Following the defections of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols this offseason, RotoGraphs readers voted that Mike Morse was the second-best fantasy first baseman in the National League behind Joey Votto. He received 42.89% of the vote while Lance Berkman trailed at 32.23%. The conglomerate of “Someone Else” brought up the rear at 24.87%.
Less than two months into the season, the NL first base situation is a mess. Morse hasn’t played at all due to a lat problem and Berkman managed just 49 plate appearances between injuries. His latest knee problem will have him on the sidelines for weeks. Ike Davis, one of my preseason breakout picks, has been the worst player in all of baseball at -1.2 WAR and is painfully close to being optioned to Triple-A. Ryan Howard‘s hurt, Paul Goldschmidt has only hit two homers, Gaby Sanchez was sent to the minors … it’s ugly out there.
With all of the big names either hurt or underperforming, the best fantasy NL first basemen behind Votto this season is a collection of retreads, has-beens, and Freddie Freeman. Yonder Alonso has had a sneaky great offensive season (.300/.384/.413), but Petco Park is just completely snuffing out his power (one homer). With all due respect to Yonder, Todd Helton, and Goldschmidt, here are the four best non-Votto fantasy first baseman in the NL and their rest of season ZiPS projection…
Freddie Freeman | ZiPS RoS: .275/.340/.458 with 16 homers
The 22-year-old Freeman isn’t hitting for much average so far (just .254) but he’s already sent seven balls over the fence and is driving in a ton of runs (35) for one of the game’s most productive lineups. His strikeout and walk rates are unchanged from last year, though he’s hitting way more line drives and fewer ground balls this season. I’m not sure a 32.6% line drive rate is sustainable, but I would expect his .288 BABIP to climb a little closer to last year’s .339 mark as the season progresses.
Bryan LaHair | ZiPS RoS: .270/.339/.493 with 19 homers
Finally getting a chance to play everyday at age 29, LaHair has been a monster in early going: .310/.408/.612 with ten homers in his first 152 plate appearances. His 30.3% strikeout rate is a concern (it was 24%+ throughout his minor league career as well) and likely to drag down his average. LaHair’s BABIP is already down to .405 after spending a few weeks north of .500, but the power is very real. He may not drive in many runs because of the lineup around him, but a mid-season trade is always a possibility.
Carlos Lee | ZiPS RoS: .278/.330/.439 with 13 homers
The Astros have surprised in just about every way this season, and the 35-year-old Lee has been the veteran rock in their lineup. His strikeout and walk rates are their typically low selves, though his power (.127 ISO and four homers) has continued to decline, part of a trend that started about four seasons ago.
Adam LaRoche | ZiPS RoS: .248/.332/.441 with 12 homers
The Nationals just can’t score any runs it seems, but the 32-year-old LaRoche has done his part: .297/.392/.545 with eight homers. He missed most of last season with shoulder trouble, but remember, he was a notorious second-half guy earlier in his career. Like, draft him late and stash him on the bench in the first half because you were going to get Pujols-ian production for the last three months of the season. It very hard to see him improving on his performance going forward, however.
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