In fantasy baseball, the first base position is very, very deep. Of course, you have your elite guys such as Albert Pujols and Joey Votto. But then, you also have a handful of dominant catchers who are eligible at the first base position as well, such as Joe Mauer and Carlos Santana.
However, the main reason that this position is so deep is the handful of young, emerging talent on the scene. We witnessed these guys produce big time numbers in 2012, but as we approach Opening Day in 2013, can they do it again? Two guys in particular, intrigue me from a fantasy perspective.
Paul Goldschmidt or Anthony Rizzo?
After being an absolute non-factor in his 2011 debut, Rizzo proved to everyone that he was born to play baseball one year later. In 2012, the Cubs’ first basemen improved in all areas, hitting 15 home runs, 48 RBI and batted a very solid .285 in just 87 games. Apparently the 70 games in the minor league system helped Rizzo as a hitter, no? Power is his main strength and Rizzo definitely has the potential and skills to hit upwards to 40 home runs this season. Projections have him for 31 homers and 109 RBI, which is incredible for a 23-year old, especially for fantasy owners who can grab him in the later rounds. One of the knocks on the young kid is his struggles against left handed pitching. In his career, Rizzo .200 batter against lefties, striking out 30 times. In order to become one of the better first basemen in real life and fantasy, he must improve in that area to become more versatile and balanced. Still, he is only 23 and has years to mature as a hitter. One thing is for sure, Rizzo is certainly the future of the Cubs organization.
Now onto Goldschmidt…
In my eyes, Goldschmidt is the most excting, young first baseman in that second tier of fantasy baseball. Just like Rizzo, Goldschmidt too, struggled to get going in his rookie campaign. However, the Diamondbacks didn’t give up on him and were rewarded handsomely. Goldschmidt belted 20 home runs, drove in 82 runs and batted an impressive .286 in 2012. The fascinating statistic were his steals. The 25-year old swiped 18 bags last season as a first baseman. That’s pretty much unheard of. Of course, he certainly won’t swipe that many bags again, but for a first baseman, he does have speed, stealing 13 bags between minors and majors in 2011. He has cut his strikeout rate since playing in the minor league and he has the upside to hit 30-plus home runs. Expect that .286 average to regress quite a bit, but there is no doubt that Goldschmidt is on the verge of exploding onto the scene.
If I had to choose between the two, I’d side with Goldschmidt. I feel like he brings a little bit more to the table than Rizzo does. The fact that Rizzo struggles so much against lefties concerns me a bit, though he certainly has much time to improve. While Goldschmidt’s numbers against righties in 2012 weren’t anything to write home about (.257, 96 strikeouts), it is much less of a drop-off than Rizzo. Goldschmidt also provides that boost in the stolen base department, having legitimate potential to steal 10 bases. Both, however, will easily provide a ton of excitement and a bright future at the corner for quite some time.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy baseball columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.