Staff rankings: First base

Starting yesterday, we began to release our staff consensus rankings by position, starting with catchers. The staffers who ranked are Josh Shepardson, Ben Pritchett, Brad Johnson and yours truly. We used to create our composite rankings, and if you follow the link provided in our rankings, you can see how ours compared with a slew of other experts’.

As you did yesterday, assume a 12-team, mixed league with standard 5×5 settings. Click on the links with our names to get to our Twitter accounts, where we’ll happily answer your baseball and fantasy questions year-round.

2012 First Basemen Rankings
Player Name Nick
Expert Consensus
Miguel Cabrera 1 1 1 2 1 compare
Albert Pujols 2 2 2 1 2 compare
Joey Votto 3 3 3 3 3 compare
Adrian Gonzalez 5 4 5 4 4 compare
Prince Fielder 4 5 4 5 5 compare
Mark Teixeira 6 6 6 6 6 compare
Eric Hosmer 7 7 7 9 7 compare
Paul Konerko 10 8 8 7 8 compare
Mike Napoli 8 9 10 10 9 compare
Carlos Santana 9 10 9 13 10 compare
Pablo Sandoval 11 15 11 11 11 compare
Michael Morse 12 14 13 12 12 compare
Kevin Youkilis 15 12 17 8 13 compare
Lance Berkman 14 17 12 15 14 compare
Michael Young 13 11 21 14 15 compare
Freddie Freeman 17 16 15 22 16 compare
Ike Davis 19 23 14 17 17 compare
Billy Butler 21 20 16 16 18 compare
Joe Mauer 18 13 20 19 compare
Ryan Howard 22 19 19 19 20 compare
Paul Goldschmidt 16 24 18 24 21 compare
Michael Cuddyer 20 29 20 18 22 compare
Howard Kendrick 25 18 21 23 compare
Mark Reynolds 23 22 23 23 24 compare
Kendrys Morales 24 26 22 25 compare

Fantasy Baseball Rankings powered by FantasyPros, the leading aggregator of expert fantasy advice.

Tomorrow… Second base

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10 years ago

At least 9 of those guys will be rostered at another position and Howard will start the season on the DL.  1B has gotten mighty thin.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

I totally agree DrB.

Another note, Brad I agree so much with you about Morse I’ll probably be changing his ranking up to ten or eleven. He’s hit well in three straight half seasons. I think we get too caught up in the short successes of late bloomers. I liked him last year. The only thing I see regressing is his AVG, and that’s just speculation.

Lastly, I feel like I might have implored a slightly different strategy than the rest of you guys. I ranked my position players based on my overall rankings. So I ranked a Joe Mauer, who has that catcher eligibility, higher than some obviously safer bets to produce (Berkman and Sandoval). I did the same thing with Howie Kendrick.

Greg Simons
10 years ago

Where do you guys have Gaby Sanchez ranked?  I’m trying to decide whether to keep him for $13 in a 5×5, 8-team, NL-only keeper league.  (I have Morse, too, for $9, but I’ll put him at OF.)

I agree with DrB, 1B has gotten thin, especially in the NL with Pujols and Fielder gone.  Hence my debate about keeping Sanchez.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

I have adjusted Morse up to 10 and Sandoval to 14 which pushes Mauer down to 15. I didn’t realize I was so high on him, and it made me reevaluate a bit. This move will also move Morse ahead of Alex Gordon, Desmond Jennings, and Carl Crawford in my Outfield rankings.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

@Greg- I have Gaby ranked 27 which makes him my number 9 NL first baseman, but that list contains Morse, Sandoval, and Berkman, all of which could be starting in different positions. I also have him ranked behind Howard.

Since you have Morse already, I’d definitely recommend keeping him at $13. Gaby could still grow, and even if he maintains, I’d say that’s worth $13 especially considering what you might be looking at in the draft.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

Ben, I definitely ranked based solely on the position at hand. I employed the strategy you mentioned only on the top 250 list.

Greg, I think I agree with Ben. Values change substantially when shifting from mixed to NL-only. What I like about the move is that it’s a big F-you to the rest of your league. You’ll have the 2nd and 10th ranked NL-only 1b (personal rankings). That’s a list that includes Sandoval, Berkman, and Cuddyer (probably used at different positions) and Ryan Howard (recovering from Achilles injury). Effectively, the other 7 owners are going to struggle to find palatable starters at the position.

