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January
23rd
2006
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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AL First Basemen: Day One
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League First Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.


1.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Mark Teixeira644194.3014314441121
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:S    T:R343361.371.2

The American League's best first baseman does not turn 26 until April and certainly could attain a new level of production as he reaches his prime over the next few years. Batting at Ameriquest Field in the middle of a slew of offensive stars, now augmented by the addition of Brad Wilkerson's potential .400 OBP, Teixeira appears within striking distance of truly scary offensive numbers. Owners looking to lock in production somewhere between .290/40/120 and .320/50/160 need to consider pushing bids here as high as $40, especially in keeper leagues where Tex could register Pujolsian stats as long as he stays with the Rangers.


2.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Paul Konerko575163.283401000981
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:R    T:R232343.734.4

Selected by the Dodgers out of high school with the 13th overall pick in 1993, Konerko reached the upper minors in less than two years and then demolished the best offerings of the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues, earning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award for 1997. He only failed to develop into a middle-of-the-order partner for Mike Piazza due to the organization's fascination with Eric Karros, finally blossoming upon joining the White Sox in 1999. Ignoring an injury-plagued 2003, he has not posted an OBP under .349 or a SLG under .481 since reaching Chicago and finally owns the big league skill set scouts expected to see for the last decade. As Konerko only turns 30 in March and possesses the best patience and power potential of his career, he could echo these stats for the next couple of years with no problem at all. Improvement in his contact rate just might send him careening toward the .323/.405/.598 stratosphere, an output he already registered in the second half last summer. Although he remains obviously over hyped due to his post-season heroics and free agent publicity, Konerko certainly merits bids approaching $30.


3.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Mike Sweeney470141.30021833631D
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32B:R    T:R212028.424.6

While a sore oblique intermittently bothered Sweeney throughout the first half, he only hit the DL in June after spraining his wrist and elbow. Additional minor problems bothered him until the very end of the season with periods of good health coinciding almost perfectly with a couple of 1.000+ OPS months. Unfortunately, we should see BA erosion due to increasing contact problems and generally weakened plate discipline. His improving power can only partially compensate for the loss of value considering the Royals' shoddy offense precludes an RBI surge. Bidding much past $20 in standard leagues remains a severe risk due to his injury history.


4.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Richie Sexson558147.263391211991
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R192039.439.4

While Sexson certainly appears primed to experience a Thomian loss of value one of these years, his second-half improvement, coupled with a career-best .96 G-F, gives him plenty of fantasy upside in 2006. As I also expect to see the Mariners' youngsters develop positively, he appears on track for a career-high RBI total this season. Nothing here dissuades me from the belief that Sexson qualifies as one of the surest power bets in the game, lacking only the strong BA necessary to merit bids near $30.


5.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Aubrey Huff575150.26122928701OD
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:R16163.12.2

No player appears more certain to be dealt by the trade deadline than Huff, who only managed respectable numbers with his failure to post an OPS above .765 in more than one month. The .990 mark he registered in July nicely elevated his stats for the season, and considering his skill set barely budged, rebounding to a value over $20, especially in a more competitive environment, seems a lock for the veteran. He turned only 29 in December, placing him in position to grow into his power peak over the next couple of years. Bid up to the low $20s if you can keep NL players, $10 if you cannot, and consider pushing over $25 if he lands with the Indians, Cubs, or Mets before your draft.


6.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Jason Giambi417113.27132870741D
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34B:L    T:R151641.936

Health problems and media pressure led to an awful start to Giambi's season, depressing his performance to the point that management floated the idea of a minor league assignment. Wisely declining that option and apparently regaining his motivation, Giambi returned to slaughtering pitching in the second half of May. Although minor injuries continued to plague him, he otherwise reemerged as a dominant offensive force, and by the playoffs, he even supplanted Gary Sheffield as the Yankees' #3 hitter. He now settles one lineup slot lower following the acquisition of Johnny Damon, which could enable Giambi to post another MVP caliber season. He still owns tremendous plate discipline and power potential, and although an unimpressive BA places a $25 ceiling on his roto value, Giambi ranks as a dynamic run-producer who especially helps in sim leagues.


