This is the second article in the series of our 2015 fantasy baseball rankings looking at the position of first base. There is pretty good depth as several players qualify for multiple positions which means you can wait until a little later in the draft to fill this position if you miss out on one of the top players in the group. Despite how these players are ranked, in some cases, many of them are ranked pretty close together so it is just a matter of who your prefer, which you will see when I later break the position down in our fantasy baseball tiers articles.
Here is a look at the top 20 fantasy baseball first basemen for 2014.
1. Albert Pujols – started the season off slow with no home runs in April and a .217 batting before putting up his normal numbers for the rest of the season. The move to the American League and new contract likely contributed to his “down” year. I would be happy to own him this season.
2. Joey Votto – hit .348 the first half of the season with 14 home runs and 48 RBI. Then had knee surgery in July so I would disregard his second half numbers. No reason his numbers should not be the same as what you had projected for him coming into the 2014 season.
3. Prince Fielder – had no trouble adjusting to Comerica Park where he hit .337 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI in 279 at bats. His consistency bumps his value up a little bit with 157 games played or more in every season since he came into the major leagues.
4. Mark Teixeira – three years of a lower than normal hit rate seem more like a trend than a fluke. While the batting average may never return to the .290 days, the power should come back after he battled several injuries in 2013.
5. Adrian Gonzalez – walk rate fell for the third straight season and power has slowly been fading. He turns 31 in May so some rebound from his last year numbers is likely, but his 2009 numbers seem like a distant memory now.
6. Allen Craig – missed the first month and a half of the season recovering from knee surgery and then came back and crushed the ball. Lack of time in the major leagues and limited playing time in past seasons keep him under the radar in some leagues.
7. Edwin Encarnacion – turned into Jose Bautista for the 2014 season; the question is will it continue? Has always had a high fly ball rate and last year more flew over the fence as he got 500+ at bats for the first time since 2008. So yes, numbers are not as fluky as they may seem, but a full repeat is doubtful.
8. Billy Butler – turned some of the doubles from 2011 into home runs last season, which was good to see. Still, does not hit enough fly balls to project anything over 30 home runs and if some of those fly balls turn back into doubles this year, 20-25 home runs is more likely.
9. Paul Goldschmidt – lots to like as he held up his entire rookie season despite never spending any time at Triple-A. I think the average was a little inflated and he runs a little less, but hits a few more home runs in 2013.
10. Freddie Freeman – made nice gains in his walk rate which bodes well for his average going forward. Struggled hitting cleanup, batting just .169 in 77 at bats with only seven runs batted in.
11. Adam LaRoche – consistently consistent.
12. Kendrys Morales – first full season in three years so maybe we can discount his increased ground ball and strikeout rate slightly. Now moves to Seattle where he has hit well at SAFECO field with a .292 average in 120 career at bats with seven home runs and 23 RBI.
13. Ike Davis – his overall numbers hid how bad he was the first two months of the season when he hit .169 with only five home run in 159 at bats. Had a big power outburst the second half of the season with 20 home runs in 250 at bats.
14. Ryan Howard – came back from a torn Achilles but then struck out in bunches. Batted just .173 against left-handed pitching, though he did hit six home runs in 98 at bats. If his strikeout rate carries over, his low batting average could wreck your team.
15. Mark Trumbo – a tale of two halves, with a .306 average and 22 home runs the first half, but then .227 with 10 home runs after the All Star break. The end result was his overall numbers were pretty similar to his 2011 numbers, but his second half jump in his strikeout rate bears watching.
16. Chris Davis – he will strike out a lot but he also will hit his share of home runs. Whiff rate limits batting average, but no reason he cannot come close to 2012 numbers this year.
17. Eric Hosmer – on the plus side, he provided double-digit steals at first base, but the power was disappointing as he beat too many balls into the dirt. With the hype now worn off, he presents a buying opportunity this season.
18. Paul Konerko – he is closer to 40 than 30 now and power is likely to remain in the 20-25 range. Solid player, but comes with some risk and little upside.
19. Anthony Rizzo – much better contact rate than he showed in San Diego when he was rushed to the major leagues. Still has work to do against left-handed pitching with a .208 average in 101 at bats to keep his overall average up.
20. Nick Swisher – just a solid fantasy player, you can pencil him in for pretty much the same stat line every season. I have Reynolds and Dunn ranked right next to him, but I would rather have the higher batting average and a few less home runs.