2013 Positional Power Rankings: First Base

Due to an unfortunate data error, the numbers in this story did not include park factors upon publication. We have updated the data to include the park factors, and the data you see below is now correct. We apologize for the mistake.

What’s all this, then? For an explanation of this series, please read the introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Is it me, or are there fewer superstar first basemen than there used to be? I did these same rankings last year, and the answer seems to be yes. I’m not sure why that is, though. Part of it is that Detroit is playing one of them at third base now, but that was true last year as well. I would also guess it is simply the current place of positional demographics: A lot of first basemen who were at the top of the rankings a couple of years ago are still primary starters, but they are in their decline phases. Some of the same names are on the top of the rankings, but not all are on the level they used to be. There are some younger players on the list who might have some potential for big leaps, though, and this list could look very different next year. So which teams project to have the biggest advantage at first base right now?

#1 Reds

Joey Votto 630 .299 .422 .534 .404 43.8 -1.4 3.1 5.8
Todd Frazier 63 .247 .312 .442 .325 0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Jack Hannahan 7 .232 .307 .350 .292 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .293 .411 .523 .396 44.0 -1.4 3.0 5.9

Wanna know the secret to being ranked first in the first base positional power rankings? Have the best first baseman in baseball. Keep this top secret formula to yourself.

Joey Votto put the Reds on top of these rankings, just like he did last season. The guy played only 111 games, but he still managed to put up six wins. Sure, his 2012 BABIP was high (.404), even by his normally insane standards (.359 career), but keep in mind that his .404 projected wOBA would be his lowest since 2008. When will he pop up again? Votto had knee surgery last year, so the playing time might seem a bit rosy — but other than 2012, 630 plate appearances would be his lowest since 2009. If Votto does go down, Frazier at first and Hannahan at third is far from ideal, but teams could do a lot worse.

#2 Angels

Albert Pujols 560 .293 .373 .539 .378 30.7 -0.5 2.7 4.4
Mark Trumbo 133 .261 .312 .476 .335 2.7 -0.2 -0.6 0.4
Howie Kendrick 7 .273 .318 .408 .314 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .286 .361 .525 .369 33.5 -0.7 2.1 4.8

The Angels managed to hold on to the second spot despite a disappointing 2012 performance from Albert Pujols. Pujols has apparently decided to age in the weirdest way possible: a declining walk rate. Given his contract, the future could get pretty ugly for the Angels, although they should be fine as long as Mike Trout keeps putting up 10 wins every year. Money aside, Pujols still projects to be a very good hitter, just not the utterly frightening one he was prior to 2011.

Despite a body that seems as if it might fly apart at any time, Pujols continues to be incredibly durable. The Angels will probably continue to give him breaks from the field and put him at designated hitter, but Mark Trumbo is fine as a fill-in at first on those days. Of course, if Pujols does go down and Trumbo becomes the first baseman, Kendrys Morales no longer is waiting in the wings. Then again, how many teams carry a backup DH? Angels fans are probably holding their collective breath with Pujols, but for now, he still projects as an excellent player.

#3 Dodgers

Adrian Gonzalez 630 .289 .366 .488 .360 26.2 -1.9 6.7 4.3
Jerry Hairston 35 .258 .329 .376 .311 0.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Juan Uribe 35 .230 .292 .378 .292 -0.5 0.0 0.3 0.0
Total 700 .285 .360 .477 .354 25.8 -2.0 7.0 4.4

Gonzalez had a disappointing 2012 both before and after being traded from Boston to Los Angeles. He no longer projects as a near-.400 wOBA hitter. But one year is still only one year. The primary issues for Gonzalez in 2012 were his walk rate and his power. As for his walk rate, there is at least some evidence that veterans with good walk rates tend to rebound after a one year dip. His power drop is more troubling, but given his past performance, it should rebound. Along with a good on-base percentage, he should be fine, if not quite the force of the past. Gonzalez still projects to be good enough to put the Dodgers right up there with all the other non-Votto-involved teams.

Gonzalez is another first baseman who has been extremely durable. He’s played at least 159 games every season since 2007. Even last year, his defense and durability enabled him to be worth more than three wins despite his troubles at the plate. Gonzalez has never been on the disabled list, which is nice, because the Dodgers’ options after him are not appealing.

#4 Tigers

Prince Fielder 630 .288 .404 .512 .386 34.7 -2.7 -3.1 4.1
Victor Martinez 70 .289 .351 .442 .340 1.3 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Total 700 .288 .398 .504 .381 36.0 -2.8 -3.0 4.3

Prince Fielder went from being Detroit’s big off-season signing to a player who, at least from my perspective, did not get as much credit as he deserved for an excellent 2012 season. Part of the reason for that was likely all of the attention (understandably) paid to his teammate Miguel Cabrera. Although Fielder’s power and walks decreased after his move from Milwaukee to Detroit, he also managed (against the usual expectations for a player of his type) to cut his strikeouts. Overall, it was a performance more in line with his traditionally outstanding odd years (2007, 2009 and 2011) than his average-to-above-average even years (2008 and 2010).

Fielder projects to continue his excellent plate discipline in terms of both walks and strikeouts, while hitting about 30 home runs. That is more than enough to make his less-than-awesome fielding and base running acceptable. While we are relatively conservative with playing-time projections, we could have gone higher with Prince Fielder, who is tied with Ichiro for the most games played in the past three seasons. As far as I can tell, Fielder has never been on the disabled list. That is an underrated facet of his value.

Fielder will probably get a little time at DH this year, and the returning Victor Martinez can always fill in decently at first if Fielder needs some time off. Cabrera could get some time at first, too, although we have not listed him here. In other words, the Tigers are probably OK for depth at this spot.

#5 Cubs

Anthony Rizzo 630 .278 .349 .508 .365 23.4 -1.3 3.3 3.7
Brent Lillibridge 35 .220 .283 .336 .273 -1.3 0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Steve Clevenger 35 .257 .314 .354 .294 -0.7 -0.1 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .274 .344 .491 .357 21.4 -1.3 2.9 3.6

Who had the Cubs fifth in the pool? Don’t lie. Anthony Rizzo is a young (23) hitter who had a nice debut for Chicago last year, but it is a bit shocking to see the nearly universal jump in power projected by all the systems. They must be really impressed by his Triple-A numbers, which look pretty stunning when it comes to his power. Minor league translations are a tricky matter, so there’s a great deal of uncertainty in play. Rizzo needs his power to to be for real if he’s going to be a star, because so far, his walk and strikeout rates are not exceptionally impressive. Still, even if Rizzo only repeats his rates from 2012, the Cubs will have an above-average performer at first base who has room to improve. Bryan LaHair left for Japan in the off-season, so there is no safety net if Rizzo has an Eric Hosmer-esque sophomore season.

