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 2012.
We've already covered our catchers, and now move on to first basemen. The first base position is fantasy baseball is loaded with power. This is a position where many owners count on a guy to produce 30-to-40 home runs for their fantasy squad. If you're unable to acquire a solid first baseman in the early rounds, be sure to keep an eye on these three youngsters, and avoid the three aging veterans.
Most say the future is looking up in Chicago, and Anthony Rizzo is one of the big reasons for that. After struggling greatly in his brief 2011 debut with the San Diego Padres, Rizzo came out raking in 2012 after the Cubs recalled him on June 26. In 368 plate appearances, the Florida native hit 15 home runs with a .285/.342/.463 triple-slash line. A big positive, outside of those numbers, was his pitch selection and ability to take a walk. Not many rookie power-hitters own a strikeout-to-walk rate close to 2-to-1, and Rizzo's sat right at 2.3-to-1. A full spring in major league camp, with the experience of already facing major league pitching, prepares Rizzo to improve in 2013.
The 2012 season was good and bad for Ike Davis. Prior to the All-Star break, Ike Davis hit a miserable .201/.271/.388 with 12 home runs and a .233 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). However, Davis was able to rebound nicely during the second half of the season, hitting 20 home runs with a .888 OPS. His 20 home runs during the second half was the second most home runs in the National League behind Chase Headley
(23). Overall, Davis had his luck turn around in the BABIP department in the second half, but still struggles against left-handed pitchers, as he has a triple-slash line of .217/.281/.361 with 11 home runs against lefties. His 2013 season will likely be another 30 home run season, but owners will have to be patient if they acquire him.
At age 25, with 764 major league plate appearances under his belt, many signs point to Paul Goldschmidt having a breakout year in 2013. Taking into consideration that most of his fantasy value lies in his home run total, the stats that are trending in the right direction are his ground ball percentage (GB%) and line drive percentage (LD%). Starting with his cup of coffee in 2011, and progressing through 2012, Goldy has seen his GB% decrease, his LD% increase, all while sustaining a respectable fly ball percentage. Usually the next step in this process for a power hitter is to see an increase in fly balls, which also leads to more home runs. He could easily touch 30 home runs this year, while comfortably maintaining a .275 batting average.
After a long battle with the Red Sox over a three-year deal, Mike Napoli finally settled for a one-year deal with Boston for $5 million. The reason for the delay? - a bad hip. In fact, Mike Napoli has the same hip issue that superstar Bo Jackson
had. Napoli admitted to playing through the injury in 2012, but was still able to hit 24 home runs. However, he'll be leaving the friendly ballpark in Texas and heading to a neutral Fenway Park in 2013. With the move, I would expect a decrease in home runs and perhaps a slight increase in batting average. Even with the batting average increase, his batting average is still empty and he has a career strikeout percentage of 25.4%. If the hip injury doesn't scare you off, perhaps take a chance on Napoli in later rounds as a role player, once the rest of your roster is set.
- Washington Nationals
In the shadow of rookie phenom Bryce Harper
, Adam LaRoche quietly enjoyed tremendous success in Washington last season. The 33-year-old veteran posted career highs in home runs with 33, tied a career high of 100 RBI, and achieved an impressive .853 OPS. LaRoche will be hard pressed to repeat those numbers again because of a few factors, first of which being his age. At this point in most hitters' career, we start to see a decline in skills, most notably bat speed. Secondly, in 2012 the California native posted a 17% HR/FB rate, which is well above the average of 14.6% he averaged in his last three healthy seasons. Finally, LaRoche saw 647 plate appearances in 2012, over 30 more than he has seen in any other major league season, and over a 100 more than his season average of 539 since becoming a major league regular in 2005.
After returning from an Achilles injury that happen at the end of 2011 season, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard returned in late 2012 to hit .219/.295/.423 with 14 home runs in 71 games. Howard's numbers were to be expected returning from such an injury, but 2013 doesn't mean he will bounce back to the "2008 Ryan Howard" with a full season of playing time. Howard, 33, struck out close to 34% during all of his plate appearances in 2012. His production simply won't be what it was during his mid-to-late 20's. Even if Howard is healthy in 2013, it's hard to see him hitting 30+ home runs or 100 RBI. For fantasy owners that do/try to acquire Howard in 2013, make sure he's not your everyday first baseman.
Reggie Yinger and Nate Springfield contributed to this article.