This post is the second of a series of position rankings catered specifically to fantasy baseball head-to-head points leagues.
All hitters in this post and future points league rankings are based on these scoring values:
(1B x 1) + (2B x 2) + (3B x 3) + (HR x 4) + (R x 1) + (RBI x 1) + (BB x 1) + (SB x 2) + (SO x -1) = Total
For my thoughts on draft strategies and stats to track in H2H points leagues, consult the top of the catcher's rankings post here.
Notes on first base:
Power outage - Whether due to injury, regression or just bad luck, the top four first basemen all hit significantly less HR in 2011 than they did in 2010. Expect the best of the position to be even better when it comes to power in 2012.
On the move - Two of the top five first basemen, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, are on the move this offseason. While we know Pujols will be suiting up for the Angels, word is still out on Fielder. It should be interesting to see whether a change in teams and leagues impacts the superstars positively, negatively or at all.
Depth - As always, first base is one of the deepest positions in the draft. Don't feel too down if you miss out on one of the big sluggers as there should be plenty of points available at 1B later in the draft.
Injuries - First base has serious injury questions involving big name players such as Ryan Howard, Justin Morneau, Kendrys Morales and Joe Mauer. Be very careful before selecting any of them in the draft and be sure to know the extent of their injuries.
Rankings after the jump:
2012 Fantasy Baseball Head-to-Head Points League First Base Rankings:
1) Miguel Cabrera, DET
2011 Points Scored: 575
Do my eyes deceive me? It seems very wrong to see 1B rankings without Albert Pujols in the number one spot (and even worse to be writing them), but, at some point the torch has to be passed and 2012 is the year. Miguel Cabrera had another excellent year at the plate in 2011 with a .344/.448/.586 (1.033 OPS) to accompany 111 runs and 105 RBI, although his HR total did take a dive from 38 in 2010 to 30. His AB/HR and FB/HR ratios were his lowest as a Tiger while his GB/FB was the highest. If Cabrera can return to his career averages in those ratios in ’12, 40 HR is a legitimate possibility and a repeat of the 1B scoring title is almost a certainty.
2) Albert Pujols, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 538
Never once, and I do mean never, did I think Albert Pujols would leave St. Louis. I’m shocked, but I can’t blame the Cardinals after seeing his contract from ANA. It’s been widely reported that Pujols had a down year, and while it did mark the first time in his 11 year career he finished with a AVG under .300, he still posted a season of .299/.366/.541 (.906 OPS), 37 HR, 99 RBI and 105 runs. Pretty terrible, huh? He could be regressing, but 31 is still too young to worry too much about that. I’d attribute his lower HR and RBI totals to a fluky wrist injury that resulted in 50 less plate appearances than the previous two seasons. Considering his 15.6 AB/HR and 5.8 AB/RBI ratios, those missing appearances likely cost him 3-4 HR and another 10 RBI which would’ve made him the second highest scoring 1B in ’11.
3) Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
2011 Points Scored: 527
Upon the news that Adrian Gonzalez had been traded to the Boston Red Sox, I immediately penciled him in as the 2011 AL MVP. Turns out I was wrong. However, while his stats weren’t MVP worthy, they were elite with a .338/.410/.548 (.957 OPS), 27 HR, 117 RBI, 108 runs scored and 45 doubles. Reports constantly surfaced that his shoulder was bothering him, which could have been the cause for his decline in HR and increase in his GB/FB (0.83, the highest of his career). Assuming he enters 2012 healthy, A-Gon could start to lift some of those 45 doubles higher in the air and over the Green Monster, much to the pleasure of the Sawx faithful and his fantasy owners.
