Fallers at First Base

On Thursday, we rolled out our First Base rankings and while it’s commonly referred to as a deep position, the bottom isn’t necessarily never ending. There are some gentlemen on the list that you might want to dodge on draft day, unless of course the price is just too good. With that in mind, here are your preseason First Base Fallers:

Billy Butler

Butler headlines this list primarily due to unmet expectations. Butler was being drafted in the 75-79 range in 2010 as he was a rising star but after disappointing in his power and run producing output, his ADP going into 2011 appears to be in the 85-92 range (unless you’re Yahoo! and his ADP is inexplicably 66). Many managers have lost a little patience with him despite his contributions in the batting average category. He’s certainly not a dud, as the kid only turns 25 in April and he’s actually got a solid resume to date plus the history of a pretty fantastic hitter in the minor leagues.

However, Butler’s ISO dipped from .191 to .151 between 2009 and 2010 and his HR/FB rate regressed from a promising 11.9% to 8.4% in the same time frame. Looking at his BABiP on hit trajectory, it wasn’t as if he was getting a raw deal on his fly balls either as he was outperforming both his career average as well as the AL-average on fly balls (click for clarity).

Kauffman stadium is one of the least friendliest parks in the league to hit home runs in from either side of the dish, so he’s not getting any home field advantage either.

His ability to square up a ball really isn’t debatable as he’s hit for high average and been among league leaders in doubles for two years straight but he may never develop much beyond high-teens or low 20’s in the HR department.  Projections from Bill James and Marcel seem to agree with a combined average of .305, 17 HR, and 82 RBI, but the Fans appear to predict a career year for Butler, anticipating a .310/21/106 output.

Paul Konerko

Konerko finds his name here not necessarily because he is falling, but rather because he should be.  His average ADP across Yahoo, ESPN, and Mock Draft Central is 83 which I would say is rather high. I think it’s pretty apparent that Konerko had an offensive outburst in 2010 that was not predicted by most prognosticators and whether or not he did it as a result of the contract year phenomena, it’s just highly unlikely that he can produce at the same level again. A graph, just for due diligence:

His BABiP, ISO, and wOBA all peaked in 2010 relative to the last three years and his career average.  That’s probably not going to last, and you would have to anticipate at least a fall back to career levels, but that might even be too optimistic for a player turning 35 in a month.

His HR/FB ought to fall into his career range of 16.8% and as long as he maintains his 45% fly ball rate, he’ll hit his share of home runs as U.S. Cellular is one of the happiest places on earth to hit home runs from either side of the plate, but especially as a righty. The Fans say .275/27/98 (BA/HR/RBI) which is probably a tad rosy but certainly not an unfair expectation. But as 1B go on your rankings, he’s not going to reproduce his 2010 numbers, which unfortunately puts him on the “Fallers” list.

Aubrey Huff

I’m not going to dissect Huff’s career here, because I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t too many people that expect him to be as good offensively in 2011 as he was in 20010. But I’m also not of the opinion that he’s just going to turn into a pumpkin, although it wouldn’t completely shock me. The difficulty with Huff is his massive fluctuations in offensive performance. He seems to vacillate from All-Star to insignificant almost randomly.

He was an integral part of the whole World Series Cinderella-narrative and I can see him being a solid bat for the Giants in 2011, but his fantasy contributions are likely going to be limited to a decent number of RBI and perhaps 20 HR’s. Expecting more than a .270 batting average, 20 home runs, and 80 RBI is probably too optimistic, and coming off of the excitement of 2010, he’s going awfully early with an average ADP in the 120 range (109 at MDC). If you missed out on the big name first basemen, you can probably get similar production much further down in the draft (see Berkman, Lance or Davis, Ike).

We hoped you liked reading Fallers at First Base by Michael Barr!

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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Great thoughts on 1b! At least one of those three guys will fall 2-5 rounds vs their adp in every draft, and I for one am going to try and avoid Butler and konerko.