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Positional Power Rankings: First Base

Posted By Matt Klaassen On March 6, 2012 @ 10:14 am In 2012 Positional Power Rankings,Daily Graphings | 80 Comments

For an explanation of this series, go ahead and read the introduction. All the posts in the series can be found here.

First base, unsurprisingly, has the best hitters out of all the positions in baseball, although what separates the very first basemen according to the ZiPS and Fan projections is fielding. Obviously, the “true talent” side of things is not my work, I just adjusted playing time and depth charts, prorated, and so on. Just a couple of notes before we get started. Obviously, this a more of a subjective exercise, as I am not a doctor who can tell you want is going to happen with player injuries with any expertise. More importantly, I am not a mind reader who can say how a certain manager will react if his young first basement has a nasty slump in June. I view this charts sort of like subjective versions of projectinos — I am simply trying to reduce the error. by listing potential players who might play at the positions and rough playing time amounts. I have no doubt that there will be some things in here that look pretty silly in retrospect, and perhaps even now. With that out of the way, let’s get to the rankings.

30. Mariners

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Justin Smoak B 550 0.231 0.326 0.376 0 0.5
Utility Carlos Guillen B 100 0.245 0.314 0.380 0 0
LF/1B Mike Carp L 60 0.252 0.317 0.414 0 0.1
3B/1B Alex Liddi R 10 0.228 0.292 0.387 0 0

All those people who said that the Mariners should have taken Jesus Montero over Justin Smoak in the Cliff Lee trade sure look silly now that Jack Z. got them both, huh? Sorry, sorry… The Mariners are in a position where they need to let Smoak sink or swim, and they do not really have any other options. Despite the problems, Smoak has a good walk rate and has shown bursts of power, and at 25 it is far too early to give up on him — just ask Alex Gordon.

One has to enjoy the irony Carlos Guillen being there in case someone else gets injured for once. Mike Carp is slated to start in left field, last I checked, but he also has spent time at first base, so he might get some time there. Alex Liddi is another guy who is more likely to be in another position on the depth chart (third base), but he might get a few plate appearances.

29. Padres

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Yonder Alonso L 580 0.256 0.329 0.401 -4 0.5
RH 1B/OF Jesus Guzman R 60 0.266 0.324 0.399 0 0.1
LH 1B/OF Mark Kotsay L 20 0.254 0.307 0.355 0 0
Prospect Kyle Blanks R 60 0.233 0.315 0.407 0 0.1

The straight-up projections do not love the Padres’ first basemen, but there is enough youthful upside here that this projection has to be taken with a grain of salt. Alonso was not thought of as having monstrous power potential, and what he does have will be hidden by the Joy of Petco, but getting on base and hitting for good average and decent power will play. Jesus Guzman will be fight for playing time, but he might have his uses in San Diego and elsewhere as a right-handed bench bat. Mark Kotsay continues his mysterious late-career run in the majors taking at-bats away frmo more worthy players (99 of the league). Kyle Blanks is the wild card — a huge guy who has shown serious power at times, but has had injury problems and poor performance at others. It is tough to see how he fits onto the roster to start the year. But there might be something there with blanks if Alonso or one of the corner outfielders goes down.

28. Athletics

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Daric Barton L 320 0.241 0.351 0.359 4 0.7
Reserve Brandon Allen L 250 0.212 0.310 0.375 1 0.1
Depth Kila Ka’aihue L 50 0.226 0.329 0.373 0 0
Prospect Chris Carter R 100 0.268 0.312 0.416 -2 0

Perhaps caught up in the spirit of the Moneyball movie, Billy Beane has stacked his first base depth chart with left-handed Quad-A sluggers (or, in Barton`s case, “slugger”). While Allen is currently viewed by many as trade bait, others see him as the likely starter over Barton, so the playing time estimations above reflect that. Kila Ka’aihue is there as AAA depth in case Allen gets traded and Barton bombs again. Chris Carter is sort of the Kyle Blanks of this situation. Carter was most a first basemen in the minors who made people think he would end up as a DH. Naturally, the As moved him to the outfield. With the team loaded with outfielders (sort of), where he fits is a mystery, but he does not exactly have Orlando Cepeda and Willis McCovey ahead of him on the depth chart, either.

