There was no position where prices dropped more in the CBS auction environment this year than at first base. Last year's prices were stratospheric compared to this year's. To put this in perspective, 2011's Adam Dunn and Mark Teixeira cost $1 less than this year's most expensive first basemen. Some of this is simply because the position is somewhat deeper this year, but I suspect that most of the difference is due to the reaction of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder coming into the fold in 2012.
THE "CHEAP" ELITES
Miguel Cabrera $39, Albert Pujols $39, Adrian Gonzalez $36
At these prices, it's hard to go wrong with any of these options barring injury. Of the three, I prefer Pujols but like Gonzalez $3 cheaper than the other two. Lost in Pujols' huge free agent bonanza is the fact that he arguably just came off of the worst season of his career. Some of this was due to injury, but much of it was simply due to a slow start. At some point the Angels might regret this contract, but I'm betting on an elite-level season this year. I wouldn't worry about Cabrera's position shift impacting his fantasy value, but I wouldn't overpay because he's switching positions either. It's not impossible that Cabrera and Gonzalez hit for such high batting averages again, but it's more likely than not that they slip somewhat. That doesn't mean they'll hit .280, but a .310-.320 BA cuts their value (lost runs/RBI opportunities) down across the board. Spend big, but don't chase 2011 too far down the rabbit hole in other words.
THE NEXT BEST THINGS
Prince Fielder $31, Mark Teixeira $29, Eric Hosmer $28
I thought the market was going to chase Prince too far, but the price here - while perhaps a tick or two too high - is fairly sensible. The conventional wisdom is that Fielder's power might suffer in Detroit, but while the park might hurt Fielder's home runs somewhat, the wide alleys could lead to more RBI/batting average. Still, keep in mind that he won't hit .320+ like the big buys in the first tier so don't pay him in their class. It seems like everyone's down on Tex now, but he seems like one of those guys who are extremely overdue for a batting average bounce back. Even if he only jumps up to .270, that could mean a $30 season. Tex has earned $25 and $24 the last two years and is far from finished. Apparently, everyone's excited about Hosmer but me. I love him long-term, but am not willing to pay him close to $30 just yet. The power doesn't look to me like it's quite there, and Hosmer won't hit his many bombs as Fielder/Teixeira and shouldn't be lumped in with them. Down the road, it's possible he might be better than both, but he has to earn that on the field before we pay him on spec.
Paul Konerko $21, Adam Lind $16
It's understandable not wanting to overpay the 36-year-old Konerko, but he's been an earnings monster the last two years and at some point you just have to pounce when the price is right. The batting average could slip a little, but that BA improvement since 2010 is the product of a more patient approach, and not entirely luck. Konerko is a lot closer to Fielder and Tex than he is to the players below him, and I have him ranked slightly ahead of Hosmer. My bid for Lind coming into the CBS auction was $16, but the more I look at him the more I think it should be lower. A white-hot May masked the fact that Lind's poor 2010 mostly carried into 2011. He clearly can't hit lefties, and with all of the bodies the Blue Jays have in camp, Lind's in danger of at least turning into a platoon player. You can't ignore the power, but there's some danger here.
THE OTHER DOUBLE-DIGIT GUYS
Mike Carp $14, Adam Dunn $11, Carlos Pena $11, Chris Davis $10
Carp was chased at the end of the auction because of a couple of owners had money to burn. I think Carp can hit .250 with 20-25 HR at his best, but then he's also a flameout candidate who might be exposed in his first full go round. High single digits seems like a fair price. A lot of people are expecting a big bounce back year from Dunn, so $11 could be a steal. This price is good, but I'm still wary. A collapse as dramatic as Dunn's at Age 32 is simply unprecedented. Also keep in mind that Dunn's low batting averages mean he's never going to be an earnings stud; he earned $24 in 2010, not $34. Speaking of bad batting averages, this is a strong price for Pena if you can stomach the bad BA. If he hits .230, you'll probably get $15-17 worth of Roto value and turn a profit. One of these years maybe Chris Davis will prove me wrong. He sacrificed power for average last year, and while a .270 average might keep him gainfully employed, if it only comes with 15 HR it won't keep him gainfully employed for very long. I wouldn't be surprised if Davis isn't the starter by July.
Kendrys Morales $9, Mitch Moreland $9, Justin Morneau $7, Mark Trumbo $7, Casey Kotchman $5, Matt LaPorta $1, Chris Parmelee $1.
There are a lot of players on the same team in this last grouping...and that's not a coincidence. Morales and Trumbo were already fighting for playing time before the Halos brought Albert Pujols in, but now it's hard to say how many at bats they'll get. Morneau will obviously play over Parmelee if he's healthy, but his comments about his concussion symptoms last week don't bode well. On a personal level, I hope he makes it back, but sentiment has no place in Roto. Kotchman is a safe choice at this price while LaPorta at $1 is an interesting gamble. A lot probably depends on how long the Indians stay in contention. LaPorta probably starts in AAA, though. Of all of these hitters, Moreland at $9 is the guy I dig. Sure, Mike Napoli and Michael Young are going to spell him at times, but Moreland's still a decent power hitter and still relatively young. He should get most of the 1B AB and should crack double-digit earnings relatively easily.