Part Two of this multi-part mini-series brings us to First Base. Again, for an introduction to this series, feel free to click here for a break down of the point system.
Also, if you missed out on the rather telling "Fantasy Baseball Prep: Catchers" post from yesterday evening, feel free to either scroll down or follow the above link to the post's location.
To begin, I want to rehash the two statistical formulas that I am incorporating into my research this year: points-per-opportunity (pts/opp) and points-per-plate-appearance (pts/pa). Essentially the two categories boil down like this, pts/opp is the Slugging% for points-based fantasy baseball leagues and pts/pa represents the OPS for points-based fantasy leagues.
With that said, let's start with the slugging and make our way to the OPS. The range of pts/opp. was pretty vast. The low (1.54 pts/opp) was Daric Barton, who coincidently may have lost his job today with the A's signing of Jason Giambi to a 1-year contract. The high (2.68) went to, you guessed it, Ryan Howard. The average for first basemen was 2.31 points/opp.
That places a few familiar a a few unfamiliar names at the average point position in this slugging category. The first, a maybe-surprising / maybe-not, player is Derrek Lee (2.26), who's seen his overall production decline dramatically over the past two seasons. Below Lee is Kevin Youkilis (2.25), who had a break-out season in 2008, and Ryan Garko (2.24), the Indians' over-hyped first baseman.
While Garko is where I would expect him to be, some may be surprised by the presence of Youkilis among the "below-average" points/oppertunity crowd. To that I say, take a look at the numbers. 2.25 pts/opp. is not a bad total at all for someone... especially someone dubbed the "Greek God of Walks." Think about it. That means that for every walk Youkilis takes in 2009, he should be expect to (a) score a run, or (b) steal a base... then get caught stealing. Obviously, option-A is a bit more likely to occur in a line-up as potent as that of the Red Sox.
Above Derrek Lee (our Mason-Dixon line for the purposes of this post) are two virtual unknowns: Kendry Morales (2.28) and John Bowker (2.34).
The aforementioned Bowker may be a bit of a long shot. Especially if the Giants sign Joe Crede and shift Pablo Sandoval from 3B to 1B in 2009. Though Bowker is obviously capable of putting up respecitble points with the increase of opportunity, the Giants may opt for a discounted rate on Crede and give the 25 year-old more time in the minors.
Kendry Morales, on the other hand, is in line to be the Angels' starting first baseman in 2009. When the Halo's traded Casey Kotchman for a virtual rent-a-player in Mark Teixeira, you had to think that L.A. had some-sort of "ace" up their sleeve. In this case, the ace was Kendry Morales. Now, don't get me wrong... the Angels would've loved to bring Teixeira back to to L.A., but Morales may provide a considerable more pop from the 3-spot than Casey Kotchman EVER did during his time with the Halo's.
Moving on from our first base mashers, let's take a look at a few OPS superstars for points-based fantasy baseball leagues. The top-dog in the yard is everyone's favorite Cardinal, Albert Pujols (1.06). I'm sorry. But if you have a player who's averaging a point per plate appearance... you should thank your lucky stars on a night basis. Pujols and Ryan Howard (1.00) are the only first basemen who top the 1-point threshold... which is absurd. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that if you can get your hands on one of these fantasy-monsters... pull the trigger and get in while the getting's good.
The average players in this category surround Adrian Gonzalez (.83). Below Gonzalez are seriously, a bunch of fantasy scrubs. The first two are Paul Konerko (.82) and Adam LaRoche (.81), both of whom, as everyone who's owned them know, are hugely overrated at this point in their careers.
To me, the best value in the Top-12 in the pts/pa category is Joey Votto (.91), who places above perennial All-Stars Justin Morneau (.86), Kevin Youkilis (.85), and Carlos Pena (.87). Also, a bit above Votto is everyone's favorite vegan, Prince Fielder (.91) and new hundred-million-dollar-man, Mark Teixeira (.95).
To say the least, you could probably draft Votto 5 rounds (if not more) behind the majority of these first basemen. If you're a Bill James supporter, look for Joey V. to bust it out in '09, and be a regular contributer for both the Reds and your fantasy baseball team.