27. Pirates

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Garrett Jones L 570 0.252 0.317 0.432 -3 0.8
Utility Casey McGehee R 75 0.262 0.311 0.398 0 0
Prospect Matt Hague R 75 0.260 0.319 0.377 0 0

I probably missed someone, but I’m not sure it was anyone who would add “depth” to the “depth” chart above. Garrett Jones has shown flashes, but at the moment he projects as a first basemen with some power, but not enough to make up for the low on-base percentage. After that, the Pirates have Casey McGehee, a player whose bat really only plays at tird. Matt Hague hardly looks like a world beater, but he might make for a good platoon partner for Jones. I debated putting Pedro Alvarez somewhere on this chart, but at least at the moment the Pirates look like they are going to leave him at third.

26. Astros

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Carlos Lee R 400 0.274 0.323 0.441 -2 0.7
Utility Matt Downs R 50 0.255 0.315 0.413 0 0.1
“Prospect” Brett Wallace L 250 0.258 0.322 0.403 0 0.3
Utililty Chris Johnson R 20 0.255 0.294 0.403 0 0

Is the Carlos Lee contract about to end? Time flies, does it not? Brett Wallace is not all that promising, but Downs and Johnson are just utility players. With Lee in the last year of his contract, the Astros are probably hoping that he goes on a hot streak so they can dump some of his salary. Even if they cannot trade him, after the deadline there is no point to having him play out the string, so they might as well give Wallace some playing time, even if they are not overly optimistic about his potential. This is speculation, of course, but it is a depressingly muddled situation.

25. Rockies

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Todd Helton L 500 0.267 0.356 0.402 1 1.4
LH Backup Jason Giambi L 60 0.246 0.356 0..486 -1 -0.2
RH Backup Jordan Pacheco R 60 0.262 0.317 0.363 0 0

Todd Helton is years away from his monstrous, arguably-Hall-of-Fame-level peak, but despite the power outage, getting on base and playing good defense has value, even at first base. Health and age make me cautious when projecting his playing time. Giambi is a guy who makes sense as a left-handed platoon bat in the American League, so naturally the Rockies have him in the National League where he actually has to use his glove. Giambi was an exception to my policy of projecting everyone without a Fan Projection as “0,” that just did not make sense. Pacheco is an adequate right-handed bench bat.

24. Nationals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Adam LaRoche L 450 0.236 0.313 0.415 2 0.7
OF/1B Michael Morse R 200 0.273 0.331 0.475 0 0.8
Utility Mark DeRosa R 50 0.244 0.300 0.277 0 -0.2
Utility Chris Marrero R 20 0.262 0.319 0.380 0 0

The Nationals probably wish they could trade LaRoche so they can move Morse to first and have Jayson Werth and (they hope) Bryce Harper on the corners of the outfield. For now, they need to play LaRoche, but if he gets hurt again or they pass the deadline with LaRoche hitting poorly, I can see Morse getting more of the at-bats. Either way, I do not see LaRoche sucking up the playing time. The other guys are generic utility payers.

23. Orioles

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Chris Davis L 450 0.250 0.299 0.440 0 0.7
3B Relief Mark Reynolds R 220 0.218 0.320 0.361 0 0.7
C Relief Matt Wieters B 10 0.268 0.334 0.429 0 0
Depth Nick Johnson L 20 0.223 0.350 0.318 0 0
Prospect Joe Mahoney L 20 0.254 0.299 0.380 0 0

Too bad the Orioles do not seem to plan on putting Wilson Betemit at first (although it could happen, I guess), as that would make three awful-fielding third basemen on this chart. Someone has to play third, I guess, and apparently it will be Reynolds to open the season, but when Davis likely bombs (again, and not the good way), the incentive to pretend that Reynolds can play third will power, so he might get some time there. The Nick Johnson Dream lives on in Baltimore, although on a minor-league deal it is kind of a fun dream to have. Mahoney might make an appearance.

I did not believe the Wieters thing until I saw him listed on the first-base chart on the team website and saw he played there a bit last season. It is bad enough when teams move a questionably-gloved catcher without an elite bat to first because of a problematic glove. With Wieters, while his bat has not lived up to the original hype, he has become one of the best defensive catchers in the game. Hopefully for Orioles fans, they will not continue that particular insanity.

22. Dodgers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter James Loney L 580 0.277 0.334 0.407 3 1.3
1B/OF Juan Rivera R 100 0.265 0.318 0.408 0 0.1
1B/OF Jerry Sands R 20 0.235 0.308 0.415 0 0
LH Utility Adam Kennedy L 20 0.258 0.307 0.362 0 0

Given the continued hilarity of James Loney, it is amazing that Dodgers are even this high on the list. The brilliant plan to back him up apparently involves two outfielders and Adam Kennedy, a classic aging utility man without utility. Loney still will get most of the at-bats, I think, as Rivera can only platoon for one guy at once. No word on what Ned Colletti offered Juan Pierre.