7.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Jay Gibbons488135.27726790721OD
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:L151619.215.5

A shiny new four-year deal affirms Gibbons' place in the heart of the Orioles' offense for the rest of the decade. Although he no longer looks overly patient at the plate, he possesses considerable power potential and simply crushed the ball down the stretch. Unless Sam Perlozzo's desire to add more speed in the #2 hole pushes Mora, Tejada, and Gibbons one spot down in the order, Gibbons mostly likely will spend this season hitting cleanup for Baltimore. Of course, Gibbons still will bat behind two of the league's better hitters under any circumstances, giving him significant RBI opportunities and as much fantasy upside as far more famous players.


8.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Chris Shelton388116.29918590611
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:R    T:R151523.926.6

Dave Littlefield always should feel guilty for allowing Shelton to leave the Pirates, costing Pittsburgh their best homegrown hitter since Barry Bonds. Building on the big league experience gained as a Rule 5 pick in 2004 after scarcely a month above A-ball in prior seasons, Shelton headed to AAA Toledo(IL) this spring to play every day. He compiled a .335/.421/.568 with 8 HR, 39 RBI, and a 26:33 BB:K in 185 AB, earning a deserved promotion at the end of May. Winning a starting job within a month, Shelton emerged as Detroit's best hitter, finishing the season locked into the #3 hole and first base. Excellent batting skills suggest his 2005 performance merely qualifies as a baseline for future success, so feel free to push $20 or higher on a player capable of approaching $40 during his prime.


9.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Darin Erstad609166.27376610861
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:L1416-2.21.7

Erstad actually remained relatively healthy this season, avoiding the DL for the first time since 2002. He even demonstrated improved power potential, but with a return to center this season a certainty, the added defensive pressure should suppress further gains at the plate. Hopefully, Erstad at least will drop to the #7 hole, where he probably belongs, however he may return to #2 or even break camp at #5 depending on how Mike Scioscia wants to distribute his left-handed hitters. Of course, Erstad will not possess much value regardless of his place in the order, rendering him no more than a relative afterthought as a potential cornerman. Heed his injury history and limit your bids to near $10.


10.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Dmitri Young469127.27121721611OD
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:S    T:R131310.98.7

The Tigers desperately need to deal Dmitri Young, and Tampa remains an excellent fit even without considering Delmon Young's presence. With Curtis Granderson and Craig Monroe potentially headed for the corner spots around Nook Logan, Magglio Ordonez needs to DH, and that lineup leaves Carlos Pena on the bench. Right now the most likely scenario involves Pena and Logan on the bench to make room for Young, who unfortunately lacks the offensive consistency to warrant an everyday job despite occasional bursts of dominance in the past. He cannot stay healthy and possesses neither the patience nor power upside desperately needed for middle-of-the-order hitters. Due to the low likelihood of seeing a profit on making such an investment in Young, I see no reason to remain in bidding that heads far into double digits.


11.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Eric Hinske477125.26215688791D
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:R12136-1.8

With no starting job left for the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year, Toronto plans to employ Hinske as filler for all four corner positions along with DH as needed, since the club still owes him nearly $10M over the next two seasons. Hinske's skills continue to decline as he enters his theoretical prime with his OPS over the past three years standing over a hundred points below his debut mark. Nevertheless, he remains useful against right-handed hitters and may reemerge as a platoon starter if Frank Catalanotto suffers another injury. Consider Hinske a superb buy-low candidate given the skill history that pushed him over $20 when he first reached the majors.


