UPDATED MARCH 12, 2013: The first base position remains just as it has been over at least the last decade – both powerful and deep. Maybe some of the names have changed (although not too many) but the bottom line is that this is where you shop when looking for your big time sluggers. You’ll obviously see the first few guys come off the board quickly in the first round, but as you scroll down through the rankings, you’ll see that there are guys down the list who are capable of producing a vast amount of power as well. The talent and depth is absolutely fantastic and when you’re drafting, if your league uses a corner infielder in addition to the standard first and third base positions, I highly recommend that you choose someone from this list...
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
1. Albert Pujols, LAA
2012: .285 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 85 runs, 8 SB
Despite the absolute worst April of his career and a dismal September in which he was hampered by a knee injury that required offseason arthroscopic surgery, Pujols still managed to produce his 12th consecutive 30-home run season. There was an obvious adjustment period for him as he played his first season in the AL and with the pressure of a big contract and of, well, being Albert Pujols, it took a little longer than most expected. But when Mike Trout arrived on the scene and all eyes turned to him, Pujols was able to relax and the plate and hit like he normally does. His walk rate was the lowest of his career and his strikeout rate spiked to a level not seen since his rookie year, obvious signs of him pressing at the plate, but those should normalize again this season and he should continue to rate as the number one first baseman by year end.
2. Joey Votto, CIN
2012: .337, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 59 runs, 5 SB
Expectations ran high heading into the 2012 season when Votto signed a 10-year, $225M contract extension, but a torn meniscus put a major damper on things and kept the Reds first base slugger on the shelf for over a month. And when he did come back, he was definitely not at 100-percent. But it's a new year and Votto is expected to start fresh and perform up to task. He has amazing plate discipline and a beautiful power stroke and there's no reason to think he can't come close to the 30-home run barrier again while hitting for a .300-plus average and kicking in a little more than just a handful of stolen bases. He's first round material all the way.
3. Prince Fielder, DET
2012: .313 AVG, 30 HR, 108 RBI, 83 runs, 1 SB
Though he barely reached the 30-home run level in his first season with the Tigers, Fielder posted career-bests in batting average and strikeout rate while maintaining a double-digit walk rate and a .400-plus on-base percentage. The move from hitter-friendly Miller Park to pitcher-friendly Comerica obviously took its toll on his power and that is likely to be a relative constant moving forward. Still, he remains one of the premier power hitters in the game and the fact that he has appeared in at least 160 games for four consecutive seasons should give you confidence in his overall durability. There's little doubt that he will be off the board by the end of the first round in all drafts.
4. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
2012: .286 AVG, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 82 runs, 18 SB
What's not to love about a power-hitting first baseman who posts strong on-base-percentages and double-digit stolen bases? The biggest concern about Goldy heading into the 2012 season was his batting average, but when he exhibited such strong plate discipline and finished the year with a .286 average, the fantasy community was convinced. He hits in a great hitter's park and should see his power continue to develop as his career is just underway. He may not steal as many bases, but what he loses there will certainly be gained in a probable increase in home runs and RBI. Some might consider this ranking a bit high right now, but by the end of the season, he'll have proven his worth once again.
5. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR
2012: .280 AVG, 42 HR, 110 RBI, 93 runs, 13 SB
Talk about a breakthrough season. Not only did Encarnacion stay healthy all year, but he put up insane career totals that few people expected, despite posting strong ISO numbers in the past. It looks very much like the breakthrough we saw from Jose Bautista and just like Joey Bats, Encarnacion should retain most of the numbers moving forward. He likely won't crack the 40-home run barrier again, but even a slight regression to the 30-35 range still puts him here in the top five. The strong walk rate and better-than-average strikeout total will help keep his OBP up and that should help him continue throwing you close to 10 stolen bases.
