2010: Top 12 First Basemen

Continuing my way around the diamond, here is my initial thoughts on first base for next year:

FIRST BASE

1. Albert Pujols
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Prince Fielder
4. Mark Teixeira
5. Justin Morneau
6. Mark Reynolds
7. Ryan Howard
8. Joey Votto
9. Adrian Gonzalez
10. Adam Dunn
11. Kevin Youkilis
12. Kendry Morales

–There is a lot of star power at first base, so it is tough to justify walking away empty-handed from this position unless you are stacked in the outfield and at third base. This list doesn’t even include Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee or Pablo Sandoval, which just goes to show you the depth at the position. Pujols has already put up a season’s worth of numbers and it’s still not even September. He clubbed his 40th home run on Sunday and is on pace for a career-high 52.

–Cabrera’s season has fallen under the radar in a sense. He’s been really good, but he hasn’t had a super hot three-week stretch or anything like that, so your natural inclination might be to think he is having a down year. But a season on pace for 33 home runs, 98 runs, 99 RBI and a .338 average is anything but down.

–Get your mind around this: Fielder won’t turn 26 until next May, yet he has got 2,235 at-bats and 147 home runs already on his record. With 50 home runs becoming special again, owning Fielder means you are rostering one of the select few capable of reaching that figure in any given season.

–Teixeira at No. 4 represents a shift in where I was when I put together my first round for 2010 a few weeks ago. I had Morneau in at 12th and Teix on the cusp. I’ve flipped the two through no fault of Morneau’s. If Teixeira is going to be playing that stadium, he can be a perennial 40-home run threat and that just barely gives him the nod over Morneau.

–Meanwhile, Morneau is as consistent as they come as plows towards his third 30-110 in four years. He is on pace for a career high in runs scored this year, as he is set to top 100 for the first time. He is batting .298 this year, which also happens to be his average over the past four seasons, with 2007’s .271 holding him just under the .300 mark.

–I debated on whether or not to include the multi-qualifiers at just the position I thought they were most valuable at or put them in both rankings. I’ve gone with putting them in both, so here is Reynolds’ debut, but we’ll see him again soon. They are going to be entire articles in this winter’s fantasy magazines dedicated on where to pick Reynolds in 2010 and no two opinions will be the same. The power is legitimate; in fact it led to his inclusion in my sleeper list this year, but beyond things get hazy. Is he a 10-12 base stealer or can he really be counted on for 20-25 a year? How much of the average gains can he hold? He is still a strikeout machine, but that didn’t stop him from hitting .279 in his 366 at-bat rookie season and then .281 so far this year. There might not be a more controversial pick in 2010.

–After all the complaining about Howard’s power being down and 2009 being an off-year for him, he is now on pace for 43 home runs and 133 RBI. Yes, it is a tick down from the last three years, but it is still an excellent season and it is just another example of why you should wait until the end of the season to make definitive judgments on a player. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Howard went off over the last 41 games and his 14-15 home runs to reach the high-40s he has the past two seasons.

–Imagine if Votto hadn’t lost 30 games of his season this year to injuries and then a bout of depression. He is pacing towards a repeat of 2008, but in 30 fewer games played, which illustrates the kind of growth he had this year. He will be just 26 next year and it wouldn’t be surprising to see another step forward. At the very least, we should get a full season of the pace he was on this year, which would mean a .300-30-100 season. He could be a great value in 2010 if people focus on the seemingly stagnant home run and RBI totals without taking into account the missed at-bats.

–What an up-n-down season for Gonzalez. He was the toast of the town after 20 home runs and 40 RBI in the first two months before falling on hard times with just four homers and eight RBI in June and a .198 average in July. He has rebounded again in August and he is back on pace to top 40 home runs. If he keeps pace, he will have the 15th season in major league history with 40+ home runs and less than 100 RBI. The list includes luminaries such as Barry Bonds, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle (twice), Ken Griffey Jr. and Hank Aaron.

–Like Mark Reynolds, Dunn has experienced an unsuspected batting average boost that has rocketed his value. He’s hitting an absurd .323 on the road, while his .257 is more in line with what we have come to expect from Dunn. Even if his average regresses as I suspect it will, Dunn might be the most bankable power source in the game. He is on pace for a 6th straight 40-homer season in an era where we have seen just 14 other such seasons in the past three seasons across all of baseball. Outfield flexibility only adds to Dunn’s value.

–I was surprised to find some outlets suggest that Youkilis’ 2008 was a fluke and project him to regress back to a mid-teens power hitter. Though clearly not much of a fighter, the guy is an excellent big league hitter and should enjoy another two to three seasons at his peak which equates to an amped up Kevin Millar clone. The tail end of his career arc will follow more closely to the Millar we’ve seen the past few seasons. I like Youkilis more at third base because of the depth here and dearth at the hot corner, but if you land an elite third basemen, then he is a solid guy to plug in at first.

–You’re probably thinking one thing when you see Kendry Morales’ breakout season: FINALLY!!! There were high expectations for the Cuban import, but he failed to get his career off the ground in three short stints since 2006. Whether it was injury or lack of performance, he was just not panning out how many expected. Of course, he was only 23, 24 and 25 years old. At 26, it’d be unfair to call him a late bloomer, especially with only 377 at-bats on his record prior to this year. This breakout isn’t a fluke, as Morales joins the ranks at what has developed into a deep position yet again.

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One Comment to “2010: Top 12 First Basemen”

  1. could morales be older than 26 though? let’s say 29? what do we think then? I think at least 2 more years of this

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