12.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Travis Lee404110.27212497541
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:L    T:L12125.58.3

A groin strain forced Lee to the DL for much of May, effectively sabotaging his first half performance. However, once pushed into a firm platoon down the stretch, Lee excelled, compiling a .306/.344/.520 line in 196 second-half at-bats. He returns to Tampa after accepting arbitration, providing the steadying defense necessary for an infield likely featuring the 25-year-old Sean Burroughs, 24-year-old Jorge Cantu, and 21-year-old B.J. Upton. Of course, Lee should vacate his position for Wes Bankston no later than September and similarly looks like trade bait from the beginning of summer, so keeping your bids fairly low makes a lot of sense. Happily snap him up in the $5-6 range, but if a draft fluke forces Lee into double digits, please let someone else risk the more significant investment due to his uncertain playing time.


13.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Matt Stairs396109.27513661551D
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37B:L    T:R101115.211.4

With Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders, Emil Brown, and Doug Mientkiewicz locked into the four positions Stairs plays, I do not know where Stairs will find his at-bats. Of course, even as I write that sentence I realize that Sweeney qualifies as a severe injury risk, and the other three also lack impeccable health records. With no logical alternatives for injury filler short of Justin Huber and Chip Ambres, Stairs should cruise to another three hundred at-bats. His career-best plate discipline outweighs his slowly diminishing power potential by securing an acceptable BA, which was often a problem for Stairs before he joined the Royals. Evaluating the risks of a sudden decline against the likelihood of him echoing these numbers one more year allows me to recommend rostering Stairs anywhere he costs no more than $5.


14.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Rafael Palmeiro36998.26618602471
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 41B:L    T:L101010.59.6

Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi should send Palmeiro thank you e-mails every day for deflecting attention away from them as the previous two poster boys of steroids. Already burdened with years of endorsing Viagra, Palmeiro moved from mild laughingstock to public villain with his positive drug test erasing two decades of quiet effectiveness and apparently torpedoing his chances of joining the Hall of Fame this generation. We do not support the general scorn heaped upon the veteran, but his consistent decline as he approached his forties kept Palmeiro off our fantasy teams in recent years. Even if he somehow lands an NRI despite violating the unwritten clubhouse code by attempting to blame Miguel Tejada for the positive test, we cannot recommend a player heading for a season of boos under the best of circumstances. Do not risk rostering him as anything more than a reserve-round lottery ticket in reasonably deep AL leagues.


15.ABHBAHRRBISBRPos
Dan Johnson375103.27515580541
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26B:L    T:R101013.713.7

Rumors regarding Johnson's imminent shift to DH really worry me given his relative proficiency at first base and the pending arrival of Daric Barton as a long-term component of the 1B/DH mix in Oakland. Moving Nick Swisher to first base now virtually insures Johnson will not remain with the Athletics past 2007 at the absolute latest, and given his slow rise to the majors, he easily could slip towards AAAA status. Conversely, Johnson demolished PCL pitching in 2004, improved to a .324/.424/.549 performance with 8 HR, 41 RBI, and a 31:24 BB:K in 182 AB last spring, and opened with a .275/.355/.451 group of averages with Oakland, so he certainly owns the skills to develop into no less than a Sean Casey clone. Johnson's poor September does not worry me as only the complete breakdown of his excellent plate discipline and power potential could keep him in single digits. Bid to the highest teens and be very happy if you land Johnson anywhere around $15 considering his $30 short-term upside.


First Base Week continues tomorrow.


Today's Fantasy Rx: I see a pretty clear line at age 30. No one above that mark offers significant BA help outside of possibly Mike Sweeney while everyone below, especially Teixeira, Shelton, and Johnson, still could experience significant gains in production. Paul Konerko and Richie Sexson may rank as relative quantitative sleepers in some leagues as I expect both sluggers to enjoy markedly higher RBI totals. Hinske and Stairs slip into the realm of endgame cornermen with the potential to earn welcome profits if they fall to you on draft day.


Click here to read the previous article.

Please e-mail your comments to tim@rotohelp.com.
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