#6 Giants

Brandon Belt 595 .268 .364 .441 .348 18.9 -0.4 0.2 2.9
Buster Posey 70 .302 .380 .489 .370 3.5 -0.1 0.8 0.5
Brett Pill 35 .263 .303 .420 .309 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .272 .363 .445 .349 22.4 -0.5 1.0 3.5

Brandon Belt finally got his chance (sort of) in 2012, and Aubrey Huff won’t be around in 2013 to steal playing time . Belt’s 2012 numbers were generally good, and he projects as an average or above-average player for 2013. There is some concern over his contact rate and unimpressive power so far in the majors — his .339 wOBA last year was propped up a fair bit by a .351 BABIP. Even after regression and other adjustments, though, the projection systems still see him hitting at least adequately for the position. There really isn’t anyone else in San Francisco who is likely to take playing time from him. Buster Posey might get some time at first base, but at the moment, he’s too valuable behind the plate to push his way to Belt’s turf too often.

#7 Blue Jays

Edwin Encarnacion 560 .269 .359 .498 .364 21.5 -0.4 -1.1 3.0
Adam Lind 140 .262 .321 .449 .329 1.5 -0.2 -0.1 0.3
Total 700 .268 .352 .488 .357 23.0 -0.6 -1.2 3.3

Not everything has gone as brilliantly for Toronto on their way back to the brink of contention. But it’s rather stunning that the team managed to find another player who suddenly found his power stroke at the end of what’s a typical prime. Edwin Encarnacion’s 2012 was not quite as out-of-nowhere as Jose Bautista’s 2010, nor was it as impressive, but it certainly solidified his status as a very good hitter. Regression is to be expected, but big jumps in power and walks tend to regress less than other peripherals.

Projection systems see Encarnacion as a very good, if not great, hitter in 2013. And that’s enough to make him an above-average player overall. When Encarnacion has a day off from playing first, Adam Lind will probably fill in. Lind isn’t much of a hitter at this point (and as a DH. well…), but as a backup first baseman, he actually rates pretty well. If his plate-appearances against southpaws are strictly limited, he could be pretty effective.

#8 Cardinals

Allen Craig 560 .289 .346 .494 .359 21.6 -0.5 -1.3 3.0
Matt Carpenter 98 .264 .354 .395 .328 1.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.3
Ty Wigginton 35 .236 .308 .373 .297 -0.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Yadier Molina 7 .288 .351 .430 .338 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .283 .346 .474 .352 22.8 -0.7 -1.7 3.3

The Cardinals would probably rank a few spots higher if Allen Craig had a better health record. Even 560 plate appearances seems optimistic, but I will leave that in the hands of our Cardinals experts. When he has played, Craig has pretty much smacked the ball around. He doesn’t walk much, and his strikeout rate isn’t that good (nor is it that bad). He just hits the ball hard, for both power and average. Matt Carpenter is currently battling for the starting spot at second base, but if/when Craig does go down, Carpenter could fill in ably at first. The Cardinals’ depth continues to be a real advantage.

#9 Yankees

Mark Teixeira 525 .258 .355 .481 .358 16.7 -0.9 4.1 2.9
Juan Rivera 140 .254 .310 .403 .307 -1.3 -0.4 -0.4 0.0
Dan Johnson 35 .235 .336 .393 .315 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .256 .345 .460 .346 15.3 -1.4 3.7 3.0

I have a hard time picturing the Yankees going into the season with some amalgam of Juan Rivera and Dan Johnson at first base, but here we are. One might think Kevin Youkilis should be penciled in here, too, but his services are needed at third base for an indefinite period of time.

Despite the mess to start the season, the Yankees still sit in the top third of the first base rankings. It’s hard to estimate how much Mark Teixeira will miss and whether the injury will affect his performance when he returns. While he was expected to decline during his contract, it has been more dramatic than anyone might have expected. Come think of it, his BABIP has suffered because he has become too pull-happy. Whatever the reason, the BABIP has been low for three straight seasons, and the projection systems cannot simply regress it all away.

Teixeira is no longer projects as a superstar. He still projects as at a good hitter overall and above-average overall player, though, due to good plate discipline and power. He has a nice glove, although that is difficult to measure. Assuming he can come back in mid-May, this injury will not, in itself, kill the Yankees — even if they are stuck with Rivera and Johnson in the meantime.

#10 Braves

Freddie Freeman 630 .273 .353 .474 .354 20.0 -1.1 -1.9 2.8
Juan Francisco 70 .254 .294 .450 .316 0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .271 .347 .471 .350 20.1 -1.2 -1.9 2.9

Freddie Freeman is just 23, and is coming off of two good seasons. While he superficially had a worse season with the stick in 2012 than in 2011, his true talent may have actually improved. His 2011 performance rested a fair bit on a high BABIP (.339). In 2012, his BABIP regressed, but his walk rate, strikeout rate and isolated power all improved. Those skills all correlate better year-to-year than BABIP. Those improvements, combined with his age, are the reasons that pretty much every projection system seems him as being even better in 2013.

#11 Mets

Ike Davis 630 .250 .337 .464 .343 17.0 -1.1 1.0 2.8
Lucas Duda 70 .249 .334 .417 .326 0.9 -0.1 -1.2 0.1
Total 700 .250 .337 .459 .342 17.9 -1.2 -0.2 2.9

The Mets’ hopes at first base in 2013 rest on the shoulders of Ike Davis, despite some fan enthusiasm for Lucas Duda. Our Mets’ depth chart experts seem to have faith in Davis’ ability to get more than 600 plate appearances, so I’m not here to doubt them. Davis doesn’t have much competition for playing time. He had a relatively disappointing 2012 season compared to 2010 and 2011, and his problems with contact are a concern. He has a big platoon split, although that is hardly unusual for a player Davis. Still, the power is impressive, and he can take a walk. His BABIP should regress to something more respectable after the .246 he put up in 2012, assuming he can cut down a bit on the pop-ups. Davis is 26 this season, so it is not as if he offers tons of upside. But power is power, and Davis should be at least an average overall first baseman (with potential for more) for the Mets, who have bigger problems elsewhere.

#12 Diamondbacks

Paul Goldschmidt 595 .268 .352 .484 .357 16.1 0.3 -0.5 2.6
Eric Hinske 70 .235 .316 .417 .315 -0.4 -0.2 -0.1 0.0
Eric Chavez 35 .262 .328 .434 .326 0.1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .264 .347 .474 .351 15.7 0.1 -0.7 2.7

The Diamondbacks have a very good hitter as their starting first basemen. The backups are players who are not good enough to start, but are better than most teams’ backups. Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske may not be all that exciting, but at least they aren’t Brent Lillibridge. There is a fair amount of hype behind Goldschmidt, and understandably so. He has good power and he even threw in 18 steals last year.

Enthusiasm should probably be a bit tempered given Goldschmidt’s strikeout rate and his friendly home park. And while 25-years-old isn’t incredibly young, it’s on the good side of most aging curves. Goldschmidt may not be a future superstar, but he is a very good player — and Arizona is fortunate to have him.

#13 Indians

Nick Swisher 455 .255 .356 .442 .347 13.3 -1.0 0.9 2.1
Mark Reynolds 175 .219 .330 .435 .332 3.0 -0.3 -3.1 0.2
Carlos Santana 70 .249 .367 .442 .350 2.2 -0.2 -0.1 0.3
Total 700 .245 .350 .440 .344 18.6 -1.5 -2.3 2.7

Cleveland’s contract with Nick Swisher looked pretty good when he was slated to start in right field. At first base, he is not quite as exciting, but the team is still in the first half of the rankings. Additionally, as some friends reminded me, having Swisher at first enables them to use a defense-first outfield of Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs that would keep Mark Reynolds off the field. If one of the outfielders goes down or Stubbs does not hit, they can always move things around and put Swisher back out there. Assuming the outfield is really that great defensively, it makes sense.

