By Scott Barzilla

This was supposed to be a daily feature until the end of the positions were done. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The same is true in fantasy sports. We tell ourselves we’ll pay attention and then life somehow gets in the way. You look up and you are in seventh place in a ten man league. So, you give up. That is until next year.

One of the first lessons that is difficult to learn in fantasy sports is that real life and fantasy life rarely coincide. So, when you see the top ten you have to shut off the analytic side of your brain for a second. Being the number one rated fantasy first baseman is not the same thing as being the best first baseman. There are often mitigating factors that get involved, but the most notable is that being the best player involves putting up the most numbers across the board. Not all numbers are created equal, but in fantasy sports they are.

1. Prince Fielder– Detroit Tigers

AVG: .313 (2nd)

HR: 30 (5th)

Runs: 83 (3rd)

RBI: 108 (1st)

SB: 1 (18th)

BB: 85 (3rd)

It was a weak season for first baseman as Joey Votto got hurt and Albert Pujols became human. Fielder is not the best of the bunch but he is legitimately in the top three or four on a yearly basis. In a down year that makes him the best fantasy first baseman in the business. When the Tigers add Victor Martinez back to the fold in 2013 they will be an outrageously good lineup.

2. Albert Pujols– Los Angeles Angels

AVG: .285 (8th)

HR: 30 (5th)

Runs: 85 (2nd)

RBI: 105 (4th)

SB: 8 (4th)

BB: 52 (15th)

Imagine a season with 30 home runs, more than 100 RBI, and 50 doubles being a down season. That is the world that Albert Pujols lives in. If you take away April and May, he was the Pujols of old, so we can surmise that he will be the Pujols of old in 2013. Still, he has been permanently supplanted as the number one fantasy force in the sport by his own teammate.

3. Billy Butler– Kansas City Royals

AVG: .313 (2nd)

HR: 29 (7th)

Runs: 72 (9th)

RBI: 107 (3rd)

SB: 2 (11th)

BB: 54 (11th)

Butler has been a designated hitter for most of his career, but he qualifies at first in most leagues. He rewarded fantasy owners’ faith by turning in the best season of his career. He doesn’t have the high end power to be a fantasy superstar, but he will fall in most drafts, so you don’t have to treat him like one.

4. Adam Laroche– Washington Nationals

AVG: .271 (13th)

HR: 33 (1st)

Runs: 76 (5th)

RBI: 100 (5th)

SB: 1 (18th)

BB: 67 (4th)

Laroche has been a notorious second half player when healthy. It was often said if he could put two such halves together he would be a viable fantasy player. Well, in 2012 he managed to do that at the same time that the position was going through one of its weakest seasons. He real life he is a middle of the road first sacker at best, but if you put enough together you get a top five fantasy first baseman.

5. Paul Goldschmidt– Arizona Diamondbacks

AVG: .286 (7th)

HR: 20 (14th)

Runs: 82 (4th)

RBI: 82 (13th)

SB: 18 (1st)

BB: 60 (7th)

It may seem weird for him to finish this high, but we have to remember it was a down year for these guys. He also stole an obscene number of bases for a first baseman. That might seem trivial, but if you do that at enough positions you don’t have to focus on steals at any one spot on the diamond. He should continue to improve as he gains more experience, so he may be worthy of being a top ten first sacker.

6. Adrian Gonzalez– Los Angeles Dodgers

AVG: .299 (5th)

HR: 18 (17th)

Runs: 75 (7th)

RBI: 108 (1st)

SB: 2 (11th)

BB: 42 (13th)

I’m bearish on Gonzalez as a fantasy player because his only really good quality is his ability to drive in runs. The Dodgers offense will never be as good as the Red Sox offense was, so he won’t have the opportunities. Plus, his power has taken a nose dive in recent seasons. I’d let someone else gobble him up and expect elite performance.

7. Allen Craig– St. Louis Cardinals

AVG: .307 (4th)

HR: 22 (12th)

Runs: 76 (5th)

RBI: 92 (8th)

SB: 2 (11th)

BB: 37 (17th)

When you think about it, Craig did all of this while missing the first several weeks of the season and serving as Lance Berkman’s backup to start the season. He will get the job full-time next season, so he should drive in more than 100 runs pretty easily. He might be the fantasy sleeper of the 2013 season.

8. Freddie Freeman– Atlanta Braves

AVG: .259 (18th)

HR: 23 (11th)

Runs: 91 (1st)

RBI: 94 (7th)

SB: 4 (6th)

BB: 53 (14th)

Freeman is a perfect example of a player that does not impress me in real life, but one you have to take seriously in fantasy baseball. A first baseman that produces a .260 averages with 20+ home runs is not that special. Yet, when that player remains healthy the numbers start adding up and he has reasonable fantasy value.

9. Mark Trumbo– Los Angeles Angels

AVG: .268 (15th)

HR: 32 (3rd)

Runs: 66 (12th)

RBI: 95 (6th)

SB: 4 (6th)

BB: 36 (19th)

Seeing numbers like those above make you wonder how the Angels managed to stay out of the playoffs. If Trumbo can find somewhere to play everyday he may even outproduce Pujols in terms of home runs, runs, and RBI. If he learns how to draw more walks the Angels will have more offense than they know what to do with.

10. Chris Davis– Baltimore Orioles

AVG: .270 (14th)

HR: 33 (1st)

Runs: 75 (7th)

RBI: 85 (11th)

SB: 2 (11th)

BB: 37 (17th)

If you drafted Davis you would have been laughed out of the room. If you draft him next year you might get laughed out of the room. Sometimes the best plan is to wait around to see who is going to be hot. Last year, I wouldn’t have bet that Davis would hit 15 home runs much less 33. That’s the way things go sometimes.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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