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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fantasy baseball: Top 20 first basemen

The Indians’ signing of Russell Branyan is confusing from a player-development standpoint.

It’s not much more transparent from a fantasy perspective for AL-only leagues.

From April through June last season, Branyan was very productive for the Mariners, batting .303 with 19 home runs, 40 RBI and 46 runs scored in 241 at-bats.

He finished with career highs of 31 homers and 76 RBI, but was limited to 431 at-bats because of a back injury. Then there were the strikeouts, which are as much a staple of Branyan’s game as sleeveless shirts on “Jersey Shore.”

There are too many good first basemen (13 on the list below had at least 93 RBI last season, 16 had 25 or more home runs and 10 batted .290 or better) to play Branyan in mixed leagues.

In 10- or 12-team AL-only leagues, he’s a low-level starter, at least until he loses at-bats to Matt LaPorta or Michael Brantley, should the Tribe move LaPorta to first to play the latter in left field.

In points-based leagues that penalize for strikeouts, it’s best to avoid Branyan even in AL-only formats. He had 149 K’s last season — one every 2.9 at-bats.

In 2,431 career at-bats — the equivalent of four full major-league seasons — Branyan has 164 homers, 396 RBI and 946 strikeouts.

The final total translates to one strikeout per 2.6 at-bats — meaning in weeks in which Branyan plays five games and bats 25 times, you would lose roughly 10 points because of K’s.

On to the rankings:

Rank, player: R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals: 124-47-135-16-.327
2. Prince Fielder, Brewers: 103-46-141-2-.299
3. Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 103-39-122-2-.292
4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 96-34-103-6-.324
5. Ryan Howard, Phillies: 105-45-141-8-.279
6. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres: 90-40-99-1-.277
7. Justin Morneau, Twins: 85-30-100-0-.274
8. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 99-27-94-7-.305
9. Lance Berkman, Astros: 73-25-80-7-.274
10. Kendry Morales 86-34-108-3-.306
11. Joey Votto, Reds: 82-25-84-4-.322
12. Derrek Lee, Cubs: 91-35-111-1-.306
13. Billy Butler, Royals: 78-21-93-1-.301
14. Adam Dunn, Nationals: 81-38-105-0-.267
15. Carlos Pena, Rays: 91-39-100-3-.227
16. James Loney, Dodgers: 73-13-90-7-.281
17. Todd Helton, Rockies: 79-15-86-0-.325
18. Adam LaRoche, Diamondbacks: 78-25-83-2-.277
19. Paul Konerko, White Sox: 75-28-88-1-.277
20. Chris Davis, Rangers: 48-21-59-0-.238

Preseason top 100 players (15): Pujols (1), Fielder (9), Teixeira (11), Cabrera (12), Howard (14), Gonzalez (29), Morneau (38), Youkilis (48), Berkman (52), Morales (56), Votto (62), Lee (72), Butler (81), Dunn (82), Pena (100)

Short hops
The incomparable Pujols has tallied at least 32 homers and 103 RBI while batting .314 or better in each of his nine big-league seasons. ... Fielder has a three-year streak of at least 34 homers and 102 RBI, Teixeira has had 30-plus homers and 105 or more RBI in six straight seasons, and Cabrera has a six-year run of 26-plus homers and 103-plus RBI. ... Howard has averaged 49.5 homers and 143 RBI the last four years, a span in which he’s had at least 181 strikeouts each season. ... The underrated Morneau has averaged 29.5 homers and 117.5 RBI since 2006. ... Berkman’s bruised knee could be cause for concern. If it causes him to miss even a couple weeks, he should drop behind Morales, Votto and Lee in the rankings. ... The Rays’ Pena won’t help you in batting average (.247 career) and he has a Branyan-esque total of 471 strikeouts the last three seasons. ... Dunn has a six-year run of at least 38 homers, 92 RBI and 164 K’s. ... The once-mighty Helton has hit 17 or fewer home runs and driven in 91 or fewer runs in four consecutive seasons. ... Don’t sleep on the Royals’ 23-year-old Butler, who can do everything but steal bases.

NOTE: Statistics are from the 2009 season. ... Positions listed are according to the depth charts at

THIS WEEK: Catchers, Tuesday; first baseman, today; second baseman, Friday.

NEXT WEEK: Shortstops, third basemen and designated hitters

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March 5, 2010 at 3:12 AM 

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