2014 Positional Power Rankings: First Base

What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this 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. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.

Jeff’s already covered the catchers, so let’s move to the other end of the defensive spectrum, and look at the position on the field where teams expect the most offense.

PPR1B

There’s a clear top tier, with a few very great hitters at the high end before the drop-off. And then there’s the bottom. This is what the Marlins get for not spending any money. This is what the Phillies get for spending a lot of money very poorly.

#1 Tigers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Miguel Cabrera 560 .321 .409 .584 .420 42.7 -1.3 -2.7 5.1
Victor Martinez 56 .290 .344 .426 .334 0.5 -0.2 0.0 0.1
Don Kelly 49 .244 .312 .363 .301 -0.8 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Jordan Lennerton 35 .230 .305 .357 .295 -0.7 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .308 .392 .543 .398 41.7 -1.6 -2.7 5.2

Miguel Cabrera is so good that we docked him first base time for injury and some designated hitting, and he’s still number one. There’s some chance that he should be docked further — Victor Martinez shows up here as a better defender, and another year removed from knee surgery, he might actually show better glove at the position. That would dock Cabrera some positional value, but when you’re projected to have the best bat in the league again, you can afford to lose a run here or there. Let’s not talk about his 31-year-old hips, that’s no fun. If those do start to bark, and Martinez is also hurting, Don Kelley can slide over and replacement level at first maybe.

#2 Reds


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Joey Votto 595 .292 .418 .505 .397 36.1 -1.2 4.4 5.0
Jack Hannahan   42 .227 .305 .341 .290 -1.0 -0.1 0.2 0.0
Neftali Soto 42 .237 .280 .400 .298 -0.7 0.0 -0.4 -0.1
Todd Frazier 21 .242 .312 .431 .325 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .282 .400 .485 .382 34.5 -1.3 4.2 5.0

Joey Votto is projected for the third-best offense in baseball, and he’s had better years with the glove than he did last year, so betting on a bit of a bounce back in that department makes him the second-best first baseman in the game. Talking to him last week, he said that the knees feel better a couple years removed from double meniscus surgery, and he’s not yet definitively into the post-30 phase. He’s working hard to improve once again this offseason — more on this later — and he was already so good. If he needs a day off, it’s probably glove man Jack Hannahan either playing first or pushing Todd Frazier to first. If he takes a longer break, maybe Neftali Soto gets a look. He’s already 25 and a couple years removed from his breakout season, his patience doesn’t seem to be an asset and his defense might not be either, but he did once hit 30 homers in Double-A, so there’s something interesting about him.

#3 Diamondbacks


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Paul Goldschmidt 665 .278 .369 .512 .378 28.2 0.3 4.6 4.5
Mark Trumbo 21 .261 .315 .497 .349 0.4 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Eric Chavez 14 .260 .316 .427 .321 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .277 .367 .510 .376 28.6 0.3 4.4 4.5

There were some questions about Paul Goldschmidt coming up in the minors. Would the right-hander hit right-handers enough? Would he strike out too much? Would his power translate? By not only being good enough in his rookie year, and then improving in all three of these categories in his subsequent years, the Arizona first baseman seems to have answered those questions by now. At 26, he’s the first pre-peaker, too, so if anything, he could move up the list, which is a scary thought. And having Mark Trumbo available as a backup makes this a pretty nice situation — they have some glove-first outfield replacements that would help them stay above water as a team even if Goldschmidt grabs a hammy.

#4 Dodgers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Adrian Gonzalez 658 .287 .347 .468 .350 20.0 -2.7 9.4 3.7
Scott Van Slyke 28 .245 .325 .411 .324 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.1
Justin Turner 14 .258 .310 .363 .298 -0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .285 .345 .464 .348 20.2 -2.7 9.2 3.8

32-year-old Adrian Gonzalez has long combined good glove with plus contact and good power to be among the game’s best at the position, so it’s no surprise to see him here. Perhaps the projected power and defensive bounce backs are a bit much for you, that would be fine, but it’s hard to argue with his ability to stay on the field. Despite a shoulder injury in the meantime, he hasn’t gone to the plate fewer than 631 times since 2006. It looks like Scott Van Slyke is making the Dodgers as his backup and an extra outfielder — independent of the health of Matt Kemp or Carl Crawford — and he’s got some decent upside, particularly if he faces lefties most of the time. The righty is patient, powerful, and has good glove. The question is ho much contact he’ll make.

#5 Orioles


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Chris Davis 595 .267 .340 .536 .373 23.4 -0.5 -0.5 3.4
Steve Pearce 56 .248 .333 .408 .326 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1
Cord Phelps 49 .240 .304 .365 .297 -1.0 -0.1 0.4 0.0
Total 700 .264 .337 .514 .364 22.6 -0.6 -0.1 3.5

Chris Davis had a great year, and nobody can take that away from him. But when it comes to projection systems, the numbers have to take into account the other 1600 or so plate appearances of his career. In those PA, he didn’t walk half as much as he did last year, and his power was more outstanding than Hall of Fame level. A little bit of regression still makes him a good player, and more time at first instead of the outfield should help his defensive value. Behind him, Steve Pearce can slide over from the outfield should the need arise (he has experience at the position), but he hasn’t had much success against right-handers (66 wRC+ against them so far). Perhaps Cord Phelps would come up and help in a platoon if Davis suffers an injury.

