2012 First Base Tiers: May

With the calendar now flipped over to May, it’s time to update our position rankings. Here are our first base preseason tiers and consensus rankings. Due to popular demand, I’m leaving the catchers — Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey — out of the first base tiers from here on out. We all know they’re far, far more valuable behind the plate both in real life and in fantasy. Remember, these rankings are geared more towards what players are expected to do from here on out, not necessarily what they did during the first month of the season.

Tier One
Miguel Cabrera
Joey Votto
Prince Fielder
Adrian Gonzalez
Albert Pujols

So, how worried are you about Pujols? The ZiPS rest-of-season projection still loves him (.291/.376/.532) and I’m sure he’ll still whack 20-something homers the rest of the way, but is he still a lock for .300/30/100? I find that hard to believe at the moment. I’m not going to drop him out of the top tier after one bad month, but consider him officially on notice.

Meanwhile, did you know that Gonzalez has hit just 13 homers in his last 478 plate appearances dating back to last season? What’s up with that?

Tier Two
Paul Konerko
Billy Butler
Eric Hosmer
Lance Berkman
Mark Teixeira

I’m a believer in Butler and I think that at 26 years old, he’s starting to find his power stroke as he enters his peak years. Konerko and Sandoval have both been mashing all season and while Hosmer hasn’t, I’m pretty confident he’ll turn it around. I can’t say the same for Teixeira, who looks completely lost at the plate and showed signs of slowing down last season. I’m sure he’ll still finish the year with some strong counting stats, however.

Berkman hasn’t played much this year due to injury, but he took batting practice with the team yesterday and could return to the lineup relatively soon.

Tier Three
Edwin Encarnacion
Nick Swisher
Adam Dunn
Freddie Freeman
Howie Kendrick
Michael Young
Ike Davis

The funny thing about EE is that he could always hit, but he often battled sporadic playing time because his defense is so terrible. Since bottoming out at .250/.287/.364 late last June, Encarnacion has hit .294/.365/.551 with 24 homers in 440 plate appearances. He’s right in the prime of his career at age 29, so believe people. The bat’s legit.

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, Dunn has reverted back to the guy he was from 2004-2010. He’ll kill your team batting average, but hooray for counting stats. Swisher is a) currently shelved with a non-DL hamstring injury, and b) a very underrated fantasy asset in my opinion. I’m an Ike Davis fan, but … oh boy. He needs to pick it up soon if he wants to avoid a precipitous drop in the rankings.

Tier Four
Carlos Pena
Luke Scott
Brian LaHair
Michael Cuddyer
Paul Goldschmidt
Adam LaRoche
Kevin Youkilis
Mark Trumbo
Lucas Duda
Gaby Sanchez
Mark Reynolds

LaHair is off to a scorching start but his numbers will come back to Earth a bit once his .545 (!) BABIP returns to normal. That said, the man can definitely hit. Trumbo’s playing time is a bit of an issue and I’m not entire sure when (or if) it will get sorted. It’s probably going to take an injury or a trade at this point. Reynolds can’t really be this bad, can he? That power has to show up at some point.

Tier Five
Kendrys Morales
Chris Davis
Todd Helton
Brandon Belt
Adam Lind
Daniel Murphy
Carlos Lee
Garrett Jones
Justin Morneau
Yonder Alonso
Mitch Moreland

Morales (ankle) and Morneau (concussion) have been solid in their returns from injury, but nothing more at this point. I have much more faith in the former getting on a roll and returning to his previous levels of performance, however. Belt has been freed, at least temporarily. It sounds like Aubrey Huff will be returning to the lineup relatively soon following his anxiety-related DL stint, and that’s sure to take a bite out of the youngster’s playing time.

Tier Six
James Loney
Justin Smoak
Matt Carpenter
Shelley Duncan
Kila Ka’aihue
Brett Pill
Ty Wigginton
John Mayberry Jr.
Casey Kotchman
Mike Carp
Chris Parmelee
Casey McGehee
Daric Barton
Aubrey Huff
Jesus Guzman
Juan Rivera
Brandon Allen

In our spectrum of adequacy, these guys range anywhere from regrettable to participatory.

Off The Radar
Pablo Sandoval
Mike Morse
Ryan Howard
Mat Gamel
Victor Martinez
Anthony Rizzo
Brett Wallace
Matt LaPorta

Sandoval (broken hamate, no timetable yet), Morse (June), Howard (late-May/early-June), Gamel (likely out for season), and V-Mart (likely out for season) are all down with injuries of various degrees. When healthy, Morse is a Tier Two guy while Howard is more Tier Three material. Rizzo is again tearing up Triple-A and he might be stuck down there for a while given how LaHair is hitting. Probably isn’t the worst thing for his development either.

We hoped you liked reading 2012 First Base Tiers: May by Mike Axisa!

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

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Re, Gonzalez not hitting many homers…

How about you tell me “what’s up with that?”. That’s why I come here.

If over that amount of plate appearances he’s hitting that few home runs, that’s worthy of a serious discussion.

Mario Mendoza of commenters
Mario Mendoza of commenters

He’s been pretty bad this season but no one’s saying anything, presumably because he’s one who’s earned some slack.

So I looked into it for myself last night. The one big difference that jumped at me was he’s swinging much more overall (career highs in- and out- of the zone) while somehow maintaining his normal BB%. That’s as far as I can take it without looking at heatmaps.

Mario Mendoza of commenters
Mario Mendoza of commenters

…while somehow maintaining his normal BB%, K%, and BABIP