Morneau will get 150 less PA and has way less power (if a solidly better likely AVG), LaRoach looks anemic this year, and Hosmer is in a different tier than Reynolds, really?

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    • wily mo says:

      the prolonged and near-universal loathing of reynolds in ranking circles baffles me

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    • Jaker says:

      Agreed.

      Nothing in Reynolds’ profile suggests that this is an anomaly. Only his HR/FB rate is a bit elevated so we can expect some regression but I firmly believe he belongs in tier 2. 10 HR, 20 runs and 27 RBI and he’s in the same tier as Hosmer? Ridiculous. He’s hit 40 HRs before and ZIPs seems him finishing at 36. With Bourne back, he’ll see even more men on base in front of him in a pretty potent Indians lineup. This will be a career year for him.

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      • Jaker says:

        “seems” = “sees”

        When will FG allow editing comments?

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      • Jaker says:

        “Career year” might be a bit strong too but I think he’ll finish close to his 2008 or 2009 seasons which is pretty damn good.

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      • Clifford says:

        no way Reynolds should be up there with guys like E5 and Goldy. Once his HR/FB rate normalizes back towards his career averages, and his ISO dips down in the .250 range, he will end up being the same guy everyone thought he was. You cant just throw out over 3500 PAs, and project a guy based off one month. Will he give you great numbers in HR and RBI? Yeah, prolly, but that makes him a 2-category contributor. He wont give you anything at all in SB, and his run totals will be average at best. And you will be lucky if he doesn’t hurt your average. Let’s be honest, he’s an extremely streaky hitter, maybe the streakiest in baseball. Will it really surprise anyone when he gets benched in mid-June after a 3-for-40 slump where he Ks 27 times?

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      • Jaker says:

        Should have said third tier.

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      • wily mo says:

        “10 HR, 20 runs and 27 RBI and he’s in the same tier as Hosmer? ”

        he’s actually in a lower tier than hosmer

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      • wily mo says:

        “no way Reynolds should be up there with guys like E5 and Goldy. Once his HR/FB rate normalizes back towards his career averages, and his ISO dips down in the .250 range, he will end up being the same guy everyone thought he was. You cant just throw out over 3500 PAs, and project a guy based off one month.”

        don’t get me wrong, i think he’s the same guy he’s always been. it’s got nothing to do with this start, really, except to the extent that it’s reminding everybody what his good runs are like (amazing). he’ll cool down, sure.

        i just think people keep on badly misvaluing what he is. some kind of preoccupation with batting average / focusing on the flaws / whatever. but when the guy’s healthy he’s a reliable 40 HR 1B/3B. in this day and age that’s an important player. you can even dampen the AVG hit a little bit by benching him during the cold streaks – requires a certain amount of tea leaf reading to judge when to juggle him in and out, but it can be done. yet people insist on acting like he’s barely rosterable. it’s weird to me

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      • wily mo says:

        i should say, i actually agree that he doesn’t belong even with E5 and goldy. but there’s two entire tiers between them right now

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      • Clifford says:

        yet, he’s only hit 40 or more HR once in his entire career?? How does that make him a reliable 40 HR 1B/3B? It was 3+ years ago when he hit 40+, and last year, he only hit 23 with under 70 RBI/Runs, and .221 average. His peripherals don’t suggest he’s much different in terms of approach and swing patterns. His ISO is just over-inflated. Im not saying he doesn’t have potential to hit .250/35-40/85-90, but like I mentioned before, would it shock anyone if he was benched in mid-June? Doubtful.

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  7. GoodasGoldy says:

    It’s almost time to move Goldschmidt up to Tier 1. On pace for 30hr/20sb with 100 runs/100+ rbi and 100 walks and he’s just staying on pace with what he did after April of last year. Wait til the warm summer air hits Arizona and the west coast.

    He’s showing surprising consistency for a guy with his K rate. Only one bad month in his last 6 months (.700 OPS in Aug ’12). The rest have been near or above .900 OPS. Must have something to do with his LD rate which just keeps rising and now sits at 27%.