We’re I you, I might look to snatch up another of those guys for my UTIL slot (if they are available) before anyone else notices that they’re going to need to gamble on Mat Gamel. Hell, maybe you should be the one to gamble on him.

Greg Simons
10 years ago

Thanks for the feedback, guys.  Votto and Berkman both will be kept, probably Freeman, Ike Davis and Helton, too.  Maybe even Carlos Lee.

Howard and Goldschmidt are big question marks – both in terms of performance and price tags.  Ditto Alonso, Rizzo and LaHair; Belt’s and Huff PT situation is unresolved.  Loney bores me to tears (I’ve owned him before, and he might be kept at a low price).

Wow, a review of NL 1B really is depressing.  I think I will keep my known, decent guys at solid prices.

10 years ago

Hasn’t the hate on Kendrys gone too far?  Hasn’t he recovered?  Its not like we’re counting on him for speed.  A healthy season of at bats puts him easily top 15 1B with upside.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

This is true, but first we need to see him on a field at all. Then we need to see his path to playing time resolved as he currently has two years of rust, Mark Trumbo, and Bobby Abreu to contend with. He has the upside to put up numbers similar to Tex, but he’s probably more likely not to put up any numbers at this juncture.

Dave Cameron
10 years ago

I ma surprised that Butler is on this list even though he doesn’t qualify at the position.  Alos, I see Belt mentioned but not listed.  I tought the Giants were going with Belt at 1b and Sandoval at 3rd most of the time.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago


Butler is 1B eligible in Yahoo!, hence he is ranked here.

The Giants will use Belt/Huff/Posey (occasionally?) at first base and Sandoval at third. However, Sandoval is eligible as a first baseman.

To be entirely honest, I’m not sure Belt would reach the top 25 even if he had a lock on the position. He has to overcome a terrible lineup and questions about his ability to adjust to MLB pitching. Overall, that’s a middling fantasy package. You can dream on the upside but the downside will probably slap you in the face.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

@ Dave- We abided by Fantasy Pros positional player pools which is loosely based on Yahoo’s eligibility requirements. So that is why Butler qualifies and Belt does not. If I were to rank Belt, he still wouldn’t make my top 25. There’s no way he ranks with the likes of Mark Reynolds with all the uncertainty surrounding him this year. I do, however, like him as an upside play in NL Only leagues or deeper mixed.

Regarding Kendrys, I totally agree with Brad. At this stage in the analytical season, we cant rank him higher without some confirmation of health and playing time.

Jeffrey Gross
10 years ago

My list is actually quite similar to this one (at least in the top 15):

Rank   Player Name
1   Albert Pujols
2   Miguel Cabrera
3   Joey Votto
4   Adrian Gonzalez
5   Prince Fielder
6   Mark Teixeira
7   Paul Konerko
8   Mike Napoli
9   Eric Hosmer
10   Michael Morse
11   Carlos Santana
12   Pablo Sandoval
13   Lance Berkman
14   Ike Davis
15   Joe Mauer
16   Kevin Youkilis
17   Michael Young
18   Paul Goldschmidt
19   Kendrys Morales
20   Billy Butler
21   Mark Reynolds
22   Freddie Freeman
23   Michael Cuddyer
24   Gaby Sanchez
25   Mark Trumbo
  Just Missed: Bryan LaHair and Brandon Belt

If you have questions about these rankings relative to my dynasty rankings, keep in mind the dynasty rankings are long term and account for position eligibility.

10 years ago

I’m not necessarily going to disagree with their rankings because of the risks invovled, but Davis and Goldschmidt could look like bargains after the season is played out.  They have the best chance of shooting up the rankings.  Freeman to a lesser degree also, but he doesn’t seem to have the same power ceiling, so he’s kind of just Hosmer without the double-digit SB that justifies his ranking on par with Konerko.  Davis and Goldschmidt could both have an outside shot at 30 HR, with Davis providing a more digestable average and Goldschmidt chipping in a handful of SB and probably a slightly better shot at more gaudy power numbers, but at the cost of some punishment in AVG.  They’re the two guys I’m targeting if I miss out on the Top 7 or 8, and then I’ll usually add Brandon Belt and/or Lucas Duda as a supplementary gamble (I’d probably put Duda somewhere ahead of Morales but behind Goldschmidt, while Belt is tougher because he may not even play, but his upside is actually similar to Hosmer’s, so he probably doesn’t yet belong on this list). 

