If I am correct on my predictions, the NL pennant race will be a fun one.  I see three teams with playoff potential, and a fourth that is just shy of it.  Sorry San Diego fans, this isn’t your year. [Ed. Note -- JERK!]  Good news though, the Chinese calendar says it is going to be the year of the Tony Gwynn soon. [Ed. Note -- I take it back. Sorta.] (You can check out the AL West Spring Training Preview here, the AL Central Spring Training Preview here and the NL East Spring Training Preview here.)

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Spring training has sprung! Where’s my Rusty Staub Expos throwback? I got this in junior high and it still fits great. I have the body of an 11-year-old girl. *moonwalks across living room, falls on face* Most fantasy ballers are in the mocking mood right now with the for real fake drafts firing up in a few weeks. (There’s still time for you to commish an RCL league wink wink nudge nudge slap in the back of the head.) As we prepare this year’s team(s) (ss) and (sss), let’s fire up the jammer crammer machine once again and turn our all knowing fantasy eye toward first base. First base may have plenty of quality to find through the first 100 picks – Señor Stache has 15 first baseman in the top-100 – but the position ain’t what it used to be (and that’s what she said). Only six first baseman had more than 30 bombs last year, the fewest in over two decades. Is Andres Galarraga still playing? Those were the fantasy baseball golden years. Personally, I’d grab one early, say within my first three picks. We are not talking about whether or not to jam Paul Goldschmidt or cram Chris Davis here, we know what’s up there. We are looking towards players not ranked in the top 100 that can win you your league and all the cash, bragging rights and glory holes that go along with it. Last season, players with first base eligibility like Michael Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy were ranked (according to the Yahoos!) outside the top-100, but finished in the top-45. Any expert that told you they predicted that is actually from the moon and a time traveler. Sorry, watched Lunopolis on Netflix last month and just found out it wasn’t a documentary. While I’m no man on the moon, let’s cue up Mott the Hoople, make like Andy Kaufman in a wrestling match and jam it or cram it. Nothing is cool.

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This top 20 1st basemen for 2014 fantasy baseball goes to about forty-six. Last year, I said the first base position is going through a transition. Pujols isn’t what he used to be; Howard, Te(i)x and Konerko are washed up; guys like Chris Davis, Hosmer and Trumbo were on the way up. Right, right and yup. The position is still deep in that transition. We’ll come out of the other side this year with a good idea of where we stand. If Pujols continues to fall, if the washed up ones are completely done and if the up-and-comers are still on the move. Hey, that sounds like a commencement speech from a school for porn. Okay, let’s get into it because I can’t count to twenty and this list goes on forever. As always, for each player there’s my projections and where I see tiers starting and ending. There’s the position eligibility chart for 2014 fantasy baseball, and all the 2014 fantasy baseball rankings are under that linkie-ma-whosie. Anyway, here’s the top 20 1st basemen for 2014 fantasy baseball:

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So yeah, I promised a time and place where I would eat crow on my 11 Bold Predictions for 2013 (you can refresh your memory here with Part I and Part II), and this is where we landed. Right smack dab in the off-season where hopefully none of you will read this. Obviously that means my predictions were a smashing success, right? Totally. That’s exactly what it means. I’m lying. But hey, these weren’t rational predictions, so there’s that. Follow me after the jump for the official tally…

