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First base frustrations

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Everyone within earshot of an Albert Pujols fantasy owner knows that the Los Angeles Angels' new toy hasn't hit a home run yet.

Even your mother, who rarely logs onto the computer and only uses the iPad you bought her for Christmas to play "Words with Friends" knows ... because you talk about it nightly at the dinner table.

And while Pujols has certainly been awful this year, would you believe that he's not the only first baseman who has struggled?

Yup, the most powerful position in fantasy baseball, which had 18 players ranked in the preseason top 100 in Yahoo! leagues, now has about that many who aren't living up to expectations.

Pujols, the preseason No. 3, is currently ranked 836th, batting .222 with just four RBIs and a .601 OPS. That's Chone Figgins territory.

In addition to the $250 million man, there are 11 first base-eligible players from that preseason top 100 who are currently ranked outside that range.

Let's take a look at these struggling sluggers, excluding the players who likely weren't drafted to play first, like Carlos Santana (catcher), Michael Cuddyer (second base/outfield) and Howard Kendrick (second base/outfield).

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Y! ADP: 8.4) - Votto's power has gone the way of Pujols' this year. He has one home run and 10 RBIs in 61 at-bats through Wednesday. He's only slugging .426 -- he slugged .600 during his MVP season in 2010 and .531 last year. The only thing preventing him from having a Figgins-esque OPS like Pujols is his 18 walks, which give him an OBP of .444.

Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox (Y! ADP: 9.4) - Gonzalez also has had extended power outages this year, hitting only two longballs. That's a continuation of the second half of 2011, when he hit just 10 homers after slamming 17 before the All-Star break.

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (Y! ADP: 13.2) - Fielder must be drinking the same Kool-Aid as Pujols, Votto and Gonzalez, because he also has just two homers. What's worse is that they both came in the same game -- April 7 against Boston's Josh Beckett when everything was flying out of the park -- which means that in 17 other games, Fielder has hit exactly zero homers. It's not like his balls are simply getting swallowed up by Comerica Park either, as he also has just two doubles.

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (Y! ADP: 24) - Is it even necessary to have Teixeira on this list? It seems like a given by now that he's going to struggle in April. The Yankees first baseman actually looked like he was going to put together a decent first month after his performance on Saturday, when he hit two homers and knocked in six runs against Boston. After that game, his average was up to .288 and his OPS was .862. However, he's followed that up with a 2-for-12 stretch that has caused his average to dip back down to .268.

Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox (Y! ADP: 64.7) - Although we're outside the top tier now, Youkilis was still drafted high by owners even though he's struggled with injuries the last two seasons and only hit .258 last year. Perhaps the move to third base full-time has caused him to wear down, as he is only batting .204 through 15 games this year. He's not drawing walks this season either, and he has just three extra-base hits, giving him an OPS of .563.

Michael Morse, Washington Nationals (Y! ADP: 68.1) - Morse's struggles have been of a different nature than the first five players on this list. The Nationals first baseman has struggled with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle since the spring. Morse broke out last year with 31 homers, 95 RBIs and a .303 batting average, but he hasn't played a game this season.

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals (Y! ADP: 81.5) - Berkman, who looked to be done with Houston and New York in 2010, shocked the fantasy world with 31 bombs, 94 RBIs and a .301 average in 2011 with St. Louis. He was off to a hot start this year, going 8-for-23 (.348) in seven games. However, he hasn't hit a homer yet and is currently on the disabled list with a strained calf.

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Y! ADP: 120) - Too bad Goldschmidt can't face San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum every game. In his short career, Goldschmidt has knocked three balls out of the park against the two-time Cy Young Award winner, including one on Opening Day this year. Unfortunately for Goldschmidt, that was the last time he left the building. The young first baseman is batting .196 with a .557 OPS through Wednesday, and he has been benched several times for Lyle Overbay as of late.

I wouldn't worry about Pujols, or any of the other top tier first basemen on this list for that matter. Votto, Gonzalez and Fielder each have an OPS over .800 and will likely start hitting the ball out of the park soon enough.

Teixeira is perennially awful in April, so anytime you can get anything out of him in the season's first month it has to be considered a win.

Berkman is expected back soon, and you also can count on solid numbers from him.

But I'm somewhat more concerned about Youkilis, Morse and Goldschmidt.

As I wrote earlier this month, Youkilis has been in decline since last year, as his ground ball rates have skyrocketed.

Morse was supposed to return for the Nationals' home opener, but he's now out indefinitely.

And Goldschmidt has played just 64 games at the major league level, so he doesn't have an extended history of success.

If you're currently holding Youkilis, Morse or Goldschmidt and can take advantage of a concerned Pujols, Votto, Gonzalez, Fielder or Teixeira owner, do so now while that buy-low window is still wide open.

Don't wait until after the window starts closing, as each of those top tier first basemen have shown they are more than capable of slamming it shut, and you don't want to get your fingers caught. That would hurt you way more than Pujols' lack of power has this season.



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