If Swisher does have to go back to the outfield, Reynolds can at least swat some homers. It is too bad for Cleveland that Swisher playing first does not somehow move Ubaldo Jimenez out of the rotation.

#14 Twins

Justin Morneau 490 .265 .342 .447 .337 9.0 -1.1 0.6 1.7
Joe Mauer 140 .299 .390 .431 .355 4.6 -0.1 -0.3 0.7
Chris Parmelee 70 .255 .332 .407 .321 0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .271 .351 .440 .339 14.0 -1.3 0.3 2.5

I’m kind of surprised that the Twins would rank this high anywhere other than at catcher. And I guess even ranking this high is because a catcher is likely to get playing time at first base. Justin Morneau, the slated starter, actually got 570 plate appearances last season. A .337 wOBA barely cuts it as a starter at first base, but that would still be better than Morneau did in either 2011 or 2012 — when he logged only 150 combined games. Morneau is owed $14 million this season, so the Twins are hoping he gets out to a good enough start that he might be attractive as a trade piece. For that to happen without the Twins picking up a significant chunk of his remaining salary, he will not only have to stay healthy, but significantly outperform his projection.

[Note: when I originally wrote this post, I mistakenly had Morneau signed through next season, too. It is now fixed. Long story short: I thought that it was through 2013, but I wanted to make sure. When I looked, I misread the the information as having him signed through 2014. Brilliant, I know. I went on a trip pretty much right after this post went up, which is why it took a bit for me to come back and correct it. Hope that goof didn’t ruin anyone’s day or week.]

#15 Nationals

Adam LaRoche 630 .253 .334 .454 .337 11.1 -2.0 4.4 2.4
Tyler Moore 35 .238 .289 .443 .313 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Chad Tracy 35 .257 .320 .391 .303 -0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .252 .331 .450 .334 10.7 -2.1 4.2 2.5

Adam LaRoche does not project to repeat his 2012 power surge, but his bat should be adequate. Combined with good defense, he should be about average. Assuming he can stay healthy, LaRoche should be able to carry his part of the load while the Nationals’ big guns elsewhere on the field — and in the rotation — do their thing.

#16 White Sox

Paul Konerko 595 .281 .362 .481 .359 17.9 -2.7 -3.4 2.2
Adam Dunn 70 .209 .337 .440 .337 0.8 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Tyler Flowers 35 .216 .317 .400 .315 -0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .271 .357 .473 .355 18.5 -3.0 -3.4 2.4

Paul Konerko is finally starting to decline, but he’s still very good, at least with the bat. Even with his power dropping, his approach is still good enough that he manages to strike out at a remarkably low rate. Despite some injury issues last year, he managed nearly 600 plate appearances, so the playing time distribution is not all that crazy for him. Adam Dunn will probably have to see time at first at some point. After a nice start to 2012, Dunn tailed off, but can still deliver OK-ish production. I doubt Tyler Flowers will see much time at first base, but given Konerko’s age and Dunn’s “skills,” he is probably a fair approximation for whichever players the White Sox would have to put at first base in lieu of the other two.

#17 Royals

Eric Hosmer 630 .274 .342 .441 .337 10.6 0.8 -4.1 1.8
Billy Butler 70 .296 .369 .484 .363 2.7 -0.2 0.0 0.4
Total 700 .276 .345 .445 .339 13.3 0.6 -4.1 2.2

Remember last off-season when some anonymous, non-Royals team official said that the 10 years and $100 million dollars would be about right for a deal between Eric Hosmer and the Royals? That was awesome. I have to remember to get screenshots of these things. To put it mildly, Hosmer had a disappointing sophomore season. Although his plate discipline improved in some respects, his problems cannot just be put down to bad luck on balls in play. That might have played a part, but he seemed to want to pull everything — which resulted in a lot of seven-hoppers to second. His power also went into the tank.

While celebrations of Hosmer’s incipient greatness were a bit premature, he’s still just 23, and he had a very good 2011 season for a 21-year-old. He does not project as the “Next Joey Votto” just yet, but projection systems have him performing much closer to his 2011 season than his 2012. Scouts and defensive metrics disagree about his fielding, with the former seeing him as very good and the latter not so much. Hosmer does not project as a superstar right now, but he does project as about an average player, and given his age, the future is still bright. If he really bombs and needs to got down to Triple-A, Billy Butler’s bat can make up for his defensive issues, although that would leave the Royals’ DH spot empty. I guess they could play Wil Myers there. Sorry, too soon?

#18 Red Sox

Mike Napoli 525 .249 .348 .477 .353 13.2 -0.6 -1.4 2.0
Mike Carp 140 .243 .316 .402 .311 -1.2 -0.3 -0.7 0.0
Mauro Gomez 35 .263 .314 .426 .314 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .248 .340 .459 .343 11.7 -0.9 -2.3 2.0

While 525 plate appearances is far from a full season, for Mike Napoli that would be a higher number than in any other season of his career. But that figure isn’t totally far-fetched. After all, he won’t be catching any more, and the Red Sox don’t really have anyone else worth playing in his place. Napoli’s 2012 strikeout rate jumped to scary heights, but it was never that bad before, so projection systems do not think it is likely to repeat itself. Napoli’s .320 average in 2011 was pretty clearly a one-time thing, but he has enough power and takes enough walks to be an effective hitter. Napoli should be at least an average first baseman, but Red Sox fans are hoping Napoli’s hip holds up, because too much Mike Carp is not a good thing.

#19 Pirates

Garrett Jones 525 .258 .321 .458 .332 9.0 -1.0 -2.5 1.4
Gaby Sanchez 175 .257 .333 .410 .323 1.7 -0.1 0.6 0.5
Total 700 .258 .324 .446 .330 10.7 -1.1 -2.0 1.9

The first base situation does not look pretty, but without running through all of the math, this could actually work pretty well if the Pirates consistently platooned Jones and Sanchez at first. By himself, Jones has a somewhat adequate bat for first. In 2012 he overachieved as sort of a poor man’s Corey Hart: low walk rate, more strikeouts than you would like to see, but plenty of power. Sanchez hit well for the Marlins in 2010 and 2011, then came crashing back to earth in 2012. I doubt Sanchez is really a .272 wOBA hitter, although he probably doesn’t hit well enough to start at first base. Lefties have been Jones’ kryptonite, and if Sanchez were to get those plate appearances, the Pirates could earn themselves a few more runs — and maybe an additional win.

#20 Padres

Yonder Alonso 630 .262 .338 .399 .319 7.8 -0.9 -0.3 1.7
Jesus Guzman 35 .263 .328 .407 .319 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.1
Kyle Blanks 35 .234 .317 .414 .317 0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .261 .337 .400 .319 8.6 -0.9 -0.5 1.9

Yes, he plays his home games in San Diego, but Yonder Alonso seemingly modelling his game after Daric Barton is not what Padres fans were hoping for. Basically, walking and striking out at a slightly-better-than-average rate was the only part of Alonso’s offensive game that went well last year. He is going to be 26 in April, so it is not as if he has plenty of time left on a typical developmental curve. To top it off, he’s a lousy base runner. Even for his home park, those projected numbers are mediocre for a first baseman. The Padres need to give him the full season and try to live up to his projected potential pre-2012, though, because no one else offers that much hope, either.

