As the last wave of drafts are set to take place in the next few days as Spring Training comes to a close, a realization hit me today — there are some significant bargains out there at first base.
It's easy to get drawn in by the big names at the top of the draft board. Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder are all major fantasy producers. But, they're also going at the very top of the drafts, on average before the end of the second round in standard Yahoo! leagues. Cabrera is an especially intesting case because he'll have first and third base eligibility, but it is important to remember that first base is a very deep position and there are a number of players who can be had much later in drafts freeing you up to fill the shallower positions early and then pounce on a good value first baseman later on.
Perhaps the best value at first base this season will be Kansas City's Eric Hosmer. Coming off a stellar rookie campaign which saw him hit .293 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI in 128 games, Hosmer has been on fire this spring showing no signs of a sophomore slump. Hosmer has hit .416 with 5 homers and 26 RBI in the exhibition season and appears primed to continue to fulfill the promise many believed he had when he arrived last season. And Hosmer's average draft position is 72.2, or the seventh round, allowing for other needs to be filled before picking up more than adequate first base production.
Another sleeper first baseman to consider is Freddie Freeman of the Braves. Also, entering his second season, Freeman hit .282 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI last season and has bashed 6 home runs and notched 13 RBI so far this spring. He's had some injury concerns in preparation for the 2012 season, but after homering twice on Sunday he appears to be in fine health entering the regular season. Something else which is fine? His average draft position of 135.9 in the late 12th round.
And after a down 2011 season, Joe Mauer has fallen all the way to eighth round and an average draft position of 85.2. This comes despite the fact that he has both first base and catcher eligibility in Yahoo! leagues. He may not ever replicate the power production he had in 2009, but if he can get himself healthy again he could provide significant value at two spots in your lineup from a middle of the draft pick.
Other names to consider: Lance Berkman (ADP: 81.8, late seventh round), Paul Goldschmidt (ADP: 122.9, 11th round) and Ike Davis (ADP: 137, late 12th round).
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Many will groan, but it's inevitable — someone in your draft will start a run on closers well before you're ready.
Craig Kimbrel is currently the first reliever coming off the board in standard Yahoo! leagues, on average in the fifth round at pick No. 51. Kimbrel was great last season, but that's still awfully early for a reliever. Mo Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon aren't that far behind either, both currently going in the sixth round on average. But, don't get sucked in early, there is plenty of value later.
Jordan Walden wasn't always pretty last season for the Angels, but the fact of the matter is he had plenty of saves (32) with more strikeouts (67) than innings pitched (60 1/3). And he's currently being drafted in the late 12th round, with an average draft position of 135.7. Also keep in mind that with the additions of Pujols and C.J. Wilson the Angels figure to be one of the better teams in baseball, providing Walden with plenty of opportunities for saves.
Keep an eye as well on Sergios Santos. The former White Sox closer had 30 saves with 92 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings last season. He is moving to the more rigourous AL East, but his performance in 2011 would make his ADP of 149.6 (14th round) a bargain. Also, Jason Motte would appear to be a solid late round closer selection (ADP: 159.5, late 14th round) after he finally grabbed hold of the role late last season and proved he was ready for it during the Cardinals' run to the World Series title.
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Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast for The Salem News. You can follow him on Twitter @ SN_fantasysport.