Baseball Press presents a returning miniseries entitled "Three Up, Three Down". We'll review player performances from last season and whether or not we feel they are capable of either improving upon last season's performance, or if the player had a "lucky" season in 2011.
The first basemen pool in fantasy baseball is stacked. There are a ton of great options early on that can dictate the direction of your fantasy roster. If you miss out on a top-tier player such as Albert Pujols
or Miguel Cabrera, there are plenty of other viable options.
Prospect Eric Hosmer burst onto the big-league level after hitting .439/.525/.582 in 26 games with Triple-A Omaha last season. Hosmer, 22, finished his first big-league season hitting .293/.334/.465 in 128 games. Although his power at the major league level was questioned, Hosmer hit 19 home runs last season, ranking him seventh best in the American League. In addition to the surprise home run power, Hosmer also stole 11 bases, ranking him first among all big-league first basemen.
Eric makes good contact while at the plate, striking out just 14.6% of his plate appearances last season at the big-league level. Six percent of his plate appearances resulted in walks, but his minor league walk totals give hope that he can raise his total from last season. While Hosmer isn't your typical first baseman with huge slugging power, he offers help across all categories, especially after the top-five first basemen are off the draft board.
With Prince Fielder
and Albert Pujols
playing with American League teams over the next several seasons, the pool of National League first basemen takes a drastic hit. Ike Davis along with Joey Votto
rank near the top of the list for available first basemen among NL teams. Davis, 24, was off to a fast start in 2011 before suffering a left ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. In 36 games, Ike hit .302/.383/.543 with seven home runs and a .925 OPS. If Davis would have remained healthy, he could have hit close to 30 home runs with over 100 RBI.
Davis is a walk machine, posting a 11.9 BB% over his first two big-league seasons. His ability to draw a walk is something he's been able to sustain during his professional baseball career, posting a 12 BB% over the course of three minor league seasons. As far as his ankle injury, Newsday reported
that he should be ready to play baseball at the start of spring training. With a combination of drawing walks and the walls at Citi Field being moved in, Davis should post solid power and on-base percentage numbers for fantasy owners in 2012.
Much like Hosmer and Davis, Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez doesn't project to be an elite first baseman for your fantasy squad, but still has plenty of value on draft day. Sanchez, 28, has hit 19 home runs in each of his last two big-league seasons, while posting a career .269 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage (OBP). His first half-second half splits were ugly last season, hitting .293/.374/.472 with 13 home runs during the first half of play and hitting .225/.320/.359 with 6 home runs in 68 games after the All-Star break.
While Sanchez will never hit for a high batting average, there are several factors that make him a value pick on draft day. In addition to the solid OBP numbers, Sanchez will be right in the middle of a good offensive lineup. With Mike Stanton
, Jose Reyes
, and Hanley Ramirez
around him, Sanchez should see plenty of opportunities to produce. Fantasy owners won't know how the new Marlins Ballpark favors hitters before drafting players, but there's a real chance Sanchez could see 20 home runs, a ~.275 batting average, and a ~.350 on-base percentage in 2012.
After hitting a total of 76 home runs for the Nationals during the 2009-2010 seasons, Dunn accepted a large contract with Chicago White Sox during the off-season. However, after inking a huge deal, Dunn hit .159/.292/.277 in 2011, earning him the "Worst Player in the League" title.
I wrote about Adam Dunn in this "2012 Fact or Fiction" piece
, stating that his value will never be lower than it is on draft day this season. No one knows for sure what caused the decline for Dunn in 2011. Regardless, there is a big risk betting on a bounce back year for the 32-year-old slugger, but I keep expectations in check and draft him in later rounds as a utility player.
The biggest factor with Philadelphia's Ryan Howard is his health. After injuring his Achilles' tendon at the end of the season, there's no estimate on when Howard might return to the lineup. He's currently rehabbing the injury in Florida, where he's working on his swing. Interesting enough, while Howard is rehabbing, the organization's hitting instructors are trying to work on Howard's swing
, by having him stand closer to home plate.
In addition to the playing time concerns due to the injury last season, Howard's power numbers have slipped over the past two seasons. After posting a .571 slugging percentage and .931 OPS in 2009, the 32-year-old posted a .505 SLG and .859 OPS in 2010 and a .488 SLG and .835 OPS in 2011, respectively. Howard's declining power, low batting average, and health issues are enough to skip Howard all together in drafts, allowing him to become another's owner problem.
There have been talks about a possible position move to third base for Trumbo, but his ability to play defense may end that project quickly. A position move to the outfield is also questionable, as the team currently has Vernon Wells
, Torii Hunter
, Peter Bourjos
, and prospect Mike Trout
penciled in to those roles. The final place that Trumbo might be able to squeeze in a few at-bats is at the DH position. However, that move also seems questionable, as the team has Bobby Abreu
and Morales once he returns.
With a crowded roster and the fact that Trumbo is a "power-only" player, his best option is to hope he can remain healthy and land with another team via trade. If he does remain with the Angels, he'll likely see a majority of his playing time at the DH spot, as this position seems to be a revolving door at the moment.