2016 in Review: First Base (1B) Busts

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Our review of the 2016 fantasy baseball season continues with a look at some first base bust. While some of these players contributed modest home run totals, they simply couldn't bring enough value to justify their ADP.

 

First Base Busts - 2016

Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers

When Prince Fielder was forced to prematurely end his career, Moreland's responsibilities increased. Unfortunately, his production did not. On the surface, you could point to the fact that Moreland hit just one fewer home run (22) as the previous year in practically the same amount of at-bats. His 4.5% HR% and 20.9 AB/HR could even be considered assets in deeper leagues. That's where the value ends, however. Despite playing for a top contender all season, Moreland drove in 60 runs and finished with a poor .233/.298/.422 line. His 3.37 K/BB rate was also nearly identical to the previous season, so Moreland simply made less contact on his swings.

After an encouraging 2015, Moreland was expected to at least match his .278 average with 23 home runs and 85 RBI. That would have placed him near the top 10 at the first base position. Instead, he reverted to his old form. In fact, it's eerie how similar this season compares to 2013 when Moreland was considered nothing more than a borderline corner infield option. For comparison's sake, here are his 2013 primary stats: .232 AVG, .736 OPS, 23 HR, 60 RBI, 60 R, 117 K, 45 BB in 462 AB. In 2016, he produced much of the same: .233 AVG, .720 OPS, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 49 R, 118 K, 35 BB in 460 AB. If anything, 2015 appears to be outlier season in a mostly mediocre career. It seems increasingly unlikely that the 31 year-old will bounce back or produce more than he did this year. He is still usable in deep leagues for his power, but shouldn't be counted on for much more.

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

On the plus side, Zimmerman played his highest game total in the past three years and logged 467 at-bats. That's where the good news ends, however, as his .218 batting average was by far the lowest of his 12-year career. Zimmerman has battled injuries over the last three seasons, making him a risky pick entering the 2016 season. It may then be more concerning that, despite playing a majority of the year, he performed so poorly.

Although he logged 81 more at-bats than last season, Zimmerman ended up with 27 fewer RBI and one less HR. Moreover, his 22.3% K% was the highest in his career and his 6.2% BB% was the lowest since his rookie year. He is just 32 years old, so it's too early to write Zimmerman off completely. You could point to his .248 BABIP and argue that he is due for regression at least somewhat closer to his .308 career mark. Still, Zimmerman is trending downward and is not worth anything more than a late round pick. He can't be counted on to hold down a starting spot on fantasy rosters.

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that a 36 year-old slugger suddenly declined, but few players have fallen so hard so fast (Bret Boone comes to mind). Remember that in 2015, Tex jacked 31 HR, 79 RBI and made the third All-Star appearance of his career. His power was invisible from the start, as he notched just three homers in April and May combined and only two more in June. In 2015, his 12.6 AB/HR rate was the best of his career, ahead of his typical 17.0 AB/HR mark. That number fell all the way to 25.8 AB/HR in 2016. The main problem is that his HR/FB% fell to 10.6%, rendering a once elite power hitter useless.

Tex likely wasn't expected to be a starting first baseman in most fantasy leagues, but he was universally drafted as a CI or Util player as a reliable power source. While 15 HR and 44 RBI in 387 at-bats are nothing to sneeze at, his lowly averages were an albatross around the collective neck of fantasy teams. He ended the season with a triple slash line of .204/.292/.362, all career worsts if you exclude the 2013 season in which he only made 63 plate appearances. His abrupt retirement was in the best interest of the rebuilding Yankees and Teixeira personally, but it's never a good feeling to see a player you drafted call it quits mid-season.

This serves as a reminder that selecting an aging star is often a double-edged sword. If you chose to ignore a player like Teixeira in 2015, you passed up a great late-round value who still appeared to have plenty left in the tank. If you took a chance on that same player in 2016, you were able to squeeze two good months of power out of him while taking a serious hit to other categories before ultimately having to drop him. Fantasy owners won't need to make any decisions about Tex now that he's out of the picture, but when considering a veteran like Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday in next year's draft, be careful about overpaying for past success.