#6 White Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jose Abreu 574 .271 .359 .514 .379 24.5 -1.2 -1.4 3.3
Paul Konerko 126 .261 .333 .408 .326 0.2 -0.8 -0.7 0.1
Total 700 .269 .354 .494 .369 24.7 -2.0 -2.1 3.4

The White Sox have two known entities on their way out and an unknown entity on his way in. Given that the team is most likely looking to build — if quickly, given the window Chris Sale’s amazing contract might provide — the projection for Paul Konerko might be a little aggressive in plate appearance terms. After all, he’s on a one-year deal that seems to be his swan song. Adam Dunn could play here, too, so they are set with backups. Now we get to see how Jose Abreu’s numbers — best in Cuban history — will translate to the big leagues. It’s not an easy thing to do, projecting Jose Abreu.

#7 Braves


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Freddie Freeman   560 .286 .365 .483 .367 22.7 -0.8 0.9 3.2
Evan Gattis 70 .252 .302 .464 .330 0.8 -0.1 -0.5 0.1
Chris Johnson 70 .275 .318 .420 .321 0.3 -0.1 -1.2 0.0
Total 700 .281 .354 .474 .359 23.7 -0.9 -0.8 3.3

We can talk about Freddie Freeman’s power ceiling, and wonder about his batting average on balls in play, or we can just get Jeff Sullivan to write about both things for us. But he remains easily projectable. For the last two years, he’s had an isolated slugging percentages of .181 and .196, walk rates of 10.3% and 10.5%, strikeout rates of 19.2% and 20.8%, and line drive rates of 26% and 26.7%. Maybe he is who he is and that’s great. He’s also been fairly healthy, averaging over 620 plate appearances for three years. That means it’s most likely that the Braves won’t have to use their depth much and move Chris Johnson over to first or play Evan Gattis or Ryan Doumit at the position. As you can see, though, they’ve got decent backup options when it comes to bats — it’s the defense that will suffer the most when Freeman sits.

#8 Angels


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Albert Pujols 490 .278 .348 .494 .357 17.0 -1.1 3.4 2.9
Kole Calhoun 140 .260 .323 .421 .326 1.5 0.1 -0.6 0.3
Howie Kendrick 35 .277 .318 .412 .319 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1
Efren Navarro 35 .246 .296 .341 .283 -0.8 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .273 .339 .467 .345 17.8 -1.1 3.0 3.3

With weighted offense numbers that beat Adrian Gonzalez and positive defensive value, Albert Pujols drops in the ranking due to his projected playing time. It’s important to remember that Pujols is projected for some playing time at designated hitter, too, so these projections aren’t docking him down below 500 PA because he failed to reach 600 for the first time in his career. On the other hand, Pujols is post-peak at 34 years old, and he hasn’t looked especially athletic on the bases this spring, and he does suffer from various ailments that could prove to ail him this year as well. The team is capable of shifting Kole Calhoun to first from time to time to rest Pujols, but if he misses a bit more time, they may consider prospect C.J. Cron. Cron’s plate discipline is fairly Trumboian, but so was his power until last year. If Cron finds the power swing again, he may find himself in the big leagues, spelling the starters in the corner outfield, first base, and at DH. But with management saying that’s an ‘if’ not a ‘when,’ it’s hard to say how much time Cron should be alloted.

#9 Giants


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brandon Belt 560 .268 .352 .444 .347 16.8 -0.3 3.2 2.9
Buster Posey 70 .295 .371 .469 .364 3.0 -0.2 0.6 0.5
Michael Morse   49 .253 .305 .419 .316 0.3 -0.2 -0.9 0.0
Joaquin Arias 21 .254 .282 .344 .273 -0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .269 .348 .441 .345 19.5 -0.7 3.0 3.3

At 26 years old, Belt is right in his peak age range. He’s made a couple adjustments to his swing and his grip over the past two years, and each time his numbers have taken off. The defensive numbers haven’t yet quite matched his apparent impact on the field, and maybe his good walk rate isn’t as appreciated as it should be, but the young man is an above-average producer at a tough position. So far his overall offense has been almost statistically indistinguishable against lefties and righties (121 LHP wRC+ vs 126 RHP), but his team has a great offensive catcher behind the plate that shifts to first against southpaws for the most part. Mike Morse moving over to first is a medium-term solution that fits Morse’s defensive skillset — the better defender in Gregor Blanco can then handle left field again — and Joaquin Arias will take over from Posey in the odd blowout, most likely.

#10 Cubs


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Anthony Rizzo 651 .260 .341 .474 .353 15.7 -1.6 8.4 3.3
Mike Olt   49 .219 .300 .380 .301 -0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .257 .338 .468 .350 14.8 -1.6 8.4 3.3

Once you adjust their offense for their home parks, and then take a look at their backup options, you realize quickly how Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs might end up behind Brandon Belt and the Giants despite some superior raw numbers. This is not meant to take away from the young man in Wrigley — his combination of nascent power and above-average walk and strikeout rates bodes really well for his future — but it is to point out that the Cubs, with all their future talent on the horizon, don’t boast a ton of current depth. That should change at some point, as the prospects turn into everyday players and the veterans are pushed into depth roles. But it’s hard to know when exactly that will happen. So for now, it’s Anthony Rizzo and player x — perhaps the patience-and-power former Ranger Olt will shift over from third to help back him up in that role.

