The first base position is starting to stretch a little thin, but we still have a couple of interesting young hitters and a pair of veterans that may or may not have something left in the tank in Tier Four. A few of these guys have multi-position eligibility as well, and that’s always a plus. Zach Sanders’ end of season player values were included for reference, but they vary pretty wildly this deep into the rankings. Trust me, they weren’t the only criteria used here.
Billy Butler – N/A
Looking back on the rankings, I was probably a little too harsh on Butler for his continued lack of power, at least lack of power relative to position. His did increase his homer output from 15 to 19 and his ISO from .151 to .169 this past season, but those totals ranked 17th and 18th, respectively, among the 25 qualified first baseman. The good news is that Butler continues to hit for a solid average (.291 in 2011) even though he dipped under the .300 plateau for the first time since his rookie season, and he draws enough walks (9.8% in 2011, 8.8% career) to remain useful in OBP leagues. Butler needs to start hitting the ball in the air more often than he has if we want the power totals to increase and he wants his ungodly GIDP totals to come down. He’s still only 25 though (26 in April), so there’s a lot of room for growth here.
Mitch Moreland – $1
Handed the first base job after his strong rookie half-season, Moreland started off very well in 2011 (.302/.378/.547 with five homers in the team’s first 37 games) before crashing big time the rest of the way (.246/.302/.374 with eleven homers in their final 125 games). His strong walk rate in 2010 (14.5%) got cut in half this past year (7.6%), and a number of line drives turned into regular old fly balls. Moreland’s name has popped up in trade rumors this winter, and a move out of The Ballpark In Arlington would certainly hurt his fantasy forecast. The guy we saw down the stretch in 2010 is a valuable late round first baseman, but the Moreland we saw for most of 2011 is unrosterable. A 26-year-old with a strong track record in the minors gets the benefit of the doubt.
Carlos Lee – $10
The signs were ominous twelve months ago. Lee, then 34, had seen his four-year stretch of .300/25/100 come to an end by hitting .246 with 24 homers and 89 RBI in 2010, but more importantly his line drive rate dropped off the table as he hit more grounders and fly balls. That caused his BABIP to crater (.238) and both his ISO (.180) and HR/FB% to decline (9.5%) for the second straight year. It looked like the beginning of the end for Lee, but he rebounded in 2011. The line drives came back and the hits fell in, but the loss of power is very real. Lee’s ISO was unchanged (.171) but his HR/FB% dropped for a third straight year (7.7%), leading to his lowest homer total (18) since his rookie year in 1999. There’s a chance Lee is hiding a big contract year in that 35-year-old body, but I wouldn’t count on anything more than .270/15/80 at this point, which is made slightly more valuable thanks to 1B and OF eligibility.
Adam Lind – $7
That breakout .394 wOBA in 2009 seems like so long ago now. Lind has posted two straight sub-.300 OBP seasons since then, with his only redeeming fantasy quality being his 20+ homerun power. He doesn’t steal bases, hasn’t hit for much average the last two years (.243), and because Jose Bautista is hitting all those bombs in front of him, his RBI totals have been nothing more than solid. He’s also likely to lose OF eligibility this coming season as well. Lind is still young (28) and a pretty decent hitter, but he has to stop swinging at stuff out of the zone if he wants to get back to where he was a few years ago. Easier said than done, I know.
Adam Dunn – -$16 (negative, obviously)
It’s almost unfathomable to think about what happened to Dunn in 2011. He was the worst player in baseball at -2.9 WAR, providing negative value both on offense and defense and seeing his streak of 38+ homers and 21+% HR/FB end at seven seasons (eleven and 9.6%, respectively). Dunn still drew a ton of walks (15.1%) and struck out a bunch (35.7%), and there was no substantial change to his batted ball profile. For whatever reason, he just cratered. Perhaps it was moving to the AL (he did seem more fastballs than ever before), the pressure of the big contract, playing of Ozzie Guillen, who knows. Your guess is as good as mine. At 32 years old, leaving his prime years but theoretically not over the hill, I feel like that ~40 homer pop is still in there and Dunn has another big year or two left in him.