Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw and Analyst Alex Burwasser recap the top five first basemen this fantasy season as well as the top three busts.
TOP FIVE PERFORMERS
5. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels
In an offseason move that shocked many, Albert Pujols decided to leave St. Louis, his home for a decade where he won two championships, for the bright lights of Los Angeles in Anaheim. To the delight of jilted Cardinals fans, Pujols got off to a rough start for the Angels, even hearing some cat calls in his home park, but he more than made up for it over his final 105 games where he hit .319 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI. You can make a case that he may not be as dominant a hitter as he once was but he still put up his typical 30-HR, 100-RBI season, which always has fantasy value.
4. Billy Butler, 1B, Royals
Billy Butler has always been a very productive hitter throughout his career for the Royals but has consistently flown under the radar because he plays in relative obscurity in Kansas City. However, this year he was the subject of a national controversy when Robinson Cano decided not to pick him for the Home Run Derby in front of his home fans at Kauffman Stadium. Butler took the high road and did the talking with his bat the rest of the year when he finished with 29 home runs and 106 RBI, both career highs, all while hitting above .300 at .313.
3. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
Much like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder moved from the top of the NL Central to the opposite league in the offseason. Fielder signed a massive nine-year contract which left many worrying about the long-term injury risk of signing a man of his size, but his performance in the first year of that deal quieted all the critics when he blasted 30 home runs and knocked in 108 RBI leading the Tigers to their second consecutive AL Central crown. Though Prince has had more powerful years, he hit over .300 for the first time in his career, checking in at a very impressive .313 on the season.
2. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/3B, Jays
Encarnacion had been a solid player for Toronto since acquiring him from the Reds in 2009, putting up seasons of 20 home runs and a little more than 50 RBI on average in 2010 and 2011. This season, however, he completely obliterated those numbers with 42 home runs and 110 RBI, more in each category than the previous two years combined. In addition, Encarnacion also improved in other categories, setting career highs in stolen bases (13) and walks (84). What makes this rapid improvement all the more impressive is that he did it without Jose Bautista in the lineup who missed about half the year injured. Next year could be very intriguing for the Jays with those two bats healthy and producing in the middle of that lineup.
1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers
There really is not much else you can say about the year Miguel Cabrera had for the American League champion Tigers. He was the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 (led the AL in batting average, home runs and RBI) and he did it before the age of 30! In fact, Miguel Cabrera leads all active major leaguers under the age of 30 in hits (1802), home runs (321), and RBI (1123). We are not sure Cabrera is on his way to his second championship ring this year, but it sure looks like he will be on his way to Cooperstown one day.
TOP THREE BUSTS
3. Mark Teixiera, 1B, Yankees
Every year in his career besides his rookie campaign in 2003, Mark Teixiera has had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, but not in 2012 when he hit only 24 home runs and knocked in only 84 RBI. Even more alarming for Teixiera is that he has seen his normally stellar batting average drop season after season. A perennial .280, and some years .300, hitter has not reached those numbers since 2009 when he hit .292. The last three seasons he has not hit above .256 including this year when he hit .251 and had a dreadful on-base percentage of .332. For the Yankees, he provides a lot of value with his defense at first base, but for fantasy owners, his value seems to be slipping fast.
2. Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Pirates
At the beginning of the year, many picked the Marlins and their revamped team with the acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Heath Bell among others to possibly win the NL East. Gaby Sanchez was one of the players set to contribute in the middle of that lineup, but much like the entire team, he was a gigantic disappointment. After the first 55 games of the season while hitting just above the Mendoza line at .202, Sanchez was sent down to the minors and subsequently traded to Pittsburgh. Though he fared better for the Pirates than for the Marlins, he still finished the year with a .217 average and only seven home runs, a huge dropoff from back-to-back 19 home run seasons in 2010 and 2011.
1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
During Spring Training, there was a lot of buzz around the Royals that they may be the team on the rise given their farm system and dearth of young talent. One of the centerpieces of this renewed hope was Eric Hosmer, and after his rookie campaign in 2011, it was easy to believe given that he hit .293 with 19 HR and 78 RBI in only 128 games. Much like his team, Hosmer severely underperformed his expectations this year hitting .232 in his first full season in the majors with less home runs (14) and less RBI (60). You would hope that this is just your classic sophomore slump for the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and 2013 is a year he can replicate or even outperform his 2011 numbers.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw breaks down the weekend in baseball and how it affects your fantasy team.
