The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and national editor Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of Zinkie and Leach's first basemen discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.
On this week's pod, Zinkie and Leach break down the fantasy first-base landscape heading into draft season. We'll pick up the discussion with Leach identifying the Tier 2 first basemen for 2017.
Leach: We look at Tier 2, and to me, this is a group where there is a guy I see kind of as Tier 1 1/2. Tier 2 is Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman. I, in the past, have been kind of a skeptic on Miguel Cabrera. I've kind of waited for him to come to Earth, but, you know, aside from an injury-shortened and still outstanding 2015, Miguel Cabrera hasn't hit lower than .315 since 2008. That even includes the injured year. He hasn't had fewer than 108 RBIs -- except for that one year -- in ages. He is still, one thing we maybe aren't sure about are the 38 home runs, maybe he's a 30-homer guy.
Cabrera is someone you certainly circle in for at least .310, 100-110 RBIs, 30-plus homers, 90 runs. To me, he is a step ahead of the guys in that group and as close, for me, to Goldschmidt as he is to someone like Votto or Freeman.
Zinkie: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "How do you value Cabrera right now? How much do you believe in the 38 homers last season?" He's pretty much the best batting average lock there is at any position. Last year with 38, the year before, if you paint it as the whole season, it was basically a 25- to 26-homer season. The year before, he hit 25 in a full season. Prior to that, he was a 40-homer player. We have those two seasons prior to 2015, when he was a mid-to-high 20-homers guy.
We kind of split the difference in our preview this year, took some power off, and that pushed him out of Tier 1. I feel really comfortable taking him at the end of the first round and pairing him with someone like Trea Turner. A speed guy mixed with a really solid power hitter/batting average asset in Cabrera.
Leach: I think it's interesting how there are a lot of parallels in his career and Albert Pujols' career. Yet the way they've sort of entered their decline phases is totally different. Pujols is kind of turned into this now. Pujols gave away batting average and kept his power. Cabrera has kind of given away power for base hits. It's an intriguing difference between the two of them.
Elsewhere in Tier 2, honestly this is a guy we were both down on last year. I might like Freeman the most of those guys. I love Votto. I would take Votto on my team over any of them. But on a fantasy team, Freeman was really good and really steady before he got hurt. He was outstanding last year. He'll be in an improved lineup. He's still young. I'm pretty high on Freeman. Convince me that Rizzo is ahead of Freeman.
Zinkie: I'm really high on the Braves' lineup, so you're preaching to the choir about that. I'm high on Freeman's skill set. With Rizzo, it's actually a much shorter span than Cabrera, but it is similar because the floor for Rizzo, hitting in that Cubs' lineup, seems to be really high. He's had 31 or 32 homers in each of the past three seasons, and his batting average in each of those seasons has been between .278 and .292. He's really stable. If you think 30 homers and a .285 average in the middle of the Cubs' lineup, you'll probably get 100 RBIs out of that and probably 90 runs. That's pretty much what he's been the past couple years. It's a really nice, safe second-round pick.
With Freeman, I believe most of what he did last year is sustainable. At the same time, I don't think the Braves are ready to be the Cubs as far as the lineup goes. And we do have to accept that fact that prior to last season, Freeman had never even hit 25 homers in a year. I guess there is more of a chance his power goes backwards, where that seems way unlikely for Rizzo.
Leach: That's fair. We also don't entirely know how the ballpark is going to play. I asked Mark Bowman about this. It's about 100 feet lower in elevation than Turner Field, which is not enormous, but it is a slight difference. I think we can be confident it'll play hitter friendly, but not extremely so.
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