#21 Brewers

Corey Hart 455 .262 .330 .474 .344 10.5 -0.3 -1.1 1.7
Taylor Green 140 .252 .317 .401 .311 -0.5 -0.1 0.1 0.2
Alex Gonzalez 105 .244 .286 .380 .286 -2.5 -0.2 0.0 -0.1
Total 700 .257 .321 .445 .329 7.6 -0.5 -1.0 1.8

Sign that the upcoming season may not go well: A season-ending Mat Gamel injury throws a wrench into the gears. OK, that is not quite right, it was Corey Hart getting hurt that set this into motion. Still, Mat “Am I Still A Prospect?” Gamel looks pretty good compared to the other options available to Milwaukee until Hart returns sometime in this spring (hopefully for the Brewers).

When I saw that Alex Gonzalez was projected to get playing time at first, I checked with our Brewers experts to make sure it was not a mistake. They assured me it was not, although the playing time situation is in flux. Yeah, the Brewers might end up envying the Yankees over the first six weeks of the season. I guess Taylor Green might hit better than Alex Gonzalez, but.

While the situation is bad, as with the Yankees and Teixeira, losing Hart for six weeks-or-whatever is not devastating. That assumes, of course, that it does not drag out for much longer and Hart comes back ready to hit. Hart is not a great hitter, but he is pretty good. His walk rate fluctuates around average and his contact skills are getting worse, but he manages to put up decent numbers simply by hitting the ball hard and for power. For a right fielder, he is above-average. At first, he is closer to average. It may only cost them a win, but for the first part of the season, average will probably be a sweet dream for the Brewers.

#22 Athletics

Brandon Moss 525 .241 .312 .436 .322 4.5 -1.1 0.0 1.2
Daric Barton 140 .236 .358 .367 .325 1.6 -0.1 0.6 0.4
Total 665 .240 .322 .422 .323 6.1 -1.1 0.5 1.7

One might think that the A’s are going to do some more of the smart platooning that worked so well for them in 2012, but no, both Moss and Barton are left-handed hitters. The offensive projection for Moss may seem unfair, given that he hit .291/.358/.596 (.402 wOBA!) in 2012 — but that was over 296 plate appearances, versus a longer history of poor hitting. Even after last season, his career line is just .251/.317/.442 (.328 wOBA), and he is 29. The A’s are projecting something more from him than Steamer and ZiPS, one would think. Or maybe they just don’t have better options. Barton probably is not that better option. While Moss has poor plate discipline and good power, Barton has good plate discipline and very little power.

#23 Phillies

Ryan Howard 595 .246 .333 .468 .338 10.9 -2.2 -4.4 1.4
Darin Ruf 56 .258 .324 .426 .323 0.4 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
John Mayberry 49 .250 .309 .422 .316 0.0 0.0 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .247 .331 .461 .335 11.3 -2.3 -4.6 1.6

For all the mockery of the Ryan Howard contract, I really didn’t think we’d already be at the point where the Phillies’ first basemen collectively are ranked below a potential Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez platoon. To be fair, if Howard hits as projected — and is average in the field and on the bases — he could be about an average player. But how is assuming Ryan Howard could be average in the field and on the bases be fair? The Phillies had such a fun infield a few years ago. Now it just makes me sad, and no amount of snark makes up for that. That won’t stop jerks like me from trying, though.

#24 Rangers

Mitch Moreland 490 .265 .330 .443 .329 1.6 -0.6 0.4 0.9
Mike Olt 140 .244 .327 .424 .325 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.3
Lance Berkman 70 .268 .378 .481 .367 2.3 -0.1 0.0 0.3
Total 700 .261 .334 .443 .332 3.9 -0.7 1.0 1.6

Mitch Moreland projects, at best, as an adequate stopgap first baseman, especially with a team with its eyes on the playoffs. It beats rushing Mike Olt or risking injury to Lance Berkman by playing him at first too much, though. The Rangers have to hope they have enough firepower in the rest of the lineup to make up for Moreland’s bat.

#25 Orioles

Chris Davis 595 .259 .317 .473 .336 8.2 -0.8 -2.1 1.5
Wilson Betemit 35 .248 .320 .423 .321 0.1 -0.1 -0.4 0.0
Russ Canzler 70 .238 .302 .407 .307 -0.7 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .256 .316 .464 .332 7.6 -1.0 -2.6 1.6

Chris Davis’ unexpectedly effective bat was one of the big reasons the Orioles made the playoffs last year. Most projection systems expect regression, but they vary on how much there will be. Davis did have a high BABIP at .335, but he also had exellent power (.231 ISO). The power seems to be mostly for real, and while the BABIP is not terribly high, it is high. Of more concern are his career 6.5% walk rate and 30% strikeout rate in the majors. Overall, the power seems to be enough to make him an adequate, lower-division stopgap starter as a first baseman. Davis will likely see some time elsewhere on the field and at DH, with Wilson Betemit filling in at times, and quad-A-classic Russ Canzler possibly also getting some plate appearances.

#26 Marlins

Logan Morrison 420 .257 .346 .440 .340 8.3 -0.5 -1.4 1.4
Casey Kotchman 210 .262 .327 .389 .311 -0.7 -0.5 0.1 0.2
Joe Mahoney 70 .253 .304 .377 .294 -1.2 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .258 .336 .418 .327 6.4 -1.0 -1.5 1.5

In 2012, Logan Morrison played poorly and got hurt. Before that, he looked very promising. While some of the shine is off, he still has upside. He’s projected to hit decently even with a low BABIP — if not as low as last season — and there is reason to think his power is still there. Again, he needs to stay healthy. Of course, no one is exactly going to be crying for the poor ol’ Marlins if they end up with an unhealthy dose of Casey Kotchman.

#27 Rockies

Todd Helton 455 .267 .363 .419 .341 2.5 -1.8 1.7 1.0
Michael Cuddyer 175 .280 .342 .487 .354 2.8 0.0 -2.0 0.4
Tyler Colvin 70 .260 .304 .483 .334 0.0 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .270 .352 .444 .343 5.2 -1.8 -0.4 1.5

The Rockies’ first base situation pretty much sums up the organization as a whole: big names that might give ough of an illusion of contender-hood to mask a messy reality. Todd Helton is a shadow of his former self, but his recent numbers and current projections show that if you have good plate discipline, you can hang around as an adequate hitter, even at first base, for a long time. Still, at this point, a .341 wOBA in Colorado does not cut it at first base. Helton missed a lot of time last year, and he hasn’t had at least 500 plate appearances in a season since 2009. That means Michael Cuddyer and others will probably see time at first base. Cuddyer’s bat is better than Helton’s, probably, but not really what you want for a first baseman (or even a corner outfielder) in Coors Field.

