Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2004 [Print without images]

Monday, February 2, 2004
Updated: February 11, 10:46 AM ET
FLB Preseason Rankings: 1st Base

By Brandon Funston

RANKINGS (02/03/2004)
1. Albert Pujols, StL
2. Todd Helton, Col
3. Carlos Delgado, Tor
4. Jim Thome, Phi
5. Jason Giambi, NYY
6. Jeff Bagwell, Hou
7. Richie Sexson, Ari
8. Aubrey Huff, TB
9. Derrek Lee, ChC
10. Frank Thomas, CWS
11. Mike Sweeney, KC
12. Mark Teixeira, Tex

13. Phil Nevin, SD
14. Rafael Palmeiro, Bal
15. David Ortiz, Bos
16. Ryan Klesko, SD
17. Kevin Millar, Bos
18. Brad Wilkerson, Mon
19. Adam Dunn, Cin
20. Edgar Martinez, Sea
21. Nick Johnson, Mon
22. Matthew LeCroy, Min
23. Craig Wilson, Pit
24. Shea Hillenbrand, Ari

25. Jay Gibbons, Bal
26. Erubiel Durazo, Oak
27. Paul Konerko, CWS
28. Raul Ibanez, Sea
29. Sean Casey, Cin
30. Jeff Conine, Fla
31. Josh Phelps, Tor
32. Brad Fullmer, Tex
33. Scott Spiezio, Sea
34. John Olerud, Sea
35. Tino Martinez, TB
36. Carlos Pena, Det

CREAM OF THE CROP
Surprisingly, the NY Yankees Jason Giambi did not finish among the top five first base-eligible players on the FLB '03 Player Rater. 1B-eligible Albert Pujols topped the list followed by perrenial Colorado masher Todd Helton. As for Giambi, he finished with the lowest BA of his career (.250) and his lowest RBI total since '97 (107). Here is a look at the rest of the non-Giambi top five:
FLB '03 PLAYER RATER -- TOP 5 FIRST BASEMEN
PLAYER BA HR RBI R SB PRV
Albert Pujols, StL .359 43 124 137 5 7.48
Todd Helton, Col .358 33 117 135 0 5.81
Carlos Delgado, Tor .302 42 145 117 0 4.83
Jim Thome, Phi .266 47 131 111 0 3.32
Jeff Bagwell, Hou .278 39 100 109 11 2.88

BREAKOUT BUZZ
Who are the players poised to take their game to the next level? Well, these are the players that I'll be highlighting on my draft lists:
1. Mark Teixeira, Tex: 26 HR debut should translate to 30-35 in '04.
2. Nick Johnson, Mon: Out of Giambi shadow. Owns 1B in Montreal.
3. Craig Wilson, Pit: 14 HR, .978 OPS after break. Will be a regular.

BARGAIN BIN
When you're looking for later-round catching help, target these diamonds in the rough:
1. Adam Dunn, Cin: After '03 crash, 35-HR, 10 SB will come cheap.
2. Brad Fullmer, Tex: Likely 500 AB's should = .285, 20 HR, 80 RBI.
3. Darin Erstad, Ana: Will start at 1B. No OF means less injuries.

YOUNG GUNS
Rookie 1B Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Ken Harvey failed to make a fantasy impact in '03. And there may not be a difference maker among the '04 crop, either. Of them, only Atlanta's Adam LaRoche enters the spring as the favorite to be a regular. Realistically, if you are in a ML draft, you should not hear the name of a rookie 1B called. But, as an FYI, here is the list of the top three '04 prospects:
1. Justin Morneau, Min: Big power, sweet swing, still learning.
2. Adam LaRoche, Atl: Line-driver with BA potential.
3. Larry Broadway, Mon: Only if N. Johnson gets hurt.

BUYER BEWARE
Based upon where they are likely to be drafted, these players are good candidates to disappoint fantasy owners:
1. Edgar Martinez, Sea: 41; At this point, 25+ DNP's likely.
2. Raul Ibanez, Sea: .208 BA vs. AL West (not Seattle) in '03.
3. John Olerud, Sea: What little power he had is gone.