As you might have noticed, Eric Mack has begun feverishly composing early position-by-position rankings for next season. The man works hard, people. He asked via e-mail for my input on his rankings at first base, and I thought I'd post my exact response so you could see the thought process that goes into these decisions. I'll save the actual rankings for when he posts the finalized version -- don't want to steal his thunder, after all -- but after every player mentioned here, I included in parentheses where he ranked that player at the time of my response. Enjoy.
"I have a hard time believing I'd take Ryan Howard (No. 3) ahead of Mark Teixeira (No. 4) or Lance Berkman (No. 5), especially now that our standard Head-to-Head scoring penalizes strikeouts. My initial reaction was to move him even lower, but then I saw just how hot he'd gotten over the last month. Still, in my eyes, he's only half a step up from Adam Dunn, with RBI being his greatest advantage.
And while we're on the subject of moving up Teixeira, I might move him ahead of Miguel Cabrera (No. 2) too. I worry that Cabrera's regression this year is another sign of his body prematurely breaking down, going hand-in-hand with his move to first base. Plus, he's not exactly Placido Polanco with the strikeouts either. But that view is a little more nitpicky than my view on Howard, and I could see me talking myself into Cabrera at No. 2 if you're happy with him there. (Edit: After talking to Emack via instant messenger just now, he seems adamant about keeping Cabrera at No. 2. I can't say I blame him. The guy is only 25 years old, which makes my sounding of the "breakdown" alarm borderline ridiculous. Still, the fact he keeps ballooning in size, forcing the Tigers to move him from third base before he even reaches his athletic peak, doesn't bode well for his future. Plus, he's starting to have all the little muscle pulls of a guy 10 years older than him. I just feel a little uneasy about drafting him in the first round; I can't help it.)
I definitely want to move Aubrey Huff (No. 11) ahead of Garrett Atkins (No. 10). The further Atkins gets into his career, the more his 2006 season looks like a fluke. Plus, his walks took a nosedive this year after dropping a bit last year. I'm not high on him at all. I kind of think I'd take Huff even ahead of Adrian Gonzalez (No. 9) -- mostly because of my anti-strikeouts bias -- but I understand Gonzalez has some upside and Huff has some potential to end up a fluke.
I pity the poor sap who ends up with Derrek Lee (No. 12) as his starting first baseman, but I realize we have to put him somewhere. I don't know ... maybe we could bury him behind Carlos Delgado (No. 13) and Carlos Pena (No. 14)? On top of everything else, he strikes out almost twice as often as he walks these days.
Beginning at No. 15, I'd probably go Chris Davis, Conor Jackson, James Loney, Joey Votto, Nick Swisher and Carlos Guillen (Edit: Emack ranked them Loney, Guillen, Votto, Davis, Swisher and Jackson). Based on what I've seen from the two this year, I just think Davis will develop a little faster than Loney and is a near lock for 30 home runs next year. Also, do you realize Jackson has more points in our Head-to-Head scoring than Atkins, even with his power in its underdeveloped state? Crazy, but true. As for Guillen, I have a hard time believing he'll offer anything particularly useful even if he does somehow manage to stay healthy. He has only 10 home runs this year and a ceiling of, what, 18?
I don't have any major qualms with the rest of the top 40, though I think I have more confidence in a Billy Butler (No. 31) breakout and a Paul Konerko (No. 30) rebound than you do. I'd probably move both ahead of Hank Blalock (No. 25), maybe Todd Helton (No. 24), favoring Butler to Konerko. Eh, I'd probably go Butler, Helton, Konerko."