Buy or Sell: First Base

We’ll continue to look at who to buy and who to sell position-by-position, moving 90 feet from home to first base.

Note: Some stats are from 6/8, when I first started working on this article

Sell

Adam Lind – In no way do I think Lind will fall into a slump like he did last season, but it has to be enticing to sell high given just how hot he has been since returning from the DL. I think the 25-30 home run power will stick, but given his less-than-desireable plate discipline (6% walk rate, 35.2% chase rate) his AVG remains a bit risky. He’s currently hitting .333 against left-handed pitching with a .375 BABIP in a small sample of 39 at-bats. His career high AVG against lefties was .275 in 2009. Lind is a career .225 hitter against left-handed pitching.

Gaby Sanchez – There’s no questioning that Sanchez is a solid bat, but there might be a slight sell opportunity here based on his .311 AVG. Sanchez has a .333 BABIP, which is high, but not crazy high. Still, I see that coming down a bit since he’s no necessarily a bit-time line drive hitter and only has medium pop for a 1B. In the end his numbers should be good, but I’m thinking .280-.290 AVG and 20-25 HRs when all is said and done.

Mitch Moreland – By listing Moreland as a sell, I am in no way predicting that his production will fall off sharply. In fact I’ve recommended adding Moreland to more than a few readers. That being said, I see a slight drop in AVG sooner or later. Moreland has had trouble hitting left-handed pitching at the big-league level (.200 last season and .208 this season, with no home runs) and his BABIP against right-handed pitching this season is a robust .376. I’d expect that BABIP against righties to drop and bring his AVG down along with it. I still think he can hit between .280-.290 the rest of the way, but his value might be at it’s peak right now.

Todd Helton – This one comes down to health. Helton is still a tremendous hitter when healthy and he has been able to play in 52 games this season. However, he was limited to 150 post-all-star at-bats last season. His age (37) and history of back problems makes it tough to expect great things for the entire 2011 season.

Mike Morse – If the season were only two months long, Morse would have one heck of a first-half/second-half split. He hit .211/.253/.268 with only one home run in April, but exploded in May, hitting .403/.422/.774 (774 SLG!!!) with six home runs. Would the real Micheal Morse please stand up? It seems as though Morse has certainly learned to harness his power potential, but I don’t see him hitting over .300 the rest of the way. His plate discipline leaves a bit to be desired (6.3% walk rate and 37.7% chase rate over his last 428 major league plate appearances), so he could run into just as many cold streaks as hot streaks. Sell him high if the return is high given his unreal production of late, but unless the right offer comes your way, feel free to hang in with the highs and lows. I could see .275-.280 with 25 home runs in the end.

Brett Wallace – One look at Wallace’s BABIP (.389) and you can’t help but think a regression is coming. Wallace doesn’t have much speed, so his ground-ball rate of over 50-percent shouldn’t translate to such a high BABIP. That ground-ball rate has also held back any sort of power numbers (.144 ISO) and his ground-ball rates were always high in the minors according to stats from FirstInning.com. Prospect guru’s didn’t seem to buy into his power at triple-A last season (PCL/Las Vegas) and he’s showing no signs of having a much of an impact in that category with the Astros for the rest of this season.

Brad Hawpe – A .303/.367/.506 month of May put Hawpe back on the deep league map, but that production was fueled by a .411 BABIP. Hawpe continues to strike out at a very high rate (over 30 percent) and he hits lefties like Jeff Mathis hits everything. 1B prospect Anthony Rizzo is now a San Diegon (San Diegan? San Diegite?), which will cut into Hawpe’s playing time, if not eventually cost him his roster spot.

Casey Kotchman – I’ll buy him maintaining a good AVG this season due to a solid line-drive-ground-ball approach, but he’s sure to come down from .341

Buy

Justin Smoak – I’m buying here, but only at the right price. Smoak seems to be overcompensating for the things he struggled with last season, namely, weak pop-ups. Now, his ground-ball rate is over 50 percent. Despite the high ground-ball rate, Smoak has managed 10 home runs. If he can make the adjustment, we could see a second half power surge and a rise in AVG into the .260’s.

Ryan Howard – Like Smoak, I wouldn’t go all in to get Howard, but if his owner is frustrated with his production — especially after a .208/.317/.434 May — the price might be right. When Howard signed his five-year/$125 million dollar extension, which takes his contract through the 2016 season, many expert analysis cautioned that his decline would come well before the end of the deal. Sure enough, Howard seems to be moving farther and farther away from the consistent 40-plus home run threat he used to be. He strikes out too much, his walk rate has regressed and he has, for most of his career, been neutralized by left-handed pitching. This season, Howard has yet to hit a home run off of a lefty. That being said, Howard still has a chance to give fantasy owners some good power numbers. His current 17.6 percent HR/FB rate would represent a career low. While I think his slow regression is for real, he’s not done yet. When all is said and done, Howard should still hit 30-35 home runs with a .250-.260 AVG.

