2015 First Base Tiers


Jul 31, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman

Miguel Cabrera

(24) and Chicago White Sox first baseman

Jose Abreu

(79) at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Positional tiers allow drafters to not only get a better bearing on the position, but also can be utilized as a way to judge if you can either wait or have to pounce on a player you want.

Tier 1 – Foundation

Miguel Cabrera– If only we could all have a “down year” of .313/25/109. Everyone talks as if Miggy was sort of a disappointment last season, but I find that argument nonsense. Even if you took him 1st or 2nd last season, the man continued to produce. And for those who watched Miguel play, he did it severely hobbled by ankle and foot injuries.

He had surgery to clear that all up, and it seems as though he is progressing nicely towards being ready for April. Worst case scenario is that he comes out the gates a little slow, but we are talking about a Triple Crown winner here. He is the best 1B in fantasy, draft accordingly.

Paul Goldschmidt– Goldy is one of the best pure hitters in the game and has clearly placed himself in the discussion of the best fantasy players in baseball. Goldy’s season was ended prematurely last season due to an errant pitch that broke his hand. There should be no residual effects going into this season.

The thing that sets Goldy apart from the other top tier 1B, is that he can chip in with SB’s. Goldschmidt can give you bout 10-15 steals, so if we combine that with his .30/30/100 stat line, we have solid 5 category player. He should be taken in the top 5 of all fantasy drafts this season.

Edwin Encarnacion– One of the more overlooked players in fantasy has been Encarnacion. He really does not come up in many discussions as the best 1B in baseball, but he definitely deserves to be. He is one of the only two players in the MLB to hit more than 30 HR the last three years.  Since he has been in Toronto, he has knocked in no less than 98 RBI’s. He once again should find himself being drafted in the middle of the 1st round.

Jose Abreu– Man, Mr. Abreu came to America and reminded us that great hitters will eventually find their way into the MLB. Going into last season, there were questions on how Abreu would translate his Cuban prowess against major league pitching. He answered those questions with a .317/36/107 line.

With an improved White Sox line up, there is no reason why Abreu’s stats should take a significant dip. Drafters should realize that last season will probably be his ceiling, albeit a high one, as pitchers now have more data on how to attack him. For me, he is one of the safer selections in the first round with the upside to post Cabrera like numbers.

Anthony Rizzo– Long lauded as a top prospect in baseball, Rizzo broke out in a HUGE way in 2014. The main hurdle in Rizzo’s game was that he struggled mightily against lefties. However, the key to his breakout last year was that he finally  mastered lefties (.300 against LHP compared to .189 in 2013).

His floor is probably 20+ HR’s and nearly 80 RBI’s. Also, the Cubs’ lineup has improved and Rizzo is only 25, so there is still room for him to grow. Rizzo is a great target for the late first round drafters and if he falls to you in the 2nd round, you are practically stealing him.

Tier 2 – Solid Buys

Freddie Freeman– I like Freddie and he is a great player without a doubt. But unfortunately, he is one of the unique fantasy players that had his value decimated by the team he plays for. Freddie has never exhibited the higher power numbers that we often target at 1B, so a lot of his value was helped by the fact that he could soften the power hit by knocking in runs and posting a solid AVG.

Freeman’s batted ball data trends upward, but what does that matter if no one is on base or if he is continually given nothing to hit? While my outlook is gloomy, Freeman’s floor is amongst the highest at the position. A .300/20/80 is still very much in play, so fantasy owners can target that around the back end of the 2nd round or early 3rd.

Albert Pujols– We should have never doubted that “The Machine” was going to completely shut down going into 2014. Our questions arose from an injury riddled 2013, so it made the selection of Pujols one of the more polarizing picks in last year’s draft. The vintage Pujols is gone sadly, but that kind of production is generational and something we rarely get to see.

Last season’s .272/28/105 is right around what we should begin to expect from Albert. He still has a good eye at the plate, so he should be able to maintain a respectable AVG and OBP line. With Trout and Calhoun hitting right in front of him, Pujols will have plenty of RBI chances. His batted ball data still reads well for him to stay around that 25 HR mark. Look to take him in the 3rd or 4th rounds.

