The current crop of first basemen in the major leagues fails to impress.
Part of this article was born out of preliminary preparations for the fantasy baseball season and part of it was because of our discussion last week about the MLB Network show "Top 10 Right Now."
I decided to take a look at the first basemen in the majors and rank them. First base has always been a strong position as far as numbers go and it is usually pretty easy to predict. This season, things are different. Some of the old guard is falling by the wayside and the younger players haven't proven themselves as superstars just yet.
Other than the top couple of guys, it really becomes a crap shoot. You have guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Adam LaRoche that had big years in 2012, but haven't always been very successful with the bat. You have guys like Chris Davis and Garrett Jones that can take it deep, but don't provide much else. You have guys like Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo and Allen Craig, all of whom did pretty well last year, but if they take the next step or not is anybody's guess. Then you have Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, Ryan Howard and Paul Konerko, the aging veterans coming off a down year overall, or at least a significant dropoff in the second half. Surely, a couple of them will come back to life or continue to be solid ballplayers, but some will fall even further.
Here are my top 10 first basemen right now:
- Joey Votto
- Prince Fielder
- Albert Pujols
- Mark Teixeira
- Edwin Encarnacion
- Adrian Gonzalez
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Allen Craig
- Paul Konerko
- Adam LaRoche
Votto checks in with the top spot. He led all first basemen in WAR, even though he missed most of July and all of August with a knee injury. He returned for the final month of the season and put up a .926 OPS. Votto led the National League in walks even though he only played in 111 games, and his .474 OBP also topped the league. He only hit 14 home runs last year, but his .337 batting average and 44 doubles more than made up for the lack of round-trippers.
Fielder is one of the most consistent players in all of baseball. He has missed 10 games since 2006. He's hit 30 home runs in each of the last six seasons. He is only 29 years old and he plays for a team that has an explosive lineup. He also was the WAR leader for first basemen
who had 500 at-bats last year.
Pujols hit .285/.343/.516 with 30 homers in his first season as an Angel. He started out terribly in April, but then regrouped to post good months in May, June, July and August, only to struggle in September. He has been on a downward trend the last couple of seasons, but it wouldn't surprise me if the 33-year-old jumps to the top of the list next year.
I'm going with Teixeira here because I think he can bounce back a little bit after his disappointing 2012 season. He hit .251/.332/.475 with 24 homers in 123 games last year. He has been in a downward spiral since 2009, but out of all of the first basemen who have been declining, I have my money on him to come back to life.
Encarnacion is a curious case. He has shown some power in the past, but nothing near to what he accomplished in 2012. Last year, he hit .280/.354/.557 with 42 homers and even threw in 13 stolen bases for good measure. He is still poor with the glove, but when a guy mashes all year like E-5 did last season, you can look past it. This season he will have even more opportunities with Jose Reyes
and Melky Cabrera
in the Blue Jay lineup, as well as a healthy Jose Bautista
. I think the 30-year-old will have another real strong season for a team that seems to bring journeymen to superstars.
Gonzalez still hit .299 last season, but the power was lacking. He managed just 18 home runs, only three of which came in a Dodger uniform last year. His OPS also fell about 150 points. He has shown in the past that it doesn't matter what park he plays in -- he can still hit the ball out (remember when he hit 40 homers as a member of the Padres
in cavernous Petco Park?). I wouldn't expect that much power, but a return to his 2011 numbers wouldn't surprise me in a stacked Dodger lineup.
Goldschmidt is my pick to bust through the glass ceiling and join the upper echelon of first basemen. Last season, he hit .286/.359/.490 with 20 home runs and 43 doubles. He also threw in 18 stolen bases. He is just 25 years old and plays in a nice ballpark to hit in. I think some of those doubles will turn into home runs in 2013.
Craig, 28, finally got an opportunity to play everyday and didn't disappoint as he hit .307/.354/.522 with 22 home runs and 35 doubles in 514 plate appearances. He seems poised to have a big season. I'm not sure if you will see many more home runs, but the average will be there.
Konerko is next up. He hit .298/.371/.486 last season with 26 home runs. Most of those numbers came in the first two months of the season. He struggled in the second half, but did hit five home runs in September and October, showing he can still find the seats. The wrist procedure he had might make things better, but he is 37 years old, so the end of the line is near. I still think you can probably count on him to hit .285 with 20 homers, so if you are looking for a sure bet, Konerko is your guy.
LaRoche makes my list at 10. Last season he had a great year as he hit .271/.343/.510 with 33 homers and 100 RBI. He also chipped in 35 doubles and plays for one of the best teams in baseball. He has hit at least 25 home runs five times, and at least 20 three more seasons. He is quietly a consistent slugger who plays decent defense.
I left Morneau and Howard off of my list. I think their time as a top threat at the first base position is up. Anthony Rizzo, and Freddie Freeman also fall just short for me. Eric Hosmer
confuses me. Last season I would have had him on the list, but after his dreadful 2012, he falls well short. I also didn't count guys like Billy Butler
, Adam Dunn
and David Ortiz
who don't play first all that often.
Who are your guys at first base?