Part two of my belated analysis of the CBS Sports A.L. auction focuses on the first basemen.
Miguel Cabrera $40, Mark Teixeira $40.
I'm repeating what I wrote last time out about Joe Mauer, but paying significantly more money for a player than he can possibly earn is a mistake in a start-up/start-over league. Cabrera and Teixeira earned $31 and $28, respectively, in 5x5 last year, and it's not like their numbers were shabby last year. But it's almost impossible for a hitter to earn $40 in 5x5...particularly if you don't run. The other problem with these prices is that there's more hitting to buy in the American League. If you took Albert Pujols' 47/135/16/124/.328 line and put it into last year's A.L. context, he would have earned $41. I like Miggy and Tex, and wouldn't mind paying in the low $30s for Tex or the mid-$30s for Miggy and taking a slight loss. I don't like paying them like they're going to rip out a year like Pujols did in 2009.
THE NEXT BEST THINGS
Justin Morneau $32, Kevin Youkilis $31, Kendry Morales $29, Billy Butler $26, Carlos Pena $26
There's a pretty big drop off from here to the next group of first basemen, which explains the higher prices for Cabrera and Teixeira...even if it doesn't justify them. I don't like the prices in this grouping very much either. If I had to pick two hitters I liked here, it would be Morales and Butler. Morales earned $27 last year and while I'm skeptical he'll improve all that much and could even face a consolidation year, he's entering his Age 27 season and shouldn't see any kind of serious decline. Butler's the guy who everyone is going to target as the player who is about the enter into the realm of the elites. He'll be 24 this season, and fits the profile of someone who is about to turn some of those doubles into home runs. The RBI and runs might take a hit in Kansas City, but this price doesn't seem out of line.
Youk seems like a slight reach at this price. I'd like him more if this were an OBP league. Morneau is going to start getting tagged with the "overrated in Roto" label if he keeps cracking $30 in these expert auctions. He barely cracked $30 in earings in his MVP season, and that was way back in 2006. He's a solid guy to have in the low to mid-$20s, but don't push. Pena is the most problematic hitter of this bunch. The HR/RBI are great, but his batting average nullifies some of that. I wouldn't mind going to the low $20s if I were ignoring batting average, but even then there's a limit. 2007 looks like an outlier, not something to count on Pena ever coming close to again.
Paul K0nerko $16, Chris Davis $16.
Compared to the more expensive options above, Konerko's a relative bargain. He provides a good chunk of the power that some of those hitters do at a fraction of the price. Age starts becoming a concern for players who fit Konerko's slow footed, thumper profile, but I think he's worth the risk if your league pushes hard on 1B due to scarcity. Davis, on the other hand, is someone I'd probably discount due to the presence of Justin Smoak. I still like Davis, and saw some positive signs from him in September/early October, but another slow start could doom him to ex-prospect oblivion. On the positive side, keep in mind that Davis will only be 24 in baseball age this year. He has room for improvement.
THE REST OF THE STARTERS
Nick Johnson $10, Casey Kotchman $9, Lyle Overbay $8.
These are the kind of grinders I like buying in an auction where most everyone else is too expensive. Johnson's an obvious injury risk, but he should DH almost exclusively and get plenty of RBI opportunities. He's not a big HR threat, but Yankee Stadium is obviously going to help him. I wouldn't be surprised to see Johnson hit 15 bombs this year. Kotchman is never going to live up to all of the hype that surrounded him in Anaheim, but I think he'll play a fair amount this year and move the chains enough to make him OK - if not great - at $9. There's so much negativity always surrounding Overbay that it's easy to forget he's hit 15 HR or more five of the last six years. With the Jays retooling, he's an obvious flight risk, but if he plays he's probably a slight bargain at this price.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
Hank Blalock $5, Russ Branyan $2, Carlos Delgado $1.
I noticed earlier this winter that A.L. corner infield was a barren position in the auction endgame last year. This year could see a repeat of this phenomenon. Blalock, Branyan, and Delgado were all Major League free agents when CBS auctioned. Since then, Branyan has signed with the Indians. The Tribe says he's going to play a good deal, but color me skeptical. I think he's insurance if Matt LaPorta or Michael Brantley flop this spring. Still, Branyan could sneak in 250-300 AB with decent power, and the rest might keep him from breaking down like he did last year. Blalock remains unsigned as I write this. The Rays and Marlins seem to be the finalists for his services. It doesn't look like he's going to start; his best-case scenario is probably as a part-time DH/corner infielder that needs an injury to break into a line-up. Unless the Rays are going to push Pat Burrell into the outfield, grabbing a guy who will be backing up Pena and Evan Longoria isn't a great play. Delgado had another hip surgery in mid-February and won't be healthy until June. His career might be over.