Adrian Gonzalez– After all these years, it is still clock work for A-Gon. Adrian is exactly the 1B you target if you have decided to draft other positions early in the draft. He is consistent and safe, so you really can not go wrong in investing in him. He has struggled a little against LHP, and he is more likely to hit 20-25 HR instead of the 25-30 he put up in San Diego. The .280/25/100 line is just about right for Gonzalez, so go ahead and do not be afraid to target him in the late 3rd or early 4th round.

Victor Martinez– I want to be one of the first guys to thank Martinez for single-handedly carrying my fantasy team last season. What started out as purely a pick for help in the AVG department, blossomed into a career power year at the ripe age of 36. I will concede that I had no idea that was coming, so I can not claim that as part of my expertise, as much as I would like to.

The main thing with V-Mart was that he got overlooked in most drafts and he was often a guy that sort of fell to you as opposed to you targeting him. Well that looked to change heading into 2015, until Martinez was hit with another knee injury. Now drafters find themselves back under the same mindset, when or if do I pull the trigger on V-Mart? Well, it seems as though Martinez is progressing well, and he is even close to getting into Spring games. Fantasy owners can take solace in that and begin to target V-Mart for a hopeful .315/20/90 line.

David Ortiz– Wasn’t this guy supposed to slow down like two years ago? Well after another 30/100 season, it seems as though Ortiz scoffs at the notion of slowing down. He continues to produce even if his AVG did slip to .263, so even if the classic Big Papi is gone, he still remains a fantasy stud.

The one thing that hurts Papi’s value is that in most leagues he only qualifies for your UTIL spot. Most fantasy owners know that when a guy only qualifies for that position, it can often leave them in a bind throughout the season. This is not a reason to avoid Ortiz, it is more of a reminder that his value strongly tied to his consistency throughout the season. Target him in the mid rounds.

Todd Frazier– Another breakout from the 2014 season was the Toddfather. Prior to the 2014 season, we knew Frazier as a decent power option with an AVG that was hard to predict. That all changed in 2014 as Frazier hit 29 HR, with 80 RBI’s and probably the most surprising, 20 steals.

Fantasy owners need to look at the steals as an aberration though as it is hard to see him repeating that. He had never even attempted more than 11 steals going into 2014, so Frazier took full advantage of defenses sleeping on him. But, the power is legit and the AVG should hover around .265. Frazier is a solid 1B or 3B going into 2015 and he is certainly someone to target in the middle rounds

Carlos Santana– One of the most frustrating fantasy seasons last season was undoubtedly posted by Santana. Through the first two months of the season Santana could not even hit his weight and only had 6 HR’s. For a guy with great power and batting eye, Santana should never see dips like these.

For those owners you kept him through the struggles, you were pleasantly rewarded with 21 HR’s over the course of the rest of the season. Target him your drafts, especially in leagues that award OBP. Just hold steady if Santana comes out and struggles in the beginning of the season

Chris Carter– In most fantasy sports, we all tend to have “man-crushes” on certain players that we feel we must have. Chris Carter is my man-crush for this season. Over the last two seasons Carter has smashed 66 HR and 170 RBI. That is an insane amount of homers in today’s MLB, Carter has cemented himself as one of the marquee power options in fantasy and reality.

We all know that the AVG is going to hover around .230, and that is not pretty by any means. What are you are more likely to find, a high AVG slap hitter or a 30+ HR masher? The answer is simple. Draft Carter aggressively and offset the low AVG, by adding high AVG guys on your team. The power is too much to pass up and with an improved Astros lineup he should flirt with a 35/100 line.

Tier 3- Bounce Backs

Chris Davis-Astute fantasy owners knew that 53 HR’s and 138 RBI’s were not sustainable numbers in this age of baseball. But, we did not prepare ourselves for the rock bottom that Davis hit 2014. The suspension muddies the waters a little, but he has received his 2015 medical clearance to take an Adderall substitute, so that should be a moot point.

The power numbers were not actually that bad considering the power outage throughout baseball (26 HR/72 RBI). The .196 AVG was just a weekly killer that torpedoed any chance fantasy owners had at winning AVG. With the implementation of shifts and defensive measures, Davis will probably never see his average approach that .270 plateau again.