I find that even in years where first base looks thinnish on draft day (and it has each of the last few years if you go back and look at the draft day rankings), it generally doesn’t wind up that way at the end of the year that way and for an active manager its one of the more easily plugged holes.  Most years my approach is something of a stars-or-scrubs, where I’ll pretty much avoid the middle of the field and let others panic and overpay after the big names get taken off the board, helping myself to the leftover scraps.  Last year in my most competitive league I started off with Carlos Pena, Pablo Sandoval, and Brandon Belt as my first base eligibles, and I spent most of the year mixing and matching to shield Pena from lefties using guys like Justin Smoak (early in the year when he was hitting), Lucas Duda, Mike Carp, Kyle Blanks, etc. to fill in based on matchups (trigger finger wasn’t quick enough to nab Hosmer when he got called up earlier than expected), and I finished the year with Sandoval, Pena, Duda, and Carp on my roster who gave my plenty of second half production at the position.  I also finished in second place in that league (tied for the most points in the offensive categories) despite a pretty busted first round David Wright pick (bless your hearts, Pablo Sandoval and Alex Gordon).

Jeffrey Gross
10 years ago

Duda is my No. 27 ranked right now actually. I could see him higher if he gets consistent playing time.

Jeffrey Gross
10 years ago

Jerry Sands or James Loney. Debate!

Carlos Pena or Lucas Duda. Debate!

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

James Loney easy. I know you like Sands, but I’m not convinced he’s an MLBer.

The second one would depend on format. Standard I would take Duda simply because it’s hard to build a roster around batting average sinks like Pena. But I haven’t played many standard leagues recently.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

Fwiw, I have Duda at 36 but I will move him up as soon as the Mets clarify their starting lineup. I like Duda as well, but I like him as a back end OF not a 1B or even CI.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

Loney over Sands and Belt over Pena. I don’t think either are that close. I believe Belt has just as much power inhis bat than Pena these days and even has batting average upside that Pena doesnt have. I’m not buying into the idea that a move back to Tampa will have a profound impact on his stats.

Sands can mash lecture but disappears when he faces right-handers. Loney is proven and finished 2011 with a solid second half. In fact I might move him up considerably in my rankings.

10 years ago

Texeira finished 14th among MLB 1b in OPS+ last year, and he’s entering his age-32 season with back-to-back declines since 2009.

He hits a lot of homers, drives in a lot of runs, but anyone in a more-saber-oriented league should watch out for those crummy OBP/SLG numbers… a sub-.500 slugging percentage is not something you should see in the 6th-ranked 1b…

Brad Johnson
10 years ago


I agree with your sentiment to an extent. For rankings purposes, Tex benefits from being a known quantity with a fairly high ceiling and floor. It’s likely that many of the names behind him will be better than him in 2012, but who knows which guys it will be. And it’s unlikely that he won’t deliver strong value in 3 categories.

I have some rankings that diverge from my opinion of a player. This is one of them. The conditions where I would draft Tex will never exist yet I have him ranked fairly highly.

10 years ago


Completely agree on Tex Brad, couldn’t have said it better.  I tend to have him ranked fairly high, but never find myself in a position where I’m willing to draft him at crunch time.  His floor is the gaudy counting numbers he can put up in the Yankee lineup, and I’m not convinced he won’t see some positive BABIP regression. 


Duda definitely makes more sense as a 5th/6th OF or CI option, but if you’re going to punt on a Top 12 first baseman, the flexibility he brings is quite useful, especially in leagues light on reserve spots. 