21. Phillies

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Ryan Howard L 300 0.248 0.335 0.485 -2 0.9
RH Utility Ty Wigginton R 200 0.249 0.312 0.399 -1 0
LH Bench Bat Jim Thome L 150 0.247 0.349 0.494 -1 0.6
OF/2B John Mayberry, Jr. R 50 0.246 0.300 0.427 0 0.1
Utility Michael Martinez B 20 0.231 0.277 0.339 0 -0.1

This is a mess both from the perspective of the Phillies and of those trying to project what is going to happen with playing time. Ryan Howard is out “indefinitely,” and the platoon of Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome, while it has some potential, also has some pitfalls — namely, Wigginton cannot hit righties and it seems unlikely that Thome (who ZiPS actually projects as far better with the bat than Howard) can stay healthy if he plays first base with regularity. If anything, I may have shorted Mayberry and Martinez on the plate appearances at first. Insert Ryan-Howard-in-the-first-year-of-his-extension-joke here.

20. Blue Jays

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Adam Lind L 580 0.264 0.315 0.466 -3 1.3
DH/RH 2B Edwin Encarnacion R 100 0.261 0.331 0.457 -1 0.3
Prospect David Cooper L 40 0.251 0.311 0.376 0 0

A Lind-Encarnacion All-or-Nothing platoon would make a lot of sense for the Jays, but the problem is that someone has to DH. It seems like 2009 was a million years ago for Lind, but he an Encarnacion at least will hold up their end of Toronto’s Home Run Derby. David Cooper probably will get some playing time at some point. If Lind does not get it going soon, the Jays need to start looking for a new first baseman for the run they obviously want to make very soon, if they haven’t started shopping already. It is not as if Prince Fielder or Joey Votto are the only options out there better than a two-headed Lind/E5 combo.

19. Indians

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Casey Kotchman L 400 0.275 0.342 0.403 3 1.1
RH Utility Jack Hannahan L 20 0.223 0.303 0.347 0 0
RH 1B/OF Shelley Duncan R 20 0.228 0.309 0.398 0 0
Catcher Relief Carlos Santana B 160 0.246 0.361 0.449 0 0.7
“Prospect” Matt LaPorta R 120 0.253 0.321 0.422 -1 0.1

Casey Kotchman is the nominal starter, which is okay, but there are other factors here. Hannahan and Duncan are useful players in various ways, but they are not the main issues at work. One is Cleveland’s desire to get Carlos Sanatana time at first, even though his bat is far more impressive at catcher (this motif will re-appear). The other is whether or not Matt LaPorta actually can hit in the majors. As with Justin Smoak, Alex Gordon offers a bit of hope here, although Gordon had at least shown something in the majors prior to his 2011 breakout. LaPorta could conceivably get a lot more time, but based on the ZiPS projections, there is not much chance he will impress the decision makers enough to get that chance. This does not look like the season for Cleveland to wait around while a guy struggles.

18. Rangers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Mitch Moreland L 520 0.264 0.329 0.424 -2 0.9
Utility Michael Young R 140 0.291 0.336 0.431 0 0.3
C Relief Mike Napoli R 60 0.272 0.361 0.538 0 0.4

The Rangers are still stacked just about everywhere, but not first base. They dropped out of the Fielder bidding, but I doubt that reflects much confidence in Mitch Moreland. Some are thinking that he was playing hurt last season, but I am always skeptical of that sort of analysis. If Moreland stumbles, that means more time for Michael Young at first. Mike Napoli played well at catcher last season, but is coming off an an ankle injury, so the Rangers may want to give him more time at first and DH.

17. Brewers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Mat Gamel L 620 0.264 0.341 0.433 -3 1.4
Utility Taylor Green L 50 0.264 0.324 0.423 0 0.1
Depth Travis Ishikawa L 20 0.231 0.306 0.365 0 0
OF Corey Hart R 50 0.270 0.333 0.481 0 0.2

The long-awaited Gamel Era begins! It had better, because there really are not any other options. Gamel seems to have some on-base skills, but is bad everywhere on the field and not much power. Green is a utilit man, and Ishikawa is nothing more than minor-league depth. There was some talk of Corey Hart getting time at first base or even moving there full-time if they Brewers added another corner outfielder, but they did not add such a player and Hart got hurt, anyway. Still, if Gamel falls apart Hart might get some time there.

