2015 First Base Preview
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Zach back with you,
There was a time when first base was a deep fantasy position. Not anymore. This year, even the top-tier guys come with varying degrees of risk. Is Miguel Cabrera healthy? Is Paul Goldschmidt healthy? Can Jose Abreu repeat what he did last year? Should we be concerned about Freddie Freeman’s disappointing 2014 home run total of 18, this after it was looking like he had 30-home run upside? Honestly, I have yet to decide how I will go about addressing this position. As of now, I’m leaning towards targeting someone in that 6-10 group. I think the profit potential is greatest there, but of course a lot depends on how the individual draft plays out. After all, it is important to be flexible.
OK, let’s now turn our attention to the specific players.
It was only one year ago that Fielder was a borderline first round pick. It looked like a return to the 35-plus home run level was well within reach now that he would be playing half of his games in one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball, this after posting a somewhat disappointing 25 homers in 2013. But unfortunately, a neck injury that required season-ending surgery ruined his 2014 campaign. And even before being shut down, Prince was struggling, batting .247 with three homers and 16 RBI through 42 games. That said, all of this will deflate his draft day price tag to the point where he could be an absolute steal. Fielder is expected to be fully healthy for the start of spring training, and he will still be playing half of his games in Texas. Sure, drafting Prince is far from a risk-free move, but the reward is first round caliber production that you can get much later. I grabbed him at 5.10 in our 12-team mock, an absolute steal in my view.
Power is hard to find these days, and Trumbo has a lot of it. Like Fielder, Trumbo is coming off an injury-plagued season, but he’s not injury-prone, having averaged nearly 151 games played from 2011-2013 before being limited to 88 games last year. Plus, he did launch 14 longballs in those 88 games. Also like Fielder, Trumbo will benefit from a cozy home park. The batting average might be ugly, but he’s the cheapest 40-home run candidate you will be able to find. Don’t sleep on him this spring.
There’s no way around it. Morales’ 2014 season was an absolute disaster. After holding out until June in hopes of landing a more lucrative contract, Kendrys got off to an awful start with the Twins and never quite recovered. He improved a bit following his trade to Seattle, however, swatting seven homers in 59 games. Getting such a late start to the season certainly played a role in his struggles, and I really like this signing for the Royals. Kauffman Stadium won’t do him any favors, but Safeco Field isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise and Morales put up a fine .277-23-80 line for the Mariners in 2013, with 12 of those home runs coming at Safeco. There’s plenty of upside in drafting Morales as your CI in a deep mixed league.
Will Hosmer ever reach the superstar status many had predicted? At this point, I have my doubts. Don’t let his impressive postseason fool you into overpaying for him on draft day. The reality is that Hosmer’s 2014 was a big time disappointment, even taking into account the missed time due to injury. The Kansas City first baseman recorded career-lows in home runs, RBI, runs scored and steals while seeing his OPS drop by 85 points from its 2013 level. At 25 years of age, Hosmer still has time to get his big league career back on track, but the bottom line is that it’s going in the wrong direction. In a 12-team mixed league, I’d let him be someone else’s problem. Instead, give me Morales at the cheaper cost.
Perhaps the most puzzling free agent signing of the off-season, Butler somehow managed to parlay a .271-9-66 season into a three-year, $30 million contract with the A’s. I think it’s safe to say that Billy Beane places a high value on OBP. The only problem is that Butler registered a career-low .323 OBP last year. Look, it’s obvious now that his 29-homer 2012 campaign was an outlier, so what does this guy really bring to the table, other than a Country Breakfast? (Lame joke, I know.) Not much. The newfound 1B eligibility helps a little, but outside of deep mixed leagues (greater than 12 teams), Butler should be off your radar.
Duda is what he is, a low batting average/high strikeout hitter who has power. He does walk quite a bit, so in an OBP league, I’d be more open to drafting him. But in a standard 5×5, he will need to approach 30 home runs again to maintain 12-team mixed league value. I could be wrong here, but with just one season as an everyday player under his belt, I’m not ready to pencil him in for another 30 longballs. Look, I wouldn’t completely avoid Duda if the price turns out to be reasonable, but simply assuming that he can duplicate his 2014 stat line in 2015 would be a mistake. In other words, be careful.