First base has traditionally been known as a position flush with cheap sources of power for Fantasy Baseball owners.
That’s pretty much true again in 2015, but the talent pool is not nearly as deep as it once was.
If you miss out on the top and middle tiers of players this year, you’ll need to have a few off-the-radar or undervalued guys in mind to save your team’s power stats.
Failure to act in a timely manner could leave you staring blankly at your draft board, whilst contemplating the bleak ramifications of venturing into that homer-bereft abyss sometimes known as “The Loney Zone.”
Don’t be that guy.
3 Fantasy Baseball Breakouts: First Base
So let’s have a look at a trio of players that are poised to become Fantasy Baseball breakoutsn in 2015. Not only could they aid your Fantasy cause all season long, they’ll give you six months’ worth of reasons to remind your friends and league mates that you are, indeed, a Fantasy Baseball super-genius.
Read on, Poindexter.
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
Let’s set the Wayback Machine to the not-so-distant days of 2010: A 22-year-old former Texas Longhorn named Brandon Belt treats minor-league pitching like Godzilla treated Tokyo, raking out an absurd .352-23-112 line across three levels. He wins a job with the Giants the following spring, but struggles out of the gate and is sent back to the minors in late April. Belt was recalled in late May, but he played in only two games before heading to the DL with a wrist injury that came as a result of being hit by a pitch. While his 2011 season in the majors was uneven at best, Belt did bat .320-8-36 in 53 minor-league games, so his star was still rather bright.
Fast-forward to the 2013 season: Belt has become a regular in the majors, and he posts a .289 -17-67 line, but it’s his .326-7-29 showing in 61 second-half games that pegs him a prime breakout candidate for 2014. Alas, it never came to pass: Belt blasts nine homers over his first 35 games, but another HBP sends him to the DL on May 9 with a broken thumb. He returned in early July, but suffered a concussion later that month – a malady that would limit him to just 17 regular-season games in the second half.
Despite his injury-riddled 2014 season, though, Belt’s 12 homers last season extrapolates to 29 bombs over 150 games, which casts him into the spotlight — again — as a breakout candidate for the upcoming campaign. He needs to stay healthy, of course, but Belt (who is still only 26 years old) has flashed enough potential to make 25-plus homers, a batting average north of .275 and close to 90 RBI a very real possibility in 2015.
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) March 7, 2015
C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels
Cron smacked out a .316/.385/.511/.896 with seven homers, 14 doubles and 33 RBI in 49 games at Triple-A (caution: it was the PCL) last season, and turned in a serviceable performance during his stints with the big-league club.
Cron’s partial-season numbers extrapolate to 22 homers and 73 RBI over 500 plate appearances, so the 25-year-old has the tools to give your Fantasy team a late-round power boost. He’ll also have ample opportunity to show his stuff this season, as he figures to step in as the Angels’ primary DH now that Josh Hamilton is likely facing a suspension.
Cron’s power potential, combined with the opportunity for close to a full season’s worth of at-bats, could put him in line for some good numbers in 2015.
— Herald & News Sports (@SportsHN) February 28, 2015
The arrival of Matt Joyce puts something of a damper on Cron’s breakout potential, but keep in mind that Joyce cannot hit lefties (.147 average last year, .189 in 358 career plate appearances), while Cron batted .255 against righties and .258 against southpaws last season. Cron also stands to be first in line should an injury befall regular first baseman Albert Pujols, and he will likely fill in on those days that the Halos choose to give the venerable slugger a day off or use him in the DH role.
A note of caution: Cron doesn’t like to keep the bat on his shoulder, and his 4.0 percent walk rate last season is a testament to his free-swinging ways. Bump him down a notch if your league counts on-base percentage as a Fantasy stat category.
Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
First, a quick note: Vargas played only 13 games at first base in 2014, so he may not qualify at the position for the start of the season.
The big man flashed some serious power potential during his 53 games in the majors last season, smacking nine homers and plating 38 RBI while batting a tidy .278. in 234 plate appearances. He’s no stranger to the long ball, having launched 36 bombs over his last two minor-league seasons, and his 156 RBI in 222 games during that period shows that he knows what to do when ducks are on the pond.
Vargas is penciled in as the Twins’ everyday DH for 2015, and he figures to occasionally spell Joe Mauer at first base; it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full season’s worth of at-bats.
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Now, for a few cautionary notes: Lest you become too enamored with Vargas’ .274 batting average of a year ago, keep in mind that his number was inflated by a .340 BABIP; expect some regression in 2015. He struck out nearly 27 percent of the time, and he walked at just a 5.1 percent rate.
His minor league track record suggests that both of these numbers will moderate in 2015, but given that he skipped Triple-A entirely on his way to the bigs, it’s tough to make such a prediction with a high degree of certainty.
Though the potential exists for him to post a batting average south of .250 this season, Vargas’ 20-plus homer upside should earn him plenty of Fantasy notice in the later rounds of deeper mixed-league drafts.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) March 4, 2015
That’s a look at a few first basemen who could be primed for to become Fantasy Baseball breakouts in 2015. Who do you like this year?
Brandon Belt Photo Credit: Steve Croke
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