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 discusses five players who are getting a chance to play in the majors and how valuable they may be to fantasy managers.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
With a couple of outfielders on the move, Dominic Brown has returned to the Phillies. The former top prospect hit .310 with 20 doubles in just 65 games in the minor leagues this season. A month shy of his 25th birthday, Brown’s window of opportunity is closing, so it makes a lot of sense for the Phillies to give him a shot. If you are in need of some offensive support, Brown should be able to offer a decent average and respectable on base percentage, though the power and speed have not developed the way we thought they would so far.
Mike Olt, 1B, Rangers
A late first-round pick in 2010, Olt is a big-time power hitter who slammed 28 home runs with 82 RBI in 95 games at Double-A this season. He was desired by all teams when it came to blockbuster deals at the trade deadline, but instead the Rangers plan to have him contribute in the big leagues now. This is bad news for Mitch Moreland, who offers great power but has not been given much of a shot to play everyday.
Greg Holland, RP, Royals
A 27-year-old right-hander who throws hard but does not surrender many long balls, Greg Holland picked up his first save on Wednesday night with a 1-2-3 inning. Holland can still get wild at times and is not nearly as dominant as he was a season ago, but the Royals are at least providing him with the opportunity to succeed in the high pressure role of closer.
Brett Wallace, 1B, Astros
It took Brett Wallace more than 330 at-bats to rack up five home runs last year. He already has four this year in fewer than 50 at-bats after blasting two in his last start. Though his plate discipline is lacking, Wallace did offer some power at Triple-A this season while offering a .300 average. The soon-to-be 26-year-old will have every shot to contribute for the remainder of the season with the Astros in what could be his last chance at being an everyday player.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Pirates
The Marlins found no more use for the struggling Gaby Sanchez while the Pirates are eager to give him an opportunity. Sanchez has a .200 average with just three home runs this season, but this is a player who hit 19 home runs in back-to-back seasons and was batting .302 with five home runs in 34 games at Triple-A. With Casey McGehee dealt to the Yankees, Sanchez has first base to himself in Pittsburgh.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down the moves made at the trade deadline and the implications for your fantasy team.
Reds Trade for Jonathan Broxton
For the Reds, Jonathan Broxton simply provides depth and some closer experience. However, he is destined for a middle relief role with the club in front of Aroldis Chapman. The Royals get two quality arms in return and Greg Holland becomes the closer in Kansas City.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster
With the Angels breathing down their necks, the Rangers had to do something before the trade deadline, especially with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz lost for the season. Ryan Dempster had already been traded to the Braves but he rejected the move last week. He did, however, welcome a trade to the Rangers mere hours before the trade deadline. This is a move that will help Dempster quite a bit when you consider that he has won just five of his 16 starts despite a 2.25 ERA. His ERA is likely to rise in Texas, but I’m sure fantasy managers will welcome it with the additional wins due to the Rangers run support.
Shane Victorino Traded to the Dodgers
One of the better offensive outfielders in baseball, Shane Victorino ends his career with the Phillies now that he has been traded to the Dodgers. He gets plenty of steals, has some pop and reaches base often. However, in Los Angeles, he will likely lose some of that pop, which could keep his average down a tad. Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999, Victorino owns a .357 average at Dodgers Stadium and will benefit from having Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the lineup.
Hunter Pence Traded to the Giants
This is the big surprise, as Hunter Pence is 29 years old and clearly in his prime. Though Pence has lost some of his speed this season, he does have some pop and is a line drive hitter. A move to the Giants could cost him some home runs, but at least he will play some meaningful baseball this fall. Regardless, overall the move hurts Pence’s fantasy value.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee
For a second straight season, Casey McGehee has struggled at the plate but he is a fine Ty Wigginton type player who can contribute in big moments. What this acquisition does is hurt the fantasy value of Eric Chavez, as three is now a crowd with Jayson Nix also taking some at-bats away while filling in for the injured Alex Rodriguez.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez
The Pirates had nothing to lose and now hope that a change of scenery will do some good for Gaby Sanchez. After two straight seasons with 572 at-bats and 19 home runs, Sanchez struggled mightily this season with just three home runs and a .202 average before being relegated to the minor leagues. The 28-year-old moves to a more hitter-friendly ballpark and a surprisingly better lineup to resurrect his career.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica
Last year the Cardinals brought in relief help including Octavio Dotel and it worked out well for them. This year, the Cardinals have a bit more work to do but they will not let the bullpen be the team’s unraveling. On Tuesday, the Cards acquired Edward Mujica, a hard-thrower with solid control. He does surrender some home runs but is another quality arm to help bridge the gap to Jason Motte.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider
Another cheap pickup for the Pirates, Travis Snider has some serious potential, but it just did not work out in Toronto. On the other hand, Pittsburgh is a fine place for him to establish himself and at 24 years old, he has some time to reach his potential. I see Snider as a potential 30-homer guy with more than 10 steals and a respectable average. He is the big bat that the Pirates would love to team up with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen.
