By Leelee Kryvoruchko. Send Leelee an e-mail here: email@example.com
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Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, and a no-brainer as the top first baseman. The only question is if you should take him first overall, which you should. Power, Runs, RBIs, he's even turned into a 10-plus stolen base man late in his career, Pujols gives you everything and he's still in the prime of his career.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .320/.434/.620, 44 HR, 117 RBI, 119 Runs, 13 SB.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Miguel Cabrera may be a fat, drunken loser, but he's still really good at baseball. Don't overreact to his DUIs and behavioral problems; Miggy has still mashed even while grotesquely out of shape. Cabrera will be among the league leaders in HR and RBI as he is every season.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .326/.411/.588, 35 HR, 122 RBI, 112 Runs, 3 SB.
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Mark Teixeira is expected to be a second-round selection in most drafts, but I feel he is quite undervalued. Teixeira's 2010 BABIP of .268 was 40 points lower than any of his previous full seasons. The effect that had on his average was noticeable. With the ease of hitting homers to right at Yankee Stadium, I feel Teixeira is first-round value. He may drive you batty with his usual early-season slump, but when Tex starts hitting, he is routinely among the very elite fantasy players in the league.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .294/.386/.560, 40 HR, 130 RBI, 111 Runs, 1 SB.
Joey Votto, Reds
Joey Votto emerged as an elite fantasy player last season who provides quality in every statistic. I expect that to continue somewhat, but on the flipside of Teixeira, Votto's BABIPs have been .372 and .361 in the past two seasons. Votto's BABIP should be high; he is an intelligent player who hits to all parts of the park. However, I would expect his average to come down a touch.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .312/.406/.558, 32 HR, 106 RBI, 99 Runs, 12 SB.
Prince Fielder, Brewers
Prince Fielder had a somewhat disappointing 2010, especially compared to the monster 141 RBI he posted in 2009. Prince should fit somewhere in between his last two campaigns. A promising sign is that despite not putting up big numbers, Prince did take a large amount of walks last season that kept his OBP over .400. If there were any motivation issues last season, they should be quelled now in his final season before his big payday in free agency.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .273/.405/.560, 43 HR, 115 RBI, 108 Runs, 2 SB.
Ryan Howard, Phillies
Ryan Howard fought through an injured ankle for basically the entirety of 2010. This season, Howard appears healthy and ready to return to his prodigious power numbers. I don't expect him to revert to the true quality hitter he used to be; teams know now that Howard struggles hitting any curves or lefties in general. But, his power should return.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .275/.362/.569, 45 HR, 121 RBI, 103 Runs, 2 SB.
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
Adrian Gonzalez can be looked at two ways. The positive is that he gets away from Petco Park and the NL West, which are 80-percent parks that significantly quell power. Now, he's in the AL East with a short porch to right in Fenway, and on a devastating Red Sox lineup from 1-7. The negative is that he's coming back from a torn shoulder labrum. Rumors are that he's fine at this point, but that is a serious, possibly career-damaging injury. Gonzalez is very boom or bust.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .286/.398/.540, 37 HR, 128 RBI, 112 Runs, 0 SB.
Adam Dunn, White Sox
Adam Dunn, thy Lord of the sabermetric baseball nerds. It's no secret what you get with Dunn - 40 HR, 100 RBI, put it on the board every season. The question is how badly he'll kill you in batting average leagues. In Washington, his average was over .260. His BABIP was an anomalously high .327 over his two years there, but that can partly be attributed to the spacious Nationals' park. Expect a bit more power at Comiskey, with his average hovering back towards an ugly .250. If you're in an OBP league, feel free taking Dunn much earlier.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .255/.380/.535, 42 HR, 108 RBI, 90 Runs, 5 SB.
Justin Morneau, Twins
Justin Morneau missed the entire second half of the season due to a freak concussion breaking up a double play. It was a shame because he was on pace for the most proficient offensive season of his career. There is some concern with this concussion as it still hindered him in the offseason. Then, there is the question if Morneau can hit with power at Target Field, where it is notoriously a dead zone to right center. Only four of his 18 HR last year were at home. I'd advise letting someone else take Morneau.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .304/.383/.511, 28 HR, 106 RBI, 88 Runs, 0 SB.
