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Check the Position: First Base

Over the offseason we’ll take a look at each position on the diamond and see how the past season affected the positional rankings and where there might be some potential bounceback value picks going into next year’s drafts. (See shortstops, catchers, and second basemen.)

Rankings are the height of subjectivity, of course. Drafts are the expression of the subjective opinions of the different draftees, though, so lets see what we can learn by putting these players in their (subjective, fantasy-oriented) place. Oh, another note: these rankings are for 5×5 rotisserie fantasy baseball. Eligibility was determined by where the player had the most at-bats last year.

FirstBasemen

It’s probable that Albert Pujols is a tier of his own. He is a true stud in every category when compared to his peers. But without the 15 or so steals, he might belong right along side the other two metronomes in Mark Teixeira and Miguel Cabrera, two young studs at the position who are virtual locks for a plus batting average 35+ home runs, and gobs of runs and RBI. There’s not much to say here other than, since this is a deep position, it’s worth considering comparable middle infielders over these guys – just look how long and balanced this list is.

The third tier has three players that could, in the right year, outperform guys in the second tier. Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and Adrian Gonzalez have all had years with power production that has eclipsed that of the two players above them. But they also have their issues. Fielder alternates medium-power years with high-power years, Howard won’t ever put in a plus batting average with his high strikeout rates, and Gonzalez would be more exciting if only he could get his batting average out of the ‘neutral’ territory and into ‘plus’ like the guys in tier two. Maybe, when he walks fewer times with his next team as Dave Cameron seems to have predicted, his BABIP will also regress to his career levels and his batting average will rise, though it’s hard to predict anything more than a .280 number there.

The middle tier provides some real opportunity for value. Each and every member of this tier could easily hit .300 with 30 home runs and good run production next year. Justin Morneau, Lance Berkman and Kendry Morales have all done it before, and Kevin Youkilis has gotten about as close as you can get. Joey Votto seems poised to join their ranks with a full year of strong play. It’s also a well balanced tier – the aging sluggers on their way down sit in front of Youkilis, who seems to have found his niche with a good batting average and modest power for a first baseman. Votto and Morales sit behind him until they prove they can consistently provide more power.

The next tier is called the ‘Dan Uggla‘ tier. These guys will give you power, but in rotisserie baseball you’ll also need to work hard to over come Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena‘s poor batting averages. In head-to-head competition, their value increases because of the option of punting batting average, but in rotisserie you really need to try and compete in every category and their big minus signs are a dark cloud over the rest of their positive contributions.

The last tier could produce some tier-jumpers if the stars align. Should Derrek Lee continue to hit 45% of his balls in the air, he may jut hit another 30 home runs, which would put him in tier four. Billy Butler is still hitting too many worm-burners (47.7% groundballs career), but if can get a little lift into those balls, he’s shown that he’s a strong producer in batting average. At 30 years old, it seems that Adam LaRoche is a strong bet to continue producing at the same mediocre level going forward. He’ll probably drop off the list when a young guy steps forward next year and joins the crowd, but with the strikeout rates that Chris Davis (34.7% career) and Russell Branyan (38.9% career) sport, it’s hard to rely on them to even keep their jobs all year in 2010.