Draft This, Not That: First Basemen

You want a basher from your first base position. A molly whopping masher! By my count, you have six shots to get one: Goldy, Rizzo, Miggy, EE, Crush Davis, and Abreu. That’s it! Votto and Freeman play in garbage lineups. Fielder doesn’t provide the same thump he used to. Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez are showing their age, and Eric Hosmer is what he is, nothing more. Plenty of catchers may qualify as first basemen, but you won’t be playing them there (if you’re smart). If you play in a deep enough league or the top first basemen simply elude you, you are going to have some work to do to make up for it later on. Lucky for you, while there’s a big drop off from the top-tiers, there are plenty of darts to throw as you move down the 1B list.

Draft This Not That

Draft Brandon Belt – Not Freddie Freeman

Concussions are no joke. We don’t need Will Smith to tell us that with all the attention head trauma has gotten in recent years. Hopefully Brandon Belt doesn’t turn into the second coming of Justin Morneau. I’m all for him making the John Olerud helmet stylish again if it will help. Well, I’m moving forward with this call regardless of the Russian Roulette game I am playing with the dreaded concussion issues a guy can have linger.

So what do I like so much about Brandon Belt? Did they move the fences in at AT&T? No. Did the Giants get 20 extra road game in Colorado for 2016? No. Oh, it’s an even year so it’s time to get on the San Francisco bandwagon? No. It’s simply that if Belt stays on the field for 145+ games I see little reason he couldn’t eclipse whatever line Freddie Freeman is going to piece together in that awful Braves lineup for 2016. I’ll go so far as to say that with a clean bill of health, Brandon Belt could even match Eric Hosmer’s production this coming season.

As for Freeman, him and Belt compare more closely than you probably realize. Their wOBA outputs were similar at .359 for Belt and .364 for Freeman. Their wRC+ outputs were comparative as well at 135 for Belt and 133 for Freeman. Add in the better surrounding lineup and extra stolen bases Belt tends to chip in and I like the San Francisco first baseman quite a bit more than Freeman, especially when he could be had in the neighborhood of 75 picks later than the Atlanta first baseman on draft day.

Admittedly, this call has as much to do with my hate for Freeman’s situation as it does for the value I see in Brandon Belt. Who protects Freeman in Atlanta? Whether it becomes AJ Pierzynski, Hector Olivera, or some other weak bat, it will not be a good situation for Freeman. About the only other bat I see much value in for Atlanta is Ender Inciarte, and there is still no guarantee he stays on their opening day roster as many teams see him as a desirable trade target.

In 2015, the Giants had the 5th most productive NL lineup. Every part of that lineup outside of Marlon Byrd should return for 2016. Atlanta on the other hand had the least productive lineup in all of baseball, scoring an eye-popping 40 fewer runs than the 29th ranked Miami Marlins.

For 2016, I project the following stat lines:

Freddie Freeman: .280/75/22/80/4
Brandon Belt: .275/70/20/75/10

Draft Mitch Moreland – Not Carlos Santana

For starters, Mitch Moreland can be had nearly 80 picks later in drafts than Carlos Santana. Gone for Carlos Santana is the highly desirable catcher eligibility (as well as third base). He will enter 2016 as a first baseman only. Also gone for Carlos Santana is any perceived upside. Carlos Santana is simply a decent baseball player who never really met his full expectations. He has decent power, especially from the left side. Santana has popped 34 of his 46 homers from the left side over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, he has also hit just .212 and .211 from the left side during that time span. Basically, Carlos Santana’s work from the left side of the plate puts him in Chris Carter territory. If that’s appealing to you, you need a new hobby.

Fortunately for Santana, he has hit .271 and .268 against lefties over the past two seasons. His work against lefties comes with significantly less pop however. What Santana lacks in batting average, he makes up for with a patient approach at the plate that makes him a better real baseball player than a fantasy value.

Mitch Moreland is not without lefty/righty issues of his own, but at least his are more clearly defined. He managed to hit just .245 with 5 homers in 167 PA’s in 2015. Moreland abused righties though to the tune of a .294 average and 18 homers in 348 PA’s. Those of you in daily leagues should take note of this detail with Moreland. Even in weekly formats, Moreland is at least playable against LHP’s.

As for their respective team situations, the most glaring change might be that Carlos Santana will be without Michael Brantley for as much as two months to start the 2016 season. The Indians did add Mike Napoli, but I’m not convinced that’s going to be a significant factor for Santana. In Texas, the lineup is basically intact from what it looked like to wrap up the 2015 season. For the record, that intact Texas lineup is the same one that put up the second most runs in baseball after the All-Star break, trailing only Toronto. Cleveland was 16th in run production after the All Star break by comparison.

Both Santana and Moreland should be middle of the order bats for their respective teams this coming season. I expect them to have similar value. Their homer total should be comparable, as should their RBI production. Advantages for each should come from the runs column for Santana and the Batting Average column for Moreland. Whatever amount of stolen bases Carlos Santana chips in (He had 11 in 2015, but never more than 5 in any other big league season) is not enough for me to see him as desirable roughly 80 picks earlier than when Moreland can be had in drafts.

For 2016, I project the following stat lines:

Carlos Santana: .235/75/20/80/5
Mitch Moreland: .265/60/20/80/1

Draft This / Not That Series
CatcherSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldPitchers

 

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Ron Vackar
Though Ron is a Dodgers fan, he is more likely to be found at Angel Stadium or Petco Park during the regular season. The Dodgers play 9-10 games a year in San Diego so Petco is basically Dodgers Stadium south. By day he is a high school teacher as well as a golf coach and previously coached baseball. When not working, he can be found at home with his beautiful wife and dog Brooklyn.
Ron Vackar

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