16. Cubs

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Bryan LaHair L 340 0.262 0.324 0.469 -1 0.9
Utility Jeff Baker R 50 0.250 0.299 0.375 0
Prospect Anthony Rizzo L 330 0.246 0.320 0.436 1 0.9

Jeff Baker is simply a utility player. The main plotline here involves a) how much rope Bryan LaHair has, and b) whether Anthony Rizzo can force him out. Rizzo is going to get his shot eventually. I split the difference. If LaHair bombs, Rizzo will come up sooner. If LaHair hits well to start the year, Rizzo may have to wait a bit longer. Rizzo seems to encourage conflicting evaluations, but at the moment, the Cubs really have no other long-term solution close to the majors.

15. Braves

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Freddie Freeman L 640 0.279 0.344 0.455 -5 1.9
Utility Eric Hinske L 60 0.234 0.316 0.413 -2 0
Utility Martin Prado R 20 0.281 0.325 0.417 0 0

One of the easiest teams to figure out, the Braves’ first base situation seems pretty safe with Freddie Freeman, even if the Fans follow UZR in being unsure of his fielding. Freeman’s plate discipline was unimpressive last season, but he was only 21. Few would put him on Eric Hosmer‘s level, and that makes sense for a variety of reasons, but Freeman looks like he has a bright future. Hinske continues his run as a utility man for the corners, and if the Braves need a right-handed bat here and there at first, Martin Prado has done it before.

14. Giants

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Aubrey Huff L 400 0.261 0.329 0.422 -2 0.6
Prospect Brandon Belt L 220 0.268 0.365 0.452 1 1.1
Utility Brett Pill R 20 0.267 0.298 0.412 0 0
C Relief Buster Posey R 80 0.287 0.358 0.440 0 0.3

Apparently the Giants are hoping that riding Huff about his conditioning will have the same effect on him that it did on Pablo Sandoval a year ago. Combined with his well established “good every other year” tendency, BOOM. That totally justifies burying Brandon Belt yet again (can’t have him taking playing time from Melky Cabrera or Nate Schierholtz, either). Add in their desire to devalue Posey’s bat by giving him playing time at first base, and the Giants are not really on track to maximize their talent. This is the saracastic, negative view of things: talent trumps all, and if Huff start out of the gate slow, Belt could get time sooner rather than later. ZiPS sees Belt bat as good enough that, given the chance, he should replace Huff eventually. I am guessing the Giants give Huff time to play himself to the bench, but it is just a guess.

13. Rays

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Carlos Pena L 620 0.215 0.341 0.447 1 2.2
DH/OF/1B Luke Scott L 20 0.245 0.325 0.447 0 0.1
2B/Utility Ben Zobrist B 30 0.261 0.355 0.444 0 0.1
OF Matt Joyce L 30 0.254 0.342 0.453 0 0.1
C Utility Stephen Vogt L 20 0.255 0.291 0.381 0 0

First base is seen as a weak spot for the Rays, but here they are in the top half of the league. Carlos Pena is about an average overall player at this point. He will not get all the plate appearances, but they Rays do not have an obvious platoon partner for him. Zobrist plays everywhere, but he is also needed elsewhere on the diamond. Scott has played some first in the past to not-great reviews, but he might get some time there. Joyce was rumored to be getting some practice in at first during the off-season. Vogt is a versatile guy, too, although he only really hits well enough to play catcher. None of these players, other than maybe Zobrist, makes sense as a platoon partner for Pena. A team can’t have everything, I guess.

12. Twins

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter/DL Justin Morneau L 400 0.272 0.348 0.456 2 1.8
Catcher Relief Joe Mauer L 150 0.302 0.380 0.432 0 0.6
“Doh Mitt” Ryan Doumit B 120 0.256 0.319 0.404 0 0.1
Utility Chris Parmalee L 50 0.243 0.311 0.357 0 0

The Rays were surprising, but if the Twins made the top half of this list, then first base must be weaker than I thought. This was also difficult to write up because of the uncertainty. Morneau could play the whole season, he could sit out almost the whole season if concussion symptoms re-appear. ZiPS is not all that high on his offense as this point, either, but he does project as better over the 400 plate appearances I pulled out of a than many first basemen over 600+. Who knows whether one should take the over or under on either his playing time or performance. Joe “Hometown Discount” Mauer is slated to get time at first base, too, and still gets on-base often enough that it is not a killer to play him at first, but again… Hey, that contract was great for baseball! I mean, it’s going to be terrible for the Twins, but can you imagine the horror if he was in New York or Boston? THE HORROR. And, yes, I “Doh Mitt” is a great nickname.

