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NL First Basemen: Day Two

by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

6.  Nomar GarciaparraLA DodgersAge: 33B:R   T:R

Quickly re-signed to a two-year, $18.5M deal by the Dodgers, which leaves him roughly $25M short of the four-year extension offered by the Red Sox to cover the 2005-2008 seasons, not to mention bereft of a World Series ring. However, by remaining healthy during the season aside from two brief DL stints for minor rib and knee issues, he earned NL Comeback Player of the Year honors, the 30th spot on the All-Star team, and most importantly, reemerged as a solid #3 hitter in Los Angeles. With wife Mia Hamm expecting twins in the spring, Nomar appears in a remarkably supportive environment that should enable him to prosper as long as he avoids further injury. Consider him a lock for a strong echo of his 2006 stats, particularly if Juan Pierre somehow adequately replaces Kenny Lofton's OBP in the lineup instead of depriving Nomar of a dozen RBI opportunities.

7.  Todd HeltonCOL RockiesAge: 33B:L   T:L

Instead of echoing the excellent seasons posted by Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday, Helton continued his rapid slide from his historic peak seasons down to a level less than half of his roto value from a couple years ago. He departed the #3 hole for the first time in years, seeing time as both the Rockies' #2 and #5 hitter, and although his skills haven't deteriorated, Helton's chronic ailments may keep from returning to his Hall of Fame campaigns from earlier this decade. However, he isn't too old to rebound at 33, and with Clint Hurdle wisely planning to hit Helton cleanup between Atkins and Holliday, I once again expect a return toward $30 with stats approaching a .320 BA, 25 HR, and 100 RBI. Yes, you incur plenty of risk by following his advice, but also remember that practically no first baseman's upside rival Helton's potential, so if you can gamble the extra money, at least you know that you'll receive a .300 BA in five hundred at-bats for your trouble, plus the upside of someone with career averages of a .333 BA, 33 HR, and 113 RBI.

8.  Adam LaRocheATL BravesAge: 26B:L   T:L

Dispatched to the Pirates last week for Mike Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge in the Braves' apparent quest to dismantle their formerly solid lineup, LaRoche not only moves into a worse park for power hitters but apparently will bat cleanup in Pittsburgh. Jim Tracy's rather bizarre expected lineup formation places LaRoche behind probable OBP ciphers Chris Duffy, Jack Wilson, and Freddy Sanchez in a move that also pushes Jason Bay, the one stud Pirates' slugger, all the way to the #5 hole. Considering PNC provides noticeably less benefits than Turner Field to left-handed batters, cutting both their BA and power numbers, LaRoche could regress from his career year to below $15. While we considered him solidly undervalued a year ago, both his skill trends and the publicity afforded him this winter probably will push his price beyond the $14-16 range that currently looks like the logical maximum.

9.  Carlos DelgadoNYNAge: 34B:L   T:R

While Delgado's power numbers remained intact as he moved from Florida to New York, he suffered a 36-point BA drop, well above what we might expect given his skills and the change in parks. However, he spent the year dealing with a few minor injuries, as well as wrist and elbow issues that required separate surgeries in October. Considering his owned a .284 average in the first half before the injuries started, expect a solid BA rebound toward his .282 career norm, which should lead to a return to both 40 homers and 120 RBI, particularly if Willie Randolph eventually replaces Paul Lo Duca in the #2 hole with David Wright. Delgado seems poised for one more monster season, and given his skills and the five-tool players surrounding him in the lineup, I see no reason he can't charge toward both $30 and significant MVP consideration.

10.  Prince FielderMIL BrewersAge: 22B:L   T:R

Despite seeing his otherwise impressive Rookie of the Year campaign eclipsed by the Marlins' menagerie of prospects, Fielder performed roughly as expected, keeping himself on track to post some massive seasons by decade's end. In 2007 he should claim the #3 slot for good, and if the 32:46 BB:K in 241 AB he managed in the second half remains indicative of developing plate discipline, he'll join the top tier of first basemen no later than 2008. Don't expect more than a mild sophomore slump from someone equally likely to shoot to a .280/30/100 season, making him an excellent investment anywhere shy of $20, especially in keeper leagues where he'll return even greater profits in upcoming seasons.

