The Heat Index: First Baseman Rankings
My sincerest apologies for not writing an article last week. Life happened and I wasn’t able to write. This week’s column should be something fun and surprising! Feel free to utilize this in your fantasy leagues as well as showing off your knowledge to friends or enemies.
First base is a position that most look to as a power hitting position. First basemen normally hit in the middle of the order and are some of the better RBI machines. I am going to show my SABR side and get a bit nerdy this week. The following rankings will be based on Runs Created (RC), a Sabermetrics stat invented by Bill James. RC is figured using the following formula: OBP x SLG x AB divided by AB + BB. The formula can get a lot more technical than that so if you want to know the exacts … look it up. RC is a great way to show how much a player is contributing to the team’s run total. With only a few weeks of baseball left, I will try to show rankings for every position before the season ends. Let’s dive in.
1. Casey Kotchman – Rays
Kotchman has been absolutely on fire for the last week. He is hitting .481 and has 9.7 RC in the last seven days. He is only owned in 19.8% of ESPN fantasy leagues and ranks number 17 in points this year. His power is finally starting to rear its ugly head and is a great addition to the .338 BA that ranks him second in the AL. If you need help at first base, pick him up.
2. Prince Fielder – Brewers
It’s no surprise to see Fielder on this list with the monster year he is having. In the past seven days, he has created 7.3 runs with a .429 batting average and has shown no signs of letting up. The Brewers are counting on Fielder to continue producing as they push to win the pennant. Fielder ranks in the top 10 in every batting category and should continue to rake. This year, when he becomes a free agent, the money he will be asking for will be ridiculous; but someone will pay it. My prediction is he will sign a huge deal with either the Dodgers, Orioles or Mets. The long-shot would be him signing with the Yankees as a DH.
3. Michael Morse – Nationals
Talk about breakout year!?! Morse changed a few things in his swing and is seeing the ball very well, which has allowed him to create 7.0 runs over the last week. During that time, he is hitting .423 with two home runs and eight RBIs. He has been a pleasant surprise to an up and coming Nationals team. He doesn’t look like he plans on slowing down any time soon and may become a fixture at first base for the Nats next year.
4. Carlos Pena – Cubs
It shocked me to write Pena’s name just now. Earlier in the season, he couldn’t hit a beach ball thrown by A.J. Burnett if he wanted to. Batting average is still a concern for Pena, but he has been able to create 6.9 runs over the last seven days and seems to be more patient at the plate (2BB/K). The change of scenery may not have done Pena very much good, and it looks like he may be traded sometime in the winter. He is owned in 81.2% of ESPN fantasy leagues, but most people are probably not starting him. Pick him up or even buy low if someone in your league has him on their bench.
5. Aubrey Huff – Giants
The battle for the NL West pennant really began heating up in the last week. The Giants lead the Diamondbacks by one game, and anything could happen in this unstable division. The Giants need Huff to perform because they cannot yet count on Brandon Belt for the production they need from first base. Huff has created 5.7 runs in the last week with a batting average of .409. The pop seems to have disappeared from his bat, but he is getting on base a lot and contributing. Huff is owned in 48.6% of ESPN fantasy leagues and is at least worth a bench spot.
Bonus: Jesus Guzman looks like he is feeling very comfortable at first base for the Padres of late. He has created 5.2 runs this last week and has a stronghold on the first-base position until at least September when rosters expand. He is owned in 92.8% of ESPN fantasy leagues and is a must-add if you can get him.
1. Adrian Gonzalez- Red Sox
Gonzalez has really started to cool off over the last week. His batting average was a respectable .286, but he only drove in two runs over that time. Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be stealing his thunder a bit. Gonzalez is a must-start every day of the week, but it might be time for the Red Sox to give him a day off to rest a bit before the playoffs. He has 3.5 RC in the last seven days and is hitting a ton of ground balls for outs. I fully expect him to get hot again very soon (especially at Fenway).
2. Ryan Howard – Phillies
Howard has great pop (25 HR, 91 RBIs), but his batting average has really suffered lately. He has 2.6 RC in the last seven days and hit .200 over that span. Howard is a must-start in all fantasy formats, but he has really cooled off recently. He might be slipping out his prime right in front of our eyes.
3. Eric Hosmer – Royals
Growing pains. That is what the Royals have described Hosmer’s lack of production as. I actually think his production has been very good for a rookie, up until this week. His .217 average is terrible, but he did have five walks in that time frame. Hosmer was only able to create 2.2 runs even with the five walks. He needs to start making better contact unless he wants to end up playing for Billy Beane and the A’s some day. He is owned in 94.2% of ESPN leagues and is one of the better keeper options this year. Hosmer will probably continue to regress the rest of this season and there are better options at first base over the last month and a half.
4. James Loney – Dodgers
Loney turned 27-years old this year and should be entering his prime, right? It seems the opposite has happened. Loney has been sitting vs. left-handers and hasn’t really done very much vs. right-handers either. In the last week he had 1.5 RC with a .250 batting average. Juan Rivera has easily sharked most of the playing time since arriving and Loney may be playing for another team next year.
5. Mark Teixeira – Yankees
Infield shifts have been holding Teixeira to a .125 batting average over the last seven days. Also someone must have told him that the plate is now high and outside because he has been striking out on that pitch very consistently. His power numbers are great (32 HR, 86 RBIs), but the home runs are not coming as consistently anymore. Maybe the hot start he had to this year is starting to take its toll. Luckily the Yankees have eight other hitters that can carry his weight into the playoffs.
Bonus: Freddie Freeman has been declining in recent days with a couple injuries hampering his playing time. He will be a fantasy stud for many years to come, so buy low on him now if you can. Trade an aging first baseman (Paul Konerko, Todd Helton), and possibly a couple other decent players to get him if you have to.