PAGE ONE- INTRO
PAGE TWO- PROSPECTS
PAGE THREE- CATCHERS
PAGE FOUR- FIRST BASEMEN
There are so many 1Bs, it's important not to limit one's self to just looking at a certain type or age. So, first, a quick review of the non-27-29 year olds:
- Albert Pujols, 25 - Is he 25? For now, I don't care. The foot injury is the only concern. Pujols says that he'll play through it this year no matter what. He may take a few days off here and there, but he's said that he doesn't intend to 'shut it down' at any point. Playing first base full time will help keep his bat in the lineup.
- Todd Helton. 31 - Perhaps the most reliable player over the last 6 seasons may finally disappoint in 2005. He'll be 31, and he'll be hitting in a lineup that offers little protection. Helton will be drafted in the first two rounds by someone, but it shouldn't be you. Everything has to go right for Todd this year to match his season average. He's probably going to draw a ton of walks, start pressing to do too much, and end up hitting .320 with maybe 30 HRs. Unless you're in a league that offers OPS or OBP instead of AVG, this in not the year to own Todd.
- Jim Thome, 34 - Jim is in his third NL season, and has yet to prove that he can hit close to his .284 career average in the National League. This is a player that exemplifies the 27-29 theory. Why take Thome in the third round when you can take a chance on someone much later that will have similar stats. Are an extra 7-10 homeruns worth the difference between a 3rd round pick and a 12th rounder?
- Mark Teixeira, 24 - Young players like this usually come into the season with more hype than they deserve. Is Teixeira a good hitter, of course. But fantasy owners fall in love with guys like Mark because they want to be in on the secret. At 25, (he turns just after the season starts) too much can go wrong with Mark that will leave people disappointed with what they've invested in him. Mark's walk to strikeout ratio is backward (1:2) and there still may be a few holes in his swing that he hasn't yet worked out at the MLB level. ESPN has him as the 22nd highest rated player overall. That's a bit high. He hit just .281 last year. Still, if he falls to 40th or so, he's worth a shot.
- Carlos Delgado, 32 - Tough call here. On one hand, he's coming off a lousy season and could be a bit undervalued. On the other hand, he just signed a huge contract and is switching leagues. That's one good versus two bad. I'd stay away and focus on the other Marlin hitters that will benefit from having Carlos in the middle of that lineup.
- Adam Dunn, 25 - I discussed earlier that Dunn is excited about having Chambliss back in Cincinnati. He's still young, and the comparisons to Jim Thome worth merit. Adam's career batting average and lack of steals last season will scare many away. If anything, he could fall to 60th and be worth a pick there. Dunn started 2004 red hot and will probably do so again this year. Unless you're in a keeper league, try to get him late and trade him early. By 2007, he'll be a top 20 pick.
- Justin Moreau, 23 - Eric Karabell has this Canadian ranked 38th on his list. ESPN's preseason rankings have Morneau at 71. That's a much better spot for him. During the off-season, Justin endured pneumonia, appendicitis, and chicken pox. His own manager admits that he's "going to be behind in Spring" and he has exactly 386 major league at bats under his belt. A good player, but a good bet to be a 2005 bust.
- Shawn Green, 32 - Over the last three years, Green has had 114 ABs at Bank One Ballpark. He's hit for a .316 average there with 9 HRs and 8 2Bs. Might not be a bad pickup after 110th.
- Sean Casey, 30 - Last year was the season to have Casey because you could have probably picked him up off of free agency. He was 29 and a perfect example of getting someone at a low value at the right age. Sean will probably have a solid 2005, but there's no reason you should have to draft a guy at first who won't hit more than 25 HRs.
- Phil Nevin, 34 - No.
- Jeff Bagwell, 36 - No.
- Rafael Palmeiro, 40 - Never.
- Mike Sweeney, 31 - I'm only interested in Sweeney if he can be had for very little, or altogether free. He's 31, and missed out on completing what should have been the best season of his career when he was 28. The last two years have also been injury plagued, but if you rate out his production for a full 162, he's got great numbers. I'd take a chance on him right before I would on Giambi or any of these remaining guys.
- Kevin Millar, 31 - No, just because he's going on Queer Eye.
- Carlos Pena, 26 - I'll be keeping my eye on Pena this year to see if he can raise the average a little bit. He may be someone to watch for 2006.
