It’s time for the second set of fantasy baseball rankings, this time the first basemen. Every fantasy team employs a masher at this position.
1. Albert Pujols: A no brainer for the top spot. Pujols dominates the Triple Crown categories every year. He’ll only be 26 and boasts a phenomenal .332/.416/.621 career line. Did I mention he’s incredibly durable too? I think he has a shot at 50 home runs in 2006. As if all that wasn’t enough, he swiped an excellent 16 bags last year as well. I think he’ll crack 10 steals again, and will be just a hair below A-Rod for Fantasy MVP in 2006.
2. Derrek Lee: One of the big questions in fantasy entering 2006 is whether Lee will hold his gains after taking The Leap in 2005. I think he will, for the most part. Lee established new levels of slugging and on-base ability that held up month to month. He must have made some sort of adjustment to his approach. I see him hitting .310 with 38 home runs and nearly 120 RBIs. Juan Pierre and whoever hits second for the Cubs can’t help but provide Lee more runners to drive in.
3. Mark Teixeira: Tex probably has a couple more seasons left as a Ranger. He’ll move down a few pegs if he departs via free agency or gets traded. Over the last three seasons away from Ameriquest, he’s hit .253/.334/.454, which looks a lot like Dmitri Young or Lyle Overbay. But enough ragging on the guy—he’s good for .290, 45 home runs, and 130 RBIs in ’06.
4. Richie Sexson: His health restored, Sexson should get even more at-bats and mash 40 home runs with tons of RBIs. The only mild drawback is an average near .270.
5. Todd Helton: Helton’s early slump is owed mostly to a back injury he’d been keeping under wraps. You can mark him down for .325, 25 home runs, and 90 RBI in ’06. Back problems are often chronic, however, so the long term outlook isn’t great.
6. Ryan Howard: Howard can probably hit .280 and has a good chance to smash 35-40 home runs in 2006. After picking up the Rookie of the Year trophy, I can’t imagine your league-mates aren’t aware of this. Should be good for 110 RBIs as well.
7. Adam Dunn: Expect more of the same from Dunn in 2006. Great American Ballpark is giving his home run total a substantial boost, and he hits .250 or so. Still, there are only a handful of players who are locks for 40 home runs, and Dunn is one of them.
8. Carlos Delgado: Plan for the typical excellent Delgado stats. The move shouldn’t have a major effect.
9. Lance Berkman: Should be closer to 30 home runs with some more playing time in 2006. Never hits below .290; a very safe pick.
10. Prince Fielder: In most projections I’ve seen for Fielder, the authors are tempering their expectations. Not me—I’m flat out optimistic that he can hit 35 home runs in 2006. He might not hitter better than .270, but the Prince will only be 22 and this might be your last chance to grab him in keeper leagues.
11. Paul Konerko: .280, 35 home runs, just under 100 ribbies. RBIs are tough to predict, but if the Sox keep Podzilla at leadoff and use Juan Uribe at #2, Konerko probably won’t see a lot of ducks on the pond. Still, he’s solid and reliable.
12. Brad Wilkerson: I expect Wilkerson’s batting average to bounce back and maybe approach a career high .270. He’s in the right lineup and ballpark to flash his 25-30 home run power once again. His shoulder condition is similar to Eric Chavez‘s, and he’ll benefit from a better training staff in Texas. Wilkerson will also score around 90 runs and steal a few bags.
13. Aubrey Huff: As of this writing, Huff is likely to stay put. Huff’s three year decline has been well documented, but he’s still on the right side of 30 and should bounce back from 2005. I’m thinking .275 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs for his numbers.
14. Justin Morneau: Thirty home run first basemen aren’t difficult to find, and that’s what you can expect from Morneau if everything clicks and he’s healthy. I do expect a solid 2006, as he’s always needed some time to master each level of play. An OK gamble if he comes cheap.
15. Chris Shelton: Shelton seems like a lock for a .300 average and 25 home runs. He only had 388 at-bats in 2005, so he’ll pile on some more counting stats by virtue of playing time.
16. Dan Johnson: Outlook is fairly similar to Shelton’s. Expect some improvement from Johnson and a good 25 home runs. A solid under-the-radar pick for your utility spot.
17. Chad Tracy: Tracy should add third base eligibility with Troy Glaus out of the picture, and that’s where you should play him. His power breakout wasn’t too streaky and he still hit plenty of doubles. I expect him to hold on to his gains and hit .300 with 25 home runs again. Can be used at first base and outfield currently.
18. Jim Thome: Thome looks like a .260 hitter at this point. U.S. Cellular inflates homers for lefties by a good 30%, so look for around 35 bombs in less than 500 at-bats. Thome has a bad back, and it isn’t going to get better with age. I don’t expect any more monster years for him.
19. Jason Giambi: The on-base skills don’t help you in most leagues, and he’s not a .300 hitter anymore. He’ll likely supply the standard 30 home runs and 90 ribbies, but isn’t that desirable among first basemen.
20. Sean Casey: If you want a .310 average and not much else, Casey’s your guy. The shift to Pittsburgh shouldn’t change this.