4) Joey Votto, CIN 2011
Points Scored: 519
Joey Votto was unable to repeat his 2011 NL MVP numbers, but still posted an excellent .309/.416/.531 (.947 OPS) along with 29 HR, 103 RBI, 110 BB and 101 runs scored that had his owners saying, "Domo arigato, Mr. Votto!" His HR were down (are you noticing a trend?) thanks to his 10.8 FB/HR, compared to a 16.3 in 2010. Unfortunately, the former is more in line with his career average and while Votto is still extremely young at 27 years old, it is possible that his 37 HR in ’10 will be his career high. That being said, he could still hit 30-35 HR again and has plenty else to offer as his 110 BB led all 1B and his 8 SB were good for fourth best. If Prince Fielder signs with an AL team, Votto will most certainly be the highest scoring 1B in the NL in 2012.
5) Prince Fielder, FA
2011 Points Scored: 540
Where, oh where will Prince Fielder end up? It’s been the question of the Hot Stove season since Pujols packed his bags for Anaheim. Maybe GMs across the league are taking a stand against Boras at the cost of Fielder? Whatever it is, the super-sized slugger is still without a home for 2012 which leaves it somewhat hard to rank him. No matter where he ends up, you can likely count on Fielder for a solid .270/.400/.500 slash line, 35 HR and 100 RBI, even if his career trends indicate he is due for an "off" year (2011 was most definitely an "on" year with a line of .299/.415/.566 (.981 OPS), 38 HR, 120 RBI and 107 BB).
6) Mark Teixeira, NYY
2011 Points Scored: 466
Where did the AVG go, Teixeira? After an impressive, almost MVP worthy, debut season in pinstripes in 2009 when he hit .292, Teixeira has gone on to post a .256 and .248 AVG the past two seasons. The most likely reason is his extremely unlucky BABIP over that time (.239 in 2011). If his BABIP improves (it couldn’t get much worse), Teixeira should see a nice increase in AVG and his hit point total in 2012. But, even if he isn’t "On a Mark" in terms of AVG, you can be pretty sure Teixeira will send at least 30 "Tex-messages" over the fences as ‘11 marked the eighth straight season in which he did so. Along with that, it would be hard to imagine that smack-dab in the middle of the Yankees order he won’t be able to score close to 100 runs while driving in just as many, if not more.
7) Eric Hosmer, KC
2011 Points Scored: 361
Well, that was impressive. Eric Hosmer burst onto the scene in early May of 2011 and went on to post a .293/.334/.465 (.799 OPS) while hitting 19 HR, driving in 78 runs and scoring 66. His BABIP and LD% are both more than sustainable, and if he is able to lower his GB/FB rate (1.04) and start lifting some ball into the air, there is no reason to believe 25-30 HR aren’t possible over the course of a full season. Oh, and he had 11 SB, which tied him for first at the position. Early comparisons are being made between Hosmer and Joey Votto, and while his BB% doesn’t quite matchup, the resemblance is most definitely there. When it comes to upside, Hosmer is most certainly the most exciting player on this list in terms of potential and ADP.
8) Paul Konerko, CWS
2011 Points Scored: 445
"Old man" Konerko simply refuses to slow down and has now silenced his critics two years in a row with impressive 2010 and 2011 seasons. I’d say his ’11 stats are more likely to be repeated than those from '10, which is fine as he posted a .300/.388/.517 (.906 OPS) slash line with 31 HR, 105 RBI and 69 runs scored last year. Konerko also takes his fair share of free passes as his 77 BB were good for seventh best at 1B. If you’re looking at upside, look at Hosmer. If you want a solid 1B with close to 10 years of consistent production, look at Konerko.
9) Michael Young, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 473
The AARP portion of the rankings continues with Michael Young. After an offseason filled with trade rumors, Young went on to post arguably the best all-around season of his career in 2011. That’ll show ‘em. Young had a .338/.380/.474 (.854 OPS) slash line to accompany 11 HR, 105 RBI and 88 runs scored. His 213 hits were tied for first at the position while his 6 triples led all first basemen. Expect a slight increase in HR in 2012 to go along with a noticeable decrease in AVG and hits as his .366 BABIP is most certainly unsustainable and his 11.3 SO% was 3% better than his career average and 5% better than 2010. Less hits will lead to less runs scored and batted in, but considering you should be drafting him as your 2B or 3B, you’ll come away more than happy with the end results.