    Anyone know a good comp for what he does (i.e. high LD, high K rate, high BB%, and fairly even GB/FB splits for a 25-30 HR type)?

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    • Feeding the Abscess says:

      Joey Votto

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      • GoodasGoldy says:

        I would never have thought of Votto. I didn’t think Goldschmidt’s plate discipline was on the same planet. But, looking at where Goldschmidt is moving on things like Z-Swings, O-Swings, swing% and walk rates he’s now at least within a continent of Votto. But, I doubt his contact rates will ever rival Votto’s.

        If Goldschmidt’s plate discipline progression this year is not just the product of a small sample size, Votto may become a reasonable comp for him. That’d be kind of shocking.

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      • Feeding the Abscess says:

        Now that Chris Davis has tightened up his plate discipline, he’s probably the most accurate comparison to Goldschmidt at the moment. He’s a better comp after thinking about it, even if he still swings more often than Goldschmidt.

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  8. Pableaux Gunmoney says:

    Im buying Mitch Moreland. The reservation against moving him up is understandable, but I would take him over most of the tier 4 guys.

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    • Dan Greer says:

      Agree that Moreland needs to move up. I think Craig needs to be dropped a tier, and Matt Adams belongs in the list of castoffs in tier 6 (nice speculative play if he gets some PT when he comes off the DL).

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  9. squads says:

    Ortiz only qualifies as a DH in my league and that probably applies to many other leagues as well.

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  10. JTR says:

    Thinking about trading Adrian Gonzalez for some more pop before it gets too late. What hitter or hitters would be a good swap for A-Gon?

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    • James says:

      You can still probably swap AGon just due to his name value. I traded him for Rizzo, a rookie pick that became Wheeler, and a future pick just this past off-season. The key is finding that one guy who still thinks he’s Adrian 2011.

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  11. jB4s7 says:

    Is there anything in Hosmer’s numbers that suggest a turnaround? Everytime I look at his batted ball numbers I slump further into my chair.

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  12. Will H. says:

    Nearly everything about Pujols has been in a 5-year decline. I’d say it’s definitely past time to have him in the first tier. And that plantar fasciitis is only going to get worse each day he plays.

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  13. Ian says:

    Ortiz seems too high given his health, and Freeman seems too low given the guys he’s hitting behind.

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    • Steve says:

      Any thoughts on my Cingrani for his Ortiz in a deep keeper 5×5 weekly H2H league? A few points 1) Ortiz only qualifies at UTIL in my league, 2) I have strong pitching, but not much depth, and thus sometimes need help in Ks and Ws, 3) It’s unlikely I’d keep Cingrani given my other potential keepers.

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    • Clifford says:

      Freeman might be the most overrated player in fantasy baseball IMO. Look at his numbers the last 2 seasons: .271, 79 runs, 22 HR, 85 RBI, and 3 SB. Those are decent, but far from elite at 1B. He’s not even a top 10 1B for me. Id rather Votto, Fielder, Pujols, Goldy, E5, Craig, Posey, Butler, Trumbo, Santana, and about 3-5 more guys too.

      The guys he’s hitting behind strike-out every other AB. He was better off with Prado, Bourn, and Chipper hitting in front of him. And prior to last season, Big Papi averaged 613 PAs in the 3 seasons before 2012. His injury issues have been overblown IMO. It was one injury. It happens. Take a look at Edgar Martinez’s numbers after 35. They are some of the best of his career.

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      • Ian says:

        I’m going to respectfully disagree on Freeman. Last year in his age 22 season: 91 R, 94 RBI, 23 HR, .259 BA. Sure, not excellent numbers for a 1B, but still young–the 2nd youngest 1B in the top 4 tiers (Hosmer). I don’t think he’s at his ceiling yet.

        As for Ortiz, he’ll put up the numbers when healthy, I’m just not certain his legs are going to hold up all season.

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      • majnun says:

        Freeman also had eye trouble last year that messed him up for weeks. Fixed now.