11.  Conor JacksonARI DiamondbacksAge: 24B:R   T:R

In the debate regarding Jackson's power potential I suspect few realize that he not only just completed his first full season in the majors but also doesn't turn twenty-five until May. Jackson owns a .11 walk rate, .85 contact rate, 3.74 #P/PA, and a .95 G-F that gives him a perfect platform further BA and power development. The biggest right now for Jackson, as well as most of the Diamondbacks, involves the highly uncertain lineup, though he at least appears likely to hit third or fifth, thus maximizing his chances for plenty of RBI and runs. I anticipate a virtual repeat of these stats in 2007, with quantitative numbers buoyed by a solid likelihood of an extra fifty at-bats for Jackson, before he breaks out next summer to the tune of a $25-30 season.

12.  Xavier NadyNYM/PITAge: 27B:R   T:R

Although Nady finally landed an everyday job following his acquisition from the Padres for Mike Cameron, he suffered through an often troubling season that included an emergency appendectomy at the end of May that cost him three weeks of action. He then began losing playing time to Endy Chavez, broke a bone in his right wrist that didn't require surgery, and then departed the NL's best team for Pittsburgh in a deadline deal Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. While he didn't wow the Pirates, the 28-year-old still could enjoy a few productive years, especially since the acquisition of Adam LaRoche solidifies Nady's position as both the everyday right fielder and the probable #6 hitter behind LaRoche and Jason Bay. Perhaps Nady no longer resembles the budding offensive monster everyone expected to see since he dominated Pac-10 pitching at Cal, but he at least appears poised to break 20 homers and perhaps even reach 80 RBI for the first time in the majors. Unless either Brad Eldred or Ryan Doumit managed both to develop at the plate and learn to play an adequate right field, Nady seems a solid $8-12 post-hype investment who could approach $20 with any luck.

13.  Scott HattebergCIN RedsAge: 36B:L   T:R

Few signing last winter worked better than the Reds' pick-up of Hatteberg, who posted a .289 BA, .389 SLG, and .436 SLG, which each rank as his best mark in a full-season of at-bats. Planting capable of this 74:41 BB:K into the GAB obviously wasn't a bad idea, and Cincy's decision to give him a one-year extension to keep first base warm for Joey Votto similarly seems a wise move, allowing Votto to claim the job this summer with a good spring. Considering Votto's presence, the possibility of Hatteberg platooning with Jeff Conine, and Hatteberg's generally limited fantasy potential in general, he really looks like a $6-8 cornerman more than a viable double-digit option as your starting first baseman despite the fact few player possess less downside than Hatteberg.

14.  Mike JacobsFLO MarlinsAge: 25B:L   T:R

While Jacobs proved an adequate replacement for Carlos Delgado on the rebuilding Marlins, his .243/.290/.447 output after the break portends further problems. He possesses decent power potential yet doesn't look like a candidate for thirty homers, mostly since his .182/.234/.295 performance against southpaws essentially makes him a platoon player. I certainly won't dissuade from bidding in the $12-14 range for Jacobs if you miss out on most of the other starters since his age and skill set gives him mildly intriguing upside, but he just isn't someone I recommend targeting until we see further growth at the plate from him.

First Base Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: I still see a wealth of solid options here to fill the first base slot for owners that opt not pay for Pujols, Howard, or Berkman. Both Todd Helton and Carlos Delgado should return to the $25-30 level. Prince Fielder, Conor Jackson, and Xavier Nady either appear ready for breakout seasons or on track to see their values shoot upward by 2008. Lastly, Nomar remains a solid option around $20 for gambling owners willing to risk a $10 return for the promise of a $20-30 season.

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