He’s also a player I’ve been following since he was drafted having been a Mets farm nerd for a while and I think its easy to undersell his potential based on his humble early minor league career.  He suffered broken hamate bone early on that sapped his power and he played in some difficult hitting environments, but he always controlled the zone very well and drew plenty of walks.  It took a while, and by the time he started mashing he was a bit behind the age curve, but at 24 he put up a .217 ISO in the Eastern League over 200 PAs and added a .295 ISO in the International League over 300 PAs following an in season promotion, then matched that .295 mark over 150 PAs in the IL in 2011.  The EL and IL are not hitter friendly leagues, and he was doing that with strikeout rates below 20% and walk rates over 10%, so he wasn’t doing the prototypical Val Pascucci/Mike Hessman quad-A, high-K slugger thing.  He’s also a big dude and can hit balls very, very far, which alone had got him on the radar in the low minors before he started slugging.  I’m pretty confident that if he plays regularly he can reach .275-65-80-20 without much trouble, and there’s upside for quite a bit more.  The biggest risk being that his defense doesn’t play and someone like Kirk Nieuwenhuis hits enough to bump someone, but doesn’t glove well enough to bump Torres. 


There’s a piece of me that wants to say Sands over Loney, just can’t do it though.  Also Duda over Pena.  More balanced skillset trumps Pena in standard leagues, positional versatility trumps him in deeper leagues.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

Put me in the camp that thinks Tex was unlucky last year… Virtually all his peripherals were the same as his career norms sans that awful BABIP. Part of me thinks that his batting average failures against right-handers could correlate to a more power driven approach.  Although he always leans towards hitting lefties better for his career. If his AVG gets up to the .270+ range and maintain his career norms in the power three cats, he should be worth every bit of a sixth ranking spot.

And I will target Tex because he pairs nicely with Joe Mauer or Buster Posey as I discussed yesterday.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

First base notes:

I think we’re being bearish as a group on Morse.

I probably botched that Youk pick by a couple. I think he should be between Morse and Santana. I probably overlooked a fair bit of the injury risk associated with him.

#25 on my list was James Loney. I’ll be watching his spring performances closely and I think he has the potential to return mid-teens value on this list.

10 years ago

I agree on Tex, I just can never bring myself to draft him.  He never falls too far past his ADP it seems, and I always feel like there are other guys in that neighborhood I like slightly better.  Ian Kinsler and Andrew McCutchen come to mind this year, and even David Wright and Adrian Beltre might come first depending on where I am in the snake—if there are going to be a lot of picks before my next pick I’d probably take one of them over Tex.  In auction I’d probably be looking to get a slight bargain on him compared to his average cost or I’d be willing to pass, and because of his name and the team he plays for, it just never seems to happen. 

The most peculiar and disturbing thing is the near linear (and quite steep) decline in his BABIP recently.  The following have been his BABIPs over the last five years:

.342 – 2007
.239 – 2011

I think he’s due for better than a .239 mark in 2012, but even considering how volatile BABIP can be, there’s likely something going on here.  Maybe its an approach issue, but there’s another disturbing trend that correlates to this decline.  Here’s Tex’s “Avg True Distance” and “Avg Speed Off Bat” of his homers every season since 2007, courtesy of Hit Tracker:

415.5 / 106.9 – 2007
398.2 / 104.1
399.3 / 104.0
393.4 / 103.5
386.9 / 102.6 – 2011

(MLB averages in 2011 were 394.3 / 103.4)

So along with the BABIP decline, Tex has also gone from being a guy who hits homers much harder and farther than the major league average to a guy who is significantly below average in both respects.  I’m a bit worried that he’s already in a more substantial decline phase than we may be ready to give him credit for, but that its being masked by Yankee Stadium and the fact that the most prominent stat its manifested in thus far is BABIP.  I’m far from ready to write him off as a top first baseman for fantasy purposes, but there may in fact be a lot more bottom-out potential here than we’re giving him credit for.  If he actually has a good 2012 in a superficial sense (say .270-100-110-30 thanks to a BABIP boost) but shows any significant red flags, he may wind up on my do not draft list for 2013.

Nick Fleder
10 years ago

Brad, why so bullish on Loney this year? I actually prefer Sands—he has pretty incredible raw power and seemed to put it together nicely at the end of last season.