#28 Mariners

Justin Smoak 560 .231 .322 .383 .308 0.8 -1.4 0.1 0.9
Kendrys Morales 105 .263 .323 .455 .333 2.3 -0.4 0.0 0.4
Michael Morse 35 .263 .319 .441 .328 0.6 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .238 .322 .397 .313 3.7 -1.9 0.0 1.3

I would imagine that if, prior to the 2012 season, you had told Mariners fans that Justin Smoak would have a better wRC+ than Eric Hosmer during the upcoming season, they would have been thrilled. Yeah, about that…. Does anyone outside of the Seattle front office believe in Smoak? He doesn’t even have the numbers to project as an adequate half of a platoon. I guess the Mariners are not ready to give up on the prime piece from the team’s Cliff Lee trade.

If the Mariners were willing to cut bait on Smoak, they could improve their offense and defense by moving Morales (currently set to be the primary DH) to first and move Morse from left field to DH (leaving aside the issues of whether they should have made the trade for Morse). Of course, that would also potentially mean a two-headed Jason Bay/Raul Ibanez monster in left field.

#29 Astros

Brett Wallace 560 .250 .320 .407 .316 1.3 -0.8 -1.8 0.8
Carlos Pena 70 .212 .340 .419 .331 1.0 -0.2 0.0 0.2
Chris Carter 70 .242 .330 .463 .341 1.6 -0.1 -0.4 0.2
Total 700 .246 .323 .413 .320 3.9 -1.1 -2.1 1.2

It’s something of an achievement for the Astros to not be in dead last in these rankings. At the moment, it looks like Brett Wallace is going to get most of the playing time at first base. The Wallace jokes have pretty much all been made, but at this point, with the Astros playing for nothing (a.k.a., “pride”), it looks like he’s going to get a final chance to show whether he has anything to contribute. So far the answer has been pretty a pretty clear “no,” but the Astros don’t have better options.

Pena is slated to be the Astros’ primary DH, but he can play first if needed. Chris Carter, who came over in a trade with Oakland, has some offensive potential, and might end up being the long-term solution. For now, Carter is will play the outfield with a bunch of other players. If something goes drastically wrong with Wallace this year, it would not surprise me if Carter ended up getting most of the time at first base. Carter’s glove is best suited for DH, but his power is pretty exciting, regardless of his defensive limitations.

#30 Rays

James Loney 490 .262 .322 .384 .305 -1.5 -0.7 2.8 0.9
Sean Rodriguez 105 .232 .310 .380 .303 -0.5 0.0 0.5 0.2
Shelley Duncan 70 .226 .312 .400 .311 0.1 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Luke Scott 35 .239 .313 .436 .321 0.4 -0.1 -0.2 0.1
Total 700 .253 .319 .387 .306 -1.5 -0.7 2.8 1.2

This ranking calls into question two bits of what might (unfairly) be called current sabermetric dogma. No. 1: “It is easy to find a decent first baseman.” And No. 2: “The Rays’ front office can do no wrong.” I put the parenthetical “unfairly” in there because if any saberists actually hold either anything like these, they do so with numerous qualifications. For example, it is only easy to find a decent first baseman relative to other positions, or the Rays are just way smarter than just about every other front office. Even then, these positions seem a bit silly.

Nonetheless, for the sake of this blurb, let us imagine a stereotypical saberist who holds these as articles of faith. It seems like said saberist’s faith would be shaken by the depth chart above, doesn’t it? I mean, either it is really difficult to find a somewhat average first baseman or the Rays just — well, I don’t know. What is going on here? I guess one could imagine that if James Loney is the best-fielding first baseman in the majors, he could be decent in a platoon with Shelley Duncan or someone else. Even Luke Scott, whose brief encounters with the first base glove have not been stellar, would not be great. There are only so many epicycles our imaginary, stereotypically dogmatic and non-existent saberist could spin.

But, hey, at least they didn’t trade Cliff Lee for any of those guys.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

122 Responses to “2013 Positional Power Rankings: First Base”

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  1. ALEastbound says:

    Singleton could factor in for the Astros.

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    • Preston says:

      He doesn’t have a single AB at AAA, and he’s going to start the season with a 50 game suspension. You’d think they’d at least give him 200 AB’s before a call up, so I doubt he sees significant time in the bigs.

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    • Not to make any mention of Rule 5 1B, Nate Freiman, who they have to roster all year or give back to SD.

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    • gdc says:

      Amazing that the Astros got all the ex-Oakland 1b except Dan Johnson. Brandon Allen might still be available, though.

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  2. RMD says:

    Fredy Freeman is projected too field 0.5 winz worse then Miek Napoli!! Ahhh!!

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  3. ThundaPC says:

    Does anyone outside of the Seattle front office believe in Smoak?

    I believe in Justin Smoak! And hey, if he still sucks he’s not getting 500+ plate appearances anyway!

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  4. Rob says:

    While their projections probably aren’t that different, and Freeman is the driver here, Chris Johnson is slated to be the backup 1b in Atlanta, not Juan Francisco. Francisco hasn’t played there for Atlanta at all, and Johnson has been seeing some time at 1b in spring training.

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  5. Dan says:

    How many more years in a row does Fielder have to be better than Pujols to start being ranked ahead of him?

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    • bballislife17 says:

      Considering he’s been better than Pujols for two seasons, which is the least number of seasons that could be described as “in a row”, maybe at least one more?

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    • Oh, Beepy says:

      There’s also that pesky decade of complete and utter baseball destruction on Pujols’ resume..

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    • Bookbook says:

      Fielder IS ranked ahead of him (or maybe not, who can tell). These are team rankings. The Angels backup 1b’s provide more value (and won’t Fielder get a few PAs at DH?)

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

      you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re moted.

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  6. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Man the Rays are going to be horrible this year. 28th best catcher. 30th best first base situation. They should probably just pack up their balls and go home.

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    • daveabbruz says:

      Are you seriously confident enough in James Loney to dispute their ranking on this list? The Rays are a good team, but if they win the East it will be despite an awful 1B situation.

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        The Rays are doomed. If you don’t have a slugging 1B to anchor the middle of your lineup then you’re just not a team. Ship these bums to Brooklyn so that they can someday hope to have a mashing 1B.

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      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        I guess I take more issue with the fact that the only thing that has been platooned here is the playing time. If you’re only going to give James Loney 490 PA then why wouldn’t you make just about every single one of them against a righty? In his career, Loney has hit righties to a .341 wOBA and lefties at .291. This gives him a platoon split of .152 and we can regress that using Bojan’s Harmonic Mean method to get an adjusted platoon split of .122. That’s wide.

        Using my agg projection that I’ve bandied about more than once we get an overall wOBA figure of .312 assuming equalish playing time against lefties and righties. Against just righties you would then expect Loney to have a .322 wOBA. If you expect league average to equal last years .316 then he would be worth 2.5 batting runs over 490 PA. That’s much better than the -4 he’s slated to get above. This puts Loney closer to 1.3 WAR as his contribution in the platoon. We can perform a similar thought experiment with Sean Rodriguez, another player with a large observed and regressed platoon split.

        I get an agg projection of .305 for Rodriguez, but that would be .325 against lasdgfeftasdfies and .295 against righties. At .325 over 105 PA then Roddy would be worth roughly .75 wRAA instead of the -1 penciled in above. Let’s say that he adds a modest .3 WAR to this equation. You’re now talking about 1.6 WAR from the two main contributors. It might not sound like a lot, but acknowledging efficient platooning just doubled what they were getting from the position and moves them up closer to the 25th spot than dead last by a nice margin. I guess my bigger beef is that if you’re going to put all the work into this thing why half ass some of the easier stuff? It’s not like regressed platoon splits are something that’s on the horizon that we can’t do right now. Heck, my method is built primarily from what Devil Fingers showed us only a couple of years ago.

