Today we launch our 2014 Fantasy Baseball position by position previews. We’ll have a new position featured each day, finishing with our overall Top 300. We’ll be using our writers’ composite rankings as we break things down this week, but click on the link for both Steven’s and Ryan’s individual ranks to see where they differ. Time to start with a position that, unlike past years, you must address early in your draft. Ryan, @RyNoonan kicks us off with a look at First Base.
|2||Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays|
|16||Jose Abreu||White Sox|
|19||Mike Napoli||Red Sox|
|26||Adam Lind||Blue Jays|
|34||Adam Dunn||White Sox|
First things first, Miguel Cabrera
is moving to 1B this year, and he’ll be the top ranked player here once eligible. More than likely though, if you own him you’re starting him at 3rd base.
It’s a different era. There just aren’t that many 30+ home run hitters anymore. How many do you think there were in 2013? Go ahead, guess, I’ll wait… Wrong. It was 14. Exactly half as many as 5 years ago, when 28 players hit 30+ HR’s in the 2008 season. Six of the 14 players that did it last year are listed above. The aforementioned Miguel Cabrera would make it 7 and if David Ortiz has 1B eligibility in your league, he’d make 8 of 14. The game has changed, so you need to change your strategy. In 2008 you could wait at 1B because it was so deep, sure the elite guys were worth the early round pick it took to land them, but you could wait and still be happy with your starter. Now, you need to jump into the 1B pool early, and don’t be shy to jump back in again a pick or 2 later. I’ve broken them into tiers. It’s important to separate positional ranks into tiers so you know when its time to buy, or time to wait on the position. You’re able to resist the temptation to fill positional needs too early, and allows you to maximize value throughout the draft.
|Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays|
This is the best of the best and the case can be made for all of them being top 10 overall. Paul Goldschmidt feels really safe for someone with a limit track record, but I have no doubt that he’s a top 5 pick this year. [b]Edwin Encarnacion[/b] has had back to back top 10 seasons and he’ll be even better this year. Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes missed a combined 113 games last year, their return combined with slightly better batted ball luck (.247 BABIP) makes E5 a nice value around pick 10. He’s another guy that you’re starting at 3rd though, most likely. Don’t overreact to ‘down’ years from [b]Prince Fielder[/b] and [b]Joey Votto[/b], they are safe and late first, early 2nd round picks. [b]Chris Davis[/b] is polarizing. Last year’s fantasy MVP scares me a little and I’d let someone else take him, especially if it’s in the top 10.
[b]Freddie Freeman[/b] is getting a lot of early season love, and I understand why. I’m just not quite ready to put him in the group above yet, but he’s still a early round pick. [b]Albert Pujols[/b] has declined, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay away, there’s still value here. He doesn’t run anymore, and his plate discipline metrics have slid to a place where I can’t predict a .300+ average any longer, but he’s still a strong bet to hit .280/30/100. [b]Eric Hosmer[/b] needs to continue his 2nd surge, which saw his GB% drop and his FB% rise. He has a huge ceiling and is still young, but he won’t meet projections if he can’t drive the ball consistently and hit more fly balls. [b]Andrian Gonzalez[/b] is steady and boring. There’s nothing wrong with that, he’ll give you .290/24/100 in his sleep. The move to the OF for the oft-injured Craig isn’t something that excites me, but on a per game basis he’s a top 40 bat. [b]Anthony Rizzo[/b] will continue to grow, and I feel like he’ll make a leap this year, maybe to the top of this tier. If [b]David Ortiz[/b] has 1B eligibility, and he does in Yahoo!, he’s right behind Pujols for me in this tier. I keep hearing how old Papi is, and he keeps raking.
Catchers with 1B eligibility. We’ll go into details on these 3 in our Catcher Preview, but you’re starting these players at C.
|Mike Napoli||Red Sox|
|Jose Abreu||White Sox|
By this point you should already have at least one 1B from the tiers above, but if you don’t this is your last chance for a passable starter. These guys all have questions, but there’s power throughout the tier. [b]Matt Adams[/b] just needs at bats. He’ll hit lefties well enough to stay in the lineup, and he mashes right handed pitching. [b]Mike Napoli[/b] and [b]Mark Trumbo[/b] are good additions if your team looks strong in average at this point, both could hit 30 HRs. [b]Jose Abreu[/b] is a young, powerful Cuban beast, playing in HR heaven in Chicago. He’s a mystery of sorts when trying to forecast his plate discipline, but I think the power comes early and often. [b]Brandon Belt[/b] continues to improve, but he’s limited in that park. I can’t see that swing translating into big power numbers in SF, but he won’t hurt you in any category. [b]Brandon Moss[/b] hit 30 homers while in a platoon role, that deserves your attention. If he learns to hit lefties he could be dangerous.
|Adam Lind||Blue Jays|
|Adam Dunn||White Sox|
|Paul Konerko||White Sox|
This is the last group, and it’s full of guys worth owning. Some for all year and some for their eventual hot week or month. Lots of big power/low average guys here. We’ll learn more about some of these guys as we get closer to the spring, but there’s value to be had here late.
Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a 7-year, $215 million contract extension, Jon Heyman has confirmed. The highly anticipated contract shatters previous pitcher extensions including last year’s deal between the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander, which netted the power pitcher a 7-year $180 million extension.Kershaw led the National League in ERA for the past three seasons, throwing more than 200 innings in every year since 2010, and it was clear the Dodgers wanted to lock him up before he was able to test free agency; the deal buys out his final arbitration year and an additional six years.
Last year, the southpaw curveball ace finished 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA—94% better than park-adjusted league average ERA (ERA+). His 0.92 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 236 innings propelled him to his second Cy Young Award in the past three seasons.
The Dodgers lock up Kershaw as a stud number one to complement Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, who are both signed through the 2018 season. There are rumors they are still interested in at least exploring adding Masahiro Tanaka to their rotation.
Check back with Blind Side Fantasy Advice for fantasy implications and updated pitcher rankings.
Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball recently agreed to new terms on a posting system for Japanese players to exit their existing NPB contracts and sign with an MLB team. Under the new system, whichever MLB team signs a posted Japanese player will pay the NPB team what is essentially a $20 million tax. Masahiro Tanaka is the first player to be posted under the new agreement.All MLB teams have 30 days (from Thursday, December 26) to attempt to come to terms with Tanaka, a 25 year old right handed pitcher for the Rakuten Eagles. Tanaka has the option to negotiate and sign with whichever team he wishes – a significant change from the previous posting system, which awarded the player to whichever team had the highest blind-bid. The change is certainly a welcome one from the players’ perspective, as players now have the ability to sign with whichever team they choose, at whatever teams they choose.
Under the previous system, Texas paid a $51,703,411 posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters and gave Darvish a 6-year $56 million contract, and the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions a $51,111,111.11 posting fee, ultimately agreeing to a 6-year $52 million contract with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Under the new system, Tanaka is likely to earn a greater average annual value (AAV) due to the posting fee limit of $20 million.
Tanaka is represented by Excel Sports Management (other clients include Clayton Kershaw and Derek Jeter) and it is expected most MLB teams will be interested in at least taking a look at the Japanese star who posted a 24-0 record, 1.27 ERA in 212 innings. His minuscule career home run rate of .5 home runs per nine innings, combined with a 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings makes for an intriguing fantasy play this upcoming season. Even if he does not have the upside of Yu Darvish, Tanaka will certainly be an impact fantasy player.
Check back with Blind Side Fantasy Advice for fantasy implications and updated rankings upon Tanaka’s signing with a major league club.