11. Diamondbacks

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Paul Goldschmidt R 580 0.250 0.340 0.472 -2 2.2
LH Backup Lyle Overbay L 120 0.251 0.333 0.320 0 0.3
Utility Geoff Blum B 20 0.262 0.316 0.369 0 0

Paul Goldschmidt is a fun player. Who knows how long the fun will last, given his skill-set, but hey, I like home runs and walks. He could probably hit 30 for the Diamondbacks if he got all of the plate appearances. However, the Diamondbacks brought Lyle Overbay home, and given that he hits from the other side of the plate from Goldschmidt and cannot play anywhere but first, they seem like they want to give him playing time. Better him than Geoff “I’m still in the league?” Blum, I suppose.

10. Mets

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Ike Davis L 500 0.255 0.338 0.449 5 2.1
Utility Justin Turner R 70 0.265 0.327 0.372 0 0.1
Prospect Lucas Duda L 150 0.256 0.338 0.431 0 0.4

Ike Davis has valley fever (maybe). Meet the Mets! Davis is a good hitter and fielder, but given his injury last year and whatever is going on now, I wanted to be cautious in projecting his playing time. Lucas Duda is a lesser player who is something of a question mark, but he makes sense as the player likely to get the at-bats if and when Davis can’t. Turner is a utility guy.

9. Marlins

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Gaby Sanchez R 640 0.270 0.348 0.436 2 2.5
LF/1B Logan Morrison L 40 0.261 0.360 0.456 0 0.2
Utility Greg Dobbs L 30 0.250 0.293 0.364 0 0
Utility Donnie Murphy R 10 0.226 0.287 0.428 0 0

Gaby Sanchez put the kibosh on the Marlins’ plans to have Logan Morrison force him out. Morrison is horrible in the outfield, but if Sanchez stumbles badly, the Marlins can move him to first. However, despite unimpressive power, Sanchez’s good walk rate, contact ability, and fielding should make that move tough to justify. In any case, the Marlins’ first and second options could start for at first base all but a few teams in the league.

8. Cardinals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Lance Berkman B 590 0.269 0.381 0.471 -4 2.7
Utility Allen Craig R 80 0.276 0.329 0.454 0 0.3
Backup Mark Hamilton R 50 0.249 0.329 0.380 0 0.1

Losing Albert Pujols is rough, but replacing a surefire Hall-of-Famer with a lesser (should-be) Hall of Famer is okay. Berkman probably will not repeat his 2011 performance, but tons of walks and very good power is valuable. Playing first rather than outfield should also give his knees a break. Allen Craig is a good backup at a variety of positions when he is healthy, and, yes, many teams would be thrilled to have him start for them in the outfield, at least. Hamilton is a pretty decent for an end-of-the-bench pinch-hitter. The Cardinals should score plenty of runs again.

7. Royals

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Eric Hosmer L 640 0.304 0.354 0.474 -1 3
Primary D Billy Butler R 40 0.295 0.362 0.462 0 0.2
Primary LH Alex Gordon L 10 0.278 0.358 0.464 0 0
Prospect Clint Robinson L 20 0.258 0.309 0.400 0 0

Despite the hype, Eric Hosmer’s actual numbers in 2011 were not mind-blowing in themselves. He had a tendency to bite on high fastballs, which kept his walk rate down to only six percent. He had a great defensive reputation in the minors, but seemed to have problems with the glove last season (some of that probably the result of small samples, some likely due to positioning).

Despite the imperfections, Hosmer’s 2011 was about the obvious potential displayed. Walk rates develop throughout most players’ careers, and contact was no problem for Hosmer. He showed good power. He’s athletic around the bag. And he was only 21. Last spring in Arizona, front office executives from other organizations were offering unsolicited raves about Hosmer. ZiPS does not see him as a superstar in 2012, and one should avoid the temptation to read the uncertainty in young players as only “upside” without “downside.” Still, this is very promising, to say the least.

Hosmer will probably need some games off, and Billy Butler`s glove is pretty bad, but for a few games it will not kill the team, and the guy can hit, even if the power has not developed like the Royals have hoped. If the Royals need another first basemen, Clint Robinson is sort of Kila Ka’aihue without the walks and with even a worse glove. Still, overall, things are looking up at first for the Royals.