        I appreciate the effort, but as a wise man said, “Go the distance.”

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        • Sandy Kazmir says:

          Not sure what happened there but the gibberish should read “lefties”

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        • Baltar says:

          Great analysis, Sandy. There’s a good chance that the Rays will do something like that. There’s also a good chance of a change when Myers comes up, e.g. Zobrist to 2B and Johnson to 1B or Joyce to 1B.
          Either way, Loney isn’t likely to get that many PA’s at 1B if he doesn’t hit better than projected.

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      The fact that they have a top 5 rotation, a top 5 3B, a top 5 bullpen, Ben Zobrist (who defies classification) and a top OF prospect doesn’t make their situation at catcher and 1B any better…

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    • Fjord says:

      Except (as noted in the article) the ranking doesn’t take into account Molina’s pitch framing, which if you agree with Mike Fast’s method, could be worth something like 3 wins if Molina gets into 100 games. If you want to go conservative (i.e. make up a smaller number, in this case), even 1.5-2 wins would push them into the top 15.

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    • jim says:

      excellent troll work, sandy

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  7. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    2013 Cool Name Power Rankings: First Base
    1. Yonder Alonso
    2. Darin Ruf
    3. Brandon Belt
    4. Albert Pujols
    5. Mark Trumbo
    6. Brett Pill
    7. Lucas Duda
    8. Lance Berkman
    9. Mike Carp
    10. Brent Lillibridge

    This is an unusually weak group. Only two or three top-calibre names.

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  8. Sarge says:

    Hard for me to look at the Giants and Brandon Belt at #9 and not think there’s something fishy with the projections… Cherry picking his 2011 ISO and his improved 2012 BB% and K% a little too much. I understand why, it just doesn’t sit well with me. For a guy with zero in the way of real competition for the position, he sure didn’t garner much support from one of the better managers in the game before this Spring. He’s unproven and I don’t think they deserve to be ranked in the upper third of baseball ahead of teams with proven, consistent players like Konerko and LaRoche. Just one guy’s opinion, Belt might turn out to be above average, I’d just like to see it on the field first.

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    • JT says:

      I was also shocked at the high rating for Belt and the Giants.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      There’s nothing fishy with the projections. You can disagree with the outputs without thinking that they were rigged.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivalajeter says:

      I was surprised by his ranking as well. I’d easily take Ike Davis over him. Davis put up 3.5 WAR in 2010, 1.4 WAR in less than 1/4 of the season in 2011, and 2.6 WAR in the last 4 months of 2012. Unless you think he’ll get Valley Fever, lose all of his energy and $hit the bed in April/May again (-1 WAR), then I’d think he’s at least 3.5 WAR.

      Sure, Belt might play that well – but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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    • Brett says:

      Some perspective from a Giants fan here. In short, the projections are backed up by the eyeball test.

      For as much as Bochy does right, his fetish for playing veterans over young players is probably his biggest flaw. The fact that Huff got so much playing time over Belt last year is a problem with Bochy, not Belt. Giants fans everywhere were pining for Bochy to #FreeBelt.

      Belt has always shown great walk rates and ISOs in the minors, so it’s not abnormal to think that he will improve both as he matures as a big league hitter. The projections aren’t calling for anything dramatic, just the normal improvement you hope/expect to see out of a young hitter. As an excellent article here pointed out (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/brandon-belts-turning-point/), Belt’s approach and results were much better in the second half of the season. If he comes even close to the success he had in the second half, he’ll easy hit and surpass the projections.

      If Belt is a 120 wRC+ 1B with average fielding, and I think that’s a conservative projection, that’s easily 2-3 WAR. If he hits like he did in the second half or if his fielding improves (average by advanced metrics, plus by fan scouting reports), he could be in the 3-4 WAR range no problem.

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      • 4233 says:

        With Brett Pill{Who isn’t very inspiring} Belt should maybe get about 550 PA to see what is there….Maybe he breaks out, maybe he wont but even so that ranking is way too high for a group thats inconsistant at best…Posey wont play enough first for him to have an impact on this ranking….

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    • Scott says:

      You all need to remember that the reigning NL MVP’s numbers are included with Belt’s. That’s a major reason that the Giants 1B position is in the top ten. If you look only at Belt and his 2.6 WAR, he’s in a cluster with Laroche, Konerko, Ike Davis, Freeman, etc. I think that’s pretty reasonable, especially when you take Belt’s good defense and decent (for a 1B) baserunning.

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  9. JT says:

    The Braves with Freddie Freeman seemed to be rated way too low. He played most of last season through a thumb injury and had problems with eyes yet still had a decent season. With expected improvement from a 23 year old he should be even better in 2013.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      A 3 WAR season for 23yo 1B, ranking #11 out of #30?

      Just where do you think he should rate? What do other 1B’s get with the same rating system you use for Freeman?

      I’m asking because you can’t just give Freeman some “recovery points” and “development points” without doing the same thing to other 1B’s.

      His injuries and ailments factor into future projections. Nobody gets a “he’ll be completely healthy all season” projection.

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      • JT says:

        I should have said “too low” rather than “way too low”. IMO, the Braves and Giants should be switched. Freeman is younger than Belt and has proven a lot more.

        Overall, this was a great ranking. I was just puzzled by the Braves ranking below the Giants. I know the back-ups play a part so I guess that’s it. Freeman definitely won’t have a good back-up unless Gattis can play there.

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        • That Guy says:

          Yes, the backups play a small role. The backup 1B for the Giants is some guy named Buster Posey.

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        • JT says:

          Even the article itself says that, “Buster Posey might get some time at first base….”. That doesn’t sound like the back-up should matter all that much.

          It just seems like the computer sputtered on this ranking. Belt simply isn’t very good, or at least he hasn’t been so far.

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        • Scott says:

          Posey had 113 PAs at 1B last season, and he’ll probably get close to that amount this season as well. ~100 PAs of a wOBA around .370 (projected) can definitely matter. It’s kind of lazy writing by the author to suggest that he “might get some time”, because he clearly will, based on what Bochy has said.

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  10. rustydude says:

    I use a shorthand reference for the Mariners depth at 1B: Smo Mo Mo. It’s too bad Jack didn’t make a play at trading Smoak for Morrison.

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  11. Heisenberg says:

    You guys need to chill with the Ryan Howard hate. Below Garret Jones? Stop it.

    -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Caveman Jones says:

      You’re splitting hairs if you’re mad about that him being ranked below Garret Jones. Ryan Howard has 2.1 WAR over the last 3 years (2.5 seasons really) and the dude is 34. He’s a terrible defender and is coming off of a season where he struck out 33% of the time. It’s not Fangraphs that’s hating on him as much as it is the projection systems out there.

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    • sewf says:

      Except Ryan Howard isn’t below Garrett Jones. Howard is predicted to produce slightly more WAR. The Phillies are lower than the Pirates due to their backup options, not Howard.