Carlos Pena, Cubs
Carlos Pena had a terribly unlucky final season with the Rays, with a BABIP of .222. Pena's average has never been his strong suit, but he's a still a patient hitter who draws walks and hits with good power. Expect Pena's stats to rebound at Wrigley, and to continue being a power presence.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .236/.358/.510, 34 HR, 90 RBI, 76 Runs, 3 SB.
Billy Butler, Royals Billy Butler is a unique fantasy first baseman who is a righty and hits righties exceedingly well, but will not give you much power. Butler is a safe selection who will provide a great batting average, but his counting stats are lacking due to his limited 20 HR range and his being on a bad team with the Royals. However, Butler is only 24, and his power may increase in the future.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .312/.378/.475, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 80 Runs, 1 SB.
Aubrey Huff, Giants
Aubrey Huff transformed into a fine hitter for the Giants in 2010, vastly improving his plate discipline and becoming an integral part of a World Championship team. Huff goes through his streaks, but should provide solid numbers in all areas. There is some concern with noted prospect Brandon Belt, an OBP machine in the minors, is eagerly waiting for his turn. As long as Huff has the job, he's good value.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .279/.363/.468, 22 HR, 88 RBI, 87 Runs, 5 SB.
Kendry Morales, Angels
Kendry Morales suffered an awful leg break last season which rendered him to a mere 50 games. The question is if he returns to the impressive pace he set in 2009 and early in 2010. I am not on the Morales train. He is still recuperating from the leg injury, and he was a free swinger who rarely took a walk. That's a bad combination for consistency. Also take into account that the Angels look horrible in 2011.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .285/.337/.479, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 79 Runs, 0 SB.
Paul Konerko, White Sox
Paul Konerko had a surprising revival in 2010, and I fully attribute it to luck. His BABIP rose nearly 50 points, and he has hit the age of 35 where decline is inevitable.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .268/.348/.470, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 72 Runs, 0 SB.
Derrek Lee, Orioles
Derrek Lee had a rough 2010 campaign after being traded to the Braves. He did suffer through hand, thumb and wrist injuries, but one has to wonder if age is finally catching up to the athletic first baseman. I suspect being in the AL East now will help Lee's numbers a touch, but his days of being a benefit in all stats are probably over.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .273/.358/.460, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 78 Runs, 2 SB.
Lance Berkman, Cardinals
Lance Berkman will play outfield for the Cardinals, but he will be only eligible at first base until he plays the necessary amount of games to qualify. Berkman had a difficult 2010 with a myriad of niggling injuries along with receiving sparse playing time after being traded to the Yankees. He should be a mainstay in St. Louis' outfield as long as he stays healthy, but that is a major concern. There is potential for Berkman to renew his career in a lineup with Pujols and Holliday, so don't sleep on him.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .269/.383/.498, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 82 Runs, 4 SB.
Adam LaRoche, Nationals
Adam LaRoche continues playing musical chairs; now he is with Washington. He has been a very consistent fantasy performer since reaching the majors, a lock for 25 HR, 90 RBI. Expect a minor drop now that he's with the Nationals, but LaRoche is a safe, unsexy pick who is annually underappreciated.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .276/.348/.455, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 71 Runs, 2 SB.
Ike Davis, Mets
Ike Davis is a hyped youngster that someone in your draft will likely be targeting. Should you target him? The fired Jerry Manuel won't be able to foolishly bench Davis against lefties anymore, so Davis should be in the middle of the lineup for the entire season. But expecting a major power breakout at Citi Field is likely wishful thinking.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .267/.358/.468, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 78 Runs, 4 SB.
Kila Ka'aihue, Royals
Kila Ka'aihue projects to share time with Billy Butler at first base and mostly at DH. Ka'aihue is a poor man's Adam Dunn; he's a large man with prodigious power who strikes out a ton with a low batting average and takes many walks to negate that poor average. Assuming Kila gets a full season's worth of at-bats, he has the potential to put up impressive power numbers.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .241/.352/.449, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 75 Runs, 0 SB.
