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2014 Pod’s Picks: 1st Base

First base is a funny position. A whole bunch of them are drafted over the first couple of rounds and all of a sudden you realize it’s only round four and already nine of them are off the board. Without having filled your first base slot, panic sets in. Oh no! Don’t let me get stuck with James Loney.

The first base edition of Pod’s Picks may help you find value or learn who to avoid at their current going rate. The bullish section will only include players from my top 20, while the bearish group will only include those whose RotoGraphs consensus is in the top 20.

Bullish

Brandon Moss

My Rank: 18 | Consensus: 23

Sure he’s only a platoon player, but he’s got some serious wallop in his bat. For the second straight season, he finished with a batted ball distance of about 295 feet, while in all four years he has appeared on the leaderboard, he has never averaged less than 292 feet. My projection that led to this ranking calls for more of the same and I would imagine that my RotoGraphs brethren are expecting a small step backwards. Though he won’t start against lefties, he should still get more than 500 plate appearances, so some additional playing time would further boost his counting stats and offset any potential regression in his skill rates.

David Ortiz

My Rank: 7 | Consensus: 11

Everyone, including me, has been waiting for signs of decline and they just refuse to show themselves. Remember many years ago when Ortiz got off to a slow start and everyone claimed he was done and that his bat speed had slowed? Yeah, good call. I challenge you to find any underlying skill that hints that a decline is imminent. I am projecting a small step backward, but a barely noticeable one. At his age, you have to think there’s greater risk of injury, but aside from 2012, he’s been remarkably healthy.

Adrian Gonzalez

My Rank: 8 | Consensus: 12

I did not expect this one. Because he’s no longer a 30-40 home run guy, I think he gets lost in the shuffle and may have become undervalued. He still hits cleanup in a solid lineup, is a near lock to contribute positive value in batting average, and should still be at least replacement level win his home run production. Given another year away from his shoulder issues and a rebound in his xHR/FB rate after a down 2012, I am projecting better power this year.

Bearish

Billy Butler

My Rank: 17 | Consensus: 10

This is a surprise. Butler was supremely disappointing last year after his long awaited home run breakout in 2012. Rather than treat 2013 as closer to the norm, it seems like the rest of the rankers believe that 2012 is actually closer to Butler’s true talent. He simply doesn’t hit enough fly balls to reach the upper 20s in home runs again and that fly ball rate has finished below 30% for two straight years now. The surrounding offense isn’t that great, he’s slow as molasses which reduces his runs scored total, and you’re really just left with a good batting average and a decent, albeit unspectacular, RBI total.

Adam Lind

My Rank: 24 | Consensus: 19

I would have never guessed that I was more pessimistic on Lind than others. But I guess it makes some sense. His batting average is due for a decline given his inflated 2013 BABIP. His HR/FB rate has bounced around throughout his career, making it difficult to peg a true talent level. But his 2013 mark was the second highest of his career, so you gotta figure some regression there. He’s not going to play against lefties, or at least do anything productive against them. If he could reverse his tumbling fly ball rate trend, maybe his power stays constant and he comes close to the consensus ranking.