Fantasy owners need to be aware though that Davis suffered from an extremely unlucky .242 BABIP. That number has nowhere to go but up and Davis will solidify himself again as one of the more valuable assets in fantasy. If will be up to owners however, to determine how high they think the AVG will rebound. I hold that Davis will hit around .250 and also eclipse 30+ HR’s to provide plenty of value.

Prince Fielder– This is a very conservative ranking on Prince because there are some red flags that have manifested themselves over the last few years. We should just take 2014 as just an injury plagued year that completely killed the upside Fielder had going into drafts last season. The same elements that made us swoon over Fielder last season, still remain. Great ballpark, good lineup and a history of big power.

Fielder though does come with some baggage. He is now 30 and coming off a neck injury that can be problematic for a player, especially for Fielder and his violent swing. I will concede that his injury should not completely scare you off as injury can strike anyone at any time. Just temper expectations as you draft and try not to reach for that vintage Prince. Target him around round 4.

Joey Votto– Votto used to find himself in the upper echelon of fantasy 1B as he was able to provide 25+ HR power with an awesome AVG and RBI total. Just to keep things in perspective between 2009-2011, Votto hit 91 HR and knocked in 300 RBI Since 2012, Votto has only mustered 44 HR and 102 R.B.I. (keep in mind he missed 100 games in 2014). Injury or not, those stats do not lie and it makes Votto one of the more frustrating players to own.

Votto, without a doubt, has the best batting eye in baseball. He now is even surrounded with even more power as Frazier and Mesocraco have broken out. Votto’s approach at the plate is killing his fantasy value, as he has begun to look for the walk more than driving in runs. For him to get back to that top tier, he must unleash his pre-2012 power stroke. Every owner will take a stance on whether to draft Votto, I recommend you target him around round 5, thus giving you a chance to surround him with some power sources on your team.

Mark Trumbo– He is basically a Carter clone as he has light tower power, but an abysmal AVG. Last season, a foot injury sapped his power and eventually sidelined him for most of the season.

He did give us a reminder of his potential in September, as he slugged 6 HR to finish of the season. The only reason I am not as bullish on Trumbo as I am with Carter is that his batted ball data shows that he tends to have lower line drive rates and higher pop up rates than most of the premier power options. Trumbo still has the potential to slug 30+ HR though, so he is someone to target to immediately give your team a legit power threat.

Tier 4 – Late Round Power

Lucas Duda– I guess the Mets really dropped the ball with the whole starting Ike Davis over Duda thing last season. Duda really came out of nowhere to post a career year and he found himself smashing 30 HR.

Duda’s batted ball data seemed to indicate that a power surge was on the horizon, so it can be deduced that playing time was all that he needed. My only hesitation is that Duda can not hit left handed pitching to save his life (.180 and.183 the last two years). Combine this with the acquisition of Cuddyer, and I can easily envision Duda being replaced against LHP.

Duda still should mash RHP, and he should get close to 25+ HR. Fantasy owners will have to decide whether they believe that Duda can maintain that power over another season or if he will eventually come back to earth, I would deem that Duda’s power can stay.

Brandon Moss– As in the case of Carter, I am quite high on Moss and his move to Cleveland. Moss was a man possessed the first half of the season as he had 21 HR at the break. But, his power completely diminished as he suffered a hip injury and he saw his number plummet.

He had the hip injury cleared up in the offseason, and he is already playing in Spring games. He has legit 30+ HR potential, and getting out of Oakland largely helps his power chances. He will also be in a better lineup, so the counting stats should stay solid as well. Everything seems to be trending in the right direction, it is just the hip injury that can cause some hesitancy because it is such an important function for a power hitter. Target him aggressively in the middle rounds.

Adam LaRoche– He has been quietly consistent over the years and continued that in 2014. Laroche has hit 20+ HR 4 out of the last 5 years and the only year he did not hit 20, he missed 100 games due to injury. Consistency in fantasy baseball is invaluable and Laroche defines that.

If you needed any other motivation to take Laroche, he also is making the move to one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in baseball, especially for lefties. Nationals Park ranks as one of the worst ballparks on lefties, so for him to slug as many HR as he does whilst playing half of his games in Washington, it really speaks to Laroche’s power and how it can translate. Target Adam and even though he will not wow the room, reap the benefits of being a heads up fantasy owner.