Carlos Pena – Pena struggled through a thumb sprain early on, which clearly affected his power. Without the power, Pena has almost no fantasy value. However, Pena recovered to hit .258/.402/.517 in may with seven home runs. I think he’s well capable of this type of production going forward, especially in the friendly confines of Wrigley during the middle of summer.

Juan Miranda – As long as he can fight off nagging injuries, I think he’ll have a solid season. There’s room for his AVG to rise a little and he’s shown the ability to hit for plus-power in stretches. .265, 15 home runs the rest of the way wouldn’t surprise me.

Derrek Lee – While his value will be relegated to deeper leagues, Lee has some production left in him. Before hitting the DL, Lee was still showing signs of his good plate discipline and line-drive skills. he hit .293/.373/.516 with nine home runs after the all-star break last season.

Aubrey Huff – Huff’s roller-coaster career continues. His line-drive rate and chase rate have regressed big-time to this point. He still has the potential to pop 4-5 home runs per month, so if you are in desperate need of help and are willing to cross your fingers on an improvement in AVG, Huff at least has some upside.

Daric Barton – This buy is for OBP leagues only. Last season, Barton posted a .393 OBP, but his current .269 BABIP has held his OBP to .335 so far. He’s still hitting line-drives, and drawing a good amount of walks (14 percent walk rate), so he could see a rise in OBP with a little more luck in his BABIP. He has gone 8-for-19 since returning from his benching.

Hold

Joey Votto – The only part of Votto’s game that isn’t great right now is his eight home runs. His fly-ball rate is a bit low for a power hitter, but that could certainly change as the season moves along. Even if he’s not a home run monster this season, he’ll more than make up for it with a great AVG/OBP/SLG and plenty of runs and RBI.

Albert Pujols – There may have been a chance to buy low about a week ago, but his recent tear disintegrated those chances. If you held onto him through the rough start, give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the rest of the season.

Adrian Gonzalez – It took the month of April for him to feel 100-percent after recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but Since May 1st, A-Gone has been a monster. Look for that to continue as he peppers the green monster and continues to put baseballs into the outfield seats.

Miguel Cabrera – Miggy gonna do what Miggy gonna do baby.

Mark Teixeira – His low BABIP may seem like a reason to buy-low, but his 18 home runs negate the low AVG right now. Besides, the low BABIP might very well be a product of his high fly-ball rates as a left-handed hitter. For three years now, Tex has been hitting more and more fly-balls and fewer line-drives when batting left-handed. As long as that trend continues, the AVG may not rise like some feel it will.

Prince Fielder – Maybe you can sense a trend here. It’s tough to buy or sell the top 1B’s right now since they’re all performing at high levels, as expected.

Paul Konerko – Pauly seems to have found the fountain of youth. At age 35, he’s having yet another solid season, echoing the stats he put up last season. As long as he stays healthy, he should continue to produce.

Justin Morneau – What can you do at this point with Morneau? Piled on top of having to recover from symptoms of a concussion, Morneau has battled a list of nagging injuries as well. It really is hard to say if he’ll ever be the same, but I’d err on the side of caution.

Eric Hosmer – I’ll stick to my eyeballed projection form him when he was first called up. Unless you get a perfect offer for him, he’s a keeper.

Mark Trumbo – While I’m buying 20-25 home runs, I’m still concerned about the AVG. Trumbo does two things that I don’t like: He chases a ton of pitches outside the strike-zone (over 40 percent) and hits a ton of infield pop-ups (a major league leading 27 percent). Given that you likely acquired him for nothing, just sit back and enjoy the long balls.

Freddie Freeman – I projected a .277/.335/.436, 17 home run line from Freeman. He’s hitting .273/.343/.420 with five home runs, not bad at all for a 21-year-old rookie. He should at least continue on this pace, but there is some room for a small up-tick in power.

Michael Cuddyer – There’s just nothing above mediocre when it comes to Cuddyer at this point in his career. The only real shot he had for value would have been in RBI and runs, but the Twins offense as a whole hasn’t done much of anything. In deep leagues, his multi-position eligibility helps, but there are Walleye out there with more potential than him right now (especially lightly breaded and fried in butter!).

Matt LaPorta – While LaPorta is starting to realize some of that power potential he showed in the minors, he swings at too many bad pitches, pops up too much and has too much “whiff” in his swing to project much more than what he is currently doing.

Daniel Murphy – Eligible at 2B, so I’ll cover him there.

Juan Rivera – Rivera has hit “enough” to earn playing time in Toronto, but that could be very short lived upon the arrival of top prospect Brett Lawrie (Lawrie has been diagnosed with a fracture in his left hand, so Rivera may be able to maintain his mediocrity for a bit longer). Deep league GMs used Rivera as a fill in while he was “hot”, so he served his 2011 purpose.

Lyle Overbay – …is still Lyle Overbay.

James Loney – Dude has a 0.70 ISO.

Injured

Ike Davis – I think he was playing a bit over his head before the injury, but when healthy I think .275, 25-30 HR is possible. No good news to report on his injured ankle, unfortunately.

Adam LaRoche – May not play again this season due to a shoulder injury.

Other Buy or Sell: Catchers