A breakdown of the top 15 fantasy first basemen in heading into the 2015 MLB season.
15. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
15. Joey Votto
Votto landed on the disabled list twice last season with a strained left distal quadriceps – an injury near the same knee he had surgically repaired twice in 2012. Votto played in just 62 games in 2014, so it’s a small sample size, but he hit just .255, the first time he’d hit below .300 since 2008, when he hit .297. He continues to have a good eye, with a .390 OBP last season. At 31, it’s hard to say what his power numbers will be like, but as long as he keeps getting on base the way he does, Votto will have value.
14. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
14. Chris Davis
After his MVP-caliber 2013, Davis saw significant drop-offs last season. He dropped below the Mendoza Line for the season with a .196 average, 90 points lower than his 2013 average. He also hit 26 home runs, which is solid, but nowhere near his 53 from the previous year. Davis also had a 33-percent strikeout rate last season and has struck out at least 169 times in each of the past three seasons. The power hasn’t completely gone away, but it’s his only saving grace. Davis added third-base eligibility, a small bonus, after he played 21 games there last season.
13. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
13. Carlos Santana
Santana has lost catcher eligibility in some leagues after playing just 11 games behind the plate in 2014. He logged most of his games at first base (94), but he’s also added third-base eligibility to his repertoire after playing 26 games at the hot corner last season. Santana’s batting average took a dip again, to .231 from .268 in 2013, but he made up for it with an MLB-high 113 walks, good for a .365 OBP. Santana, 28, also matched his career-high in home runs with 27 last season, and his best power days are only ahead of him with the wear and tear of catching all but over.
12. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
12. Todd Frazier
You might not have gotten a glimpse of it in his lousy final round of the Home Run Derby last year, but Frazier has become one of the best power bats in the game. He reached career highs in four of the five major fantasy categories: home runs (29), RBIs (80), runs (88) and stolen bases (20) last season. The speed was something new from Frazier, who had swiped just six bags the previous year, but if he can keep getting on base at a decent clip, that could stick around. Though Frazier is primarily a third baseman, he gained first-base eligibility after logging 43 games there last season.
11. Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
11. Prince Fielder
Fielder was shut down in May last season to undergo surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. It was the first time in his career he played in fewer than 157 games. His 42-game sample size from his first season in Texas isn’t enough to pull from, but he hit at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs the three seasons before. Even rebounding from an injury, he should be able to get back to those numbers.
10. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
10. Albert Pujols
After he was forced to end his 2013 season early with a nagging foot injury, Pujols played 159 games last season. The days of 40-homer seasons are gone for the 35-year-old. No matter how you slice it, Pujols’ 28 home runs and 105 RBIs were strong, and there’s no reason not to expect those types of numbers again. Pujols has hit fewer than 28 home runs once (in 2013 when he played just 99 games) and fewer than 100 RBIs twice (in 2013 and in 2011 when he was just one short).
9. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
9. Adrian Gonzalez
For the seventh time in his career, Gonzalez reached the 100-RBI mark with a league-high 116 in 2014. He also hit 27 home runs and scored 83 runs, both his best since 2011. At 32, he’s not going to be a 30-homer hitter like he was earlier in his career, but his ability to drive in runs isn’t going anywhere in a strong Dodgers lineup.
8. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
8. Victor Martinez
Martinez’s knee injury has been one of the biggest discussions of the offseason. In February, he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the same knee he tore his ACL in in 2012. Martinez, 36, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He finished second in AL MVP voting to Mike Trout after hitting .335 with an AL-leading .409 OBP and career-high 32 home runs. His age and injuries are clearly a factor, but Martinez can flourish in the middle of a potent Tigers lineup that added Yoenis Cespedes.
7. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
7. Freddie Freeman
Freeman was one of just two players to play in all 162 games last season (the other was San Francisco’s Hunter Pence). Despite the additional games played, Freeman dropped off in four of the five major fantasy statistical categories, with just a slight bump in runs. Even still, Freeman hit .288/.386/.461 with 18 home runs, 78 RBIs and 93 runs, which is nothing to scoff at. He’s 25 and has four strong major-league seasons under his belt.
6. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
6. Buster Posey
Posey continues to see more action at first base, with 35 games there in 2014, but he’ll get most of his time behind the plate. Posey isn’t just one of the best offensive catchers in the league, he’s one of the best hitters in the league, period. He earned his second Silver Slugger award in 2014 after hitting .311/.364/.490 with 22 home runs, 89 RBI and 72 runs. Posey’s low strikeout rate (69 Ks in 605 plate appearances in 2014) is also a strength. With his added first-base eligibility, the Giants have been able to keep him on the field consistently. He’s played in at least 147 games each of the past three seasons.
5. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
5. Anthony Rizzo
The biggest issue for the lefthanded Rizzo in 2013 was his inability to hit lefties. He hit just .233 overall after going .189 against southpaws in 2013. Rizzo completely turned things around and hit .300 against lefties – 19 points better than his average against righties – to boost his overall average to .286. In addition to correcting his biggest weakness, Rizzo improved on some of his strengths in 2014. He reached career-highs in home runs (32) and runs (89), and has the potential for a 30-100-100 season in the middle of a youthful lineup.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
4. Edwin Encarnacion
Encarnacion continues to prove his breakout 2012 season at age 29 wasn’t a fluke. Last season he hit 30-plus home runs for the third straight year, and he needed just 128 games to do it. Injuries are cause for concern with Encarnacion, who’s had DL stints each of the past two seasons. He’s been battling back soreness toward the end of spring training but is expected to be ready to go Opening Day. If he’s healthy, Encarnacion has the potential to put up a 30-100-100 season in a loaded Blue Jays lineup.
3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
3. Miguel Cabrera
It was only a matter of time, but Cabrera finally started to show some signs of regression in 2014 after winning back-to-back AL MVP awards. For anyone else, a .313/.371/.524, 25 HR, 109 RBI, 101-run season would be phenomenal, which just goes to show how good Cabrera has been. The drop in homers is the biggest slip after he hit 44 in 2012 and 2013, but he made up for it with an AL-leading 52 doubles. Cabrera, 31, missed most of spring training while rehabbing an ankle injury, so that’s something to monitor. But barring a major setback, he should be his usual, dependable self.
2. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
2. Jose Abreu
The reigning Rookie of the Year led the AL with a .581 slugging percentage and led all first basemen with 36 home runs. Abreu got off to a hot start with 29 home runs in the first half but managed just seven after the All-Star break. Despite an ankle injury in May, he hit .317 with 107 RBIs and 80 runs, making him one of the best first baseman in the game.
1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
1. Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt is in a league of his own among first baseman, providing a rare blend of power and base-stealing ability. Despite missing the final two months of the 2014 season with a broken hand, Goldschmidt hit .300/.396/.542 with 19 home runs and nine stolen bases in 109 games. If he can stay healthy, Goldschmidt, 27, could hover closer to his MVP-caliber 2013 numbers: 36 HRs, 125 RBIs, 103 runs, 15 SBs.