#11 Yankees


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Mark Teixeira 560 .246 .338 .461 .348 10.9 -1.5 7.5 2.8
Carlos Beltran 70 .274 .336 .481 .352 1.6 -0.2 -0.5 0.2
Kelly Johnson 35 .234 .316 .406 .319 -0.1 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Scott Sizemore 35 .238 .319 .383 .313 -0.3 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Total 700 .248 .336 .457 .345 12.1 -1.7 6.5 3.0

It’s important to remember here that the “fielding” value hasn’t been adjusted for position yet. So, yeah, Mark Teixeira is still a decent defender even as a 34-year-old first baseman. But once his positional value is returned to his overall line, he still won’t offer positive value from defense. And, as bad as last year looked, Teix still takes a walk and hits for power when he’s in there. When he’s not in there? It’ll be time for something new… for Carlos Beltran perhaps. Beltran has never played first, but as a 36-year-old with cranky knees and quickly dropping defensive numbers, maybe he’ll enjoy a break from the outfield. The backup plans behind Beltran are fine in short bursts, but they would also rob flexability from the positions that are bigger question marks for the Yankees. Kelly Johnson, at least, will be needed elsewhere.

#12 Twins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Joe Mauer 518 .296 .383 .426 .354 14.4 -0.4 3.5 2.7
Chris Colabello 105 .250 .314 .420 .323 0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Chris Parmelee 35 .243 .318 .380 .309 -0.3 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Kennys Vargas 42 .236 .293 .388 .299 -0.6 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .282 .364 .420 .344 13.8 -0.5 3.2 2.9

There’s a non-zero chance that Joe Mauer surpasses this WAR projection based on defensive value. Catching defense can be tough to measure, and Mauer’s 470 or so innings at first base can’t be terribly predictive. As a plus defensive catcher in most estimations, it seems likely even that he’ll be a good defender at first. In any case, we also don’t know how healthy he’ll be at his new position. Seems like a good idea to bake some time at designated hitter in, and to figure he’ll hit the disabled list for something. That’s why Chrises Colabello and Parmelee will have to make contributions at some point. Colabello will always have that 2013 in Rochester, and has overcome some odds, but dude was 29 in Triple-A. Parmelee probably has a little more upside if he can hit for power, so he could change this depth chart the most with this play.

#13 Royals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Eric Hosmer 665 .291 .351 .456 .350 15.1 0.8 -0.7 2.7
Billy Butler 35 .290 .366 .453 .355 0.9 -0.2 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .291 .351 .455 .351 16.0 0.6 -0.7 2.9

Though Eric Hosmer is pre-peak and owns many standout tools, the overall package is left a bit wanting due to a few oddities in approach. For one, he hits a ton of ground balls and that saps his power potential. And for two, despite being an athletic player with some speed, his base running and defense aren’t quite what you might expect. Because of his age, there’s always the potential he figures certain aspects of his game out, but until he does, the projection systems will lag behind the faithcasting. Billy Butler’s best position is designated hitter, but at least he provides a good fall-back plan if Hosmer has to take a two-week (or longer) break sometime this season.

#14 Rangers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Prince Fielder 525 .283 .384 .502 .381 21.9 -2.4 -4.5 2.5
Mitch Moreland   140 .254 .317 .442 .329 0.2 -0.2 0.2 0.3
Robinson Chirinos 35 .239 .309 .363 .299 -0.8 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .275 .367 .482 .366 21.3 -2.7 -4.4 2.7

Prince Fielder’s new skin-tight approach to his uniform does not obscure the fact that he’s still a heavy player and that heavy players don’t seem to age as well as their more normally-bodied league mates. Perhaps that’s because a lack of speed can erode value with the glove and on the base paths. With Fielder, those were never strengths, though (a shame if just because of his name). Mitch Moreland could man the position if a short-term pain arises, but because of his more inferior work against left-handers so far in his career (74 wRC+), the team might need a platoon caddy for Moreland in the case of a longer absence by their new acquisition at first. Still, Moreland represents decent depth, and can even offer some defensive replacement value, or push Fielder to designated hitter for the odd game. That can help keep a small ache from turning into a 15-day vacation for the veteran.

#15 Blue Jays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Edwin Encarnacion 315 .272 .362 .510 .375 13.2 0.0 -1.3 1.8
Adam Lind 315 .264 .325 .458 .339 4.3 -0.7 -0.6 0.8
Moises Sierra 70 .243 .295 .391 .301 -1.1 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .265 .339 .474 .352 16.4 -0.8 -1.9 2.6

Speaking of injury, we have Edwin Encarnacion here, coming off of wrist surgery in the offseason. After a major change to his swing early in his Toronto career, Encarnacion has paired great power with exceptional contact for a power hitter. He’s been fairly durable over that time frame (no trips to the DL in 2011 or 2012) but he’s also missed time here and there with injuries to different body parts (142-game average since 2011). And, given his defensive range, it’s probably best if he turns in his glove more often than not. Unfortunately, Adam Lind is only marginally better with the glove and has platoon problems of his own. So, if Encarnacion takes a longer trip to the DL, the Blue Jays would need someone to face lefties and play first. Maybe Moises Sierra could do that. He has a little bit of power.

