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Creating First Base Scarcity

Three years ago I was asked to join a very competitive league that was not short on smack talk or prize money. As the newbie to the league, I bore the brunt of most of the pre-draft smack talk. I knew I had to earn some respect and decided I couldn’t attack this league the way I normally do. Players who are advanced know the typical things that other advanced players know: older examples that ring a bell are “wait on SP,” or “don’t pay for saves,” or “SS/2B are shallow and I don’t want to be stuck with Yunel Escobar, again.” In order to win this league, I would have to be creative.

This league was a 12-team league and I had the 12th overall pick in the snake draft. I decided I would draft back-to-back first basemen. People called me crazy, laughed at my ineptitude in fantasy baseball, and continued the jeers all the way, right until I won the championship*.  I don’t go into a draft determined to draft two first basemen in the first two rounds, as no owner should ever be handcuffed to that extreme, but I have deployed that strategy when the cards fell right. The strategy works for a couple of reasons: 1) these players usually carry big names and can be traded for more and with greater ease, and 2) if you don’t trade these players, most leagues allow you to start both of them either at the Util or CI position.

Finally, by drafting these first basemen, you are creating significant scarcity at this position that has not been present as long as I can remember. Let’s dive deeper into these rankings a little bit.

Just by using ESPN’s projections real quick, here are the top first basemen:

1) Albert Pujols

2) Joey Votto

3) Prince Fielder

4) Buster Posey (C)

5) Edwin Encarnacion (17 HR to 42 HR)

6) Billy Butler (limited ceiling)

7) Adrian Gonzalez (injured?)

8) Allen Craig (injury?)

9) Joe Mauer (C)

10) Paul Goldschmidt (young)

11) Carlos Santana (C)

12) Freddie Freeman (young)

13) Ike Davis (young, injury prone?)

14) Eric Hosmer (horrid 2012)

15) Anthony Rizzo (young)

When I read this list, I see a top-heavy group that has average upside depth after AGonz. For starters, the majority of people who draft any of the Catchers on this list are going to slot that player at C and not 1B. Assuming that Posey, Mauer, and Santana are off the list, the number is reduced to twelve. If you are in a 10 or 12 man league and you can draft Votto and Fielder, that leaves a major question mark for the rest of the league at 1B. It will either cause other players to reach at this position, or it will set you up to trade with a team down the road. Is EE a 17 HR or 42 HR player? Will Craig get hurt again? What does 2013 hold for newbies (relative) Goldschmidt, Freeman, Davis, Hosmer, and Rizzo? With two of the top first basemen, you should not have to worry about those questions. And if you end up needing help somewhere else in your lineup, it should be easy to trade one of your big named stars for the necessary championship components.

In the worst case scenario, you get stuck with two first basemen that will maul for an entire season. Just draft a speedy OF and you should have no worries.

Draft Strategy A:

Player A: Joey Votto 553 AB, 28 HR, 95 R, 98 RBI, 9 SB, .320 AVG (177h)

Player B: Prince Fielder 576 AB, 35 HR, 97 R, 116 RBI, 1 SB, .313 AVG (180h)

Player C: Carlos Gomez 467 AB, 17 HR, 74 R, 46 RBI, 33 SB, .248 AVG (116h)

Total: 1596 AB, 80 HR, 266 R, 260 RBI, 43 SB, .296 AVG

Draft Strategy B:

Player A: Joey Votto 553 AB, 28 HR, 95 R, 98 RBI, 9 SB, .320 AVG (177h)

Player B: Justin Upton 583 AB, 28 HR, 100 R, 84 RBI, 20 SB, .281 AVG (164h)

Player C: Eric Hosmer 595 AB, 22 HR, 75 R, 79 RBI, 14 SB, .274 AVG (163h)

Total: 1731 AB, 78 HR, 270 R, 261 RBI, 43 SB, .291 AVG

By deploying this strategy, you draft two of the most reliable players in baseball. If you find yourself in need at other areas down the road, find the team that drafted 2012’s Hosmer and see what they would be willing to give up for Votto or Fielder, essentially filling the necessary gaps to win your 2013 title. And remember, if no one wants to trade for these big name maulers, you are still in a great position to win gold!

*In the aforementioned 2010 draft I was so happy Miguel Cabrera fell to me and I coupled that pick with Mark Teixeira. I ended up being one of the rare owners who beat the team that had CarGo in his ridiculous "Trout-esque" season.