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      • Mike N says:

        Phils fan here. I hate that contract but I really feel as if WAR misses something when it comes to Howard. Not close to living up to that contract, of course.

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        • Sandy Kazmir says:

          Just throwing this out there, but perhaps you (of the royal variety) can’t frame just how bad he is defensively and on the bases.

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        • YanksFanInBeantown says:

          @Sandy, or perhaps the fact that Howard has consistently had an RE24 well above his wRAA suggests a genuine skill at driving in runs that just isn’t captured in a context neutral stat, leading him to be undervalued if you (of the royal variety) only look at the surface numbers.

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        • jim says:

          his “skill” at that is a result of having hit with runners on base in a LHB-friendly park for years

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        • schmenkman says:


          1) CBP hasn’t helped Howard, and

          2) he has been among the most efficient in baseball at driving in runners, i.e. ROI%

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      A -1 WAR most reason season will certainly affect the projections. While it is difficult to think that Howard is “as valuable” as Logan Morrisson, they may be the case.

      Howard’s WAR over the last 3 years: 1.4, 1.7, -1.

      What would you project for 2013? What do other 1B’s get for projections using the same system that was used for Howard?

      The projections actually project Howard having one of his best defensive and baserunning seasons.

      I’ve defended Howard in the past (not the contract per se), but it’s time to recognize that the Ryan Howard we knew is gone.He may never hit 40+ homers again, which is pretty much what he has to do to put up significant WAR (between league average and all-star levels, IMHO).

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    • maguro says:

      Dude, you are talking to a computer algorithm. Stop it.

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    • Tim Lemke says:

      Howard’s healthy for the first time in a couple years. And he’s looked good this spring (FWIW.) I expect a bounce-back year for him. Not MVP, but certainly better than 1.4 WAR.

      Also, I agree with the comment that he seems to show good ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

      He’s bad defensively. He can’t hit lefties. He’s a flawed, overpaid player. But I think he’s almost underrated at this point.

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      • Garrett Jones — off the top of my head — had the eighth best wOBA versus RHP last year among all ‘qualified’ 1B.

        In a platoon with Gaby Sanchez, who is light years better than Jones against LHP, is a pretty good idea.

        Such a good idea I’m doing it in Scoresheet.

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    • Fossilrabbit says:

      This will be Howard’s first year fully recovered from injury.
      He’s been working with the greatest third baseman in history, and best slugging third baseman, Mike Schmidt, on making more contact. So far, the results look good. I don’t know how Howard will age from this point forward but my bet is on one last really great season.

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  12. CircleChange11 says:

    It’s about time people started recognizing Allen Craig’s performance and talent.

    Seriously look at the list of players and prospects he has performed better than and is projected to perform better than.

    Guys like Allen Craig, Jon jay, and David Freese are key reasons as to how the Cardinals have done so well while having an “old team” with “no prospects”. (Obviously that’s no longer the case in regards to prospects).

    Allen Craig is projected to produce one win fewer than Albert Pujols, for about 22 fewer million dollars.

    If Craig does go down, I wonder if Holliday/Beltran rather than Carpenter would play 1B, and Tavares play OF?

    Anthony Rizzo’s projection?

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    • salvo says:

      And that Craig’s “injury-prone” status is almost completely the result of a bare concrete wall in Houston (since padded) that cut short the end of his 2011 and delayed his 2012 start to May.

      People look at his PA’s in a vacuum and seem to assume, “huh, the guy just can’t stay healthy.”

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    • Quadstriker says:

      If Allen Craig gets hurt, Matt Adams gets his call.

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  13. rockymountainhigh says:

    Re: the Helton summary. Rockies actually have a pretty good group of young position players developing: Cargo, Fowler, Colvin, Pacheco, Rutledge, Rosario, EY jr, Arenado.

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    Rizzo being projected at more Bat Runs than AGonz?

    Should I classify this under the “I’ll believe it when I see it” type thing or is this a difference between batting/playing in Dodger Stadium/NLWest and Wrigly/NLCentral? I was under the impression that projections were pretty much “context neutral? Is that the case?

    I’m asking because that projects Rizzo at far greater talent/value than I would have thought, and am willing to change my opinion.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      FWIW, all of the projection systems are pretty high on Rizzo. My agg projection that combines, the Fans, Steamer, PECOTA, Oliver, Zips, and CAIRO have him putting up a .360 wOBA with a .269/.340/.496 triple slash. Here’s more if you want to see the methodology behind this and the rest of his projections:

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I did something similar with combining projection systems to make player ratings for rosters for MLB12: The Show last year.

        The systems are projecting Rizzo for 30+ HR, which given his projected PA that may be a reasonable number. I cannot say how reliable projections are for younger players and including minor league numbers.

        The problem could also be with my knowledge and awareness of Rizzo. I was just surprised that he was as valuable (projected) as Adrian Gonzalez.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Isn’t CAIRO already an aggregate projection system?

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  15. Mike says:

    I really enjoy this series of articles. The only suggestion I have is that the order be 30-1 rather than 1-30. For the catcher article, I read it as it was written, but for this one I immediately scrolled to the bottom and read from bottom to top.

    I found it to be a better experience going down to up. You start with the tragic/comical, and end with the awesome. I’d prefer to finish with Votto, Pujols and Fielder than with Wallace, Smoak and Loney. Anyway, keep up the good work!

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  16. Tim says:

    I think Morneau either figures out lefties and hits far better than that, or gives up on lefties and hits far better than that in significantly fewer PAs. Even the Twins have to recognize that continuing to send him up hitting like last year is a bad idea.

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  17. AS says:

    Not sure how likely Mike Carp is to actually make the Red Sox roster. It’s vaguely possible that he could if Ortiz and one or two others start the season on the DL, but even then he’s fighting for the job with Lyle Overbay, who seems to be the team’s preferred backup at this point. If DL stints don’t open up a spot, Nava has been playing a lot of first so he can be part of the weird shifting platoon thing in LF and 1B with Gomes and Napoli. Odds are good that he gets designated before the season starts.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Not saying you’re wrong, but right now Carp is listed ahead of Overbay (as is Mauro Gomez) on the team depth chart. Presumably that’s why he’s listed as the primary backup here.

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  18. brendan says:

    I’m confused about the BsR column. is it wins or runs? neither seems reasonable for e.g. fielder at -2.5
    OTOH, pujols at -0.5 seems like it should be wins, last year he was -6 runs or so.

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    • brendan says:

      as per dave in the other (catcher) thread, these are BsR runs.

      fielder has averaged about -7 runs over the past 5 seasons, but steamer projects -4.5, zips -1.0 — anyone know why they are so optimistic?

      -2.7 is the max here, -1.7 was the max negative value for catchers.

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  19. TheLoLgen says:

    Minor note, but Matt Adams is definitely 3rd on the depth chart for 1B. Honestly I have no idea why we gave Wigginton that contract, last I checked you usually don’t pay $5 million for a righty bench bat that’s 35 with average power and horrible defense.

    Oh, and he has an OPS of .399 in 37 Spring PA so far. Woo.

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  20. Matthew Swinkey says:

    Smoak starting over Morales at 1b? I don’t think thats the case. Smoak is in an option year and may as well start in AAA, especially if the team insists on carrying Ibanez and Bay.