Blue Jays Trade Steve Delabar for Eric Thames
A feel good story in Seattle, Steve Delabar went from a coach to a player in a little over a year and has averaged well over a strikeout per inning this season. He provides the Blue Jays with the power arm that they expected to have in the injured Sergio Santos. His value takes a minor decline since he moves from the pitcher’s haven Safeco Field to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Eric Thames makes the reverse move from Toronto to Seattle. There won’t be many complaints from Thames since he will likely get a crack at playing everyday with the Mariners. He has some power but really struggles when it comes to the strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm
A .300 hitter for a second straight year, Reed Johnson is very much a utility player with no fantasy value. On the other hand, Paul Maholm has enjoyed his time in Chicago with a 9-6 record and a solid 3.74 ERA. He has surrendered a run or fewer in each of his last six starts. Maholm also boasts a 1.69 ERA in five career starts at Turner Field. Though the Braves only made this deal since Ryan Dempster rejected the trade to Atlanta, I do think this is a nice fit with Maholm as hot as any pitcher in baseball right now.
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BY ROB SHAW
One player for fantasy managers to acquaint themselves with is Daniel Murphy. The second baseman can help a fantasy team in many ways, specifically with depth due to his position eligibility. In fact, Murphy played some first, second, and third base last season after struggling in the outfield in past seasons.
A top-10 hitter last season with a .320 average, Murphy has been working on driving the ball with a little more power this season. Considering his maturation and natural growth, fantasy managers should look at Murphy as someone who can contribute a .290 average with 15 home runs and 5+ stolen bases. There’s a good chance Murphy can end up playing better than Mets rival Chase Utley this season.
Next, there should be some fantasy excitement for the return of Ike Davis to first base for the Mets. Davis looked like a legitimate slugger last season before enduring a season-ending ankle injury. At 6’4 and a large frame, Davis already has great power, with 26 home runs through his first 652 at bats, but now with the fences drawn in there is even more reason to raise expectations this season. In fact, Davis as a left-handed hitter, will be impacted the most by the fences being drawn in right-field this season. Expect Davis to prove to be a better pickup than Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
Finally, a major sleeper this season, Lucas Duda could end up being the best homegrown slugger since Darryl Strawberry was wearing number 18 on a Mets jersey. Duda has raised eyebrows in batting practice with his moon-shots. After pulling or driving to center field all 10 home runs last season, Duda has already belted two home runs the opposite way this spring.
He’s a player that can belt 25-30 home runs with a respectable average. What’s most impressive so far has been his plate discipline, which is giving hope to Mets fans that he can be the next big star in Flushing.
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Top 5 MLB Hitters of the Week 5/2-5/8
1) Gaby Sanchez
13 hits in 28 at bats, 2 HR, 10 RBI (.328 AVG, 5 HR, 21 R)
2) Adrian Gonzalez
3 HR, 9 RBI, .321 AVG (.314 avg, 4 HR, 24 RBI)
3) Jacoby Ellsbury
6 runs, 5 steals, .387 AVG (.295 avg, 23 runs, 10 stl)
4) Erick Aybar
4 runs, 5 RBI, 4 steals, .406 AVG (Batting .356 with 8 Stl)
5) Vernon Wells
7 runs, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1 STL (Batting just .179 this season)
A View of the Diamond: Derek Jeter- average of .276, 18 runs, riding a 6 game hit streak, he currently ranks 18th at his position, but he seems to be a streaky option, I would play him now, but he could be a platoon option. Play him against southpaws, he is batting .333 against them this year, and play him in day games when he bats .326.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Gaby Sanchez
Gaby Sanchez opened eyes in his freshman season mostly by not striking out (17.7%, average is 20.7%). His high-contact approach did lead to a decent batting average (.273) and some RBI (85), and it’s not like he’s completely without power – his .175 ISO was above-average for all players (.150), just not first basemen. Deep keeper leaguers will find a place for him, but otherwise he’s best in standard mixed leagues as a utility player, taken late in 2011 drafts.
Biggest Bust: Chris Coghlan
Even during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009, Chris Coghlan didn’t show a ton of power or speed. He did ride an unsustainable BABIP (.365) to a great batting average (.321), and with a nice end to the season he caught a lot of eyes. He still showed a high BABIP in 2010 (.336), but with his higher strikeout rate (23.5%) and lower power (.115 Isolated Slugging), his line was devoid of interest. And that’s not even mentioning the injuries that limited him to 400 plate appearances. As a third baseman next year, Coghlan could still be interesting in deeper leagues.
2011 Keeper Alert: Mike Stanton
Mike Stanton is not yet 21 years old and yet his isolated power (.248) would have been 12th-best in the major leagues if he had qualified for the batting title. That’s impressive, even if his strikeout rate (34.3%) means he may have a hard time putting up high batting averages in the future. After hitting 22 bombs in his short first season, he could easily hit more than 30 home runs next year, thus making him a promising keeper even with the batting average risk. Logan Morrison is also interesting (especially on Twitter), but he profiles a little more like Gaby Sanchez right now, albeit with more power upside long-term.
2011 Regression Alert: Dan Uggla
We all know who Dan Uggla is. Lots of power, not a great batting average – a boon at a tough position, especially for teams starved for power. Then again, Uggla had a career-high .287 batting average this year, on the back of an unsustainable-looking BABIP (.330). That part of the package probably won’t return in 2011, so don’t overbid.