Five 1B Deep Sleepers for 2014
Analyzing first base is one fantasy proposition, but predicting the 2014 season’s breakouts is an entirely different ball game (pun intended). Generally, when we think of the position’s elite options, we think of the slow contributor with no SB who provides a hefty percentage of your team’s HR and RBI production.
The Goldschmidts, Cush Davises and E5s of the world carried millions of fantasy teams last season—point being, it doesn’t take a Miguel Cabrera, the modern day Babe Ruth, to win a fantasy championship. Despite the richness of 1B in talents, not just any top-ranked player is going to set you apart from your competitors. Listen, don’t get confused. Drafting one of the game’s elite 1B in the first or second round is still a wise decision, but it’s that guy you get in round 15+ plus that ultimately will decide whether you're for real or not.
The goal here, for us RotoBallers, is to find that “diamond in the rough,”that next player who can make or break your season. Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis broke out last season (2013), while Edwin Encarnacion did so in 2012. But the question now becomes: which players will follow these three studs’ footsteps and make their way to fantasy glory? Well, draft season is upon us and the first base crystal ball has been activated! Fasten your seat belts, tighten your sails and string your mitts. RotoBaller now gives you the top five deep first base sleepers for 2014 fantasy baseball.
*Note: Players are raked in order of highest upside/breakout potential. This is not necessarily consistent with on our official rankings board; rather, it is used to show which players have the highest ceiling/reward.
1) Maikel Franco
Age: 21, Team: Philadelphia Phillies , ESPN Stat Projections (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG): 6, 2, 7, 0, .283
The Phillies’ most prized possession has quickly become an elite minor league performer and is rising up prospect boards by the second. Not that it matters much, right now—simply because first base is currently occupied by Ryan Howard and third base is occupied by Cody Asche. These are two positions that have the most potential to allow Franco to find consistent playing time upon his initial call-up to the majors.
He’s been labeled a 3B in the minors, but a transition to 1B remains a possibility. Franco’s 2013 minor league numbers in a combined 134 games between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading are nothing short of astounding. In 541 AB, the phenom produced 30 HR and 103 RBI, all while sporting a cool .320 BA. Not many “great players” have torn up the minors the way that Franco has. You know what’s even scarier? Most professional scouts believe the young corner infielder is one of the most major-league-ready prospects on the market.
Sure, his fielding and baserunning abilities lack adequacy, but his offensive skill set is well polished, making his fantasy upside extremely appealing. A mid-to-late June callup seems probable, and because of this, it would be wise for standard league owners to draft and stash. Keeper and dynasty league owners, especially, need to place their marks on the tracks with Franco, before it becomes too late.
Age: 26, Team: Minnesota Twins, ESPN Stat Projections (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG): 36, 9, 35, 1, .232
What’s on the menu? It looks like it’s tasty, but it ain’t Chicken Parm--it’s “Parm,” wait for it…”elee.” That’s right. I'll bet most fantasy owners have never even heard of this guy. He started out as a top prospect within the Twins organization, but has recently turned into a post-hype afterthought.
In his brief MLB career, Parmelee has averaged 15.12 home runs per 500 AB. That number might not sound too appealing, but it’s all the more impressive since it has come with a putrid .246 BA. Sure, his playing time is only a small sample size, but his numbers have been on the uptick in each of his first three seasons.
Justin Morneau is out of town and there’s no reason to believe that C-Parm can’t become a big-time fantasy contributor with a legitimate amount of AB. If his career HR/AB ratios are any indication and spite fluke, then 15-20 HR could be his basement, in a productive role.
Age: 27, Team: Milwaukee Brewers, ESPN Stat Projections (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG): 42, 21, 57, 1, .240
Stuck in the middle of two organizations (the Braves and Brewers), Francisco showed flashes of his enormous power potential. A stocky build (or should it be called a “Panda-esque” physique?), combined with one of the league’s most violent-looking swings, paves the way for his possessing “light-tower power.”
Most of his long balls are moon shots, and inevitably make fans reminisce of the infamous career of Barry Bonds. The biggest Achilles heel found in Francisco's repertoire is his poor BA vs. lefties, leaving good split stats to be desired. His career splits display a huge disparity, as they sit at .179 vs. LHP and .252 vs. RHP. Let’s not forget, however, that it took Chris Davis quite a while to figure out lefties himself.
One major factor the Brewers 1B has working in his favor is that he has plenty of playing opportunity. Prince Fielder is already three years removed from Milwaukee, and the team has failed to fill the void at 1B with a high-end prospect.
Age: 26, Team: Seattle Mariners, ESPN Stat Projections (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG): 52, 16, 60, 1, .257
The former Miami Marlin also known as “LoMo” has finally found a new home. After posting a brilliant 2011 campaign during which he hit 23 home runs, Morrison followed it up with two consecutive injury-plagued seasons, each one totaling fewer than 300 AB.
In 2014, the new acquisition is to serve as the team’s primary right fielder or DH. Fellow teammates Kendrys Morales and Corey Hart will act as his main competitors for playing time. In case a platoon situation arises among the three of them, neither of the other two players possesses the pure upside that you can find in Morrison.
His wobbly knees have unfortunately been his main roadblock to him finding a full season’s workload. Not surprisingly, these body parts will ultimately determine how valuable his 2014 fantasy stock is. Yes, he is certainly an injury risk; and yes, he’s failed to live up to his once-lofty expectations. But hey, as is often said in the world of sports, as soon as the spotlight is removed, some players truly shine and find their purpose. The Mariners have welcomed Morrison with open arms in what is an improved offensive unit, anchored by MLB’s premier second baseman, Robinson Cano.
5) Kyle Blanks
Age: 27, Team: San Diego Padres, ESPN Stat Projections (R, HR, RBI, SB, AVG): 35, 9, 36, 1, .227
It’s already Blanks’s sixth season in the league (all with the Padres), but it wasn’t until 2013 that he recorded over 250 AB. He did manage to hit for his highest BA since his rookie campaign (.243), but he underwhelmed in the power department, as he hit a HR in only 2.86% of his AB.
By most scouts’ accounts, Blanks’s wide and lengthy frame have long been associated to a high level of power potential—but in fact, the more one studies his player profile, the more one realizes Blanks is simply more of a doubles hitter.
If the Padres 1B can sustain his health and earn a full-time starting right field gig, it will be interesting to see what he is capable of-- especially since his home stadium’s (Petco Park) fences have been graciously moved in. If you happen to stumble on Blanks with a late-round draft pick, then you’ve rewarded yourself with a top sleeper at the first base position.