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The Red Sox had seemed set at the first base position for the next half a decade, and then that certainty vanished. Adrian Gonzalez was shipped to the Dodgers in a salary dump unlike any other in professional sports history. The were relegated to starting Mauro Gomez and James Loney (now of the Tampa Bay Rays) at first base, with no clue as to how the position would shape out in 2013.
Fast forward past the offseason and there is still pretty legitimate concern for the position’s future. The team signed Mike Napoli to be their primary first baseman, but after a failed physical, he settled for a one year contract with performance incentives. Besides Napoli, the organizational depth at first is very limited, and there are little to no options as to how to improve that quandary. Sine fantasy baseball is often for only one season, that should have no bearing on how you choose to draft the potential Boston players to man the first base position on your team.
1. Mike Napoli (1B/C)
Mike Napoli will be the primary first baseman for the Red Sox this season. After inking a 3-year, $39 million contract, a physical revealed that he suffered from avascular necrosis in his hip joints. This prompted a month-long back-and-forth at the bargaining table that led to Napoli accepting a one-year, $5 million contract with performance incentives that could allow the contract to reach the previous average annual value of $13 million.
If Napoli stays healthy after the switch to first base, he could be in line to have a monster season playing his home games at Fenway Park. Napoli will also be playing in a contract year with double the implications: if he succeeds, he makes more money on his current contract as well as sets himself up for a new deal. MLB.com and RotoChamp.com have Napoli projected to be drafted in the eighth round of ten team leagues. According to ESPN, Napoli could fall all the way in the vicinity of the 22nd round. If he manages to bounce back anywhere close to his 2011 form, that could be one heck of a steal near the end of the draft.
Verdict: Do not draft him as your primary first baseman. If he stays healthy, he will be a valuable commodity at a thin catching position or as a corner infielder, though that is a big if.
2. David Ortiz (DH/1B)
“Big Papi” is coming off a major injury that derailed his 2012 season. Ortiz was on pace to put up excellent numbers and was perhaps one of two players in fantasy with the DH only position worth slotting into the Utility slot (the other being KC’s Billy Butler who now has 1B eligibility) . After the season, he finally got his multi-year deal, so it remains to be seen if he will continue to push hard throughout the entire season. If his age doesn’t get to him (he will be 37 next season) he could be in line to be productive again. MLB.com and ESPN.com have Ortiz projected to go between the 9th and 10th round of ten-team leagues. If he falls to the eleventh or twelfth and you don’t feel great about your hitters, Ortiz could be worth a gamble.
Verdict: With limited position eligibility, a major injury, and no longer in a contract year, Ortiz could see his value slip. If that happens, he is definitely worth taking a flier on, especially if you are lacking in the HR department.
3. Lyle Overbay
Lyle Overbay was recently signed by the Red Sox to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He could end up being a depth move to provide some time for other talent to emerge in the minors. He should be considered only in very, very deep leagues, and even then, he may not play enough to be a worthwhile pick up.
Verdict:Should not be drafted in virtually any formats, but any injuries to the big league club could make him valuable in deep AL only leagues for stretches of time.
4. Mauro Gomez
After Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers, Gomez became the starting first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. In just over 100 at bats, he managed to put up a pretty decent slash line, as shown above. The team would like to see him get a little more time in the minors before making a decision about his long term future with the team, but at 28 years old, too much more time down there could jeopardize his major league career. Look for him to try to outplay Lyle Overbay in camp and make the team choose him as the primary backup first baseman.
Verdict: If he has a good spring training, he could get the job backing up Mike Napoli at first base and hitting for Ortiz on occasion. Not worth a draft pick, but worth keeping an eye on in AL only leagues.
Projected Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com, RotoChamp.com, and MLB.com.