The Fantasy Landscape: First Basemen

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Alex Kantecki opens first base week with an overview of the position, including his thoughts on AL-/NL-only leagues and draft strategy.

You know the drill. Today kicks off first base week here at Fake Teams, where the staff brings you positional rankings, player profiles and much, much more. In addition to all of the great content you are about to see, we're again very excited to bring you Daniel Schwartz's personal projections and auction values from Rotobanter. As Ray released on Sunday, here is the schedule for the following week, in case you're looking forward to a particular player or topic:

Time Slot/Day

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

7am

State of the Position (Alex)

Prospect Profile: Jose Abreu (Brian C.)

Top 30 First Base Rankings, Part 2 (Ray)

First Baseman to Target (Staff)

First Baseman to Avoid (Staff)

10am

Top 30 First Base Rankings, Part 1 (Ray)

Prospect Profile: Jonathan Singleton (Jason)

Prospect Profile: C.J. Cron (Matt)

Prospect Profile: Dan Vogelbach (Matt)

AL-only sleepers (Dave)

12pm

First Baseman Profile: Albert Pujols (Zack)

First Baseman Profile: Eric Hosmer (Daniel)

Prospect Profile: Dominic Smith (Jason)

First Baseman Profile: Brandon Moss (Zack)

NL-only Sleepers (Ray)

2pm

First Baseman Profile: Anthony Rizzo (Joe)

First Baseman Profile: Freddie Freeman (Ray)

2014 First Base Draft Strategy (Zack)

Breakout Candidate: Brandon Belt (Alex)

Bust Candidate:Chris Davis(Joe)

4pm

First Base Profile:Joey Votto (Brian S.)

First Base ADP Trends (Ray)

First Baseman Profile: Matt Adams (Daniel)

The Lay of the Land

Perhaps the two biggest breakouts of 2013 happened at the first base position. Chris Davis led the way with a major-league leading 53 home runs. I knew his second-half power from 2012 was real, but I didn't expect this -- and don't know anyone who did. The most surprising part of his game was a .286 BA, but many remain unconvinced he can do it again. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt was not far behind, launching 36 home runs on top of 15 steals. I think he can be even better in 2014, so you know where my money is.

Perhaps the biggest bust was at the first base position, too. Albert Pujols was a top-10 overall pick who finished 268th, according to the ESPN Player Rater. King Albert battled foot injuries, played in 99 games and recorded his first ever season without 30 home runs. In 13 seasons! The future Hall of Famer's ADP should be monitored closely in upcoming drafts -- he might be undervalued. Some will point to Joey Votto's season as a bust, too, but they'd be wrong. He finished inside the top 35 overall and received a lot of heat for taking too many walks. It worked out just fine for Votto, who still managed to hit 24 home runs and score 101 runs. I think the Votto narrative is overblown; unlike some other highly ranked first basemen, he's a very safe choice -- I expect the RBI total to come up considerably.

Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman are being lumped into the same tier after the elite, but both have top-five potential. Freeman was there in 2013, and Hosmer can get there with a little more power. Many, including myself, believed Anthony Rizzo would be right there, too, but he's a notch below. The batting average is the sticking point, but he's an annual 25-home run bat in my Cubbie blue eyes, with the upside for 30. Brandon Belt is already a popular sleeper after putting it all together in 2013. The real question with Belt is, "Can he reach 20 home runs?" That's the next logical step in the 25-year-old's development and I think he can get there.

Many target power at first base and -- in addition to the bats we already discussed -- the position is full of big home run potential. Mark Trumbo joins Goldschmidt in the desert and the two could combine for 70 home runs. Can Jose Abreu, who tagged 33 long balls in 66 games during the 2010-2011 season in Cuba, outslug Adam Dunn in Chicago? Brandon Moss contributed 33 a year ago -- despite doing all of his best work against right-handers -- and there are reasons to believe he can do something similar in 2014. And don't forget Prince Fielder, whose trade to Texas is probably the best fantasy outcome for everyone. He had a down year in 2013, breaking five straight seasons of 30 home runs.

Corey Hart is in Seattle, Justin Morneau is in Colorado and Kendrys Morales is still a free agent, but all three can provide sneaky value towards the backend of drafts. When it's all said and done, however, the field will likely be looking up to the back-to-back AL MVP, Miguel Cabrera, who will gain first-base eligibility soon enough. He's good at baseball.

The Great Divide (AL/NL)

The official Fake Teams first base rankings will be coming out shortly (in two posts of 15, with the first in a matter of hours and the second batch on Wednesday), and the AL has an advantage of 16 to 13. Morales, a free agent, is the missing piece for you mathematicians out there (yes, I can count!), but the NL does claim eight out of the top 15. And, if you don't include Miggy, it's eight out of 14. And things get even closer when you consider two AL-eligible catchers -- Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana -- are in the mix.

I'd consider the AL the more top-heavy of the two leagues, however, with Miggy, Davis, Edwin Encarnacion and Fielder near the top. The NL's best is clearly Goldschmidt and Votto, and I'd pay considerably more for their services than wait for the next group, which includes Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez and (down the list some) Rizzo -- the gap is large in my opinion. I see more of a need to target a clear top option in the NL. While I can see an argument for waiting and grabbing someone like Matt Adams, you don't want your season to land on the shoulders of Ryan Howard or Adam LaRoche.

The AL, with the added benefit of the DH, gains a considerable advantage. It's too bad David Ortiz doesn't qualify at first; he'd be an elite target, but his teammate Mike Napoli should once again put up big numbers in Boston. Nick Swisher is always underrated, Adam Lind surprised us with 23 home runs last year and Mark Teixeira cannot be completely written off.

The Draft Strategy

Zack Smith will bring you an in-depth look into the draft strategy at first base on Wednesday, much like he did last week with catchers. My opinion on first basemen -- for the most part -- has differed from the majority who see first base as one of the deepest position out there; I have always tried to grab one of the elite (especially in -only leagues), but I can see a very good case for waiting back in standard mixed formats. With so many first basemen capable of giving you solid run production and 20 home runs, it might be in your advantage to fill out thinner positions first.

Looking at the most recent NFBC ADP, Pujols is barely a top-10 first basemen, Allen Craig is No. 10 and Gonzalez barely sneaks inside the top 12. I'd be comfortable with any one of those three manning first base for my team. If you wait even longer, Rizzo, Trumbo and Belt will all be there. The more shallow the league, the better.

The New Kids on the Block

Unlike previous years, the young talent at first base in 2014 is small. If you don't count Jose Abreu, the Astros' Jonathan Singleton is the prospect with the best chance of impacting fantasy teams in 2014. He's close to being MLB ready, but there are big holes in his swing that must be addressed first. Jason Hunt, Brian Creagh and Matt Mattingly will be highlighting Singleton, Abreu, C.J Cron, Dominic Smith and Daniel Vogelbach in prospect profiles later this week.

What's Next?

In two short hours, the Fake Teams top-15 first basemen rankings will be released, along with projections and auction values from Rotobanter. Ray and the gang have worked long and hard to bring your the best pre-season coverage available, so we appreciate all of the feedback thus far, whether good, bad or in-between. Keep it coming! If there is anything you'd like to see in addition to the type of content we are putting out, please let us know about it in the comments below.

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