2011 Fantasy Ranks: 1B

Athlon presents the first release of its consensus fantasy rankings.

Athlon presents the first release of its consensus fantasy rankings.

While we still have over a month until voluntary report dates (Feb. 14th can’t get here quickly enough), it is never too early for fantasy owners to start digesting mock drafts, big boards and keeper options.

With that, Athlon Sports has perused the World Wide Web for the latest and greatest positional rankings and brought them together for a one-stop shop. Big media names like ESPN, CBS, Athlon Sports and Yahoo! were incorporated as well as a variety of smaller, yet no less insightful, sites like FantasyPhenoms.com, DeepLeagues.com, RotoChamp.com, HardballTimes.com and RotoProfessor.com.

Each site’s rankings — including Athlon’s own rankings, which will be released early in February — were compiled and averaged into one “consensus” ranking. (Age on Opening Day 2011)

1. Albert Pujols, STL (31)
If you get the first pick in the draft, do not overanalyze it. Nothing in fantasy sports is an easier and safer choice than King Albert. He had the worst batting average (.312) of his ten-year career in 2010 and still led the National League in runs scored, home runs and RBIs. Pujols simply never has a bad year. If you took his worst numbers in each category for a season (.312/.955 with 32 HRs, 103 RBIs, 99 runs scored), he’d still be an All-Star. If you took his three-year average from 2008-10 (.331/1.074 with 42 HRs, 123 RBIs, 113 runs scored), you’d have the best player in the game.

2010 stats: 115 R, 42 HR, 118 RBI, 14 SB, .312/1.011

2. Miguel Cabrera, DET (27)
The Tigers’ big slugger is the closest thing we have to Pujols when it comes to top-flight production and consistency. If Detroit had been in postseason contention last year, Miggy may have taken the MVP after leading the American League in RBIs and on-base percentage. Cabrera hit .292 in his first year (2008) for the Tigers but has hit .324 and .328 in the two following seasons. His three-year average in Detroit (36 HRs, 119 RBIs, 97 runs scored, 38 doubles, .954 OPS) is as good as it gets in the AL. He is another easy draft choice; just sit back and watch the numbers pile up.

2010 stats: 111 R, 38 HR, 126 RBI, 3 SB, .328/1.042

3. Joey Votto, CIN (27)
In 2008, he showed signs of being a solid hitter while finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. A .322 average with 64 extra-base hits in 2009 suggested Votto was going to move to the top of second tier of National League first basemen, right behind Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez. In 2010, he clearly jumped into the first tier with an MVP season in which he led the NL in both on-base and slugging percentage. Votto is entering his prime, and all signs point to another stellar year for this crushing Canadian.

2010 stats: 106 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI, 16 SB, .324/1.024

4. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS (28)
It can be risky in fantasy analysis to get too preoccupied with ballpark factors, but it’s difficult to see Gonzalez’s move from PETCO to Fenway as anything but incredibly positive. His 2007-10 average (34 doubles, 34 HRs, 105 RBIs) in the pitching-friendly San Diego can only increase in Beantown. Additionally, the stacked Red Sox lineup will give him many more opportunities for runs scored and batted in. Like David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Adrian Beltre in the recent past, look for A-Gon to put up huge numbers in the land of the Green Monster.

2010 stats: 87 R, 31 HR, 101 RBI, 0 SB, .298/.904

5. Mark Teixeira, NYY (30)
Was his 2010 decline in batting average (.292 in ’09) a sign of something bigger or just a function of battling a deep bone bruise in his right thumb? We tend to think the latter, as Big Tex had trouble gripping the bat late in the season and hit only .220 with three homers after September 1. An “ailing” Teixeira still led the American League in runs scored, and he still hit the 30 HR/100 RBI plateau. Even with his annual slow start, look for the Bronx Bomber to return to his usual high production levels.

2010 stats: 113 R, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 0 SB, .256/.846

6. Prince Fielder, MIL (26)
His production fell off big time in 2010 after an incredible 2009 campaign (141 RBIs). Fielder had monster seasons in 2007 and ’09 (averaged 48 HR, 130 RBI, 1.013 OPS), but those were followed by significant dropoffs in 2008 and ’10 (averaged 33 HR, 92.5 RBI, .875 OPS). Will he continue the pattern of having a Top 10 fantasy season every other year? Fielder is playing for a mammoth free agent contract and has shown good plate discipline (114 walks in ’10), but the .471 slugging percentage and 57 extra-base hits must raise red flags when drafting in the first or second round.