10) Lance Berkman, STL
2011 Points Scored: 454
That was unexpected. I doubt St. Louis knew when they signed Lance Berkman in an offseason where Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Adrian Beltre were free agents that he would go on to be the second highest scoring signing amongst hitters behind only Melky Cabrera of the Kansas City Royals (now SF Giants). It’s unlikely Berkman entirely replicates his .301/.412/.547 slash line, 31 HR, 94 RBI and 90 runs scored in 2011, but, unlike others, I don’t expect a significant drop-off. His BABIP, SO% and LD% were all in line with his career averages as was his FB/HR ratio and, even with the absence of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals still stand to score a lot of runs, which Berkman assuredly will be a part of. It seems to be his 31 HR that have most people worried, so fine, let’s say that total drops to 24, that would still put him in line for well over 400 points scored at season’s end.
11) Carlos Santana, CLE
2011 Points Scored: 389
Read my profile of Carlos Santana here. It probably goes without saying, but its best to maximize Santana’s value if you draft him with the intention of him being your team’s catcher. Depending on your league, Santana should have C/1B eligibility in 2012.
12) Carlos Lee, HOU
2011 Points Scored: 428
Not much exciting to say here other than that Carlos Lee did in 2011 almost exactly what he has done for 12 seasons now. After a miserable .238 in 2010, Lee’s BABIP rose to .279 in ’11 and the rest of his stats followed as he posted a .275/.342/.446 (.788 OPS) 18 HR, 94 RBI and 66 runs scored. Perhaps Lee’s best offering is that his SO% came in at 9.2 in ’11 and has only exceeded 10% once since 2005. There’s a chance his RBI opportunities could decrease as he will essentially be surrounded by the Houston farm system throughout much of the season, but, there is always the possibility of a midseason trade to a contender if El Caballo comes out of the gates strong.
13) Gaby Sanchez, MIA
2011 Points Scored: 377
Gaby Sanchez's 2011 stats were almost identical to his 2010 production. In '11, Sanchez posted a .266/.352/.427 (.779 OPS) slash line with 19 HR, 78 RBI and 72 runs scored. There's little reason to project any sort of regression while his .287 BABIP, decreased SO% and increased BB% are all signs that Sanchez could improve on his '10 and '11 seasons.
14) Ike Davis, NYM
2011 Points Scored: 101 (injured)
"I like Ike." There, it had to be said. Davis started 2011 on a tear with a .302/.383/.543 (.995 OPS), 7 HR, 25 RBI and 21 runs scored before his season came to an end (only 149 PA). There's almost no chance he could maintain that rate of production over 550-600 plate appearances and his .344 BABIP is due to drop-off a bit, but, assuming he returns healthy in 2012, there seems to be the potential for 25-30 HR, 80-90 RBI, 70-80 runs scored and an AVG somewhere around .270 or .280. Not to mention that the Mets decided to bring in the fences in Citi Field, since they determined that scoring more runs might help them win more baseball games. Good call.
15) Michael Morse, WAS
2011 Points Scored: 369
Michael Morse ranks right with Hosmer in terms of breakout seasons at 1B in 2011. He posted a .303/.360/.550 (.910 OPS) with 31 HR, 95 RBI and 73 runs scored after taking over the full-time job for the injured Adam LaRoche. Odds are he sees more starts in LF for the Nationals than 1B in 2012 with the return of LaRoche and the potential for a significant 1B free agent signing, but that shouldn't do much to limit his production at the plate. In fact, overall there's not too much be concerned with outside of a likely decrease to his .344 BABIP, which could result in a drop in hits, RBI and runs scored, but even then, Washington stands to have a strong lineup in '12 and point scoring opportunities shouldn't be scarce for Morse.
