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.
Category Archives: first base
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.
Part Two of this multi-part mini-series brings us to First Base. Again, for an introduction to this series, feel free to click here for a break down of the point system.
Also, if you missed out on the rather telling “Fantasy Baseball Prep: Catchers” post from yesterday evening, feel free to either scroll down or follow the above link to the post’s location.
To begin, I want to rehash the two statistical formulas that I am incorporating into my research this year: points-per-opportunity (pts/opp) and points-per-plate-appearance (pts/pa). Essentially the two categories boil down like this, pts/opp is the Slugging% for points-based fantasy baseball leagues and pts/pa represents the OPS for points-based fantasy leagues.
With that said, let’s start with the slugging and make our way to the OPS. The range of pts/opp. was pretty vast. The low (1.54 pts/opp) was Daric Barton, who coincidently may have lost his job today with the A’s signing of Jason Giambi to a 1-year contract. The high (2.68) went to, you guessed it, Ryan Howard. The average for first basemen was 2.31 points/opp.
That places a few familiar a a few unfamiliar names at the average point position in this slugging category. The first, a maybe-surprising / maybe-not, player is Derrek Lee (2.26), who’s seen his overall production decline dramatically over the past two seasons. Below Lee is Kevin Youkilis (2.25), who had a break-out season in 2008, and Ryan Garko (2.24), the Indians’ over-hyped first baseman.
While Garko is where I would expect him to be, some may be surprised by the presence of Youkilis among the “below-average” points/oppertunity crowd. To that I say, take a look at the numbers. 2.25 pts/opp. is not a bad total at all for someone… especially someone dubbed the “Greek God of Walks.” Think about it. That means that for every walk Youkilis takes in 2009, he should be expect to (a) score a run, or (b) steal a base… then get caught stealing. Obviously, option-A is a bit more likely to occur in a line-up as potent as that of the Red Sox.
Above Derrek Lee (our Mason-Dixon line for the purposes of this post) are two virtual unknowns: Kendry Morales (2.28) and John Bowker (2.34).
The aforementioned Bowker may be a bit of a long shot. Especially if the Giants sign Joe Crede and shift Pablo Sandoval from 3B to 1B in 2009. Though Bowker is obviously capable of putting up respecitble points with the increase of opportunity, the Giants may opt for a discounted rate on Crede and give the 25 year-old more time in the minors.
Kendry Morales, on the other hand, is in line to be the Angels’ starting first baseman in 2009. When the Halo’s traded Casey Kotchman for a virtual rent-a-player in Mark Teixeira, you had to think that L.A. had some-sort of “ace” up their sleeve. In this case, the ace was Kendry Morales. Now, don’t get me wrong… the Angels would’ve loved to bring Teixeira back to to L.A., but Morales may provide a considerable more pop from the 3-spot than Casey Kotchman EVER did during his time with the Halo’s.
Moving on from our first base mashers, let’s take a look at a few OPS superstars for points-based fantasy baseball leagues. The top-dog in the yard is everyone’s favorite Cardinal, Albert Pujols (1.06). I’m sorry. But if you have a player who’s averaging a point per plate appearance… you should thank your lucky stars on a night basis. Pujols and Ryan Howard (1.00) are the only first basemen who top the 1-point threshold… which is absurd. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that if you can get your hands on one of these fantasy-monsters… pull the trigger and get in while the getting’s good.
The average players in this category surround Adrian Gonzalez (.83). Below Gonzalez are seriously, a bunch of fantasy scrubs. The first two are Paul Konerko (.82) and Adam LaRoche (.81), both of whom, as everyone who’s owned them know, are hugely overrated at this point in their careers.
To me, the best value in the Top-12 in the pts/pa category is Joey Votto (.91), who places above perennial All-Stars Justin Morneau (.86), Kevin Youkilis (.85), and Carlos Pena (.87). Also, a bit above Votto is everyone’s favorite vegan, Prince Fielder (.91) and new hundred-million-dollar-man, Mark Teixeira (.95).
To say the least, you could probably draft Votto 5 rounds (if not more) behind the majority of these first basemen. If you’re a Bill James supporter, look for Joey V. to bust it out in ’09, and be a regular contributer for both the Reds and your fantasy baseball team.