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  14. KG says:

    Pretty sure Hart is due to come back May 30th, the day he is eligible. They moved him to the 60 day DL because of the glut of injuries- he is expected to be ready to go right away. I mean, anything can happen, but I think with a definitive due date, he is worth stashing on the DL for three weeks if you need 1B help.

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  15. Heisenberg says:

    Freeman is too low imo. He was mashing before the injury and has done the same since coming back. I think he’s definitely a Top 10 1B from this point forward.

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    • Clifford says:

      Honestly, what is it with people’s obsession with Freeman??? He’s good, but he’s a much better real-life player than fantasy. Look at these 2 stat lines from the previous two seasons….

      Player A: .266, 78 runs, 24 HR, 89 RBI, 2 SB
      Player B: .271, 79 runs, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 3 SB

      Nearly identical. So I would ask you this….do you think Nick Swisher should be top 10 as well?

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      • Ian says:

        Fair comparison, but they’re also 10 years apart in age. Freeman should be ramping up the aging curve, and Swisher trending down.

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      • But says:

        Maybe because Freeman was barely old enough to smoke a Swisher while putting up those numbers(with vision problems etc., and not in a bandbox)

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      • Clifford says:

        Well Swisher has been putting up those same numbers for essentially 8 straight seasons. Not all were at Yankee Stadium, and in reality, his splits from 2010-2012 will show you that he’s not a product of Yankee Stadium(38 HR on the road, 38 HR at home). I also disagree that Freeman hasn’t hit his ceiling yet. While he might put up slightly better numbers, most baseball people seem to think he doesn’t have much projection left at all. Could he post .280/30/100? Yeah, he could prolly do that once, maybe twice. But I def think he’s much closer to .270/22/85 for the majority of his years in the majors.

        Oh, and everyone that struggles in baseball these days all the sudden has “vision” problems. Yeah, no shit Sherlock. Can’t hit the freakin ball. Freeman simply went from contacts to having Laser Eye surgery if I recall correctly.

        Also, as you can see, Turner Field isn’t a bandbox, yes, but its also not PETCO or Saefco either.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?type=pf&teamid=0&season=2011

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      • But says:

        “Could he post .280/30/100? Yeah, he could prolly do that once, maybe twice.”

        Swisher has never put up those numbers. Freeman steal your lunch money? What exactly is your point?

        “But I def think he’s much closer to .270/22/85 for the majority of his years in the majors.”

        Swisher, the barely over the borderline .250 career hitter, managed to achieve this line twice: in his age 29 and 31 seasons, in a bandbox.

        I’m not brimming with dislike of Swisher. He’s been consistent year to year unlike most.

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  16. Heisenberg says:

    And why bother listing the catchers? If you have Posey, Santana, Mauer, etc. at 1B you’re doing it wrong.

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  17. SKob says:

    I know Chris Davis is high tier 3, so I’m nitpicking, but what in his history makes anyone think he can’t keep hitting? His average last year was his first full MLB season as a starter… no room for growth after that? A career .300+ hitter in the minors, he’s always hit bombs… I choose him over A-Gon for sure, and he’s in the neighborhood of Craig, Edwin, and Butler if not higher. He’s a safer bet than Ortiz and ROS I take him over Pujols, I think!

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  18. Daniel says:

    Moreland has been on a pretty nice hot streak of late. Not saying he’s gonna break out into an elite hitter, but he seems to be a pretty good bet for 15-20 homers and a decent AVG/OBP if he plays.

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  19. Jonathan says:

    Is Joey Votto really an elite first baseman? He’s way too inconsistent and has too many injury problems to be counted on.

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    • Bubba says:

      I would say so, he got hurt last year, but played in 150+ games the 2 years before that. The year before that, it was social anxiety I believe and not something that should have a long-term physical impact. So 25-30/100/100 with a BA that should be elite. If you’re in an OBP league, he’s even better.

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  20. Johnny Come Lately says:

    I’m wondering what Nick Swisher has done to get a little green arrow next to his name. .250 w/ 3 HRs, wooohooo, I’m movin on up!

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    • batpig says:

      Seriously. I would like to hear the argument that Swisher deserves to be ranked ahead of Cuddyer for example.