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The Cardinals are sick of Edward Mujica not playing way over his head like the rest of their entire team. “You see Joe Kelly? He sucks and he’s pitching well. You see Seacrest?” “You mean Siegrist?” “Yeah, him. He’s dynamite! Pitch better than you’ve ever pitched in your life or you’re out.” Mujica couldn’t find the intestinal fortitude (maybe he didn’t eat enough Thai food) and was replaced from the closing role for a few days. The Cards bullpen is solid behind him, which makes it difficult to pinpoint who exactly is his replacement. It could be John Axford, Trevor Rosenthal or Kevin Siegrist. I’d own any of them, but more because of how solid they’ve been. For saves, I’d rank them Rosenthal, Axford then Siegrist. Then there’s Mark Melancon. Like a guy who never flushes his toilet, the crap has caught up to him and the Pirates are now going ‘one day at a time’ for who their closer is, which I believe was Clint Hurdle’s nod to the late-great Bonnie Franklin. Bonnie, we miss you every day and we love your son, Nick, for the man you made him. I’d absolutely own Jason Grilli if I were chasing saves, but I wouldn’t drop Melancon either. Unless you don’t need saves and no one can catch you because you’re more bomb dot com and less bomb dot org. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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I’ve been mentioning him here and there in the blurb sections of the roundups, but I can’t wait until Friday’s Buy, or until the offseason when I’m gonna gush over him in a sleeper post. I love Cody Asche. I love him for everything he is, and for everything he’s not. One thing he’s not is on many, if anyone’s radar. He’s not even owned in 1% of ESPN leagues, though once Matthew Berry picks him up on 24,000 of his teams that number will shoot up to 99% owned. Yesterday, Asche went 3-for-4, 3 RBIs and his 3rd homer in 28 games. Prorate that over a full season and he’s hitting 40 homers– Wait, I had my calculator to Chris Davis math. Okay, so it’s only about 15-20 homers, but he can also steal 10 bases and should hit around .290. He’s like a modern day Eric Hosmer, if Eric Hosmer weren’t already modern day. I remixing The Game for this Outkast and Asche’s to Asche’s, ah ha, don’t make me hush this fuss! Why do I love him for this year, but much more for 2014 fantasy baseball? The Phillies need to move towards the future, and Asche will have a starting job, and get drafted in the late 200′s in most mixed leagues, but have the upside of a 70/17/82/.285/10 player. Yes, I just gave you my first 2014 projection. Cody Asche, you make me excited, let’s cuddle. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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Common misconception, the A’s know what they’re doing. As of Thursday night, they didn’t even know who was pitching on Saturday. Billy Beane told me confidentially, “I’ve been winging it for fifteen years. I just have a sex tape of Michael Lewis with a contestant from Flavor of Love, so it was write Moneyball or him and Deelishis would be all over the internet.” A lot of sites are listing A.J. Griffin as Saturday’s starter, but I have it on good authority that that (stutterer!) is incorrect. A’s have Straily looking like a lesser-known Muppet Straggly, Alfredo Jettuccine has been getting creamed, Milone is in Sacramento saying to himself, “What have I done to deserve being sent to the Sacra-Ghetto?” and the whole staff needs a Colon cleanse. So, who’s left? My almost-name-sharer and all-around Bubb Rubb-extraordinaire, Sonny Gray. He has nearly a strikeout an inning in Triple-A and a 2.74 FIP. (Yes, I only use FIP when an ERA doesn’t back up my case as tidily. Leave me alone!) I don’t love a start in Toronto, but if he stays in the rotation, the A’s are about to get a great schedule at home. Even if it’s not Saturday, Gray should be up shortly, and no that’s not a height crack, but Gray is tiny. I will call him Mini Me even though he’s taller than me. What? My photo is actual size. So, grab Gray now, because mother says you should buy Gray Gardens– I mean, Gray’s starting. Anyway, here’s some more players to buy or sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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I’ve started that dance with Xander Bogaerts. You know what dance I mean. The dance when you pick up, drop, pick up, drop, think about picking up then decide against it, go partially through with picking him up only to sit on your team page and not have anyone to drop…Then decide against it. That dance. The dance that any middle-aged man would do if he were in Morocco and not willing to pick a side because he’d only be fighting for a woman he banged in Paris and his only friend is some guy with bugged-out eyes. Every time I start the dance, Sam starts playing his piano and I’m like, “Play it again, Sam?” I say it in the form of a question so I don’t get sued for copyright infringement. I’ve done that dance with Bogaerts for about a week. And I can’t commit. *lights cigarette* Of all the waiver wire joints in all the fantasy leagues in all the world, he walked into mine. I’m only doing this back-and-forth dance with him because he’s going to be so good and I know he’s about to be called up. The Red Sox moved him to 3rd base in the minors just to give him a bit more flexibility to get him into their major league lineup. On Prospect Scott’s top 50 minor league fantasy prospects, he was number one. Numero uno, the head cheese, the big mahoff. Between Double and Triple-A this year, he has 14 homers and 7 steals. That’s solid for a prospect. For a 20-year-old, that’s the sign of a future perennial All-Star. In all leagues, I’m going to be dancing with him until he gets the call. As I wrote this, I grabbed and dropped him two more times. If you have the room, stash him right now. He will be up within the next month and this will be the start of a beautiful friendship. Anyway, here’s some more players to buy or sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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In what can only be described as the biggest trade ever made for some Hoes, Bud Norris was traded to the O’s for L.J. Hoes. Hoes ain’t shizz against pitches and tricks! An almost title, “Hoes Go South, Norris Makes O’s Face.” But too gangster for you. You can’t handle such gangster frivolities! You play your tennis at the country club and call your girl and tell her, “Guess what, baby? Houston got some Hoes!” See where that get you. Get you a month straight in the man cave watching pay-per-view Hoes. That’s where it get you. So, Norris goes to Baltimore, and takes his 3.93 ERA with him, replacing the newly-DL’d Jason Hammel. He’s a trifling Bud that can’t get out lefties all that well. I wouldn’t put him at more than match-up capable against weaker righty heavy teams. So, does his fantasy value go up with this trade? Hoes please! Another barely fantasy-relevant starter to move at the trading deadline was Ian Kennedy. Reminds me of the idiom, there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. This also applies for any starter who is struggling. There’s only one place for them. Petco! It’s no surprise that his career numbers are superb in Petco — 2.27 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 48 Ks in 35 2/3 IP. His major problem everywhere is the home run ball and this is negated in a park that is 1025 feet to dead center and has tumbleweeds blowing past a statute of Nate Colbert in left. Also, it certainly — or sointly if you’re reading in a Stooge voice — does not hurt — or hoit — that he was facing the Padres. He could easily be a low-3 ERA pitcher at home. I still wouldn’t start him in road match-ups, but I’d own him in all fantasy leagues for home games. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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There’s been much consternation going on around these parts ever since I ranked Chase Headley 34th in my Top 100 Keepers for 2013 and Beyond post that came out last week. Wait, is that the correct word? Consternation? Does constipation work better? There’s been much constipation… hmmm. Decisions. Let’s just go with both. Actually, now that I think about it, no one really cared about that ranking. However, there were some eyebrows raised at not including a second baseman, whose name rhymes with Rick Danklin. But I don’t want to talk about him anymore. I already wrote about him here. ARE YOU NOT SATISFIED? And even though I also talked about Chase Headley in the same post, I want to examine him a bit further for a few reasons. And I also want to examine both your consternation and constipation. My friends call me ‘H’. As in Preparation H. But not really. Not at all. This will never be mentioned again.

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