Post Break Preview: 1B

Jose Abreu is #1 on the Player Rate at the break and a top tier option going forward
Jose Abreu is #1 on the Player Rate rat the break and a top-tier option going forward

Entering 2014 first base was a position that had a myriad of question marks. However, as we enter the season’s second half, some of those questions have been answered. It calls to mind one of my Dad’s favorite movies, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” For the good, Paul Goldschmidt has not disappointed as one of the top fantasy options not only at first, but overall. Even with some injury concerns Edwin Encarnacion has stamped his claim as a top flight fantasy producer with one of the all-time best fantasy months every recorded. Another year has passed and people still doubt what Brandon Moss can do but his return compared to his ADP (131 overall) has provided big time profit. Anthony Rizzo and Jose Abreu are breaking out before our eyes and their ADP’s (100 for Rizzo, 102 for Abreu) will not be in the triple digits next year. The bad can be reflected in the number of injuries that have ravaged the position. Prince Fielder was lost for the season, Joey Votto will be out five more weeks and maybe the rest of the season, Mark Trumbo just returned from another foot injury and the aforementioned Encarnacion is working his way back from the infirmary. Chris Davis has created a chasm for the owners who drafted him in the first round and even a big second half may not save his season. Here is how the position rankings on the ESPN Player Rater stacked up at the break:

1. Jose Abreu
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Edwin Encarnacion
4. Victor Martinez
5. Albert Pujols
6. Miguel Cabrera
7. Anthony Rizzo
8. Brandon Moss
9. Freddie Freeman
10. Justin Morneau
11. Matt Adams
12. Adrian Gonzalez
13. Casey McGehee
14. Adam LaRoche
15. Lucas Duda

Before I take a look at the position’s last statistical year, here are a couple of blind profiles based on what each player has done over the last 365 days from July 13, 2013 to July 13, 2014:

Player A: 143 G, 54 R, 24 HR, 62 RBI, 1 SB 229/349/421
Player B: 145 G, 74 R, 33 HR, 98 RBI, 6 SB 223/325/461

One of the players above was taken as high as the first round in drafts for 2014. Here is one more for fun:

Player C: 129 G, 62 R, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB 265/389/478
Player D: 120 G, 49 R, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 2 SB 241/351/450

I think the first one is pretty clear in regards to Player B (Chris Davis) but a player that is widely avoided in fantasy circles because of the drain he creates on batting average is an interesting comparison, Player A is Adam Dunn. Player C was a world champion last year and gained notoriety for walking around with his shirt off, Mike Napoli. His blind double is the first baseman forNew York; not Teixeira, but Lucas Duda. Using WAR offense as my guide, here are the top 15 first baseman from the past year:

1. Paul Goldschmidt: 163 G, 109 R, 31 HR, 109 RBI, 14 SB 299/402/543
2. Edwin Encarnacion: 141 G, 89 R, 38 HR, 105 RBI, 6 SB 280/380/573
3. Freddie Freeman: 162 G, 104 R, 27 HR, 100 RBI, 1 SB 309/391/511
4. Brandon Moss: 149 G, 78 R, 35 HR, 109 RBI, 3 SB 277/357/558
5. Miguel Cabrera: 147 G, 88 R, 28 HR, 117 RBI 309/383/542
6. Joey Votto: 131 G, 69 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB 270/417/440
7. Mike Napoli: 129 G, 62 R, 22 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB 265/389/478
8. Jose Abreu: 82 G, 49 R, 29 HR, 73 RBI, 1 SB 292/342/630
9. Brandon Belt: 107 G, 56 R, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB 294/357/504
10. Matt Adams: 136 G, 61 R, 21 HR, 67 RBI, 3 SB 306/335/508
11. Adam Lind: 127 G, 61 R, 16 HR, 58 RBI 292/370/483
12. Anthony Rizzo: 163 G, 88 R, 30 HR, 75 RBI, 3 SB 250/353/447
13. Lucas Duda: 120 G, 49 R, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 2 SB 241/351/450
14. Albert Pujols: 102 G, 61 R, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 4 SB 282/327/489
15. Chris Davis: 145 G, 74 R, 33 HR, 98 RBI, 6 SB 223/325/461

There are a couple of surprises here. One is how amazing Jose Abreu’s first half has been that he places eighth on this list with only 82 games played. Another is how underrated Brandon Belt is and if he could ever stay healthy. If that ever happens. it would be a lot easier to guage what his ceiling is. Anthony Rizzo is weighed down by his low batting average last year but he may be a top five first baseman going forward. Another player I am going to rate higher than most is Matt Adams, with the complete collapse of teammate Allen Craig, first base is his moving forward and his power is legit. It is hard to ignore what Chris Davis has done over the last year, I can buy that his power numbers will probably improve in the second half, but that average drain may be here to stay. This also illustrates that WAR is only one measure of a player as solid professionals like Adrian Gonzalez, Eric Hosmer and Justin Morneau missed on this list but all is not lost. Here is how ZiPS sees the top 10 by fantasy category using its ROS stats:

