2011 Fantasy Rankings: First Basemen

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Here is how deep the first base pool has become: the guy who finished fourth statistically among first basemen, and who hit more home runs than every first baseman not named Albert Pujols, is ranked 12th in CBS’s projections for 2011 (14th if you count two 1B-eligible catchers). Twelve first basemen are projected to knock in over 100 runs (nine accomplished this feat last year), and 11 are projected to hit over 30 home runs (nine accomplished this last year as well). Which means, in theory, you could be the ninth person in your league, or even the last, to draft a first basemen, and you’ll still be good for a 30-100 stat line. Not too shabby.

Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo is struck in the head with a bat by St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols in the first inning in St. Louis on October 1, 2010. Olivo left the game and went to a local hospital to be checked. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Big Dog goes ‘Arf’

And to think, that doesn’t include guys who hit 25 home runs or more (add another six). Underneath that group are another dozen hitters capable of blasting 25 dingers, provided you’re flexible in the batting average and strikeout department. First base is deep, kids, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence on the position. First, let’s discuss the wounded birds looking to reclaim their 2009 glory.

Kendry Morales, Angels
Yes! I just hit a Grand Slam and won the game for my tea-OW! What the hell just popped in my foot? Even stranger, this bitten-by-home-plate thing happened to two different guys last year. Morales was a beast in 2009, hitting 34 dingers and knocking in 108 runs (He even stole three bases, though his success rate was a dismal 30%), and he’s reasonably well protected with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and the ageless Bobby Abreu hitting around him. A safe estimate would be a 5% drop from his 2009 numbers, but he certainly has the potential to do better than that.

Justin Morneau, Twins
We love what a pure hitter Morneau is, but this concussion business is spooky. Football players come back from one after a week or two, while Morneau has been sidelined since July, which makes us wonder: what exactly was he seeing, and are those images still dancing around the periphery? The Twins are smart to be cautious with one of their most prized hitters, but we’re now eight months removed from the injury, and the Twins are still treating him like the boy in the plastic bubble. That’s troubling to put it lightly. His draft value obviously takes a hit – a third rounder last year, he’s a projected late sixth rounder this year – but that also makes him one hell of a steal, if he’s healthy.

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Kendry Morales breaks leg celebrating walkoff [vid]

Kendry Morales, you’ve just been Bill Gramatica’d.

The incident happened over the weekend and it might cost Morales his season. He’ll have surgery on the leg/ankle as soon as the swelling subsides.

Morales’ manager, Mike Scioscia, told the L.A. Times that he has worried about on-field celebrations before.

“You see guys jumping on top of the dog-pile … and you always know there’s a risk when boys are being boys and they’re excited,” Scioscia said.

“But Kendry is anything but flamboyant. For this to happen to a guy who plays hard and plays the game right is disappointing. We hope we never see anything like that again.”

With the way players beat up each other after they hit a walkoff, I’d be concerned too if I were a manager. Receivers are safer when they go over the middle in the NFL.

2010 MLB Preview: AL West

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the AL West.

1. Los Angeles Angels (6)
When I started to do the prep work for the AL West preview, I filled the top slot with the Angels without even giving it much thought. And why should I have? They’ve won the division six of the last seven years and baseball fans have just grown accustomed to the Halos being in the playoff mix every season. But immediately after I slotted them in the top spot, my stomach started to hurt and no, it wasn’t from the fish I ate last night. (Although hey, fish is still good even when it turns green right?) There’s no doubt that the Angels took a hit this offseason. They lost their ace (John Lackey), their leadoff man (Chone Figgins) and their top power source (Vladimir Guerrero), and usually when a team parts with that much talent, it suffers a setback. But this is why I’m not overly concerned about this club: the additions of Joel Pineiro and Hideki Matsui should pay dividends and if Scott Kazmir could ever stay healthy, he would ease the loss of Lackey. Plus, in Erick Aybar (their new leadoff hitter), Kendry Morales and Torri Hunter, the Halos still have a solid offensive core and their starting pitching is still in good shape with vets like Kazmir, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders. Times are changing in L.A. and the Mariners and Rangers will push the Halos this season, but in the end they should be right back on top.

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Lackey shuts down Red Sox as Angels take Game 1

John Lackey shut out the Red Sox for 7 2/3 innings on Thursday night as the Angels beat the Red Sox 5-0 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

From MLB.com:

Lackey delivered 22 outs, and Hunter produced the thunder, his three-run fifth-inning homer against Jon Lester providing the impetus behind a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox in front of 45,070 at Angel Stadium.

After the Angels expanded their lead with a pair of seventh-inning runs on Kendry Morales’ RBI single and a throwing error by left fielder Jason Bay, Lackey departed with one out in the eighth, raising his cap to a roaring crowd.

It’s the first postseason win at home by the Angels since Game 5 of the 2005 ALDS against the Yankees. It is also the first time the Angels have held a series lead against Boston — which eliminated them from the past two postseasons — since they took a 3-2 ALCS advantage into Fenway Park in 1986 after their fateful Game 5 demise in Anaheim.

Taking a series lead against the Red Sox was big given that it had become a mental block for the Halos to overcome. This win should give them confidence heading into Game 2 and while traveling to Boston still might be an issue, right now the Angels have the momentum and everything is in place for them to build on it.

For those unaware of Kendry Morales – get aware. He’s one of the rising hitters in the game and he’s coming off a solid regular season, especially in the second half. Players like Hunter are going to get more recognition, but if the Halos make a World Series run, I guarantee a guy like Morales will play a big part.

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