2/10/2014 11:25 A.M. ET
Goldschmidt tops among fantasy first basemen
By Fred Zinkie / MLB.com
Power, power and more power. When looking for power in fantasy baseball, first base is the first place to check. This position is filled with a deep pool of sluggers who can swat roundtrippers in bunches. The value of a fantasy first baseman is often defined by a player's ability to either take his power to an elite level, or his ability to chip in additional help with a few stolen bases or a high batting average.
TIER 1: Paul Goldschmidt
For the coming season, there is no question that Goldschmidt sits atop the fantasy first-base mountain. The D-backs superstar can match virtually any player in the dinger department, and he also has the wheels to reach double digits in steals. His booming bat and fleet feet should combine to allow the 26-year-old to top the 100 mark in both runs and RBIs. And since he likely has not yet reached his peak, Goldschmidt can be counted on to hover around the .300 mark for the second consecutive season.
TIER 2: Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto
This is a potent second tier of first basemen, as all four of these sluggers are nice targets for the late first or the second round of 2014 drafts. While the four players have similar overall values, their skill sets are each unique.
Davis is clearly the most powerful of the group, and he will attempt to post a second straight 50-homer campaign this season. The downside of Davis is that his high strikeout rate (199 K's in 2013) can lead to batting average swoons, and his .245 second-half mark last season is proof of his volatility.
Encarnacion is the second-most powerful player in the second tier, and his outstanding strikeout-to-walk rate (62-to-82 in 2013) ensures that he always produces a healthy batting average. The 31-year-old's sneaky speed (20 steals over the past two seasons) gives him an added skill that the other second-tier first basemen cannot match.
Fielder and Votto had disappointing seasons in 2013, but their career track records give them another year in Tier 2. Despite offering protection to baseball's best bat -- Miguel Cabrera -- Fielder struggled to put up massive totals during his two seasons in Motown. Fantasy owners can be optimistic that his offseason relocation to Arlington will put the spark back in the 29-year-old's bat. During his time in Milwaukee, the heavy hitter proved that he possesses 40-homer power when things are going right.
Votto stays in the second tier because of his amazing ability to get on base. The native Canadian's outstanding vision at the dish allowed him to post a National League-leading .435 on-base percentage last season. Because he reaches base so often, Votto scores plenty of runs and he even swipes a few bags. Unfortunately, Votto's careful approach at the plate has led to a dip in power, and his 24 homers and 73 RBIs last season left fantasy owners wanting for more.
TIER 3: Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman
Hosmer resembles Goldschmidt or Encarnacion because he can help in all five categories. But Hosmer currently lacks the necessary power to join the second tier, and pushing his homer total closer to the 25 mark will be a key aspect of the 24-year-old's development. Similar to Hosmer, Freeman could help himself by launching a few more long balls. The California native has already become a reliable source of batting average, RBIs and runs. But he has yet to demonstrate the ability to push far past 20 on his year-end home run total.
Fantasy owners who choose to address other positions in the initial rounds of a 2014 draft will still have plenty to choose from at fantasy baseball's deepest position.
TIER 4:Allen Craig, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Adrian Gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt form a diverse group of hitters who will come off the board during the middle rounds of mixed-league drafts. Wise owners will pluck the player from this group who best balances their fantasy lineup with their early-round selections.
Craig brings an elite batting average and RBI total to the table, while Trumbo offers prodigious power to a fantasy roster that can survive his 0-for-4 outings. Pujols is one of 2014's biggest boom-or-bust picks, as he attempts to push past recent injuries and find his way back to the top of this list, and Gonzalez offers reliable, if not outstanding production for fantasy owners who have been risky with previous picks. Rizzo and Belt are young players on the rise, and if they can addresses their shortcomings (Rizzo -- batting average, Belt -- power), then they could move up a tier this season.
Because of the depth at this position, fantasy owners shouldn't feel compelled to take a first baseman at the top of 2014 drafts. But on the flip side, starting the season with a subpar player at first base could leave an owner scrambling to make up a sizable statistical difference at other positions, because of the substantial numbers that players such as Goldschmidt and Encarnacion can accumulate.
Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.