Runs:
1. Paul Goldschmidt 39
2. Freddie Freeman 38
3. Anthony Rizzo 36
4. Edwin Encarnacion 33
5. Eric Hosmer 33
6. Jose Abreu 32
7. Chris Davis 32
8. Albert Pujols 32
9. Adrian Gonzalez 30
10. Brandon Moss 29

Home Runs:
1. Chris Davis 15
2. Edwin Encarnacion 14
3. Jose Abreu 13
4. Paul Goldschmidt 12
5. Anthony Rizzo 12
6. Brandon Moss 12
7. Chris Carter 12
8. Mark Trumbo 11
9. Albert Pujols 11
10. Adam Dunn 11

RBI:
1. Paul Goldschmidt 44
2. Chris Davis 41
3. Freddie Freeman 40
4. Edwin Encarnacion 39
5. Anthony Rizzo 39
6. Adrian Gonzalez 39
7. Albert Pujols 37
8. Brandon Moss 36
9. Mark Trumbo 35
10. Jose Abreu/Justin Morneau 33

Batting Average:
1. Justin Morneau .292
2. Eric Hosmer .289
3. Matt Adams .288
4. Freddie Freeman .288
5. Joe Mauer .285
6. Paul Goldschmidt .283
7. Jose Abreu .279
8. Albert Pujols .277
9. Edwin Encarnacion .277
10. Casey McGehee .275

Need power in the 2H? Adams will be a catalyst going forward
Need power in the 2nd half? Big City may be the place to visit

There are interesting names above with Freddie Freeman who just missed on home runs with 10 projected and is that a Casey McGeee sighting? Joey Votto was on more than one list but with the chance he misses extended time it may be wise to move on from him for this year. Here are my top 20 options for the remainder of the season:

1. Paul Goldschmidt – Diamondbacks – Rock solid and safest 1B for the 2nd half
2. Jose Abreu – White Sox – Crazy to put him ahead of Miggy? Maybe. Even with regression coming he’s real and he’s spectacular
3. Miguel Cabrera – Tigers – Not sure if there is an injury but he got our attention back in the All-Star game with that line drive dinger
4. Edwin Encarnacion – Blue Jays – His presently being on the DL limits his upside but a chance at the AL East title should keep him motivated when he returns
5. Anthony Rizzo – Cubs – I believe. The power is for real and with more support around him he could be elite
6. Freddie Freeman – Braves – Hits in the heart of the order and is insanely consistent
7. Brandon Moss – A’s – Not a household name and may never be but he provides power, is improving against left-handed pitching and is vastly under appreciated
8. Matt Adams – Cardinals – I say at least 10 more home runs in the second half for this Slippery Rock alum
9. Victor Martinez – Tigers – If he is eligible in your format at 1B he has been an absolute steal this year
10. Adrian Gonzalez – Dodgers – Another player who is not beloved by fantasy players but like Freeman is consistent and drives in runs
11. Justin Morneau – Rockies – After leaving Minnesota for a hitter’s haven in Colorado, he has experienced a rebirth
12. Adam LaRoche – Nationals – Usually a second half monster but he has hit well all year. Has been hitting cleanup and loves the 2H, go get him
13. Chris Davis – Orioles – I own zero shares of him this year and I think he can hit the 15 home runs that ZiPS projects, but it will have an effect on your team’s batting average
14. Eric Hosmer – Royals – He has not been worth his price tag thus far but over the last month he has slashed 345/415/488. May be a good buy low
15. Lucas Duda – Mets – Has been atop of Mark Simon of ESPN’s hardest hit ball lists for the last month. We may not have seen the best of him yet
16. Mike Napoli – Red Sox – I have flipped them from the blind numbers above and for good reason, Duda may be better
17. Brandon Belt – Giants – It pains me to put him this low but this may be a jinxed year with a broken thumb and now the concussion. I still believe but he is making it hard
18. Ryan Howard – Phillies – Nothing flashy and I think he is empty home runs, but with all the injuries he still makes the list
19. Mark Teixeira – Yankees – Like Howard, Teix is streaky but the wrist still concerns me. If the Yankees fall out of the race he could be shut down
20. Steve Pearce – Orioles – He has been hitting second for the Orioles, a prime place to bat, and regression screams his name but what is to say he cannot produce for the 2H? Buck has a way of finding these guys

Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!

Statistical credits: Fangraphs.com, Baseball-Reference.com, ZiPS Projections
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/U4LkWA

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