Matt Adams– When we look at Adams, we see a guy that should be smashing 30+ HR every year. After an impressive 2013 season, 2014 appeared to be that breakout season. Unfortunately, this breakout never came.

Like Votto, Adams appeared to be more inclined to take a more contact driven approach at the plate and he exhibited that through his .288 AVG. Fantasy owners were looking for more and it seems as though if Adams can change his approach and get more balls in the air, he should be able to get closer to the 25 HR mark.

One caveat though will be the presence of Mark Reynolds, as he looks to possibly platoon with Adams as he struggles with lefties (.190 against LHP). Try to snag Adams and your very own platoon option to offset the stats he may lose during the season.

Mike Napoli– Like Laroche, Napoli has an extensive track record that saw him hit for 20 or more HR 6 years straight going into 2014. But, a nasty thumb injury severely limited his power output and he saw his streak end by only hitting for 17 HR. Napoli should once again get back to that 20-25 HR plateau and he should have the chance to flirt with 100 RBI with an improved Red Sox lineup.

Tier 5 – CI Options

Eric Hosmer– Hosmer, like Belt, is always supposed to be on the brink of a career season. Hosmer even showed early in his career that he had some power potential when he slugged for 19 HR his rookie year. But those power numbers completely evaporated last season, and the 9 HR he hit are a far cry from expectations.

Hosmer hits way too many weak ground balls, so expectations should be limited in the power department. The AVG should continue to be solid. So a .300/17/70 would not be too bad at your CI spot.

Brandon Belt– Every year, we hear how this is going to be the season Belt breaks out and finally cements himself as a top 1B. For a multitude of reasons, he just never seems to make the leap. Last season, it seemed as though he was on the right track a he came out of the gates hot, but injuries struck him again as he battled concussion and thumb problems.

He strikes out a ton and never walks, so he has to provide some type of value in the power department. He is nothing more than a CI option and I am with some owners who rather wait and see if Belt can actually take the leap, rather than just hoping that this will be his year.

Steve Pearce– From journeyman to 21 HR producer, Pearce is one of the more intriguing options going into 2015. He has never even came close to hitting even 10 HR, so there can be a little hesitancy when drafting him this season. Do not fret however as Pearce’s batted ball data shows that a power surge was on the horizon. Pearce has distinct knack to hit a lot of fly balls and that plays well at Camden and most of the AL East ballparks. I would expect another performance close to last season’s total, but do not reach for him either.

Justin Morneau– Morneau made a great career move by signing in Colorado as he was able to reestablish himself as one of the better hitters in baseball. He won the NL batting crown and he proved that he still has some of the talent that he had in Minnesota. Morneau is a nice CI option because he supports your team with a respectable AVG and decent HR output. He is just another example of a boring, yet steady piece that helps your fantasy team win. Target him late.

Mark Teixeira– Teams looking for late round pop should look towards Tex as an inexpensive option. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he has gone from a mid-round selection to now being a late round flier or even bench fodder. The shift has killed him and his refusal to change his approach does not help fantasy owners in terms of the AVG hit.

I still hold that Tex is nearly a lock for 20 HR and modest RBI production. There is some safety in that, but unfortunately there is not much upside either. Draft him late, especially if you feel like you missed out on power during the draft.

Kennys Vargas– A popular sleeper going into this season should be Vargas, as he was able to give us a glimpse into his power potential over his 215 AB’s last season. The AVG will be a work in progress but there is a real chance at 20 HR and that is all you can ask for in a late round CI option. Target and hope that his AVG will settle somewhere around.250 and that he can continue to show his legit power.

Joe Mauer– My oh my, look at how the mighty have fallen. For as long as I have been playing fantasy baseball, Mauer has been one of the most discussed players every year during our drafts. The conversation at first was “how high do you take him as a catcher,” and could “he ever follow up that monster power season?” Now, the discussion has turned to whether or not he is even worth drafting at all.

He is not as bad as last season, but the power just is not there. If owners have stacked their team with power guys and terrible AVG, I would recommend taking Mauer late as a way to offset the blow. Honestly, the only reason he will be drafted in most leagues is off of name recognition alone.

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