#16 Red Sox


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Mike Napoli 490 .244 .343 .466 .353 10.7 -0.6 2.7 2.2
Mike Carp 140 .259 .322 .440 .333 0.9 -0.1 -0.8 0.2
Daniel Nava 70 .263 .347 .395 .330 0.3 -0.1 -0.4 0.1
Total 700 .249 .339 .454 .346 12.0 -0.8 1.4 2.5

Mike Napoli probably won’t see an .367 batting average on balls in play in 2014. And he may see his defense regress from those great heights, even if first base is easier than catching. Given his chronic hip concerns, he’s not a great bet for a ton of playing time. The reason that works for the Red Sox is that he’s really good when he’s in — if on power and patience alone — and also because their backups are palatable. A Mike Carp and Daniel Nava platoon wouldn’t miss too much of a beat should Napoli’s hip act up this coming season. Carp would provide power against right-handers while Nava’s balanced approach would be fine over a short stretch.

#17 Indians


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Nick Swisher 490 .248 .342 .419 .336 8.4 -1.0 1.5 1.8
Carlos Santana 154 .254 .367 .444 .355 5.0 -0.4 -0.6 0.7
Jason Giambi   56 .214 .311 .369 .303 -0.5 -0.2 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .246 .345 .420 .337 12.9 -1.7 0.6 2.4

Some of Nick Swisher’s defensive numbers weren’t pretty last year, but most of those came in the outfield, too. Carlos Santana’s slow move from behind the plate might push Swisher to the outfield again, but at least when seen in the prism of first basemen, Swisher’s glove matches his bat: they’re both fine. Not “fine” like when you ask your significant other if you can go to the beer festival on Sunday even though you promised her to take care of the child that day, but more “fine” like when you ask him or her if you can pick up dinner on the way home instead of cooking. Swisher’s athleticism seemed to project a slow decline, and we’re seeing it. He’s still decent, and a healthy shoulder could help him be better than his projection this season. Could Santana be better in the full-time role there? That’s a question for Swisher’s outfield glove to answer, as well as the Indians’ depth pieces in right field. At least with the two of them in the fold, there won’t be too much of a need for Jason Giambi to play the field.

#18 Cardinals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Matt Adams 490 .265 .311 .462 .336 8.8 -0.5 -0.6 1.5
Allen Craig 140 .288 .343 .460 .350 4.1 -0.3 -0.4 0.6
Matt Carpenter 70 .278 .358 .418 .342 1.6 0.0 -0.1 0.3
Total 700 .271 .322 .458 .340 14.6 -0.7 -1.1 2.3

As fun as Matt Adams’ power is to watch, there are some questions about the overall value of his work. He hasn’t ever put up a league-average walk rate in the minor leagues, for example. He strikes out a fair bit. He’s also shown platoon splits, too. And, as Jeff Zimmerman showed in The Hardball Times Annual, he’s an extreme pull hitter that saw his batting average on balls in play fall as teams began to shift him in the second half of the season. All of this adds up to a non-zero chance that Allen Craig sees some time at first base this year — especially considering that the Cardinals’ best prospect is an outfielder and Allen Craig is not the fleetest of foot. It’ll probably be fine, since Adams really hit the tar out of the ball in a half-season sample last year and was supposed to do that, but you have to pencil in Matt Carpenter for a few games of backup ball at first base just in case the season turns out differently than expected for Adams.

#19 Mets


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ike Davis   420 .233 .332 .427 .332 6.9 -0.3 2.0 1.5
Lucas Duda   196 .235 .331 .402 .324 2.0 -0.4 -2.3 0.2
Josh Satin 49 .245 .328 .364 .310 -0.1 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Brandon Allen   35 .218 .295 .383 .298 -0.4 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .233 .330 .413 .327 8.4 -0.8 -0.1 1.7

Guaranteed double-takes for this ranking, I’m guessing. But instead of focusing on the faults, let’s look at the different things that the tandem at the top of this first base heap do right. Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda put up plus walk rates on the regular. Maybe Davis has proven his power upside more than Duda, but both can put a charge into the ball. Davis has shown some up and down work with his glove over the past few years, but more often than not, he’s better than average at his position. Should either Duda or Davis make a bit more contact or make good on their power, they could easily better these projected numbers and eliminate the need for much of Josh Satin lesser power or (free) Brandon Allen and his high strikeout rates. This group is below average with a whiff of average, not quite the disasterpiece theater it has sometimes been made out to be.

#20 Padres


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Yonder Alonso 560 .273 .341 .408 .327 7.3 -1.1 1.1 1.5
Kyle Blanks 105 .233 .301 .394 .306 -0.4 0.0 -0.4 0.1
Tommy Medica 35 .235 .303 .410 .314 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .265 .333 .406 .324 7.0 -1.1 0.8 1.6

The Cuban sprays the ball to all fields, has good walk and strikeout rates, and has the upside to better his work in the field. Alonso has also been hurt and his power has been inconsistent on the field, so he hasn’t quite made the statistical case for a better projection. It’s probably fair to say that scouts were higher on him than his production in the bigs so far might suggest, and at 27 years old, he’s (maybe) pre-peak. Putting his tools into better on-field results would push this ranking, but there’s also the risk that another injury pushes big Kyle Blanks and his big strikeout rates to the plate more often this year. If both of those things happen and Blanks doesn’t make good on some of the strides he made last year, maybe the team turns to Tommy Medica despite the fact that the non-prospect has been a bit old for his levels, has played in hitter’s parks most recently, and has seen his strikeout rate get worse as he’s ascended. Alonso still has the best upside of the crew.