6. Billy Butler, KC
2012: .313 AVG, 29 HR, 107 RBI, 72 runs, 2 SB
The man adoringly known around Kansas City as Country Breakfast enjoyed a tremendous breakout season that saw him post career-highs in home runs and RBI while maintaining his usual high average and strong on-base percentage. He also found his way into playing 20 games at first base which grants him eligibility at the position in most leagues, something the Royals DH did not have in the past. Some speculate that his low fly ball rate indicates that the power may not repeat, but here in his age-27 season, the power should continue to grow. He'll likely see a spike in his fly ball rate which should help his chances of muscling close to 30 balls over the fence again and given his power stroke, a return to the 23.9-percent line drive rate is equally fathomable. Once the top five are off the board by the end of the third round, Butler shouldn't hang around much longer after that
7. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD
2012: .299 AVG, 18 HR, 108 RBI, 75 runs, 2 SB
More than a year removed from his shoulder surgery that most blamed for his 2011 power decline, A-Gone's numbers took another nose-dive in 2012, including his walk rate and on-base percentage. Perhaps it was the nightmare situation in Boston that kept his mind out of the game or maybe it was the fact that he spent a few weeks getting shuffled out to the outfield to accommodate the emergence of Wil Middlebrooks that affected his hitting. Whatever the case may be, he is expected to return to form here in his first full season with the Dodgers. He may not reach that 30-40 home run range again, but he should easily hit 25-30 while posting an average close to the .300 mark yet again. When he does return to form, you'll have hopefully gotten him at a nicely discounted rate this year.
8. Buster Posey, SF
2012: .336 AVG, 24 HR, 103 RBI, 103 runs, 1 SB
He possesses a much greater value being drafted as a catcher but since he qualifies here at first, we should at least show you where he'd be ranked if you were to somehow have a brain cramp and draft him at the first base position. If you'd like to see more on him, then go check out the catcher rankings. You won't have too far to scroll down the page as he's the number one backstop in the fantasy game.
9. Mark Trumbo, LAA
2012: .268 AVG, 32 HR, 95 RBI, 66 runs, 4 SB
If you're just looking at year to year production, then you can be encouraged by Trumbo's growth in power, average, on-base percentage and walk rate in 2012. But it was also a tale of two seasons for him last year as evidenced by his splits -- .306-22-57 before the All Star break and .227-10-38 after. Maybe it was the curse of being in the Home Run Derby, even though he lost, but a 32.2-percent strikeout rate in the second half was a major factor in his decline. The good thing, though, is that he is still in his prime, having turned just 27 in January, so while the power is still developing, he also has the ability to learn from his mistakes from the second half and improve across the board; hopefully for an entire season. His dual eligibility at first and in the outfield is definitely an added bonus.
10. Anthony Rizzo, CHC
2012: .285, 15 HR, 48 RBI, 44 runs, 3 SB
After yet another few months of beating the snot out of Triple-A pitching, the Cubs brought Rizzo up and finally gave the young, lefty slugger his due. He responded by posting a .900-plus OPS over June and July and while he endured a small slump in August, he bounced right back in September and finished the season strong. Rizzo's power is legit and he could be a consistent 30-plus home run guy for the next several years. While he could stand to draw a few more walks, his overall plate discipline is solid and at just 23 years of age, could develop into something even better.
11. Allen Craig, STL
2012: .307 AVG, 22 HR, 92 RBI, 76 runs, 2 SB
After what was essentially his first full season in the bigs, Craig has been gaining in popularity this offseason with his dual-position eligibility and his strong power potential. But be careful here as he is no spring chicken. In fact, he is already 28 years old and will turn 29 midway through the season, so how much higher of a ceiling is there really? If he falls to you in a draft, it's one thing, but don't overpay for the hype. FANTASY UPDATE: Had him slightly bumped, but a shoulder injury has hindered him this spring and keeps him out of my top 10 despite everyone else raving about him. Yes, that's right....another injury...shocker!
12. Freddie Freeman, ATL
2012: 259, 23 HR, 94 RBI, 91 runs, 2 SB
Freeman's 2012 totals ran remarkably consistent with those of his rookie season with a few noticeable exceptions. He reduced the strikeouts, increased his walk rate and actually posted an ISO that ran 30 points higher. Only his batting average took a hit as his BABIP dropped closer to league average. Given his minor league history in that department, you can probably expect a slight uptick, but in truth, he might actually be closer to being a .260 hitter than a .280 one in the big leagues. As long as his power continues to develop and he stays in a productive spot in the order, a modest drop in average should be more than tolerable.