Martin Perez, SP, Rangers
Perez made his major league debut Saturday night against Oakland. The 21-year-old southpaw had five strikeouts and gave up six hits, one walk and two earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched. He had struggled in the minor leagues this season with a 1.29 K/BB ratio at AAA. However, he has been better in the past and there is reason to be excited about his future.
Chris Young, SP, Mets
Young has only started 13 games since 2010, but his numbers during that stretch are among the best in baseball. He has a 2.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, compared to Roy Halladay’s 2.60 ERA and 1.05 WHIP and Cliff Lee’s 3.00 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. This season, he has started five games, his greatest workload since 2009. The last time he made 20 starts was in 2007.
Jim Thome, Orioles
Thome spent his first 12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and has since been on seven teams over the last 10 years. Moving to Baltimore allows him to play more regularly as a designated hitter. He has had 40 home runs in 553 at-bats over the last two years and could bring some power to the Orioles’ lineup and your fantasy team.
Shaw also discusses three players whose slumps have ended and who are putting up big numbers in recent weeks. First is Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who has six home runs, 24 RBI and a .333 average in 19 games since June 9th. Second, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez has seven home runs, 19 RBI and a .377 average in 15 games since June 16th. Finally, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has a .423 average, one home run and three RBI in his last seven games.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria break down four players who have struggled mightily over the first quarter of the season:
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Last year a 1-4 performance was ho-hum for Royal phenom Eric Hosmer. These days it’s cause for celebration as it lifts his batting average further above the Mendoza line. The 6 home runs and 25 RBI aren’t all that bad for Hosmer, but with an average of .204, the former top three pick has been a major bust. Also, his power and patience have declined this month, as he boasts just one home run and six walks in May. I still do not suggest dropping Hosmer, because his struggles are not isolated. The entire Royals roster has pretty much struggled, and once guys like Alex Gordon, Jeff Francouer, and other start hitting, there will be more runners on base and more fastballs in the middle of the plate. I am buying low on Hosmer, and have confidence that he will turn this season around.
Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers
Similar to former Rangers prospect Julio Borbon a few years ago, Dee Gordon gained some fantasy interest with a strong finish to the season, most notably 24 steals in 56 games. However the scouting report is now out on Gordon and you can’t steal bases if you can’t reach base. With a .225 average and .269 on base percentage, Gordon is not getting on base nearly enough. As a result, he is not scoring runs and not getting enough steals to warrant fantasy value. I’m not buying on Gordon in fear that he is a bit more one dimensional than people thought.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
Billed as the next prolific power hitter to thrive in the desert, Paul Goldschmidt was predicted to blast as many as 30 home runs this season Instead, he has just three round-trippers a quarter of the way through the season. The lack of homers as well as the 19 RBI will be enough for some fantasy managers to drop the bopper. Instead, they should focus on the 12 doubles, which projects to more than 40. Again, you can’t blame Goldschmidt for the fact that his teammates are struggling to reach base. Once those doubles turn to home runs, all will be forgiven.
Ike Davis, 1B, Mets
Finally, Ike Davis makes the list for all the wrong reasons. To his credit, Davis has driven in six RBI over the last six games, but his average is well below the Mendoza line and it will take a heck of a hot streak to return to respectability. The problem for Davis is that he is returning from nearly a full year off from baseball and his timing isn’t where it should be. Furthermore, the opposition is exploiting Davis with junk, throwing him more off-speed itches than anyone else in baseball. The Mets have decided to keep Davis at the Big League level, and this is largely because he remains a better threat than anyone else that they can put in the lineup. I don’t know when, but I do think that Davis will eventually bounce back and end up with a batting average closer to .240 by season’s end.
BY ROB SHAW
When it comes to sleepers fantasy managers are often looking for late round picks that could contribute throughout the season. A more valuable sleeper is the talent who is already drafted in the middle rounds, but has the ability to reach superstar potential. Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer happens to fit that mold of sleeper.
The 22-year-old talent was the third overall pick of the 2008 draft. Last year he earned his first taste of Big League action and he found immediate success. The Miami native did it all. He blasted 19 home runs, swiped 11 bases, and offered a .293 average.
