Last year, I professed my unabashed man-crush on Pablo Sandoval. So it’s only fitting that he’s my “value pick” at first base according to my points-per-plate appearance calibration (using statistical projections from the 2010 Bill James Handbook). Displayed in the previous link is the point breakdown in a standard points league. My approach to deciphering value is based on draft position, depth, and potential for at-bats.
Last year, for example, Joey Votto‘s projected .91 fantasy points per plate-appearance put him above annual stars like Justin Morneau (.86), Kevin Youkilis (.85), and Carlos Pena (.87). However, as we all discovered, Joey Votto didn’t live up to his potential due to injury (for more on this projection, see last year’s article).
2010’s central difference is the influx of .90 pts/pa first base-eligible batters. Last year, only 7 players satisfied this requirement: Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, and Votto. This year, however, 13 players surpass this threshold, nearly doubling the list of “effective” first base options.
Joining the seven players from 2009 in this group are Mark Reynolds (.99), Pablo Sandoval (.90), David Ortiz (.90), Adam Dunn (.90), Justin Morneau (.90), and *surprise* Chris Davis (.90).
Of the 13 players projected to average the most points per plate-appearance, I’d absolutely stay away from Chris Davis. Last year he was hyped to an ADP between the 5th and 7th rounds, an atmosphere WAY too high for a rookie… I don’t care how much he looked like Shane Spencer in his initial September call-up. In points-based-leagues, the value at this position is coming by way of Pablo Sandoval, Joey Votto, and Adam Dunn (in leagues that do not penalize strikeouts!). Pujols, Howard, Cabrera, Teixeira, and Fielder will all be gone before round two is complete in most drafts (under-statement of the century) and Berkman’s name, Morneau’s ability, and Mark Reynolds’ 2009 will be the next 1B off the board. At this point, in a standard 12-team league, four teams will be without first basemen, leaving fantasy favorites Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Kendry Morales, and Carlos Pena available.
My advice? Let them go. Fill in the rest of your roster while the other members of your league fill up on the position. While they grab 1B, fill in your OF or pitching staff. Some will value Votto a bit more than players like Pena and Morales, but unless your peers view Sandoval as a solid 3B option, he should slip into the later rounds. Other than a brief stint on the bench with a sore back in 2009, Sandoval was one of the most reliable 1B options available.
Now comes the bad news: players to avoid based on pts/pa. I think this is the point were everyone stops expecting anything from James Loney (.76/pa). Essentially, the calibration equates him to Lyle Overbay (.75/pa)… aka, he’s useless in a points league. If he’s a singles-hitter, he needs more RBI opportunities, and with Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp on his team… he’s not going to get many.
The same can be said for Nick Swisher (.82), Russell Branyan (.82), and Michael Cuddyer (.82). Rather than spend mid-round picks on each of these streaky batters, grab a younger potential-laden player like Garrett Jones (.85) in the later rounds… especially due to his multi-position eligibility (OF/1B).
In the end, if you take anything from this 2010 first base projection, let it be that you can wait this year. In 2009, if you didn’t grab an early 1B, you were in a bad place to start the year. In 2010, you can afford to wait. As always, let your opponents make your decisions for you, it’s easier that way.