- Raul Ibanez, 32 - Pass.
- Scott Hatteberg, 35 - A good fill in when he faces RHPs, but that's about it.
- Jeff Connine, 38 - Pass.
- Dimitri Young, 31 - Another guy who probably peaked at 29.
- Tino Martinez, 38 - Pass.
- Darin Erstad, 30 - An interesting player at first that can help you with 20 steals. He should hit just under .300 and score 100 runs and can be of value to a team that goes with a power player at SS and/or 2B.
- J.T. Snow, 37 - What happened last season? .364 in July, .452 in August, .315 in September, and .375 in October. For one thing, the Giants only gave J.T. 47 ABs against RHPs. But they've been doing that for the last few years. I can't really find an answer. He's not an everyday player, but J.T. may be worth a look in 2005 if he continues to hit the ball all over the field.
- Ryan Klesko, 33 - Ryan battled through 2004 with a shoulder injury and plays his home games in a park that just kills him. He does frequent Coors and Bank One regularly though, so keep him in mind during the season. He finished 2005 strong.
- Matt Stairs, 37 - Pass.
- Josh Phelps, 26 - Just like Carlos Pena, this could be a good year to watch Phelps for future investment. He should get a nice spot in the Rays' lineup because they don't have many right handed hitters with power.
- B.J. Surhoff, 40 - Old.
- Julio Franco, 46 - Older.
- Adam LaRoche, 25 - Adam had a great August, September, and October but is so inexperienced as a hitter, it may take him another 4 years before he's a reliable fantasy option.
- Hee Seop Choi, 26 - Choi's with the Dodgers now, and belongs in the Pena/Phelps 'wait and see' category.
- Jason Giambi, 34 - He looks bigger and better than he did last spring. This year, with the Yankees, I see Jason hitting .300 with 100-30-100, I really do. At 27, in his third full season in the majors, Giambi had a 92-27-110 year with a .295 average.
- Doug Mientkiewicz, 30 - With the Mets now, pass.
- Nick Johnson, 26 - Johnson never got going last year and this could be a good rebound season for him. I debated sticking him in the 27-29 box below, based on his 1000 MLB at bats. I'll be watching Nick closely because he could easily become a 100-25-100 producer of off free agency for someone.
The whole theory behind focusing on 27-29 year olds is to find value. It's the search for players who will perform at a high draft pick level for the price of a low draft pick. Focusing on value is never more important than as it is at 1B, OF, and SP. Nick Johnson didn't make the cut because he's a bit too young. So here are the prized 27-29 year olds at first base:
- Mo Vaughn in his prime (27-30) put up four great seasons with the Red Sox. He did dip a bit at 29, a year after driving in 143 runs. Ortiz, 29, will be in his third year with Boston and like Vaughn, could stumble a bit. I think David will end up with around 35 HRs and he probably won't ever hit for the average that Mo once did. A .290 BA isn't bad though. At 20th overall, Ortiz is a little overvalued. Last year was the year to have him. Next year maybe too. But or near 20th, I'll pass.
- Don't believe the trade rumors, Aubrey Huff is not going anywhere. He likes Tampa, and the Rays have no reason to trade him. Huff plays first, third, and right field. He's a .280 hitter even when he's stuggling. If Tampa traded #19, it would send a very bad signal to all 32 of their fans. Huff is not such a great fantasy option at first, but he will be third base eligible for at least the 2005 season. I included him here just because he's awesome.
- Where did Hafner's 2004 season come from? He was 26, played almost every day, and tore up RHPs (.344, 25 HRs versus .244, 3 HRs against LHPs). But unfortunately for me, I missed out because at 26 I considered him a year away (note to Josh Phelps). So the question is now, will 2005 bring breakout or bust? Travis apparently played last year with a right elbow problem but it's questionable how much that impaired his swing. He's is in the middle of a long, low paying contract and probably could have cashed in after 2004 had it not been for his elbow surgery. Hafner is eligible for arbitration after this season and he should have a better year, but he'll have to make it out of spring training healthy. Rated 51st overall by ESPN, don't take him any sooner. Instead, watch his spring progression and look for this year's Travis Hafner.
- Sexson gets dropped in here because he missed most of last season with shoulder troubles. It's a shame too, because he was on fire before the injury. Shoulder problems tend to linger on and he's also faced with the challenges of playing in a new park, a new league, and a new, big money contract. Richie says he feels great and is comfortable living close to his Portland, Oregon birthplace. He will be undervalued this year and could pop 45 HRs, even in Seattle.
