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AL First Basemen: Day Two
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League First Basemen with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.

12.  Ross GloadCH White SoxAge: 30B:L   T:L

Kept by the White Sox last summer as insurance in case Jim Thome or Paul Konerko hit the DL, Gload found very little playing time despite posting a perfectly respectable .327/.354/.462 performance. Unfortunately, a low walk rate and a worrisome 2.00 G-F limited his upside even before his trade to the Royals last month for Andy Sisco stuck him in an even worse situation. Perhaps Gload will see regular at-bats when Mike Sweeney suffers his annual injury, but with Justin Huber and Billy Butler already pushing Ryan Shealy and Sweeney for 1B/DH at-bats, Gload will be lucky just to bat another 150 times. I see no reason to treat him more than end-round COR filler for teams that spend their money on other positions.

13.  Kevin MillarBAL OriolesAge: 35B:R   T:R

Re-signed to a one-year deal in November for $2.75M that also includes a vesting option for a comparable salary, Miller returns as the Orioles' first baseman despite his increasingly glaring lack of power. Yet the 35-year-old still possesses a strong skill base, and although he certainly lacks any significant upside and even could lose playing time to Jay Payton via a position switch for Aubrey Huff or even Jay Gibbons, Millar at least shouldn't hurt you in any league. I just don't view him as someone to target unless he remains available in the latter rounds of your draft at a price that recognizes his somewhat precarious starting job.

14.  Chris SheltonDET TigersAge: 26B:R   T:R

The Kevin Maas of April in 2006, Shelton smashed five homers in the first week of the season and finished the month with 10 HR, 20 RBI, and a sterling .326/.404/.783 line only mildly tarnished by his 9:27 BB:K in 92 AB. He then proceeded to slump so badly that the Tigers traded for Sean Casey at the deadline, installed the Mayor at first while demoting Shelton, and then re-signed the free agent Casey for $4M in November. Shelton's .266/.372/.440 performance in 109 AB for AAA Toledo(IL) also suggests he may not receive another shot in Detroit. Conversely, he only turns 27 in June, and if a Casey injury clears a lineup slot for Shelton, he could emerge as a superb fantasy bargain. Definitely target him in an early reserve round or in the endgame of any league where you can acquire Shelton in your auction.

15.  Jeff ConineBAL/PHIAge: 40B:R   T:R

Dispatched to the Phillies in August for a pending minor league free agent, Conine received no boost from moving into CB Park. Philadelphia sent him along to the Reds a month ago for Javon Moran and Brad Key, essentially making Conine the platoon partner for Scott Hatteberg and the primary backup at both outfield corners. While the 40-year-old offers little fantasy upside, he at least shouldn't hurt you if available for a couple of bucks to fill your outfield, although definitely look to upgrade to someone with more potential as soon as possible.

16.  Doug MientkiewiczKC RoyalsAge: 32B:L   T:R

Few players fall upward as gracefully as Mientkiewicz, who someone sailed from a mildly infamous role on the Twins to a World Series title in Boston, a year in Shea, and a season in Kansas that might have killed his career. Yet his defensive reputation landed him $1.5M from the Yankees to platoon with either Josh Phelps or Andy Phillips at first base in the hope that his fielding ability salves the throwing arms of New York's increasingly inconsistent infielders. Since his August back surgery reportedly alleviated his nerve pain, we should see a nice power boost for Mientkiewicz, along with the expect RBI surge, but remember that he also hasn't reached an .800 OPS since departing Minnesota. Think of him as little more than an endgame COR option who'll add a little profit to your team at a buck or two.

17.  Chris GomezBAL OriolesAge: 35B:R   T:R

A Joel Zumaya pitch broke Gomez's left hand in May, sending him to the 60-day DL yet not preventing him from posting career-bests in BA, OBP, and SLG. Reduced playing time seems to suit Gomez, who again returns as on of the orioles' primary infield backups. Of course, anything less than a return near Gomez's career norms of .260/.326/.360 would shock me, and since he no longer qualifies anywhere except first base, he won't belong on your roster in any capacity until he plays a few games in the middle infield.

18.  Ryan GarkoCLE IndiansAge: 25B:R   T:R

Slumping from a .303/.384/.498 performance in 452 AB at AAA Buffalo(IL) in 2005 to a .247/.352/.420 output in 364 AAA AB last summer suggests one more tour of the International League wouldn't hurt Garko. However, he also demonstrated respectable skills across-the-board after his promotion in August, and on the strength of his unbelievable RBI rate last fall, he certainly could snag a part-time starting job this spring, playing first base when Casey Blake shifts to right field against southpaws. Garko also looks like the Indians' most logical first baseman of the future, making him a superb target in keeper leagues since he shouldn't cost more than a few bucks and could emerge as a double-digit bargain by summer. Perhaps owners in single-season league should hesitate here, but I otherwise endorse Garko as a solid end-round COR candidate for anyone preferring to spend money at other positions.

19.  Phil NevinTEX/CHC/MINAge: 35B:R   T:R

While the veteran cornerman nicely rebounded after an awful start following his trade to the Cubs for Jerry Hairston, compiling a .274/.335/.497 performance in 179 at-bats as Derrek Lee's replacement, his overall problems at the plate leave Nevin unemployed at the moment. Seemingly logical placements in Minnesota or Texas make no sense after his struggles for those clubs last summer, so unless a projected 1B/DH starter suffers a major injury during spring training, Nevin may not find much playing time this year. Regardless of his respectable power potential, wait until he demonstrates that he can hold a BA over .250 before rostering him anywhere.

20.  Eduardo PerezCLE/SEAAge: 37B:R   T:R

One of baseball's best lefty mashers, Perez posted another solid .275/.331/.503 performance against southpaws last summer, only failing to reach a more impressive number due to the downside of spending the season in the American League's two least favorable hitters' parks. However, his rather limited skill set leaves him unemployed at the moment, so although I expect him to sign somewhere soon, Perez's lack of a defined role on any team harshly reduces his already minimal fantasy upside. Don't follow the example of the Mariners, who foolishly dealt Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland for three months of Perez. Treating the journeyman as more than roster filler looks like a definite mistake.

21.  Andy PhillipsNY YankeesAge: 29B:R   T:R

Perhaps the Yankees really just want to look at Josh Phelps in camp before sticking with the homegrown talent, but with Phillips apparently unable to translate his minor league excellent into major league success at the plate, Phelps easily could push Phillips off the roster. Phillips no longer possesses much plate discipline, lacks significant power, and suffers from a reverse platoon split that seemingly makes him an awful choice to share first base with Doug Mientkiewicz. While I still expect to see Phillips spend much of the summer in New York, he won't belong on anyone's roto roster unless you see his production unexpectedly surge in 2007.

First Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Although Millar and Mientkiewicz at least shouldn't hurt you in most leagues, the youngsters Shelton and Garko possess the real upside here. Grabbing at least one of the duo, preferably in an early reserve round or during Dollar Days, should net you no worse than a solid mid-season roster boost and possibly an outstanding piece of trade bait in keeper leagues.

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