James Loney, Dodgers
James Loney is more of a specialized talent at first base that you can strategize with. He gives you minimal power, but he'll give you some steals which are hard to find at this position. If your team is set power-wise, Loney can be a good fit at a cheap price. He also is much stronger hitting against righties, so you can play the platoon game as well.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .277/.344/.415, 11 HR, 79 RBI, 69 Runs, 10 SB.
Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
Gaby Sanchez will be the full-time option for Marlins at first base. Sanchez is a rare first baseman who hits lefties very well, so his main value is as an occasional platoon option. Sanchez projects to be sixth or seventh in the lineup most nights, so don't expect huge stats overall. If you're starting him, you should be doing better.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .275/.350/.452, 18 HR, 83 RBI, 70 Runs, 4 SB.
Todd Helton, Rockies Todd Helton had a rough 2010, easily the worst his career, while struggling through back injuries. Helton is 37, so expect his decline to continue, but he remains a very professional hitter. His power days are gone, but he gets on base extremely well. If you're in an OBP league, Helton's value is significantly higher. Helton's lack of counting stats limit his value, but I would not assume that he is just finished.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .292/.394/.484, 14 HR, 78 RBI, 74 Runs, 0 SB.
Matt LaPorta, Indians
Matt LaPorta is an all too often case of a slugger crushing it in the minors, then stagnating in the majors. Cleveland did sign the oft-injured Nick Johnson, a much, much better hitter, but he projects more as a DH at this point in his career. So, it looks like they'll have to ride it with LaPorta. I'm not high on LaPorta since he has been overmatched through the entirety of his time in the majors.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .245/.322/.412, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 60 Runs, 1 SB.
Justin Smoak, Mariners
Justin Smoak is in competition with Mike Carp for the Mariners' first base job. Both give some power potential, but struggle getting on base. Seattle looks like a place to avoid looking for your first baseman.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .269/.383/.498, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 82 Runs, 4 SB.
Mitch Moreland, Rangers
Mitch Moreland is tentatively expected to get the most time at first for the Rangers. He provides some power and a decent average, but the trouble is that the Rangers have Michael Young, Chris Davis and Mike Napoli who will all likely share time at first. If one of them stands out, their value rises significantly, but until then it's a guessing game.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .268/.356/.460, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 52 Runs, 2 SB.
Brad Hawpe, Padres
Brad Hawpe should be the first baseman for the Padres for most of the year. He hits righties fairly well and had some power in his days at Colorado, but Petco will likely hurt his fantasy value significantly. Once Kyle Blanks returns from Tommy John surgery, the big hoss may take some playing time from Hawpe later in the season.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .264/.360/.444, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 50 Runs, 3 SB.
Daric Barton, Athletics
Daric Barton is Billy Beane's type of player. Small, unimpressive, but gets on base well. Unfortunately, this doesn't really translate to fantasy well. In OBP leagues, bump Barton up a little.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .268/.380/.410, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 76 Runs, 6 SB.
Freddie Freeman, Braves
Freddie Freeman projects to be the Braves' first baseman at the tender age of 21. In minors, he hasn't exactly lit it up or been a power force whatsoever. Freeman is a big kid with a pretty swing. He's a prospect, but I wouldn't expect much in his first run as a starter. There is the possibility that Dan Uggla could move to first eventually as well.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .265/.330/.428, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 56 Runs, 5 SB.
Lyle Overbay, Pirates
Lyle Overbay is a defensive-based first baseman. He's struggled to hit for average late in his career and gives you marginal power. Garrett Jones is a better option since he is first base eligible in most leagues and provides more pop with his bat, but he is expected to move to right field this season with Overbay at first.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .250/.340/.440, 14 HR, 63 RBI, 65 Runs, 1 SB.
Dan Johnson, Rays
Dan Johnson expects to the main first baseman for the Rays. He is a black hole to your average. You don't want him. Casey Kotchman is another possibility, and he's also bad.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .215/.329/.429, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 52 Runs, 1 SB.