I am excited to bring you the first part of my two day series examining first basemen that I think fantasy baseball analysts and experts are ranking either too high or too low.
Today, we’ll discuss three guys at the position that I think are overrated and should not be drafted as high as they are projected to go.
2014 Rankings Analysis - First Base (1B)
Most experts have Davis slotted in as the #2 first baseman this year behind Paul Goldschmidt. Sorry, Orioles fans, I’m just not buying the hype.
Davis had a phenomenal, breakout 2013 season, no question about it. But if you had Davis on your team last year and sold high on him, say on July 1st, you would have been extremely pleased with yourself, and likely would have hauled some nice players in return. Let’s look at Davis’ 1st half vs. his 2nd half of the 2013 season.
1st Half: .315 BA, 37 HR, 93 RBI
2nd Half: .245 BA, 16 HR, 45 RBI
Davis is the perfect regression candidate for 2014. Pitchers figured him out the second half of 2013, and he struggled mightily to adjust. His strikeout rate increased and his insanely high BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) for the first half of the year came back down to earth and evened out, meaning he probably wasn't putting as many quality hits in play.
Of course Davis is an high-end first baseman for any fantasy team. And he could hit a ton of bombs (probably not 50 again) while hitting .280. But it’s far from guaranteed, and he is going as a top 10 pick. For me, that’s simply too high for not-a-sure thing. I would rather have Paul Goldschmidt, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, and maybe even Freddie Freeman as my first baseman before I picked up Davis. While many would disagree with some of those players being taken ahead of Davis, what you can't disagree with is they are certainly priced more reasonably than Davis is. Take Davis in the top 10 at your own risk, but don’t be shocked if he doesn’t give you top-10 numbers again.
There are many things to like about Hosmer, including his age (he’s only 24). He's kind of like a poor man's Freddie Freeman. He had a very nice all-around 2013 season and one would logically think that his numbers will only get better as he develops into his prime.
However, there’s something about Hosmer that irks me. Perhaps it’s because he’s on the Royals (obviously not his fault). Or maybe it’s because he’s been elevated to just below elite-level status by many fantasy experts, after only one pretty good season (again, not his fault).
This is the thing with Hosmer: He’s going to be a bad value pick in drafts. Here's what I mean. He is one of the first or second guys of the “second tier” group of first basemen. Given where you will have to pick Hosmer in your draft, I would much rather wait a few rounds and get a guy who will give me very similar production, with maybe a little lower batting average. For instance, give me someone like Mark Teixeira or Justin Morneau (assuming health) in the 12th round instead of Hosmer in the 5th/6th. Those guys could easily hit 30 HRs and hit around .260, which would be perfectly fine with me. Hosmer, quite simply, does not hit enough fly balls to hit more than 25 HR. His ceiling is 25 HR, compared to other guys who could easily surpass 30.
There’s also not a ton of positions this year that are going to give you guaranteed power. I would recommend trying to get a power guy at your first base spot, and while Hosmer may hit 20 HRs and hit around .300, he’s probably not going to give you the same power numbers as other first baseman, including some that are ranked much lower at the position. I'd rank Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols higher.
I’ve been hearing for the past three seasons how Brandon Belt is going to be the next big thing.
I’m still waiting.
He had a decent 2013, hitting .289 with 17 HRs. But the Giants lineup never produces a ton of runs and he will always be struggling for plentiful RBI opportunities, especially playing in the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park. Belt is simply not going to be the 30 HR-per-year slugger many thought he would be when he first came into the league. I believe his ranking by experts of just outside the top 12 is more wishful thinking than anything else.
The fact is Belt's a solid hitter, but his 2013 strikeout rate (21.9%) was significantly higher than his walk rate (9.1%) and his OBP (.360) should be better too. His strikeout rate would be fine if he hit 30+ HRs a year, but he doesn’t.
For fantasy purposes, there are many other options around Belt’s rank that can get you a decent batting average and produce greater power numbers. I'd rank Brandon Moss and Jose Abreu higher than Belt, and both can be had later in the draft.
Come back tomorrow for the three first basemen who I think are ranked too low and the guys you can potentially get at a discount come draft day!