#21 Rays


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
James Loney 553 .268 .321 .386 .309 -1.5 -0.7 5.1 1.2
Sean Rodriguez   105 .231 .305 .371 .300 -1.0 0.0 1.0 0.2
Ben Zobrist 42 .262 .352 .416 .338 0.9 0.0 0.4 0.2
Total 700 .262 .321 .385 .309 -1.6 -0.6 6.5 1.6

James Loney is cheap, and with a little platoon help, he can help the Rays get almost league-average production from a position that normally demands high free agent prices. Loney pairs good fielding with a lot of contact and has value above replacement most of the time. So that’s an accomplishment for the team and the player. But it can’t go without notice that Loney often puts up power numbers that would look more at home on the middle infield, and that he’s been worse against southpaws for his career (82 wRC+ vs LHP, 113 vs RHP). That could require some work from backup middle infielder Sean Rodriguez against lefties even when he’s healthy, and maybe occasional help from super utility man extraordinaire Ben Zobrist when he’s not.

#22 Nationals


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Adam LaRoche 490 .246 .328 .432 .330 4.9 -1.7 2.7 1.3
Tyler Moore 175 .242 .292 .433 .315 -0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.2
Ryan Zimmerman   35 .275 .344 .463 .351 0.9 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Total 700 .246 .320 .434 .327 5.6 -1.7 2.5 1.6

Adam LaRoche used to be good for 25 home runs, an above-average walk rate, and some value-stealing strikeouts every year. But he’s 34 years old now, so it’s no surprise that there’s been some erosion on many fronts over the past two years. Most worrisome, maybe, have been his worsening platoon splits. His swing and stance may not ever have been great against lefties, but he’s been worse than league average against southpaws five out of the last six years. That means work for right-handed 27-year-old Tyler Moore even when LaRoche is going well. Moore has some promising power perhaps, but plate discipline problems make him a worse option for the future. This might be a position in transition for the Nationals — Ryan Zimmerman brought his first-base glove to camp and was told he might get ten starts at the position over the course of the year. His throws to first seem to suggest that this is a good long-term idea.

#23 Athletics


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Brandon Moss 490 .240 .316 .456 .335 7.9 -0.9 -2.5 1.3
Nate Freiman 105 .246 .302 .386 .303 -1.0 -0.2 -0.3 0.0
Daric Barton 70 .242 .349 .354 .318 0.2 -0.1 0.9 0.2
Shane Peterson 35 .228 .312 .340 .293 -0.6 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 700 .241 .317 .430 .327 6.5 -1.1 -1.8 1.5

Brandon Moss changed his approach with the help of Chili Davis. He opened up his front foot and starting selling out to become the power hitter he was always meant to be, not the fourth outfielder with contact and patience his last two teams wanted him to be. And now he’s adjusting again, working on his bunting in case teams continue to shift him so very hard core. It’s really a great story. But with late career power breakouts like his, the statistical projections are going to take a skeptical approach. And the 30-year-old isn’t a great fielder, and he usually sits against lefties on his platoon-heavy team. Freiman’s numbers should be a bit better if adjusted for the fact that he’ll probably only ever see lefties (he hit .304/.352/.453 against them last year), but once again he’s a flawed option. Daric Barton has good glove and patience, but he’s not going to develop the power to make him more relevant. Since he bats left-handed, he’s going to have a harder time making this team when everyone is healthy.

#24 Rockies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Justin Morneau 490 .280 .345 .468 .353 5.5 -1.3 0.8 1.2
Michael Cuddyer 105 .288 .347 .482 .358 1.7 0.0 -1.7 0.1
Ryan Wheeler 35 .273 .315 .415 .318 -0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0
Jordan Pacheco   35 .272 .316 .374 .305 -0.9 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Total 665 .281 .343 .462 .349 5.7 -1.4 -1.0 1.2

Justin Morneau’s weighted on-base average seems to suggest his position should rank about seven spots higher, but once you correct for his home park, it’s a lot less exciting. Then you add in the injury risk — it’s not just concussions, he’s suffered from wrist, neck and back issues over the last three years — and the declining glove, and it makes sense that the projection systems are a little skeptical that he’ll put up average value at first base. Would Michael Cuddyer be a better option? That depends a little on Morneau’s health and production in 2014, but also a little on how the various non-Carlos-Gonzalez outfielders do with their playing time. If Morneau ends up on the shelf, Cuddyer is no spring chicken himself (35 years old), and so the Rockies will eventually find themselves turning to Ryan Wheeler’s poor plate discipline, Jordan Pacheco’s light stick, and probably a bottle of antacid.

