You know how I told you not to worry too much about the catcher position? First base is a different story. Nine of the top 30 hitters in my fantasy league last year were first basemen, and having a star at this position can help to make up for deficiencies at other spots. But even with that said, don’t fret too much if you don’t get one of the eight to 10 difference makers. As long as you’ve got some studs elsewhere, there’s a second tier of 10 or so first basemen who are a good bet to get the job done for you, as well as some solid third basemen with first base eligibility.
1. Albert Pujols, STL
The Cardinals slugger is one of the top hitters to target in any fantasy format. Concerns about his right elbow caused him to fall in drafts last year, but he rewarded owners who kept the faith by hitting .357 with 37 jacks and 116 RBI. He had minor surgery in October and is expected to be completely healthy in time for Opening Day.
2. Mark Teixeira, NYY
Over the past five years, Teixeira has hit .280 or better with 30 or more home runs and 105 or more RBI every season. His numbers should only improve now that he’s hitting in the stacked Yankees lineup. Keep in mind that he’s a slow starter.
3. Miguel Cabrera, DET
Cabrera smacked a career-high 37 homers in his first season as an American Leaguer, though his .292 average was his lowest since his rookie year. Cabrera is still only 25, and it’s possible he hasn’t reached his ceiling. That’s a scary thought.
4. Prince Fielder, MIL
Fielder couldn’t replicate his incredible 2007 campaign (.288, 50 homers, 119 RBI) last year, but he still finished with a .276 average, 34 homers and 102 RBI. It’s a good bet that his 2009 totals will split the difference. Beware the K’s, though.
5. Justin Morneau, MIN
Morneau’s home run total dipped from 31 in 2007 to 23 last year, but he knocked in 18 more runs and raised his batting average 29 points. A .300 average, 30 or so jacks and around 120 RBI are reasonable expectations for the Twins slugger.
6. Lance Berkman, HOU
Berkman’s stats fluctuate more than those of most stars - he could hit anywhere from 25 to 45 homers, and anywhere from .270 to .320 - but he always produces one way or another. Enjoy the hot streaks and ride out the slumps.
7. Ryan Howard, PHI
Howard fans about 200 times a year, limiting his value in leagues that penalize K’s. His average has also declined the past three years. On the bright side, he’ll hit at least 45 homers and knock in 140 or so runs, and plays in a Little League park.
8. Adrian Gonzalez, SD
The 2000 No. 1 overall pick turned in a third straight solid season in 2008, hitting .279 with 36 longballs and 119 RBI. He’ll turn 27 this year and may not have reached his peak. Remember that he plays in a pitchers’ park and whiffs a lot.
9. Kevin Youkilis, BOS (3B)
After two solid but unspectacular campaigns, Youk came into his own in 2008 with a .312 average, 29 homers and 115 RBI. At 30 he’s probably peaked, but he hits in the middle of a great lineup in a hitters’ park. Third base eligibility is a bonus.
10. Aubrey Huff, BAL (3B)
Huff was a fantasy stud early in his career but had tailed off considerably. He found his old form in 2008, hitting .304 with 32 homers and a career-high 108 RBIs. So which Huff will show up in 2009? Who knows? The dual eligibility is nice, though.
11. Joey Votto, CIN
Votto’s outstanding campaign got lost somewhat in the hype surrounding Reds teammate Jay Bruce, but don’t overlook him on draft day. Votto hit .297 with 24 homers and 84 RBI and should post even better numbers with a year under his belt.
12. Derrek Lee, CHC
Lee’s home run swing hasn’t returned since his 2006 wrist injury, and it’s possible it never will. He can definitely still help your fantasy team, though. Expect an average around .300, 20 homers and 90 RBI, and he could surprise you with more.
13. Carlos Delgado, NYM
Many people had written Delgado off entering last season, and he made them look foolish by hitting .271 with 38 jacks and 115 RBI. Don’t make the mistake of writing him off again, but don’t expect a repeat either. He turns 37 in June.
14. Conor Jackson, ARI
Jackson gets overlooked because of his pedestrian home run totals at a power position, but don’t make that mistake. Grab him in the mid-to-late rounds and you’ll get a high on-base percentage, adequate run production and very few K’s.
15. James Loney, LA
In 2008, Loney was basically a left-handed hitting version of Jackson with a slightly lower on-base percentage and a few more whiffs. However, he’s only 24 and his 2007 showing (.331, 15 homers in 334 at bats) suggests a higher ceiling.
16. Carlos Pena, TB +
Pena is a very poor man’s Ryan Howard. If you can live with the lofty strikeout totals - he fanned 166 times in 2008 - he’s a good bet to slug 35 or so homers and knock in 100 to 120 runs. Hitting in the middle of a good Rays lineup can only help.
17. Pablo Sandoval, SF
Sandoval tore up the minors and then was awesome in 145 big league at bats in 2008, hitting .345 with three homers and 24 RBI. He walked just four times, but also K’d only 14 times. He’s a great high-upside pick in the mid-to-late rounds.
18. Jason Giambi, OAK
Giambi is 38 now and nowhere near the player he was in his juiced-up heyday, but don’t overlook the fact that he’s blasted 30 homers in three of his last four seasons. His high OBP and remaining pop could make him a late-round bargain.
19. Adam LaRoche, PIT
LaRoche has slugged at least 20 home runs in four straight seasons, topping out at 32 in 2006, and he won’t kill you with low batting averages, either (.273 career). If you can live with the high K totals (122 in 2008), he’s a good late-round pick.
20. Casey Kotchman, ATL
Kotchman was having a nice season until he got traded to Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira deal; after that he slumped and was useless for fantasy purposes. He’ll probably never hit for power but still has some upside and is a decent fallback option.
THE BEST OF THE REST
21. Todd Helton, COL
22. Hank Blalock, TEX (3B)
23. Mike Jacobs, KC
24. Paul Konerko, CHW
25. Nick Swisher, NYY (OF)
26. Billy Butler, KC
27. Lyle Overbay, TOR
28. Nick Johnson, WAS +
29. Daric Barton, OAK
30. Chad Tracy, ARI
31. Ryan Shealy, KC
32. Chris Duncan, STL + (OF)
33. Ryan Garko, CLE
34. Rich Aurilia, SF (3B)
35. Kevin Millar, TOR
36. Wilson Betemit, CHW (3B)
37. Travis Ishikawa, SF
38. John Bowker, SF
39. Bryan LaHair, SEA
40. Richie Sexson
PROSPECTS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
1. Kyle Blanks, SD
2. Mike Carp, SEA
3. Lars Anderson, BOS
4. Gaby Sanchez, FLA
5. Chris Carter, OAK
6. Beau Mills, CLE
7. Logan Morrison, FLA
8. Brandon Snyder, BAL
9. David Cooper, TOR
10. Justin Smoak, TEX
FANTASY PREVIEW SCHEDULE
Monday, Feb. 23 - Intro & Catchers
Wednesday, Feb. 25 - First Basemen
Friday, Feb. 27 - Second Basemen
Monday, March 2 - Third Basemen
Wednesday, March 4 - Shortstops
Friday, March 6 - Outfielders
Monday, March 9 - DH-only
Wednesday, March 11 - Starting Pitchers
Friday, March 13 - Relief Pitchers
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by the Associated Press