By Scott Barzilla

We have seen the top 20 catchers and I’m sure many people will take issue with some of those rankings and that is always part of the fun. For those coming in for the first time, these rankings are based on each player’s track record over several seasons and with their home ballparks taken into account. Still, there is some judgement involved as there are optimistic projections and pessimistic projections.

1) Joey Votto– +49.3 runs

It may take some getting used to, but these run totals will begin to make a lot of sense when we look at all of the positions put together. Votto should be one of the top three or four players taken in the draft. Last year he would have amassed close to 60 doubles, 30 home runs, and over 100 runs and RBIs. That’s in addition to a .300 average and .400 OBP.

2) Albert Pujols– +39.7 runs

There was once a day (as recently as last year) where Pujols was the unquestioned number one overall pick. Ironically, that honor will go to his teammate, but we’ll get to outfielders later. Pujols should experience a bit of a renaissance with his second year in the league and a horrifically deep lineup to support him.

3) Prince Fielder– +37.7 runs

Fielder continued to produce as he usually does in a new league. With Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez in the lineup he should have more opportunities to produce runs. He might get forgotten with all of the moving around of this offseason. He should be a borderline first round pick in every fantasy league.

4) Adrian Gonzalez– +30.3 runs

He produced in San Diego and that ballpark was infinitely worse for hitters. I’m still not horribly confident with this kind of production, but this is where his track record points. As stock brokers are fond of saying, past performance is no guarantee of future production. Still, it shows that first base is not as loaded as many people think.

5) Paul Goldschmidt– +23.8 runs

Solute the power of overall value. Goldschmidt is not necessarily on the level of those other hitters, but he does add stolen bases to the equation and that is an interesting addition in value from the first base position. He should continue to grow offensively and if he does he could produce 30 home runs along with 20 stolen bases.

6) Billy Butler– +22.1 runs

Butler does not hit the amount of home runs that you typically want in your first baseman, so he often goes overlooked on draft day. He replaces that raw power with a penchant for hitting doubles that no one has seen this side of Joey Votto. Some leagues are adding extra base hits to their categories while others consider slugging percentage as a category. If that is the case then jump all over this guy.

7) Corey Hart– +21.9 runs

In most leagues, Hart will still qualify as an outfielder. That only enhances his value. He seemed to come into his own offensively when he was shifted to first base full-time. He also tends to add close to ten stolen bases a season for good measure. He might be a good pick for versatility sake, but he is clearly in the second cut.

8) Paul Konerko– +21.3 runs

Baseball Prospectus published a chilling and poetic passage about the effects of time about the Mets in 2011. That could just as easily be said about individual players. It would fit David Ortiz and Paul Konerko perfectly and that is the main reason they appear so low on the list. Whether it be nagging injuries or sudden ineffectiveness, Father Time catches up with all of us eventually.

9) David Ortiz– +18.8 runs

Ortiz has a better three year average than five year average according to TRI. He obviously has experienced a renaissance, but the Red Sox have been reluctant to give him the long-term deal he wanted. He got a two year deal this winter and that was like pulling teeth. They aren’t stupid. They know what’s coming. They just don’t know when.

10) Edwin Encarnacion– +17.6 runs

If you are feeling amorous you might bump Encarnacion up a few slots on your draft list. He was definitely an elite performer last season, but he’s never been that before. Was the move to 1B/DH a magic elixir for the journeyman. Otherwise, the clock is getting close to midnight and he is about to turn back into a pumpkin.

11) Kendrys Morales– +15.1 runs

The Mariners don’t have anyone better at either first base or DH, so Morales will definitely get 600 plate appearances if he’s healthy. That should translate to at least 20 home runs and close to 100 RBIs if track records mean anything. He won’t be good for percentage numbers, but at this stage you may be adding utility players or even primary backups.

12) Ryan Howard– +14.5 runs

No one is better at produces great RBI numbers even when they aren’t playing at an elite level. That is the difference between fantasy baseball and real baseball. In real baseball, Howard is becoming more and more marginalized. Still, when healthy, he is good for 110-120 RBIs a season and there is still a place for that on any fantasy team.

13) Mark Trumbo– +14.2 runs

Trumbo will likely get a full complement of at bats this season as the Angels’ primary designated hitter. So, he would be a great pick for any fantasy team for a utility slot of for the bench. It’s hard to believe that a 30+ home run hitter should be relegated to the bench, but he does have some holes in his game on the batting average and OBP end.

14) Freddie Freeman– +13.4 runs

Freeman is an accumulator and those are the kinds of players that are sneaky in fantasy leagues. He has surpassed 90 RBIs in each of the past two seasons even though he is far from elite offensively. He isn’t a front line kind of performer, but if you punt first basemen then he would be a nice starter.

15) Adam Dunn– +12.7 runs

Dunn is a quintessential two to three category performer. He will hit home runs by the bushel and will draw plenty of walks. In the process he will drive in some runs and he will score some runs. His batting average will be this side of terrible, so all of that production comes with a pretty significant downside.

16) Allen Craig– +12.0 runs

Craig would be the best case I could make for a sleeper among the first base crowd. He outproduced this last season and he spent the first part of the season on the shelf. Now, he will be a full time player for the first time in his career. I conservatively expect him to finish amongst the top ten first basemen next season.

17) Ike Davis– +9.2 runs

Now is when we start getting into the marginal fantasy players. He produced 30+ home runs last season, so he isn’t without his good points, but he is a low average/low OBP guy and that has a way of diminishing his fantasy value. He might take a step forward next season, but otherwise he should be a low draft choice.

18) Mark Reynolds– +8.6 runs

Reynolds was almost out of the league entirely until he had a hot streak in August and September and while it didn’t save a spot for him with Baltimore, it got the Indians attention. Luckily for you they are offensively starved, so they won’t care much about the lack of fielding. However, that will catch up with him eventually.

19) Anthony Rizzo– +8.5 runs

Rizzo accomplished this in a partial season, so some people would be inclined to double down on his production. However, that would ignore the obvious signs of slippage once he went through the league for the second time. He likely will produce 20+ home runs and 80+ RBIs. That might not seem like much, but he would be a great low round pick if you want to gamble on him breaking out.

20) Justin Morneau– +8.5 runs

The former AL MVP bounced back last season to produce some decent numbers. He suffered from post-concussion syndrome and that tends to be a condition that improves over time. So, consider him like a player returning from a major knee or arm injury. They usually do better in their second and third full season back. He might not ever be the guy he was before, but he should be marginally more productive this season.

 

 

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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