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    • Brent says:

      I thought so too, but Wedge has adamantly stated that Smoak is the first baseman. We’ll see if Smoak’s Aug/Sept 2012 and 2013 ST carries over to the 2013 regular season.

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    • Preston says:

      Do you think Morales’s ankle is still an issue? He wasn’t overly athletic before, maybe he’s a DH only guy now.

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  21. DD says:

    For a contender, the Rays look God awful on these first two lists.

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    • Brent says:

      Try being a Mariner’s fan. Will there be a single position not in the 20’s?

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      • Preston says:

        Kyle Seager should definitely be in the top half of the league at 3B.

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        • Brent says:

          ZIPS only has two M’s with a WAR above 2 (Ackley, Seager)and Steamer adds Montero to that list. Even if we manage to get 3rd base out of the 20’s (by WAR Zips has Seager 19th, Steamer 15th), I don’t see an M’s position player getting in the top half.

          We’ll see.

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      • GoateesOnly says:

        Are they gonna do relievers?

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    • Baltar says:

      I’m not blaming FanGraphs, as the reasons are complex, but the Rays won’t fare that badly at these 2 positions, although they are 2 of their 3 weakest (2B won’t look great either). Molina’s fantastic framing ability is not tanken into account and, unless Loney hits much better than projected, the Rays will find some creative solution at 1B. See Sandy Kazmir’s comment above

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      • Baltar says:

        2B will look weak until Myers comes up and Zobrist moves there. I see this series already has Zobrist there for at least half the season.

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  22. That Guy says:

    700 PA vs 640 for catchers? Why the disparity? Just curious.

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    • Scott says:

      Maybe in general, 1B hit higher in the lineup than catchers, and catchers are presumably pinch hit for more often than 1B. I’m not sure if that would account for the entire difference, though.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Catchers get, on average, about 60 PA less per season than other positions. That’s likely due to batting order effects — most catchers hit 7-9 — and pinch-hitting/pinch-running. Every other position will get 700 PA per team.

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  23. Preston says:

    It seems that the Rays are constantly in this position with 1B primarily because they make every trade in terms of absolute value and not out of need. They have consistently needed a 1B/DH type and have traded Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza and James Shields without getting one in return. This will help them remain competitive in the long run since players like Matt Joyce, Hak Ju Lee and Wil Myers have more positional value, but netting a lesser player at a position of need would have maybe allowed them to have a better shot at actually hoisting the trophy one of these seasons.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Good 1B’s likely require more in trade (because they tend to excel at traditional numbers like HR-RBI), so getting more value in trade by acquiring non-1B position players likely nets the Rays more overall value in their trades.

      Carlos Pena’s decreased production (except as a Cub) also hurts. 1B was a strong position for them not too long ago.

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  24. sam says:

    One might think that the A’s are going to do some more of the smart platooning that worked so well for them in 2012, but no, both Moss and Barton are left-handed hitters.

    Barton’s career splits:

    vs, LHP: .368 wOBA (533 PA)
    vs. RHP: .315 wOBA (1368 PA)

    He probably has a neutral split rather than a reverse one. But that still works for a platoon, as he projects to be a better hitter than Moss vs. LHP.

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    • Blofkin says:

      Assuming the A’s even carry a backup 1B. It’d be pretty easy to argue against keeping Barton or someone when you’ve got Lowrie and Jaso who can slot in there, and I’m pretty sure Seth Smith has taken some reps there this spring. If flexibility is the name of the game with this A’s team, why carry a guy with limited defensive opportunity when you could instead keep another guy who can play multiple infield positions, like Green, Rosales or Parrino.

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  25. Chris from Bothell says:

    “…by moving Morales to first and move Morse from left field to DH … Of course, that would also potentially mean a two-headed Jason Bay/Raul Ibanez monster in left field.”

    By all rights it shouldn’t, if the M’s had a healthy Guti and an ounce of sense. Wells-Guti-Saunders in the outfield, please. Ibanez for pinch hitter / 25th man, if one must. Bay… I don’t know, we run out of roster room quickly. Shouldn’t have brought him in, in the first place, even for so cheap.

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  26. Ben says:

    I can’t help but feel more bullish on Loney than the projections – last year seems to have been babiptically unlucky and anomalous in terms of his career numbers. He’s also still on the right side of 30; I’d go on record as predicting somewhere around a .325 wOBA/1.5 WAR for him this year (assuming no injuries, and he’s been pretty durable).

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      What about the .050 drop in ISO with a quarter of the season taking place in a friendlier home park. Was that BABIP unluckiness too?

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  27. Matt says:

    Minor nitpick, but If Beltran or Craig go down Matt Adams will get the majority of the time at 1st for the Cardinals. Craig to RF if Beltran goes down.

    Craig can absolutely mash. Could easily slot in in front of Rizzo if hes healthy this year. Look at the numbers despite missing the month of April last season.

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  28. Randy says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of hype about Rizzo. I like him, but I’m not sure he deserves such a high ranking. However, after scrolling down I realized that 1B is actually a fairly weak position. I had thought it was much better until reading this article. So maybe Rizzo deserves that ranking afterall.

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  29. Ted Nelson says:

    Issue with the Rays rant is that these are projections. The Rays most likely disagree with your projections, or at least are willing to take the chance Loney outperforms them (and on a limited budget that might be as good as it gets going into the season). Your model might not be accurate, or it might be as accurate as possible but the Rays are going on a more qualitative assessment (or they just have their fingers crossed).

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  30. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Problem with this analysis: Daric Barton has a huge reverse platoon split. He hits lefties a lot better than righties, despite being a leftie.

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  31. Antonio Bananas says:

    Maybe I’m not as up to date on 1B defense as I should be, but I watch a lot of game and it seems like Freeman is always digging balls out and stretching. A 1B shouldn’t really be judged on range that much at all. They are involved with nearly every infield play and most of which, they aren’t fielding, but receiving the throw. Their ability to scoop and stretch helps out the other fielders and every play. If I’m just being a homer and don’t know that they do measure this and Freeman sucks at it, please let me know.

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  32. Scott says:

    I would be curious to see each team’s final WAR rank from last year. For instance Oakland had 3.7 WAR from 1B last year
    (which would put them at #6 on this list). The best guy (Moss) is going to play twice as much yet it’s projecting a total of 1.5 WAR total this year dropping them twenty spots to #26. If we’re doing an over/under on Oakland at #26, I’m taking the under on that one.

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  33. maqman says:

    Your C and 1B rankings for the Mariners are just unrealistic. Get a new computer, algorithm or projection sources.

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  34. Yoko Ono says:

    How could Votto have only played in 111 games but yet had 630 plate appearances?

    Says that above but it doesn’t seem to make much sense?

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    • Blofkin says:

      I think you’re misreading things a bit. He played 111 games last season, but he’s projected for 630 PAs this coming season.

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  35. Yoko Ono says:

    Apologies as I see now that the stats above are just projections – my apologies.

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  36. fergie348 says:

    Brandon Belt should have much higher defensive projections. He’s a far better defender than Posey who shows up as far superior in this ranking. Side bet – Brandon Belt will end the 2013 season with a higher Fangraphs WAR total than Anthony Rizzo. Any Cubs fans want to take me up on that one?

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