Fantasy Midseason Rankings: First Baseby Ben Jacobs
July 07, 2004
Next on the list of positions for me to update with midseason rankings is first base. One thing I want to point out is that I put Albert Pujols with the outfielders for the preseason rankings, so that's where he'll go for the midseason rankings as well. Keep in mind that this is a list of who I think will be the best first basemen for the rest of the season, not who I think have been the best first basemen so far this season. (Preseason ranking in parentheses.)
1. Todd Helton, Rockies (1): He doesn't have Thome's staggering home run total, but Coors Field just helps him out so much everywhere else. Helton is hitting .352 with 16 home runs, 63 runs and 55 RBIs, and you can't even say he's playing over his head.
Last year, Helton hit better than .380 in each of the last three months of the season. If he gets his home run stroke going, it could get crazy. Even without a flurry of longballs, he should finish the year hitting .340-.360 with 30-35 homers, 120-130 runs and 115-125 RBIs.
2. Jim Thome, Phillies (3): Another player putting up crazy numbers but not really playing over his head, Thome's hitting .298 with 27 homers, 57 runs and 59 RBIs. The 53 home runs he's on pace for would be a career high, but it's certainly not unreasonable when you realize that he's averaged 49 homers the last three years.
Thome's on pace for 117 RBIs and 113 runs after reaching 131 and 111, respectively, last year. Basically, whether the factor that determines whether Thome's one of the two or three best fantasy first basemen or merely one of the five or six best is his batting average, and this appears to be a good year in that regard.
3. David Ortiz, Red Sox (9): If you're waiting for Ortiz to stop bashing the crap out of the ball, you should probably give up on that. From July of 2002 through Tuesday's game, roughly two full seasons, Ortiz has had 1,016 at-bats. In those two seasons worth of games, he's hit .294/.362/.590 with 69 home runs and 222 RBIs. And he wasn't even playing every day in 2002 and 2003.
He's in his prime at 28 years old, and his numbers this season (.301/.353/.598) aren't out of line with the previous season and a half. He is unlikely to duplicate his 76 RBIs in the second half, but he'll knock in plenty of runners. The hitters before him in the lineup have OBPs of .395 (Johnny Damon) and .384 (Mark Bellhorn), and the hitter behind him in the lineup (Manny Ramirez) is one of the two or three best in the league.
4. Frank Thomas, White Sox (12): He's not going to challenge for batting titles like he used to, but the Big Hurt is still an imposing presence at the plate. He's hitting .271 with 18 home runs, 53 runs and 49 RBIs so far this season. I see no reason why he can't finish with 35-40 homers and about 100 runs and RBIs.
5. Derrek Lee, Cubs (6): Lee has a higher batting average and fewer home runs than I thought he would at this point. I'm not sure if his .300 average will drop much over the second half, but I'm almost positive he'll hit more than 11 homers from here on out. Why? Lee's on pace for 55 doubles and his career high is 37. Some of those doubles are going to turn into home runs.
As I expected, Lee's steals have fallen off from the 20 he averaged the last two seasons, but he should still reach double digits, which gives him an advantage at a position not known for its speed.
6. Carlos Delgado, Blue Jays (2): Delgado had a decent April, suffered through a miserable May and then his injuries forced him to miss all of June. Delgado is only hitting .229 with eight homers, but don't count him out yet. He's still capable of exploding for 20 home runs and 60 RBIs over the second half of the season.
At the very least, assuming he's finally healthy, I'd expect Delgado to hit .280 with 15 home runs, 40 runs and 50 RBIs the rest of the way. And those are conservative expectations, I think.
7. Lyle Overbay, Brewers (NR): What a difference a year makes. After a thoroughly disappointing rookie season, Overbay hitting .339 with nine home runs, 43 runs and 61 RBIs. I don't think he can keep his average quite that high, and I don't think he's going to finish with 120 RBIs, but he's been a hitting machine almost everywhere he's gone.
My guess is that he'll finish the season hitting around .325-.330 with 15-20 home runs, 80-90 runs and 105-110 RBIs. Not bad for somebody who couldn't even crack my preseason top 20.
8. Mark Teixeira, Rangers (11): Last year, Teixeira couldn't hit much in April. This year, he couldn't play much in April. It's scary to think about what he might do if he ever gets that first month figured out. Even with the missed time, he's hitting .280 with 16 home runs, 50 runs and 44 RBIs (with a few steals thrown in for good measure).
He's only 24 years old and seems to be getting better all the time, so I'd expect him to finish with around 35 home runs, 100 runs and 95-100 RBIs.
9. Paul Konerko, White Sox (19): I guess Konerko got tired of being Mr. Consistent. After four years of pretty much putting up the same numbers each season, he's been two different people the last two years. Last season, he hit .234 with 18 home runs, 49 runs and 65 RBIs in 137 games. This year, he's hitting .284 with 21 home runs, 39 runs and 55 RBIs in 75 games.
I don't think he's going to hit another 21 homers over the second half of the season, but he could hit another 15. He should also be able to drive in another 45-50 runs in that lineup.
10. Travis Hafner, Indians (NR): For most of last year and this spring, a lot of people mentioned Hafner and Ben Broussard together because they weren't sure which one was the better prospect. I don't think that will be the case any more. While Broussard's struggled, Hafner's hit .310 with nine homers, 48 runs and 52 RBIs.
He might slump a little bit over the second half, but he's a good hitter in a good lineup. It wouldn't shock me to see him finish the year with a .300 average, 15-20 homers, 100 runs and 100 RBIs.
Fell from the top 10
Jason Giambi, Yankees (4): Delgado and Giambi are both struggling through injury-plagued seasons, so why did one stay in my top 10 and not the other? I'm not completely sure, and maybe I'm being unfair to Giambi. However, Delgado was great last season while Giambi declined from his previous greatness. Also, I'm a little scared (rightfully or not) by his injury history, his parasites and his link to steroids.
Richie Sexson, Diamondbacks (5): Out for the season.
Jeff Bagwell, Astros (7): Bagwell hasn't been terrible, he just hasn't been himself. He has a .275 average, he's only hit 11 home runs and he's only stolen one base. Unless he improves at least two of those three categories, he just won't be one of the top 10 (and maybe not even one of the top 15) fantasy first baseman over the second half of the season.
Mike Sweeney, Royals (8): Bothered by injuries yet again, Sweeney's on pace to play just 144 games (which would actually be a big improvement over the last two seasons). The bigger problem is that he's only hitting .265, although his 13 homers are pretty good for him. Overall though, he's not hitting enough and I don't have faith in him both getting back on track and staying healthy for the rest of the season.
Nick Johnson, Expos (10): Looking back, this is the only top-10 pick for this position that I feel stupid about. I guess I got so caught up in his being an OBP machine that I ignored the fact that he's never stayed healthy and never really done the things that matter in fantasy baseball. He's hitting .246 with four homers and four steals and he doesn't have much value for this season.
Sean Casey, Reds (NR): You might be wondering where Casey and his .352 average are on this list. His first-half numbers are eerily similar to Helton's, so what's the difference between the two? Well, Helton's got a long history of hitting like this while Casey's got a long history of injury and declining performance. Unfortunately, he's also got a recent history of injury and declining performance as he's currently on the disabled list and he hit just .266 in June. He had an amazing first two months, but I expect his second half to resemble his previous few seasons more.
Ben Jacobs can be reached via e-mail.