2010 stats: 94 R, 32 HR, 83 RBI, 1 SB, .261/.871

7. Kevin Youkilis, BOS (32)
Obviously he is ideal at third base, but his numbers are good enough to play at first if your league allows. The injury bug struck many of the top first basemen last year, and Youkilis was no exception. He put up his usual solid numbers in 102 games before season-ending thumb surgery in August. After three seasons of playing 145+ games from 2006-08, the Greek God of Walks has played 136 and 102 the last two seasons. While a thumb injury is a concern, Youk should be healthy this season and in the middle of a loaded lineup. You won’t get a 35-45 homer season, but the numbers across the board will be more than solid.

2010 stats: 77 R, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB, .307/.975

8. Ryan Howard, PHI (31)
This is as low in the rankings as Philly’s big bopper has been in a few years. From 2006-09, his average season (102 runs, 49.5 HRs, 143 RBIs, .967 OPS) was stellar. However, the numbers were down in 2010 as Howard turned 30. He was leading the NL in RBIs when an August ankle injury sidelined him for three weeks. Howard hit .231 with eight HRs and 27 RBIs in the 39 games after he returned, but then had a postseason full of strikeouts and no RBIs. He’s still a great source of power stats, but his OPS decline and the aging Phils’ batters are definitely eye openers.

2010 stats: 87 R, 31 HR, 108 RBI, 1 SB, .276/.859

9. Kendry Morales, LAA (27)
The Angels’ slugger had a breakout season in 2009 (.308/.924 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs). He was on that type of pace through 51 games last season before breaking his left ankle while celebrating a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners on May 29. With Morales out for the year, the Angels struggled on offense and did not have a .300 hitter on the club. He looks to be an up-and-coming hitter in his prime, but you have to worry a little about the lack of pop in the Angels’ lineup. With L.A. whiffing in free agency, opposing pitchers may work around Morales this season.

2010 stats: 29 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB, .290/.833

10. Justin Morneau, MIN (29)
His season was ended on July 7 by a concussion, but he had career-highs in on-base and slugging percentage at the time of the injury. Target Field is a tough park for home runs, and Morneau hit 14 of his 18 long balls on the road. The Twins were second in the majors in on-base percentage, so the former MVP will hit in the middle of a loaded lineup. While the lingering effects of a head injury is always a concern, Morneau should be healthy and a solid value if you miss out on the top six to eight guys.

2010 stats: 53 R, 18 HR, 56 RBI, 0 SB, .345/1.055

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<p> Athlon scours the web to compile its first consensus fantasy MLB rankings for 2011. Today, we focus on First Base.</p>

11. Adam, Dunn, CWS (31)
If you can deal with a lower average and Ks, he’s a consistent producer. Headed to a great home run ballpark.

2010 stats: 85 R, 38 HR, 103 RBI, 0 SB, .260/.892

12. Paul Konerko, CWS (35)
Was a fantasy boon last year as the veteran slugger revisited his career-bests from 2004-06.

2010 stats: 89 R, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 0 SB, .312/.977

13. Billy Butler, KC (24)
Great for your team’s average, but last year’s power drop (21 HRs/ 93 RBIs in ’09) is worrisome.

2010 stats: 77 R, 15 HR, 78 RBI, 0 SB, .318/.857

14. Aubrey Huff, SF (34)
Had a solid 2010 effort, where his road splits (.315/.948) were greatly superior to his home numbers (.264/.832).

2010 stats: 100 R, 26 HR, 86 RBI, 7 SB, .290/.891

15. Carlos Pena, CHC (32)
Hard to see him getting back to 2007-09 statlines of 30+ homers and 100+ RBIs after a .196 season.

2010 stats: 64 R, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 5 SB, .196/.732

16. Gaby Sanchez, FLA (27)
Hit more HRs (19) in Florida than any season in the minors, but average dropped off in second half (.302 to .237).

2010 stats: 72 R, 19 HR, 85 RBI, 5 SB, .273/.788

17. Michael Cuddyer, MIN (32)
Runs, hits and average were basically the same as ’09, but home runs dropped from 32 to 14.

2010 stats: 93 R, 14 HR, 81 RBI, 7 SB, .271/.753

18. Ike Davis, NYM (24)
Solid debut season; just needs to develop consistency (.214 in July, .330 in September).

2010 stats: 73 R, 19 HR, 71 RBI, 3 SB, .264/.791

19. James Loney, LAD (26)
Even with his youth, solid fielder is raising concerns with declining average and homers.

2010 stats: 67 R, 10 HR, 88 RBI, 10 SB, .267/.723

20. Derrek Lee, BAL (35)
First-time American Leaguer had a huge 2009 campaign, but struggled in 2010.

2010 stats: 80 R, 19 HR, 80 RBI, 1 SB, .260/.774

**Rookies to monitor: Freddie Freeman, ATL; Brandon Belt, SF

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