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Showdowns: First Base

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Often in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked by Average Draft Position (ADP) and/or Rotoworld’s 2016 season projections and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?



Jose Abreu vs. Anthony Rizzo




As if Rizzo’s price tag wasn’t crazy enough last year, now he’s coming off a 17-steal season that doubled his career total (he was just 16-for-28 stealing bases in 436 games over the previous four seasons). If he does that again, then there’s a good chance he’ll provide more value than Abreu. I don’t see any reason to think that will happen, though. Rizzo won’t be catching anyone by surprise this time around (he didn’t as much as last year went along, either; six of his steals came in April and he had just three in the final two months). I trust Abreu more in the power department, especially in a ballpark that favors righty power (Wrigley is about neutral for homers for left-handed hitters). I’d go with Rizzo in an OBP league, but in standard 5x5, Abreu makes more sense to me (he’s averaged a .303-33-104 line in his two seasons to date), with the added bonus that he’ll be on the board a couple of rounds after Rizzo in many leagues. – Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)




Rizzo burst onto the scene in 2014 when he hit .286 and blasted 32 home runs for the Cubs in only 140 games. He vaulted into super-stardom and became a five-category monster with an incredible 2015 campaign when he slashed .278/.387/.512 with 94 runs, 31 homers, 101 RBI and 17 stolen bases. Abreu is a terrific hitter, and is probably a favorite to hit for a slightly higher average than his cross-town counterpart. Each are expected to club long balls in the low-to-mid thirties with similar projections in the counting stats with 90+ runs and RBI apiece.. Where Rizzo destroys Abreu is on the base paths. Abreu has three successful swipes in his career and didn't even attempt a stolen base in 2015. While Rizzo shouldn't be expected to match his unexpectedly awesome total from 2015 (despite a passable 73.9% success rate), there's every reason to believe that he'll steal around 8-10 bags. Don't get me wrong, I still expect Abreu to perform well. I have him placed squarely in my top-25 overall and as the fourth-best first baseman. On the strength of the additional stolen bases, though, Rizzo checks in as the No. 2 option for me at the position behind Paul Goldschmidt. – David Shovein (@DaveShovein)


Brandon Belt vs. Carlos Santana




If I had to choose between Belt and Santana, I would go with Belt. Though he dealt with various injuries, including a concussion and a torn meniscus in his right knee which required surgery, I think Belt is a better bet going forward. This past season, he hit .280/.356/.478 in the extremely pitcher-friendly AT&T Park compared to Santana’s .231/.357/.395 in the neutral-for-homers Progressive Field. Santana was hampered by a back injury this past season and he is heading into his age-30 season while Belt will turn 28 in April. Overall, Santana should hit homers at a marginally higher rate and should eke out a few more points in on-base percentage while Belt will be much better in the batting average department and has the higher upside, meaning he is more likely to have a breakout season. Furthermore, the Giants’ lineup is better overall than the Indians, meaning Belt will have more opportunities to score and drive in runs. – Bill Baer (@Baer_Bill)




It’s easy to be down on Santana right now. He batted .231 for the second straight season last year while losing eight home runs from 2014. Strikeouts aren’t pulling down his batting average, but shifts are hurting him in a big way. He also hit a ton of infield fly balls last season, which made him an easy out. No longer catcher-eligible, he’s not as interesting as he once was in fantasy leagues. I’ll concede those things. For me, this ultimately comes down to health. Santana has appeared in at least 143 games per year since he wrecked his knee as a rookie in 2010. This includes at least 152 games over the past three seasons. One thing about no longer catching is that we can count on him being in lineup most days. I’m not going to question Belt’s talent. We saw how good he was when healthy last year, but he has now dealt with concussion issues in back-to-back seasons. I wish it wasn’t a factor, but you can’t ignore it when looking at these two players. I think Santana is a safe play for 20 homers and 80 RBI at the very least, but there’s always the upside for more. He’s also a steady producer in OBP leagues. - D.J. Short (@djshort)


Edwin Encarnacion vs. Miguel Cabrera




Here we have two sluggers with first-round upside, and they're both going to enter the 2016 season at age 33. That makes for a relatively linear comparison, and my reasons for choosing EE over Miggy aren't all that advanced really. Let's first take a simple what-have-you-done-for-me-lately look at their respective production from 2015. Encarnacion played in 146 games, tallying 39 home runs and 111 RBI for the American League East champions. Cabrera was limited to 119 games by calf and back injuries, and finished with his lowest home run (18) and RBI (76) totals since his debut season in 2003 as the Tigers missed the playoffs with a record of 74-87. Encarnacion also slugged more home runs (34) than Cabrera (25) in 2014. Miggy has been one of the premier baseball players of the past decade and he will probably produce a higher on-base percentage and batting average than EE in 2016, but EE is the better bet for raw power numbers and counting stats at this point. Encarnacion will play half of his games this year at Toronto's Rogers Centre, a much kinder home environment for offense than Detroit's Comerica Park. And the 2016 Jays would seem to have a more potent overall lineup than the 2016 Tigers. - Drew Silva (@drewsilv)




I was a bit worried about Cabrera going into the 2015 season as he made his way back from foot surgery. His foot wound up being just fine in 2016 as it turns out, but he played in a career-low 119 games because of a strained calf. When on the field, the two-time MVP was still arguably the best hitter in the American League, easily topping the Junior Circuit with his .338 batting average and .440 on-base percentage. Miggy’s power has been down the last two years, although his lower-than-expected home run totals can be traced back in part due to either playing through injury (2014) or spending time on the DL (2015). I feel confident in projecting 30 longballs or close to it in 2016 provided Cabrera plays a full season. That’s obviously not as safe of a bet as it used to be with Miggy turning 33 just after Opening Day, but he played at least 148 games in every season prior to last year. Encarnacion is a better bet in the home run department, but Cabrera is still a better hitter and I’m giving him a slight edge in fantasy. – Ryan Boyer (@RyanPBoyer)