13. Ryan Howard, PHI 2012: .219 AVG, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 28 runs
A ruptured Achilles tendon on the final at-bat of the 2011 season put the kibosh on most of Howard's 2012 season and then a broken toe late in the year took care of the rest. It's difficult to really judge his numbers from the 71 games he did manage to play, but one thing is for certain and that is he can still hit for power. The strikeouts spiked and the walk rate dropped but that had as much to do with him pressing at the plate and being over-aggressive in his approach than anything else. A restful offseason should help him regain some of his form, so look for him to knock 30-35 home runs with a .250-ish average once again. FANTASY UPDATE: Swinging a hot bat this spring and though it's a small sample size, he's starting to hit lefties.
14. Paul Konerko, CHW
2012: .298 AVG, 26 HR, 75 RBI, 66 runs
Konerko's power and consistency has been a huge asset for fantasy owners over the years and given the fact that his peripherals all still seem to fall in line with his career totals, it's hard not to assume that even at 37 years old, he is still capable of producing at his normal levels. Offseason wrist surgery might play a factor, especially since his power has dropped over the last two seasons, but again, it's very hard to bet against him and his track record. He makes for a solid selection once the top guys are off the board and you may even be able to grab him at a discount as there is always the question each year regarding when it will finally be the end of the road for him.
15. Eric Hosmer, KC
2012: .232 AVG, 14 HR, 60 RBI, 65 runs, 16 SB
It was a brutal sophomore campaign for the Royals first basemen as he spent the entire year struggling at the plate. Sure, he hit just two fewer home runs, stole more bases and increased his walk rate, but his strikeouts increased as he spent all season pressing and trying to work through a miserable .255 BABIP and a nagging shoulder injury that eventually shut him down late in the year. Teams have already employed the defensive shift on him which isn't helping his balls-in-play totals and he failed to make successful adjustments during the year. But Hosmer has a solid track record for decent power in both the minors and his rookie campaign, so if he can make the necessary adjustments, he could be in for a very strong third season. He's young enough to not give up on him so soon, but definitely approach with caution, especially if you're planning on using him long-term.
16. Adam LaRoche, WAS
2012: .271 AVG, 33 HR, 100 RBI, 76 runs, 1 SB
After a torn labrum ruined the 2011 season for LaRoche, expectations were not high for him heading into 2012. But rather than capitulate to public opinion, he turned around and produced a career-season at the age of 32 and became one of the best value plays of the year. While a return to the 30-home run threshold seems unlikely, he could very well continue to produce at his usual 25-30 home run level thanks to a change in his approach at the plate which helped produce a fantastic line drive rate while keeping the ground balls down. Still, he shouldn't really be considered as anything more than a decent second tier option.
17. Nick Swisher, CLE
2012: .272 AVG, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 75 runs, 2 SB
Hard to argue with the switch-hitting Swisher's consistency throughout his career as he hasn’t hit fewer than 23 home runs or 80 RBI over the last four years. He posts strong contact rates, a solid double-digit walk percentage and, more often than not, a better-than-average BABIP which all contribute to his strong on-base skills. There's no need to be concerned that a move from the short porch in Yankee Stadium will affect his power as Progressive Field caters to his type of hitting as well. Not only can you expect more of the same from him in 2013, but you can also expect a rise in those players he joins as his influence on the young Tribe members will be a positive one.
18. Chris Davis, BAL
2012: .270 AVG, 33 HR, 85 RBI, 75 runs, 2 SB
Davis turned out to be exactly what they Orioles were hoping for when they opted to go the way of Earl Weaver and play for the three-run home run. High strikeouts weren't a problem for management so long as the player was connecting well in the power department and Davis happily obliged. You're likely to see more of the same this year, but be careful with what you pay for his services. His final 36 game stretch where he hit .326 with 15 home runs is what everyone remembers, but there are definitely more valleys than there are peaks with him. Eligibility both at first and in the outfield is a nice bonus, but just keep in mind exactly what you're buying.
