Do you have a plan at first base yet?
Plan? Pfft ... yeah, OK. You let me worry about shortstop and catcher. I'll just take the best of whatever's left at first base.
Understandable. For as long as most of us have been playing Fantasy Baseball, first base is the last base we've cared about. It's been the position of sluggers, offering more than could go around in a standard 12-team league, so as long as you didn't wait until those other teams started drafting first bsaemen for their utility slots, you could feel confident you'd get adequate production at the position.
And maybe now if you play in a shallow league -- say, 10 teams or fewer -- that's still the case. After all, it's not like first base is lacking in star power:
That's what figures to be off the board by the middle of Round 3. Not bad, eh?
But let me ask you this: How would you feel about having Mark Teixeira as your starter?
What about Albert Pujols?
Isn't he hurt or something?
OK. And Byung Ho Park?
Byo what now?
That's what I thought. It could happen, though, if you don't make first base a priority on Draft Day. See for yourself.
Taking Buster Posey and Stephen Vogt out of the equation since they'll obviously be drafted to play catcher, two owners in a 12-team league will have to draft one of Teixeira, Pujols or Park as his starter -- and that's assuming nobody double dips.
Well ... they won't have to, but given that alternatives like Carlos Santana, Lucas Duda and Ryan Zimmerman have clear limits to their upside, Teixeira, Pujols and Park will be those owners' best chance of keeping pace at the position.
That's even though Teixeira has averaged 93 games over the last four years and needed an unlikely resurgence at 35 last year to re-enter the mixed-league discussion. It's even though Pujols is likely to miss a month before making (fingers crossed) a full recovery from foot surgery, and even though Park will be facing major-league pitching for the first time after striking out every third at-bat in the KBO last year.
Yucky is right.
But for as risky as they are, keeping pace is a necessity. Again, first base is still stacked at the top. A good six or seven teams will have a certifiable stud there, widening the gap between the haves and have-nots at the position. It's not like second base or shortstop, where only two or three owners have a clear advantage and second-rate production is par for the course. Particularly in a Head-to-Head scenario, you'll need the rest of your lineup to close the gap between you and your opponent, and considering the haves at first base won't be mailing it in at those other positions, that's easier said than done.
It's a sticky situation made only stickier by the prospect of, say, Prince Fielder regaining eligibility in-season. It only takes five appearances in standard CBSSports.com leagues, after all. But while it's a worthy consideration, it's not something you should count on. Fielder made only 18 appearances at the position last year, so he may not get five appearances early enough to make a difference.
So what do you do?
The simple answer is "don't wait too long," but simple in this case isn't easy. If those six or seven studs (depending how you classify Chris Davis) are gone by the middle of Round 3, whether or not you get one is a direct consequence of where you draft. You wouldn't pass up A.J. Pollock or Jose Altuve early in Round 2 just to shore up first base, and you shouldn't.
But if you're properly positioned to draft Joey Votto or Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of Round 2 or Jose Abreu or Davis at the turn of Round 3, you shouldn't go against the grain because he's a first baseman. That's not a thing anymore. You'll only be putting more pressure on yourself to draft Adrian Gonzalez, Freddie Freeman or Eric Hosmer for fear of what comes afterward, and you don't want to be the one who reaches for one in Round 4.