Fantasy Preview: First Base

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Traditionally the deepest fantasy position, first base is a top-heavy source of homers and RBIs, whether you take one of the top guys or wait until the middle rounds. The difference is in degrees -- expecting 45 homers instead of 35, 120 RBIs instead of 95. With this much depth, look elsewhere at the top of the draft and pick up a minor stud to play first in the middle rounds.

No player in the game has Howard's raw power, which combined with table-setters in front of him and a home park seemingly built for him, makes him a first-round pick. Even with zero speed and a strikeout rate that will keep his batting average well under .300, he's a fantasy stud.

Fielder is Howard without the extremes: a bit less power and strikeouts, a slightly inferior park and team context, a bit more than zero speed. It's a difference of maybe one round.

Pujols could have a typical Pujols season, or he could blow out his elbow and miss five months. Hanging over this is the possibility that the Cards could fall off the pace, giving Pujols incentive to get healthy for 2009. High risk, high reward, high anxiety.

The Jose Reyes of first base, Lee's 13 projected steals are as many as any two other first basemen combined. He can hit a little, too, and could get an RBI boost from having Kosuke Fukudome getting on in front of him.

One of the safest plays on the board, Berkman is a four-category talent whose high OBP could make him a runs monster in a bolstered Astros lineup. He's eligible in the outfield as well.

Don't let Teixeira's split stat lines fool you: his 2007 season was one of the best of his career, with highs in average and OBP. The midseason deal and an early-season quad injury held his counting stats down, so take advantage of a bargain after the top five go.

From oblivion to the No. 7 spot. Pena strikes out so much that his average will hurt you, and you have to remember that his career highs prior to last year were .248, 27 homers and 82 RBI. Be wary.

Few hitters make a better move than Swisher does this year, going from pitcher-friendly McAfee Coliseum to US Cellular, where the ball flies very well. Like Howard and Pena, his strikeouts hurt his average.

There's a dropoff after Swisher. Gonzalez is just killed by Petco Park, where fly balls go to die. Even at that, he's productive, in part because he owns the road; .295, 20 homers and a .570 SLG last year.

He won't hit .320 again anytime soon, but he will be a reliable HR/RBI guy.

Votto is a great fit for the Reds' Great American Ball Park, with patience and power and better batting average than Adam Dunn. If Dusty Baker lets him play, he'll belong in the top 10.

Don't be fooled by that pretty .320 batting average last year. Young is a .290 hitter without much power or any speed, can only play first base, and he's not guaranteed to keep his job all year.