6. White Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Paul Konerko R 650 0.278 0.359 0.493 -1 3.3
Primary DH Adam Dunn L 25 0.209 0.340 0.429 0 0
Utility Brent Lillibridge R 25 0.230 0.299 0.378 0 0
Depth Dan Johnson L 20 0.235 0.337 0.414 0 0

Konerko is bad around the bag and on the bases, but he is having a mid-30s re-birth with the bat. He should probably be a DH at this point, but that spot is taken by Big Lug Adam Dunn, who is one of a variety of characters who might get a little bit of time at first on the rare occasions when the Sox can spare their best hitter.

5. Tigers

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Prince Fielder L 600 0.275 0.394 0.504 -5 3.5
3B Relief Miguel Cabrera R 80 0.310 0.406 0.548 -6 0.6
Utility Don Kelly L 20 0.256 0.302 0.378 0 0
Prospect Ryan Strieby R 20 0.223 0.296 0.362 0 0

The Tigers’ backup first baseman might be the best first baseman in the American League. Whatever they are saying now, I suspect the Tigers will spend plenty of games with Cabrera at first and Fielder at DH. I am probably undershooting it, but right now it sounds like Brandon Inge‘s bat scares the team more than Miguel Cabrera’s third base glove. For comedy’s sake, I hope the Tigers re-play what happened with Cabrera and Carlos Guillen when Cabrera first came to Motor City, and Cabrera move to first with Prince moving to third… yeah, no, but it’s fun to imagine.

4. Yankees

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Mark Teixeira B 600 0.263 0.359 0.495 6 3.9
RF/1B Nick Swisher B 60 0.253 0.358 0.456 0 0.3
Utility Eric Chavez L 30 0.238 0.288 0.336 0 -0.1
Depth Russell Branyan L 30 0.234 0.319 0.478 0 0.1

Mark Teixeira’s bat has declined much faster than most would have expected. It is pretty much all in the BABIP, and while BABIP is subject to random variation, one should not treat hitter BABIP just like pitcher BABIP — there is about twice the talent spread. Moreover, BABIP declines with age. Teixeira is still obviously a good player, but he is not a first-rank superstar at first any more, even if the power is still amazing. But the Yankees are in good hands for the moment. When Tex needs a break, Swisher is a good bat, and Russell the Muscle lurks in the minors if the Yankees figure out that he’s a better choice for a left-handed DH than Raul Ibanez. Eric Chavez is still around for some reason.

3. Red Sox

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Adrian Gonzalez L 670 0.297 0.384 0.526 5 5.1
3B Relief Kevin Youkilis R 30 0.268 0.374 0.477 0 0.2
Primary DH David Ortiz L 10 0.266 0.357 0.498 0 0.1
Prospect Lars Anderson L 10 0.240 0.316 0.377 0 0

The secret to having the best “depth” at first base is… surprise… having the one of the best first baseman. Adrian Gonzalez still seems underrated to me. He probably won’t BABIP .380 again in 2012, but he and Fenway enjoy each other, and he plays good defense, and, most importantly, plays just about every game. That is what makes it tough to say who is likely to fill in the few times when Gonzalez does take a rest. As mentioned earlier, I tend to be a bit conservative when projecting playing time.

2. Angels

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Albert Pujols R 650 0.302 0.388 0.564 3 5.5
1B/3B/DH Mark Trumbo R 30 0.253 0.295 0.437 0
1B/DH Kendry Morales B 30 0.274 0.321 0.455 0 0.1
Utility Jorge Cantu R 10 0.252 0.296 0.385 0 0

What is there to say about Pujols but a bunch of superlatives you have read about him before? Honestly, for 2012 I would still probably rate him as the best first baseman. However, given the Angels’ investment in him, the availability of the DH slot, and the presence of competent backups, I imagine the will let him DH some to keep him a bit more rested. Trumbo and Morales are part of the Angels’ DH mess along with Bobby Abreu.

1. Reds

Role Player Bats PA ZiPs BA ZiPs OBP ZiPs SLG Field WAR
Starter Joey Votto L 660 0.294 0.402 0.529 5 5.9
Utility Todd Frazier R 30 0.242 0.307 0.423 0 0
Utility Miguel Cairo R 30 0.265 0.328 0.403 0 0

If anyone ranks with Pujols for 2012, it is Joey Votto, and the Reds get the edge here because Votto has no DH spot to rest in, basically. Votto was 2010′s NL MVP, but was pretty much just as good in 2011. Obviously, he is the key player in the Reds “all-in” approach to 2012 and 2013, which is obviously geared around getting the most out of Votto before he hits a monster free agent payday.


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