16) Michael Cuddyer, COL
2011 Points Scored: 356
Cuddyer's move from Minnesota to Colorado vastly increases his potential for 2012. He should see an increase in RBI opportunities batting behind Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki while his 20 HR in 2011 could rise anywhere from 25-30 with playing half his games at Coors Field as opposed to Target Field. Nothing about his .284/.345/.461 (.768 OPS) slash line seems unrepeatable and with the opportunity to make starts at 2B, RF and 1B, plate appearances shouldn't be a problem for the versatile Cuddyer. His 11 SBs could decline a bit seeing as though he won't be any younger, but, all-in-all, Cuddyer is a safe bet for another solid fantasy season in '12.
17) Mike Napoli, TEX
2011 Points Scored: 361
Read my profile of Mike Napoli here. Depending on your league, Napoli should have C/1B eligibility in 2012.
18) Mark Trumbo, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 332
Kendrys Morales didn't make a single plate appearance the entire season and Trumbo was the benefactor of it. He posted a .254/.291/.477 (.768 OPS) with 29 HR, 87 RBI and 65 runs scored. Trumbo will need to limit his strike outs if he wants to rise in these rankings as his 120 were eighth most at the position. Playing time is also a slight concern for Trumbo with the acquisition of Pujols and the mysterious health status of Kendrys Morales, but he should find his way into the lineup either at 1B, DH, 3B or OF most nights. If he sees significant time at 3B in Spring Training then Trumbo is most certainly someone you'll want to keep an eye on in your draft.
19) Howie Kendrick, ANA
2011 Points Scored: 340
Howie Kendrick had another solid season in 2011 and finished with a .285/.338/.464 (.802 OPS), 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB and 86 runs scored in 80 less plate appearances than 2010. His career-high 18 HR might not be repeatable, but there's a chance he can maintain the rest of his numbers while increasing his counting stats with more plate appearances and the addition of Albert Pujols to the Halos' lineup.
20) Freddie Freeman, ATL
2011 Points Scored: 318
Freeman had an outstanding rookie season for the Atlanta Braves and one almost worthy of a ROY Award had his teammate Craig Kimbrel not had an historic year. The Braves' lanky first baseman finished with a .282/.346/.448 (.795 OPS), 21 HR, 76 RBI and 61 runs scored. Like Trumbo, Freeman needs to cut down on his strike outs (142, fifth at 1B) and his 22.4 SO% in order to increase his point total in 2012. If he is able to do so, Atlanta will have one of the better 3-4 combos with Freeman and Heyward the next 10 years.
Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds, Paul Goldschmidt, James Loney, Edwin Encarnacion
Joe Mauer, MIN
2011 Points Scored: 171
Read my Joe Mauer profile here. If Mauer comes back healthy and approaches his career averages, he could be the highest scoring catcher and one of the highest scoring 1B as he gained eligibility at the position in 2011.
Ryan Howard, PHI
2011 Points Scored: 374
Word is Ryan Howard could miss anywhere from 1-3 months of the season, which could take anywhere from 60 to 200 points off his 2011 total. If the purpose of these rankings is to indicate who should score the most points over the course of the season, then there is no way Howard makes the list. With that being said, if you can draft him late and start him at UTIL when he does return, his production in September (H2H playoffs) could be priceless.
Justin Morneau, MIN
2011 Points Scored: 112
Essentially the same goes for Justin Morneau. His concussion status/reoccurring injuries almost guarantee he once again misses significant time off the field. Time off the field means time he won’t be scoring points and reaching the totals the other 1B on this list should provide.
Adam Dunn, CWS
2011 Points Scored: 91
If ever there was a player due for a bounce back, it’s Adam Dunn. His season was so incredibly horrible (.159/.292/.277, 11HR) that there is almost no chance 2012 could be worse. I can’t in good conscious rank him or advise that you draft him before any other player I’ve mentioned, but there is the chance that if he were to return to form he could score somewhere around fifteenth at the position.
Is there a first baseman you're excited about that's not on the list? Feel free to comment on these rankings or ask your questions regarding H2H points leagues and fantasy baseball below.