- Konerko is another guy who is eligible for free agency after this season. In order to get a big contract, he's going to have to prove that he can avoid those long slumps that have plagued his career. Paul is also being counted on to be a leader in the White Sox' clubhouse. Last year was maybe the best season to get Konerko because he was coming off of such a poor 2003 (after an all-star 2002 season). Still, at 28, he may be a better risk than Sexson. At least with Konerko, you know you can always play him at home.
- I don't see much happening with Wilkerson because his average is just too low. Who knows how he'll hit in the new home park or even where he'll hit in the Nationals' lineup.
- Even though he's not a big power guy, I like Lyle Overbay because he should be a player that many owners will overlook during the draft. He could come up with Sean Casey numbers this season and for half the price. This is a great option for anyone who needs a late round 1B. Don't discount what 90 runs and 90 RBIs do in a rotisserie league.
- I think I like Ben Broussard more than I do his teammate, Travis Hafner. That's because Broussard, who actually does play first base, seems to have more upside than Hafner. Ben, a lefty, torched LHPs last year for a .362 average and if can get his .258 against righties up, .320 is not out of the question. That probably won't happen this year, but I think 120 RBIs are possible for a guy most owners won't even look twice at.
- What kind of value does Craig Wilson have if you can't play him at catcher? Not much, really. He'll hit for power, but that average took a real dive last season. Watch for Benito Santiago, though. He's playing with 82 year old knees and the Pirates top catcher prospect is probably lost for the year Craig may end up catching a few games this year.
- Harvey is little young for this list (he turns 27 on March 1st) but the Royals are high on him and he could end up with a nice .310, 20 HR season this year. This is Ken's third full season in the majors and his second half slide last year was probably do to pitchers adjusting to him more than he had adjusted to the pitching. I wouldn't draft Harvey, but if he starts hot again this season, he may be a good late April pickup.
- Terrmel only played 10 games at first last year, but he'll have a hard time cracking the Nationals crowded outfield as an everyday player. He doesn't seem to be a player to get excited over. Sledge earned some praise in the minors, but also spent some time on the badboy, steroid list.
- Gibbons struggled through a back and a hip injury last season. He says he's healthy and ready to take over the 1B job (his regular position). in Baltimore. Two years ago, he hit .277 with 100 RBIs. In deep leagues like ESPN's, those are good enough numbers to play at a flex spot. He also doesn't care for it when you make primate noises at him from the right field bleachers.
- There's not much about Ross Gload out there to look at. He only has 296 career MLB ABs and may not even have a starting job out of spring. Still, what stats he does have under his belt are pretty solid so keep an eye on him.
- Even though Daryle Ward has lost about 15 pounds, he will probably start the year without an everyday job. Ward has rare power, but he's going to have to beat out a few contenders (including Craig Wilson) for the first base job.
- Jacobsen is another guy with tremendous power who's bounced around between the minors and the majors. At 29, and coming off a knee injury, this spring will be huge for him. Bucky seems to have a bit of a cult following, so someone may take a shot at him early. Check back in April
- Travis Lee had a pretty good year in '03 with Tampa. I wouldn't be surprised if he made this his career season. He's playing under a one year contract and probably wants to finish his career someplace else out West. Don't even bother with his 2004 numbers. Look for him to hit .280 80-20-80.
- Pickering is all homers and strikeouts and is not someone who should be looked at unless you're in a league that only values HRs.
- Last by most definitely not least is Derrick Lee. In 8 seasons and over 1,000 career ABs, Lee has never hit over .282 for an entire year. His track record shows that he will score and drive in at least 90 runs. Lee's best two seasons so far have been his last two, at 27 and 28. The 10+ steals he offers is tempting to some, but a .270 batting average would negate anything those extra few steals may offer. ESPN has him rated at 46, which is way too high for numbers you can get from Brad Wilkerson.
Drafting for a position like 1B requires an attention to value. In a rotisserie league, there's no reason a team needs a power hitting middle infielder and first basemen. So the best option is to grab a balanced player at first that won't cost you a high pick. With the injury concerns to Pujols, and the lineup concerns for Helton, this may be a good year to take a chance on two long shots like Overbay, Sweeney, or Broussard.
