Spring Training has begun and the optimism among baseball fans is high for both their real and fantasy seasons. While there is nothing you can do to make a difference to your real teams you can control the fate of your fantasy teams by picking the right players at the right time in the draft and not reaching for players when you can take a similar but more underrated talent three rounds later. That is where ranking players by tiers comes in as it groups together players that will make a similar contribution to your fantasy teams so you can see that you can afford to wait on a position for another round and still get a player of a similar quality. In points leagues this is fairly straight forward because everyone has a mark by which to judge them but roto however is a different story. In roto you have to balance your categories because there’s no point winning steals by 30 but only getting a 1 point advantage over the guy in second and in the process sacrificing the other hitting categories. Therefore I have ranked every player in each category using a levels system and using those rankings assessed an overall value for those players and that forms the basis of the tiers. In addition for each player I have outlined which categories they give you a boost in compared to the other players in the same tier. This is especially relevant in the later categories when you are possibly trying to boost a couple of categories that were neglected slightly with early picks.
First up is the first basemen of which in a roto league where you need a 1B, CI, and a Util it is likely a good number will be taken with some teams having as many as 3 or 4 on their roster as it is the deepest source of HR’s and RBI’s.
I have included the DH eligible guys here as they are comparable in terms of their categories to the first basemen but remember taking a DH ensures you have your Util spot full early.
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Within each tier players are listed according to ADP taken from fantasypros.com.
Different Class: Goldschmidt
I laboured over whether Goldschmidt should be in his own tier or not for a long while whilst doing this but in the end I decided that a player who is projected to be the best in the position in Runs, RBI and steals, second in average and top 5 in HR’s is a sure fire step ahead of even the elite guys.
Elite: Davis (Runs/HR’s/RBI) Votto (Runs/Average), Fielder (HR’s/RBI/Average), Encarnacion (HR’s/Runs),
Ok I accept I have outlined three out of four players within this tier who are projected better than the rest a couple of categories. 1) Home runs: the fact I am outlining is that they are all at least 5 better than Votto. 2) Runs: Fielder is the only player projected to score less than 90 runs this year. Where Votto stands out is that he is projected to have the best average at the position and second most runs which more than makes up for the power shortage.
Step Below: Gonzalez (RBI), Freeman (Runs/RBI/Average), Trumbo (Runs/HR’s/RBI), Hosmer (Steals/Average)
Of these four guys Trumbo is the guy in a new (smaller) park and that gives him the best chance to jump up into the next tier especially if he can bring that average up and be relevant in four categories. Gonzalez is Mr. Consistency but his potential numbers do not warrant his #23 ADP. Freeman is perhaps the next most solid of these guys but unless he steps up in power he is not going to be an elite player anytime soon. Hosmer’s power isn’t helped by his park and is definitely the number three of these guys but he will give you double digit steals so if you have got good power at other positions early in the draft you can take Hosmer in the 50s for solid production in the other four categories.
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Solid: Pujols (HR’s/RBI), Posey (Average), Craig (Average), Ortiz (DH only) (HR’s/RBI/Average), Mauer (Runs/Average), Rizzo (HR’s), Adams (HR’s/RBI)
Pujols is many peoples sleeper this year and other than Adams is the only 25+ HR guys in this group but his injury problems are a big worry and his ADP of 44 is hardly that of a sleeper. Posey and Mauer will provide great average and Mauer will also chip in a fantastic number of runs but you aren’t taking these guys to play first base and they will be long gone by this tier. Craig provides the third best average at the position behind Goldy and Votto but his lack of power is a big worry. Ortiz is ageing but was a stud when he returned last year and will help you across the categories but his lack of positional flexibility will likely cause him to fall on draft day. Rizzo had one great month last year but he still a young guy and will grow into it. The power is already there and if he can make contact more often then you have to believe more HR’s/Runs and RBI will follow. Adams is the most intriguing of this group and very polarising on draft day. Flashed in spells last year but he didn’t really get a prolonged run at the position so it’s hard to know how he will deal with being the full time first baseman. He is well worth the risk at corner especially if you have a power deficit from the early rounds.