#25 Astros


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jesus Guzman 350 .251 .319 .409 .320 0.6 -0.2 -0.1 0.6
Jon Singleton 175 .230 .321 .384 .313 -0.7 0.0 -0.3 0.2
Japhet Amador 70 .250 .301 .411 .312 -0.3 -0.1 -0.1 0.1
Chris Carter 70 .227 .320 .454 .338 1.1 -0.1 -0.3 0.2
Marc Krauss 35 .224 .309 .381 .306 -0.3 0.0 -0.2 0.0
Total 700 .242 .317 .406 .319 0.4 -0.4 -1.0 1.0

Jesus Guzman is a low-ceiling righty that should probably only face lefties, but with Chris Carter playing elsewhere as the team cycles through possible in-house first basemen, Guzman is the one that might end up with the most playing time of the crew. Since Japhet Amador is older and not really a prospect, maybe he gets the Opening Day nod and the first 150 plate appearances against right-handers at first base. But a family issue kept the big first baseman away from the team for a chunk of spring, and so it might be Marc Krauss getting first crack at proving his contact rate. In any case, Guzman’s going to be the guy that spends all season taking your ballots in the Jon Singleton Waiting Game. What Singleton does with his time (in the mid-season call-up? late-season call-up?) is also a matter of debate, as his strikeout rate hasn’t improved with more seasoning. Chris Carter may eventually take this job, and that’s why he shows up in the bunch.

#26 Mariners


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Justin Smoak 525 .236 .325 .406 .323 1.9 -1.9 -0.7 0.8
Logan Morrison 105 .245 .331 .413 .326 0.6 -0.1 -0.4 0.2
Nick Franklin 35 .246 .318 .391 .313 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Willie Bloomquist 35 .263 .304 .338 .284 -0.9 -0.1 -0.2 -0.1
Total 700 .239 .324 .403 .321 1.4 -2.0 -1.5 0.9

If it’s really true that Smoak is better against righties (101 career wRC+) than lefties (82), then that’ll make for an awkward platoon with the newcoming lefty Logan Morrison, who has also been better against righties than lefties. Morrison is 26, Smoak is 27, but both have under-shot their expectations. Morrison might have shown better plate discipline, but his power and health have been more inconsistent. Maybe with the power of platoons, these two can outperform their overall batting lines and do better than this projection. It requires some good health not only here, but also in the corner outfield and DH. Given the older guys that are at the other positions, it makes sense that a backup infielder will have to step in and help the crew at first at some point.

#27 Brewers


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Juan Francisco 420 .241 .293 .449 .321 0.5 -0.4 -1.4 0.4
Mark Reynolds 210 .227 .329 .457 .344 4.0 -0.3 -1.5 0.5
Lyle Overbay 28 .238 .299 .388 .302 -0.4 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Sean Halton 21 .243 .298 .392 .303 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Hunter Morris 21 .242 .286 .425 .309 -0.2 0.0 -0.1 0.0
Total 700 .237 .304 .447 .326 3.6 -0.8 -3.0 0.9

Juan Francisco’s one tool and left-handedness puts him in the catbird seat for one of the worst first base groups in baseball. He can put a charge into the ball, but he doesn’t add value anywhere else. Mark Reynolds just hit his first homer of the spring, but his right-handedness and power/patience package — as well as his age compared to Lyle Overbay — probably makes him the backup/platoon first baseman most of the year. Lyle Overbay is still in camp, but at 37, and with his recent track record, he probably makes more sense on a contender’s taxi squad if he decides to stay in baseball. There’s a decent chance neither of the veterans makes it out of April, in which case it would be time to give more plate appearances to the recently outrighted Sean Halton or Hunter Morris. Neither of the younger guys really has the upside to be league average at first, most likely, and that’s how you end up with a group like this. Probably fine for a team that’s looking to build, but it doesn’t really look like it will produce a long-term solution without help.

#28 Pirates


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Gaby Sanchez 280 .252 .334 .399 .324 2.3 -0.2 1.0 0.7
Andrew Lambo 203 .231 .288 .404 .302 -1.8 0.0 -0.7 0.0
Travis Snider 154 .246 .307 .392 .306 -0.9 -0.2 -0.2 0.1
Chris McGuiness 28 .222 .300 .345 .289 -0.5 0.0 0.2 0.0
Travis Ishikawa 35 .238 .306 .362 .295 -0.5 0.0 0.2 0.0
Total 700 .242 .312 .395 .311 -1.4 -0.4 0.4 0.8

For a team that’s looking to win now, this is one terrible depth chart. Travis Snider is past the pooping or getting off the pottie moment, most likely, but he’ll get another shot at playing time perhaps. Andrew Lambo has some promise (his power has risen in recent years in the minor leagues) but with every step forward, he seems to bring a step backward (his strikeout rates have also jumped). If he beats his projections, maybe he can form a decent platoon with Gaby Sanchez and push this overall number closer to two wins and an average rating. But if he doesn’t, behind them there’s only a Rule 5 acquisition with questionable power and contact skills (Chris McGuinness) and an 30-year-old lefty with a revamped swing looking at one of his final chances. This is why the Ike Davis trade rumors won’t go away.

#29 Phillies


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Ryan Howard 490 .238 .312 .446 .324 2.2 -2.8 -4.4 0.1
Darin Ruf 175 .244 .317 .410 .320 0.2 -0.3 -1.2 0.1
Kevin Frandsen 35 .265 .309 .363 .297 -0.6 -0.1 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .241 .313 .433 .322 1.9 -3.1 -5.6 0.2

This is probably not the projection Ruben Amaro, Jr was hoping out of year three of Howard’s five-year $125 million-dollar extension when he signed the first baseman before his original contract was up. The last few years have seen Howard’s contact rate, platoon splits and power all get worse, and the first two of those were already questionable when he inked that contract. Darin Ruf is an old rookie without a ton of projection, but he’s cheaper and and has some power of his own. At 33 old, a mini-resurgence from Howard isn’t impossible, but it might only be enough for management to find a way to jettison some piece of his contract and move the youngster in. Either way, we’re all hoping that Kevin Frandsen mostly plays at other infield positions despite some of his nicer (small sample) numbers over the past two years.