19. Adam Dunn, CHW
2012: .204 AVG, 41 HR, 96 RBI, 87 runs, 2 SB
The Big Donkey took AL Comeback Player of the Year honors from the writers at the Sporting News after returning to his natural low-average/huge power form and broke the 40-home run barrier for the first time since 2008. Of course he also continued to lead the league in strikeouts, but that's the usual caveat that comes attached to him as a player. He should continue to do more of the same this season although if he can get a little luckier on his BABIP, then that average should pull back up to a number north of .240 this year. If you build your squad with enough high-average players, then Dunn becomes a great guy to own as few players are capable of hitting for that kind of power. You can thank manager Robin Ventura for running him out onto the field as often as he did as the full-time DH has first base eligibility in most leagues. FANTASY UPDATE: Not much this spring says that the batting average is going to get much better which is always a concern.
20. Ike Davis, NYM
2012: .227 AVG, 32 HR, 90 RBI, 66 runs
Though the beginning of the season started off incredibly slow what with the Valley Fever scare and all, Davis turned things around for himself and, save for a lousy batting average, produced like a champ. His .246 BABIP was painfully brutal but that's more of a left-handed bat and a consistent defensive shift, it would seem. In addition to that adjustment at the plate he'll also need to trim down on the strikeouts, but there's no reason, after seeing such a nice improvement in both his line drive and ground ball rates, to think that he can't do what he needs to do to remain consistent.
21. Corey Hart, MIL
2012: .270 AVG, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 91 runs, 5 SB
The Brewers have ultimately decided to just stick with Hart at first base rather than move him back to the outfield here in 2013, however, with 53 games played in the outfield last season he still qualifies there in virtually all fantasy leagues. However, offseason knee surgery has now put him on-pace to miss, at least, the first two months of the season. When healthy, he's got solid 25-30 home run power and should continue to hit for a decent average -- something in the .270-ish range again. But he also has seen an increase in strikeouts over the last two seasons as the team has looked to him for more power in the wake of losing Prince Fielder last year. He also doesn't steal like he used to so don't expect a return to double-digits in that category. FANTASY UPDATE: News that he could return by the end of April is encouraging, but hesitant to move him up until we know for sure. Still a few weeks away from resuming baseball activities.
22. Justin Morneau, MIN
2012: .267 AVG, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 63 runs, 1 SB
The injuries, particularly the concussions, have dropped Morneau from one of the best run-producers in the game to basically just a shell of himself. The power isn’t what it used to be, he's striking out more, walking a little less, and is really not someone you should be counting on as your primary first baseman. He's much more a late-round corner-infielder than anything else. If he stays healthy again, he could post numbers comparable to what he did in 2012. But just don't put all your eggs into his basket. He's been slipping further and further down in mock drafts during the off-season, so you're definitely getting him at a bargain price, but he also has as strong a chance of fizzling out as he does to simply repeat his 2012 totals.
23. Mark Teixeira, NYY 2012: .251 AVG, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 66 runs, 2 SB
Missing time due to a calf injury last year took its toll on Teixeira's totals, but his peripherals all showed the same consistency we've seen from him over the years. His biggest issue has been the batting average which is likely tied to the low BABIP we've seen over the last three seasons thanks to the increased use of defensive shifts when he's at the plate. He won't try to change his approach at the plate as he has already attempted and abandoned that already, so you can probably expect more of the same this year with solid power numbers and a batting average hovering somewhere in the .250's. FANTASY UPDATE: A major wrist injury this spring has him out until at least the end of May. But even when he does come back, wrist injuries tend to do more lingering damage to power hitters so the power numbers are likely to suffer even more.
24. Joe Mauer, MIN
2012: .319 AVG, 10 HR, 85 RBI, 81 runs, 8 SB
Similarly to Buster Posey, Mauer spent enough time resting from behind the plate at first base to give him eligibility here in most leagues. However, Mauer doesn't really possess the power to be a quality option here, especially given the depth of power at first base. Ranking him here just gives you an idea of what his value would be as a first baseman, so if you're drafting him, fine. Just make sure it's as your catcher.