Back-Ups: Santana (Runs), Abreu (HR’s), Butler (DH only) (RBI/Average), Belt (Average), Napoli (HR’s/RBI), Martinez (DH only) (Average), Morales (HR’s), Hart (Runs)
Same story for Santana as with Mauer and Posey in that he will be long gone by the time you get to this tier in the draft. Abreu is a bit of an unknown quantity this year and that is both a good and bad thing. His power should transfer well but the other four categories are his downfall and an underrated point is that he has probably never played in the cold before so can he adjust to that along with everything else. Butler is hampered by his park for his power but he should drive in plenty of runs due to a strong line up in front of him and a nearly 300 average. Belt is projected to have the best average of the 1B in this tier (but worse than the DH guys) but is unlikely to hit 20 homers and that damages his other counting stats massively, will also likely lose AB’s to Posey at 1B. Napoli should hit 25 HR’s in a relatively power friendly park and will likely drive in around 90 runs in a really good line up. Martinez is more likely to gain catcher eligibility than anything but he is sure to be the everyday DH for the Tigers and a combination of likely batting behind Cabrera and a good average should give him salvageable RBI numbers even though he will likely hit less than 20 homers. Morales value is still largely dependent on where he signs but he is virtually a lock for 25 homers and signing in a hitter friendly park could boost that to 30 and take the RBI over 90. Hart missed all of last year and then landed in pitcher friendly Seattle which puts a dampener on his power numbers but he should still score plenty of runs and if he bats behind Cano has the potential to drive in quite a few as well.
Fall-Backs: Moss (HR’s), Carter (HR’s/RBI), Teixera (Average), Swisher (Runs/Average), Dunn (HR’s), LaRoche (RBI), Moreland (Average)
The first thing most people think when they see Moss is platoon guy but his power is so impressive he can still be taken before full time guys and put up better numbers. Carter is a real boom or bust pick at 1B as he has the potential to hit 30+ HR’s and 90+RBI but his average will be sub 220 and that could easily see him losing plate appearances especially if the Astros want to see what they have in Singleton. Teixera is another man who has pre-formed opinions going into a draft (injury risk, slow starter) but he still plays in a power friendly ball park and is a decent average guy. Swisher is another guy who people will overlook on draft day but his production across the four categories will be solid with good runs and average compared to those around him. Dunn is another power guy (30HR) with poor average (sub 220) but at this stage of the draft if your short on power it will be hard to pass he or Carter up, one risk is that he could lose his everyday DH with Abreu knocking Konerko from 1B. LaRoche bats in a solid line up and should have plenty of opportunities to drive runs in but is fairly average across the other 3 categories. Moreland has been tipped to have a break out year for the last couple of years but this really could be it, he was included in Ron Washington’s announced opening day line-up batting behind the awesome combination of Fielder/Beltre/Rios so will have plenty of opportunities to knock in runs if he cements that slot.
Desperation: Howard (Runs/HR’s/RBI), Lind (Average), Alonso (Average), Reynolds (HR’s/RBI), Davis (HR’s), Loney (Average), Jones (Runs/RBI), Smoak (HR’s), Ruf (HR’s), Duda (Runs)
Howard will start the season at 1B for the Phillies and will be looking to put up good numbers and keep the job, 25 homer, 85+RBI potential but a sub 240 average means he has great power value if you have good average guys higher up in the draft. Lind won’t give you much in the way of power but a 260 average in a nice park may allow him to be a surprising option. Alonso plays in a bad hitters park in SD but a 280 average and 5 steal potential presents an interesting option late in drafts. Reynolds has 25+ homer potential but with an even worse average than Howard. Davis is a 20+ homer guy and will likely put up a 240 average but has the potential to have a much worse average than that. Loney is another 280 average guy with 5 steal potential in a division with decent hitters parks. Jones is a 20+ homer, 80+ RBI guy that will hurt you in average (240ish). Smoak could hit 25 homers and late in drafts that power could be invaluable. If Ruf can nail down a full time job he is a 25 homer, 75 RBI guy with a 250 average so keep an eye on him in spring training. Duda is 20+ homer guy but will agin put up a sub 240 average. It really is a case of filling in the holes in your categories (without hurting others) if you’re looking this deep for players at the position.
So there you have it for the power position of first base where home runs are available throughout the draft but generally at the cost of other categories (especially average) the lower you get. There is not a lot of speed at first with only Goldschmidt and Hosmer projected to be double digits in that category hence why I often referred to the other 3 categories as I deemed the odd steal here and there negligible in comparison to the other categories.