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      • Clifford says:

        prolly cause the last 2 years, he’s only averaged 120 games played. Conversely, Swisher has been quite possibly the most consistent player in the league over the last 7 years. From 2006-2012, Swisher played in at least 148 games every season, hit at least 22 HR, scored 80+ runs in all but 1 season, and had 80+ RBI in all but 2 of those years.

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  21. batpig says:

    Cuddyer is WAAAY too low. Obviously he won’t sustain this current level but dude can hit, the only knock is injury potential. And he’s in Coors. And he steals a few bases too. Check out the ZiPS ROS projections.

    Ranked below slumpy Ike Davis? And the corpses of Justin Morneau, Paul Konerko and Ryan Howard? He’s about 10 spots too low.

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  22. batpig says:

    Allen Craig also seems awfully overrated here. Yes, good average, and well positioned for big RBI totals in his lineup, but he’s a two category player. He’s not an elite HR hitter, and his R and SB totals are average or below for 1B. How can he be ranked ahead of E5, who has a worse AVG but a titanic edge in HR power and will also steal 8-10 bags. I’d put Craig behind Rizzo as well.

    For example, ZiPS ROS projects similar playing time and R/RBI totals, and obviously a better AVG for Craig, but E5 is projected to hit 10 extra homers and 5 extra steals. 10 HR / 5 SB is a huge margin (basically would turn Andrew McCutchen into Ryan Braun, for instance). And Rizzo’s projections have him much healthier (no surprise) with even larger advantages in HR and SB.

    I think it’s hard to justify Craig in tier 2. At best (if his power rebounds) he’s a 3 category player. If you swapped him and Rizzo the list would make more sense.

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    • Clifford says:

      Cept last year he hit 22 HR and scored 76 runs in only 119 games played. that would put him on pace to put up 29-30 HR and almost 100 runs in 155 games. And prior to last year, E5 had stolen a total of 12 bases in 461 games over the course of 4 seasons. Craig will get 3-5 steals, so im sorry but im not fretting over 2-3 stolen bases.

      And you argue that Craig is only a 2-category guy but then claim Rizzo should be ahead of him? That seems to contradict itself if you ask me. Rizzo is in a much worse-off position that Craig in terms of runs and RBIs. He’s not going to steal anymore bags, and almost certainly will have a substantially lower BA than Craig. Given that he’s never stole more than 7 bags in a season in the minors(my belief that minor league SB totals in this kind of situation are worthless. he likely walked to 2B), does that mean Rizzo, a potential 1-2 cat contributor, should really be ahead of Craig?

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  23. Ray says:

    Pujols does not belong in Tier 1.

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  24. Tyson56 says:

    Give me Goldschmidt over anyone, especially in keeper leagues. Wilmington, Delaware represent!

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  25. Steve Diehl says:

    I can understand your reasoning about Mark Reynolds probably coming back to Earth, but I disagree non-the-less. I think Reynolds has reinvented himself. His plate discipline appears to be dramatically improved. He’s not just hacking and being lucky.

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    • Feeding the Abscess says:

      His contact rate has improved for four consecutive seasons, from 61% in 2009 to a shade under 69% this season. Guess it wouldn’t be that surprising to see his K% sit closer to 25% than 35% as long as that holds up.

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    • Clifford says:

      nonetheless is a word.

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  26. s h says:

    I’m not clear on how ZiPS projections are calculated, but ZiPS RoS projections are extremely high on Rizzo–he’s essentially Prince Fielder with a few lower percentages and some extra SBs. I realize the ranking in this post are not based on any particular projections, ZiPS or otherwise, but the disparity between Rizzo’s tier 3 ranking and the extreme optimism of ZiPS RoS makes me wonder whether ZiPS is broken re: Rizzo?

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  27. 96mnc says:

    Offered Pujols for Goldie in a keeper league. Rejected.

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  28. AJ says:

    Why isn’t Matt Adams on this list? Don’t tell me because he doesn’t get the PT, because neither do half of the people in tier 6, several of whom are in the minors.

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