#30 Marlins


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Garrett Jones 420 .244 .306 .426 .319 0.4 -1.1 -2.4 0.2
Greg Dobbs 175 .245 .295 .345 .279 -5.4 -0.3 -1.4 -0.5
Jeff Baker 56 .245 .300 .389 .302 -0.7 -0.1 0.1 0.0
Justin Bour 49 .227 .287 .351 .279 -1.5 0.0 0.0 -0.1
Total 700 .243 .301 .397 .305 -7.2 -1.4 -3.6 -0.4

This list is not great. It could be worse, though. If we listed some of the other players that might get time at first, it would look worse. Ty Wigginton, though, is needed at third base and Jordany Valdespin was headed this way at some point. So this is your list of replacement level first basemen, all in camp on tiny deals, flaws and all. Maybe Garret Jones and Jeff Baker can form a platoon that pushes this WAR total over zero! They both have power and can hit opposite-handed pitchers! That’s something to look forward to! Right?



Print This Post



Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Los
Guest
Los
2 years 2 months ago

Lol. Marlins @ 31.

Dave (UK)
Guest
Dave (UK)
2 years 2 months ago

I love how the marlins manage to come 31st out of 30. Very fitting.

Adam Forman
Guest
Adam Forman
2 years 2 months ago

The Marlins 1B situation.. So bad they were ranked 31st out of 30 teams.

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Guest
Marcus Tullius Cicero
2 years 2 months ago

Regarding the Yankees entry, what does this sentence even mean? “But [Teixeira] still won’t offer his WAR total a positive value from defense when taken as a whole.”

Adam
Guest
Adam
2 years 2 months ago

An awkward way of saying his defense will be of detrimental value to his WAR.

Bill
Guest
Bill
2 years 2 months ago

Basically that his positive fielding value will be outweighed by 1B’s negative positional adjustment.

minstrel
Guest
minstrel
2 years 2 months ago

It’s grammatically correct, barely. It would be more obvious what he was aiming for with an additional word:

“But he still won’t offer [to] his WAR total a positive value from defense when taken as a whole.”

He won’t offer a positive defensive value to his WAR total.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)
2 years 2 months ago

#31. Nice.

JT Grace
Guest
JT Grace
2 years 2 months ago

Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers seem too high. I would probably switch the Dodgers with the Braves, who seem too low.

Michael Scarn
Guest
Michael Scarn
2 years 2 months ago

I’m surprised the Yankees are that high. Teixeira will be 34, didn’t play at all last season, has been declining the past 3 seasons, and yet still is projected to do even better than his 2012 season.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 2 months ago

Agree. It’s pretty funny to me that Napoli gets his defense will decline and his babip will go down, but Teixera, who is older, a poorer defender, and has had a bunch of injuries, is going to improve in basically every facet.

Paul Clarke
Guest
Paul Clarke
2 years 2 months ago

Mariners: “If it’s really true that better against lefties”

There’s a missing “Smoak’s” before “better”. It’s also not true – the 101 wRC+ is against righties and the 82 is against lefties, so not much hope for a Smoak/Morrison platoon there.

Wes
Guest
Wes
2 years 2 months ago

White Sox, wow. Not going to offer any dissenting opinions about a player I’ve never seen, but hot damn. My baseball love affair with Chis Sale hopes this is true, because everyone should have nice things.

yolo
Guest
yolo
2 years 2 months ago

A’s fan who’s been keeping up with spring training here:

It looks like Freiman’s going to start in the minors, while Daric Barton gets the nod for the opening day roster. It also looks like they’re going to try to run Moss out there every day — giving Moss more DH time, and Barton getting more 1B time. If they do decide to go back to the straight platoon, Barton has reverse splits so Freiman’s at AAA unless there’s injury or ineffectiveness.

scatterbrian
Member
Member
scatterbrian
2 years 2 months ago

This. Barton is a career .365 wOBA / 129 wRC+ vs. LHP, compared to .316 / 96 vs. RHP.

VORP is too nerdy
Guest
VORP is too nerdy
2 years 2 months ago

“Travis Snider is past the pooping or getting off the pottie moment.”

I, for one, come to Fangraphs for the poop references. Well played, sir.

pmacho
Member
pmacho
2 years 2 months ago

Shouldn’t Votto be the second best first baseman? It says second basemen

Plucky
Guest
Plucky
2 years 2 months ago

There are 4 teams with worse 1B situations than the Astros? Wow that’s sad

pudieron89
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

five

Thanks, Comcast
Guest
Thanks, Comcast
2 years 2 months ago

Hurray for low upside platoons! Gotta love Guzman’s career 130 wRC+ versus lefties. I’m really hoping Krauss takes the other half of that platoon, though. He’s done awfully well against righties in his minor league career. Unfortunately he’s still striking out a ton in spring training.

ALEastbound
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

Homer warning. I like EE/Lind more than a few of the teams listed higher.