25. Kendrys Morales, SEA
2012: .273, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 61 runs
Morales had a fairly decent season after a broken ankle took away all of 2011 for him. Though his strikeouts took an increase, Morales power, for the most part, returned and good contact rates and a solid BABIP helped him keep the average up. But with the signing of Josh Hamilton, the Angels had a glut of 1B/OF/DH players and something had to give. And that something was Morales heading north to Seattle where he will likely assume most of the DH duties with enough replacement time of Justin Smoak at first to retain his eligibility. Angel Stadium plays as a pitcher's park so the move to Safeco certainly won't be jarring. However, he'll be hard-pressed to come close to that 30-HR mark he cleared back in 2009. With Jesus Montero also taking DH time, there is a chance that Morales isn't in the lineup all the time, but he'll be in there enough to help make a difference if you get him as a late corner-infield option.
26. Carlos Santana, CLE
2012: .252 AVG, 18 HR, 76 RBI, 72 runs, 3 SB
Yup, this is where Santana ranks amongst the first basemen if you were to mistakenly draft him as a first basemen. His batting average doesn’t compare to that of either Posey or Mauer and neither do his runs or RBI. Obviously he has the potential to do so much more damage with the bat, but until he does, he'll .remain a plus-option behind the dish and just a run-of-the-mill guy as the corner infield spots.
27. Chris Carter, HOU
2012: .239 AVG, 16 HR, 39 RBI, 38 runs
For the time being, Carter is penciled in as the A's starting first baseman in 2013. Unfortunately, we all know how much of a veritable wasteland the position has been for Oakland since Jason Giambi left for more lucrative pastures in New York. In typical A's fashion, he draws plenty of walks and makes decent contact, enough to keep his OBP at an acceptable range. If he can stave off Brandon Moss and actually hold down the job for a full season, he has the potential to hit you 20-25 home runs, but high strikeouts and just an average BABIP will help kill his batting average.
28. Michael Cuddyer, COL
2012: .260 AVG, 16 HR, 58 RBI, 53 runs, 8 SB
The book on Cuddyer just isn’t what it was last year when he was heading to Colorado with second base eligibility and high power expectations. Now, he's only eligible here and in the outfield which makes his numbers more run-of-the-mill than anything else and while the new home park helped his slugging percentage, there wasn't much in the way of a disparity between his home and road splits. On top of that, he lost two months of the season due to a lingering oblique issue, so in essence, his 2012 was a relative bust in most fantasy owners eyes. Now he enters 2013 healthy and with maybe a hint of the promise he had, but with talk now circulating that he could be traded soon, his value remains somewhat up in the air. Based on his numbers at Coors and the Metrodome versus his numbers at Target Field, it's evident that he needs a strong hitter's park to really shine. With no guarantee of that, he becomes a much bigger risk.
29. Mike Napoli, FA
2012: .227 AVG, 24 HR, 56 RBI, 53 runs, 1 SB
Napoli officially signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox after seeing his three-year offer pulled off the table after a hip issue put a scare into the Boston brass. He'll end up losing his catcher eligibility this year, for sure, but for now, he should be drafted for duty behind the plate. Obviously he still has decent value here, but it would be a waste to not use him at a much thinner position.
30. Michael Young, PHI
2012: .277 AVG, 8 HR, 67 RBI, 79 runs, 2 SB
Given his eligibility at second and third base in addition to first, it's obvious that this is not where you want to draft him, especially after a down season that saw him post a career-low in home runs and his lowest batting average since 2002. But Young's last two years in Texas have been more about unhappiness and position switches more than anything, and it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him make a full turnaround now that he is in Philly as their starting third baseman and has the desire to stick it to the Rangers brass for what he feels has been strong mistreatment. Look for him over at second rather than here and figure you'll get him for a nice, discounted rate given his "decline."
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
31. Todd Frazier, CIN
32. Brandon Belt, SF
33. Brandon Moss, OAK
34. Mark Reynolds, CLE
35. Garrett Jones, PIT
36. Lance Berkman, TEX
37. Yonder Alonso, SD
38. Kevin Youkilis, NYY
39. Adam Lind, TOR
40. Logan Morrison, MIA
41. Carlos Pena, HOU
42. Tyler Colvin, COL
43. Justin Smoak, SEA
44. Jordan Pacheco, COL
45. Jesus Guzman, SD
46. Mitch Moreland, TEX
47. Darin Ruf, PHI
48. James Loney, TB
49. Jeff Keppinger, CHW
50. Carlos Lee, FA
Check out the rest of our 2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.