While Hosmer may be the Royals top young talent, he is not alone. After several years of struggles, the Royals finally have the making of a top-notch lineup with veterans such as Billy Butler and Alex Gordon joined by Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, amongst others.
This season Hosmer should take another step forward and fantasy managers considering drafting Mark Texeira in the first or second rounds are better off scooping Hosmer in the fourth or fifth rounds. He is more well-rounded than Texeira and could end up offering similar power production as well. Hosmer is one of the top sleepers in baseball even if you have to draft him in the middle rounds.
The Reds already have one megastar in the form of Joey Votto, but there may be another in the lineup. Jay Bruce actually had more buzz around him when he made his debut than Votto. The 12th pick of the 2005 draft, Bruce has been in the Big Leagues since he was 21-years old. While there have been some growing pains over the last few seasons, he has improved, and at 25-years old he should be closer to his prime this season.
Bruce has always possessed power. He already has 100 career home runs before he even turned 25. Last season was his first reaching the 30-home run plateau, as he slammed 32 round-trippers. More impressive for his sabermetric fans, Bruce offered great patience at the plate with 71 walks, which made up for his .256 batting clip.
One of the streakiest hitters in the game, Bruce blasted 12 home runs with a .342 average in May, but then hit less than .240 in three of the next four months. Fantasy managers are hoping that another year under his belt will lead to some maturity and consistency at the plate. Bruce is one of the rare talents who can slam 40 home runs with a .280-plus average. However, that’s just talk of potential, and when drafting you need to take more into account.
He’s already in his mid-20s, but Paul Goldschmidt could end up being a fantasy star as soon as this season. An eighth round pick out of Texas State, Goldschmidt has been a pleasant surprise in the Diamondbacks farm system.
Goldschmidt’s power is legit, as he has slammed 73 round-trippers over the last two seasons. He also has cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks the last few seasons. In his Big League debut, Goldschmidt slammed eight home runs in 48 games. He also swiped four bases, which is a pleasant surprise for a slugger.
While sluggers often take some time to develop in the Big Leagues, Goldschmidt is expected to produce as soon as this season. BloombergSports.com Front Office projects 30 home runs this season, which could land the Diamondbacks right back in the thick of the hunt for the Division Title.
The Philadelphia Phillies and the Kansas City Royals are polar opposites. The Phillies stand atop the NL East with a 37-26 record, while the Royals sit in 4th place in the AL Central with a 27-36 record. Yet, there are more to both teams than their records.
It so happens that the Royals are the youngest team in baseball with an average age of 26.2, while the Phillies are the oldest with an average age of 31. Among the youngest players on the Royals, is standout first-basemen Eric Hosmer at 21.
Hosmer, is hitting amongst the likes of Placido Polanco, the 35-year-old Phillies third baseman. Kansas City has the lowest Payroll in the MLB at $36,126,400, while the Phillies payroll, $172,976,381 is only second only to the New York Yankees; making the Phillies payroll about five-times that of the Royals.
Some good news for Kansas City is that they are hitting well, ranking 9th in Runs, Batting-Average, and OBP. On the other hand, the Phillies rank 17th, 20th, and 19th respectively. The old dogs aren’t just rolling over yet.
To no surprise, the Phillies well-tenured pitching staff (including big names Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels) are dominating the younger Royals staff. The stacked Phillies rotation ranks 2nd in ERA and 1st in Quality Starts, with the average age among pitchers at 30 years old. With an average age just over 25, the struggling Royals staff is almost in last place (29th) in ERA and Quality Starts.
While Philadelphia is the team to beat in the NL, Kansas City is a team to take note of. With the All-Star break coming up next month, it will be interesting to see the performance of these two teams in the latter half of the season. Will the younger team be able to mature and continue to get better as the season progresses? Will the old arms of the Phillies hold up as the games start to add up?
Written by Matt Sbordone, Bloomberg Sports @SbordoneZone
Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Michele Steele visit Yankee Stadium where they meet with Royals top prospect Eric Hosmer.
Shaw talks with Hosmer about his first career home run taking place at Yankee Stadium and the incredible talent development taking place at Kansas City.
Next, Shaw discusses another former top prospect for the Royals, Carlos Beltran. Shaw explains how Beltran has changed his game, and yet still is a player of fantasy significance.
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