Darryl
Member
2 years 2 months ago

EE’s WAR projection seems really low.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 2 months ago

That’s only 315 PA’s. The rest come as a DH, I’m sure.

Dave
Guest
Dave
2 years 2 months ago

Rizzo over Fielder makes no sense at all to me.

JT Grace
Guest
JT Grace
2 years 2 months ago

Defense counts

McLean_Deluxe
Guest
McLean_Deluxe
2 years 2 months ago

Encarnacion in last 2 years has been 4th in WAR, 2nd in wOBA ans wRC+ and is an excellent baserunner. 15th is beyond low. As well, odd that a player could go from average range at 3B to league worst at first.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
2 years 2 months ago

There was a reason his nickname became E5. Also, he will also be getting lots of AB’s at DH so those do not come up in this projection.

McLean_Deluxe
Guest
McLean_Deluxe
2 years 2 months ago

Yes, It was E5, because the 5 is for third base. His problem was also the throw. I was surprised though, having watched most Jays games that he played less than 700 innings at first. seemed like way more

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
2 years 2 months ago

I certainly do hope he plays less than 700 innings in most Jays games.

Matt Crawford
Guest
Matt Crawford
2 years 2 months ago

TIL that Adrian Gonzalez is projected to be the best defensive first baseman in baseball.

Maybe not surprising to most people, but even as a Dodgers fan, I just don’t hear his defense talked about very much.

Tanner Tees
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

I’m sad to see Paul Konerko on the way out. He’s been one of my favorite baseball players over the past several years. But I am excited to see how Jose Abreu will perform in his place. I hope it means good things for the White Sox this year.

eddiegaedel
Member
eddiegaedel
2 years 2 months ago

If Abreu can hit like Freddie Freeman than the White Sox will have gotten a great deal.

dennis galetti sr.
Guest
1 year 10 months ago

i believe abreu is equal to , if not above freddie.

Phan
Guest
Phan
2 years 2 months ago

Ryan Howard’s projected production = $250 million/WAR. Also, Buster Posey in 70 PA’s is expected to outproduce all Phils and Marlins firstbasemen (even ignoring Dobb’s -0.5). The NL East certainly doesn’t feature much 1B talent.

Anon21
Guest
Anon21
2 years 2 months ago

Yeah, it’s basically just Freeman and a bunch of dudes.

rogue_actuary
Member
Member
rogue_actuary
2 years 2 months ago

As a fun exercise, divide MVP points by WAR for a player’s career. If you throw out the pitchers, the hitter with the highest MVP points / WAR (by a mile) is Ryan Howard.

Erik
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

I have a feeling the Angels will be showing a little more Howie Kendrick at first base than these projections assume. They have decent depth in the infield, with Grant Green, who seems like a better option than JB Shuck in the outfield (if they were to move Calhoun over). Those are the two best options and really just depends on what other issues the team is facing at the time.

They have also had Raul Ibanez take grounders over there… God help us if you’re wrong leaving him off the list.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 2 months ago

I think Adams/Craig combo for STL will be a bit higher on this list when the season is over.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 2 months ago

Certainly in tag team combined weight. They are the Haystacks Calhoun & King Kong Bundy of the baseball world.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 2 months ago

If Adams plays as poorly as his projections have him playing, Craig will become the 1B sooner rather than later and Taveras goes in the OF sooner. Unless Taveras’s health problems linger. I agree that it’s unlikely that the Cards’ 1B situation will be that bad throughout the season.

6er
Member
6er
2 years 2 months ago

Travis Snider isn’t getting anywhere near first base so it really isn’t legitimate putting him in the mix.

matt w
Guest
matt w
2 years 2 months ago

This could not be a less significant fact, but Chris McGuiness isn’t a Rule 5 pick this year. (Last year the Indians picked him from the Rangers in the Rule 5 but he didn’t make the team.) He came over in an extremely minor trade — the Pirates sent the less interesting of the two guys they got for Alex Dickerson.

Mariners fan
Guest
Mariners fan
2 years 2 months ago

When will the 2b rankings be up?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 2 months ago

Doing a couple a day, it appears.

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
2 years 2 months ago

On the topic of the Phillies, one thing that isn’t captured above is the expectation that Howard will actually platoon. A platooned Howard probably posts a 120 wRC+. That’s probably a 1 win performance over 2/3 of a season, which is still bad, but less so.

Max
Guest
Max
2 years 2 months ago

>Goldy below Votta

intothegarbageitgoes.jpg

chaz
Guest
chaz
2 years 2 months ago

These projections always confuse me when I look at actual players I am familiar with. Take Brandon Belt. A young player who has steadily improved his production the last 2 years, entering his prime year of 26. His WAR is projected to drop by about 27% next year (4.0 to 2.9).

Adrian Gonzalez, 5 years older, who has posted steady declines in WAR for 2 straight years, is projected for a big 32% rebound next year (2.8 to 3.7).

What makes Gonzalez more likely to rebound at age 31 than Belt likely to continue improving at 26? Is BABIP the dominant factor here?

FANTASIA MCADDAMS
Guest
FANTASIA MCADDAMS
2 years 2 months ago

LMAO MARLINS 31ST THERE ARENT 31 TEAMS LMFAO

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 2 months ago

Nava as the RHH side of a platoon? The guy can’t hit LHP.

wpDiscuz