PAGE ONE- INTRO
PAGE TWO- PROSPECTS
PAGE THREE- CATCHERS
Took a few days off, so I've bumped this back up to the top now that it's finished.
Lots of aging backstops out there.
As of April 3rd, 2005:
Pudge, 33. Javy, 34. Jorge, 33. Varitek, 32. Piazza, 36. Kendall, 30. LoDuca, 32. Lieberthal, 32. CJ, 33.
Definitely, this is a position in transition. I'm not sure if it'll be this year, but soon enough there will be another breakout of young catchers. All signs point to Joe Mauer as the poster boy of that breakout. Nonetheless, here are the prized 27-29 year olds; adjusted a bit for error. Again, age is determined by what they are on opening day:
Youngsters to watch: Joe Mauer
, John Buck
, J.D. Closser
, Gerald Laird
- Victor Martinez is
probably easily the top rated young catcher. At 26, he's still improving although there is some concern that his second half slide will lead into a bit of a slump this year.
- For Ramon Hernandez, last year's transition from the AL to the NL resulted in a reduction of productivity at the plate. But as mlb.com points out, Ramon cut his strikeouts down by almost half (from 79 to 45). I expect from him this year something in the middle of his last two seasons. He's also in the last year of his current contract.
- Mac from BravesBeat has some good points of warning on Johnny Estrada.
Hit much better on the road (.351/407/.498) than at home (.274/.348/.399) and much better as a lefty (.329/.401/.469) than a righty (.272/.311/.400). As I've said all along, he needs to be platooned, and the difference between him as a righthander and Eddie Perez isn't that great -- though Estrada is still better -- especially since Eddie can't throw anymore.
- Barrett will have Henry Blanco backing him up this year, but Barrett should be able to hit 450 ABs again. The real question is whether or not Michael's 2004 season was a career best, or the beginnings of a mini-breakout. A few years ago with Montreal, Barrett looked liked a pretty good prospect. He's 28 now, and this year is probably going to be the defining season for his career. A .290 average, 20 HR season is possible from this free swinger, but I wouldn't bet on it.
- A lot of the White Sox's chances for success this season will rest in the health of Frank Thomas. Without the Big Hurt, the ChiSox won't have much power in their lineup. But if Thomas is able to play more than 120 games, that could mean good things for A.J. Pierzynski. After spending three season in the AL with Minnesota, AJ switched leagues and went to the Giants for 2004. He's back in the AL now, and that's probably a good thing. He batted .289, .300, and .312 in those three season with the Twins but dipped to .272 last year in the National League. Pierzynski should come into 2005 a bit undervalued. With the move to Chicago, a solid .300 70-10-70 season is what I'm expecting from this left-handed hitting 28 year old.
- If you're having a tough time deciding on who to play a catcher, and you're lucky enough to get a chance to play Inge there, take it. He'll be the Tigers starting third baseman this season and any time you can get 150-162 solid games from a player at your catcher spot, you're giving your team an advantage that most others won't have. Brandon clearly has the support of his manager, and he may end up leading off for part of the season. I don't think he'll last long there, if he does get a chance at the #1 spot, but wherever he hits, he should get more than 100 extra ABs than the other catchers. Hopefully, he can stay near .280 for the season and flash a little power. If he doesn't, well, Inge is still worth a low pick. I just checked Yahoo and ESPN and he's eligible on both (although if you draft him in ESPN, he will end up in the 3B position until the draft is complete).
- Early reports are the Bengie Molina has lost 20 pounds during the offseason. The Angels are 3 deep at catcher and Bengie has a history of injuries. But even a good season from Molina (.281 37-14-71) is a season I'd stay away from. 37 runs scored? That's what happens when you weigh too much and hit 8th or 9th. Too many questions around Molina. Pass on him.
- I'm also passing on the rest of the list. LaRue and Phillips are too streaky to ride for a season, and LeCroy will probably be sharing DH duties with the Twins. Toby Hall got hot a little last year, but he's never shown me anything to indicate that he's capable of fantasy value numbers for an entire year. In a 10 or 12 team league, Inge and AJ probably represent the best value at the catcher position. They will probably be the 10th or 11th player taken from that position and may even end up available as a free agent.
One final note, any time this year a player in his 30s shows up 20 pounds lighter, stay away. Stay far away. (And I'm not talking about Molina, either).