I’d prefer Pena to Duda, still, but Duda could surprise. I don’t think he’ll hit 20 homers and Pena is as sure a bet as any for ~25 and will be plus in at least two categories. Duda, I fear, will only be merely average in two (BA, HR) next year, and won’t score enough runs or drive in enough Mets to make a huge difference in fantasy. Perhaps it’s the crowded infield/outfield in Flushing, but he doesn’t excite me this year.

10 years ago


He likes Loney because he finished the season so strong.  Starting with August, he went .348-30-32-8 in 191 PAs, so there’s a glimmer of breakout hope on the previously thought distantly passed horizon.

Also, what’s so crowded about the Mets outfield?  Scott Hairston may spell Duda occasionally against lefties, but it won’t even be a strict platoon.  The only other options they have are Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares, and maybe Adam Loewen.  Loewen is probably the 5th OF at best, and the other two won’t outhit Duda either, so its a question of if his fielding is awful or simply bad but passable as to whether they have a shot to usurp him (also keeping in mind with the RCF wall coming in from that absurd 415 ft alley and the recessed Mo’s Zone being shortened, there will be quite a bit less ground to cover).  I can almost guarantee that if Nieuwenhuis makes the opening day roster, it’ll be to start in CF, not RF, while Lagares has a much, much lower offensive ceiling than either and will almost certainly start the year in the minors.  If Duda gets 600+ PAs, I see 20 HR as closer to a floor than a ceiling.  Keep in mind, he didn’t hit his first HR last year until late July, shortly before Beltran was traded and by which time he had recently started playing fairly regularly for Ike Davis (Murphy was in there two but their whole infield was a mess at that point).  He then proceeded to hit 10 post-break HR in just 243 PAs (.224 ISO) once he was playing every day.  He also had a .295 ISO and hit 27 HR over 455 PAs in Triple-A (Intl League, so not PCL inflated or anything, and mostly at age 24, not THAT old for Triple-A).  So the potential for more is certainly there.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

@Nick, MH

Not only did Loney finish the season strong, he did so by making mechanical adjustments which makes it slightly more likely that it wasn’t just a fluke occurrence.

Obviously I’m not that bullish, I ranked the guy #25.

Chicago Mark
10 years ago

Hello all,
I’m late to the party.  But I do like the rankings and discussion.  There is little love for Adam Lind anywhere!  I know he had a bad second half but he was injured.  As a Lind owner I watched every day as they said again he would sit because of his wrist and/or back.  So everybody has decided to split his first and second half from 2011, get 75 or so more AB’s and really no more home runs.  I don’t get this at all.  If I were a betting man I’d bet on the over of 30 if he reaches 550 AB’s.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

You have to look at Lind’s 2010 campaign as well as the fall off in 2011 to fully understand our trepidation. I agree that the power is legit but Lind goes on streaks where he completely forgets how to hit lefties. In fairness, he made my top 25 ranking at 25…I could see adjusting him up with a strong Spring. He has extreme deviation so some will love; some will hate. His value will be wrapped on how many of these guys are in your league.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

I like to speculate on Lind a lot as I’ve had the fortune to buy low and sell high throughout his career (drafted him cheap and flipped him for Zobrist last year). The problem is that things are so crowded in Toronto so it’s easy to imagine him getting only 450 PA even if he’s playing great.

Chicago Mark
10 years ago

I don’t see it here but thanks for the follow-up on my thoughts.  I guess I’m the lone (or at least minority) buyer here.  The response said to take 2010 into account also.  Should 2009 be accounted for too?  I know it’s accounted for less the further away it gets.  But as I’ve read somewhere, if a player shows the skills he owns them.  Or something like that. 
Now there’s a second response.  Thanks again!  This one speculates that AB’s might be hard to come by and makes 450 a fear.  Yuck!  I hope not as I’m keeping him in hopes of seeing those 30+ home runs. 
I didn’t know about the hitless streaks against lefties.  He did hit better overall against lefties in 2011.  And his BABIP against righties was poor at best.  We all see the light in different intensities.  Mine is bright and I hope I get to laugh last.
Thanks for the responses.  They give me something to think about.

Ben Pritchett
10 years ago

I didn’t say I wouldn’t draft Lind. In fact, there may not be a better power source at his ADP. If I need power, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him, but you have to temper your expectations on the batting average and playing time.