Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the best players at each position. Much like the shows airing on MLB Network, there are many different ways to rank players. Mick and I both will look at different stats as well as what we have seen to come up with our lists. The next position that we will be taking a look at is First Base.
10. Eric Hosmer, KC 3.1 fWAR, 119 wRC+, .302/.353/.448, 118 OPS+
Hosmer finally had the breakout season the Kansas City Royals thought he was capable of. In 2012, he struggled as he hit .232. Hosmer seems to have benefited from George Brett’s brief stint as the Royals hitting coach, because he raised his average 70 points in 2013. He also had a fantastic defensive season as he won his first Gold Glove. If the Royals want to go to their first postseason since 85’, Hosmer will have to have another big year.
9. Mike Napoli, BOS 3.9 fWAR, 129 wRC+, .259/.360/.482, 129 OPS+
Napoli signed with the Red Sox in 2012, and helped lead them to a World Series title in his first full season as a first baseman. There was speculation that Napoli couldn’t handle first base, but had a fantastic season defensively as he lead all first baseman with a 9.7 UZR. He did have a 32 % strikeout rate, but Boston signed him to drive in runs and that is what he did with 92 RBI. Napoli resigned with the Sox and should have another big year in the middle of their order.
8. Edwin Encarnacion, TOR 4.1 fWAR, 145 wRC+, .272/.370/.534, 145 OPS+
I thought Encarnacion’s 2012 season may have been a career year, but he put up incredible numbers in 2013. He ranked 3rd in the big leagues in home runs with 36 and 9th in RBI with 104. After two straight big years, I determined that this guy can flat out mash. It’s a little surprising that he only has a 10 % strike out rate for being a power hitter. Expect him and Jose Bautista to put up big numbers in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup.
7. Joe Mauer, MIN 5.2 fWAR, 144 wRC+, .324/.404/.476, 144 OPS+
There is no question that Mauer is one of the best overall hitters in the big leagues. He has a picture perfect swing and never seems to be off balance. The 3-time batting champion is moving to first base to protect him from possible injuries. It will be interesting to see if he has better stamina later in the season because he isn’t squatting behind the plate 300 times a game.
6. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD 2.8 fWAR, 124 wRC+, .293/.342/.461, 126 OPS+
In his first full season in LA, Gonzalez looked like his old self. He was back to hitting with power and driving in runs. Yasiel Puig looked like he had an impact on Gonzalez as he seemed like he was having fun, unlike his years in Boston. I think it is safe to say that Gonzalez is at his best when he is playing on the West Coast. Expect Gonzalez to be right in the middle of the Dodgers run for an NL pennant.
5. Freddie Freeman, ATL 4.8 fWAR, 150 wRC+, .319/.396/.501, 144 OPS+
Freeman is emerging as one of the best young players in the big leagues. The 24 year old had another big season as he finished 5th in the NL MVP voting. He hit 23 Home Runs and drove in 109 RBI. I believe Freeman is turning into the leader of the Atlanta Braves and a piece they desperately have to have healthy in the middle of the order. Freeman has improved his defense and I expect him to be right in the mix for NL MVP again.
4. Chris Davis, BAL 6.8 fWAR, 167 wRC+, .286/.370/.634, 165 OPS+
Davis had a big 2nd half to the 2012 season, and he was able to put together a full season in 2013. He found his Home Run stroke from day 1 when he hit a Home Run in the first 4 games of the season. He finished the season with 53 Home Runs, which was tops in the majors, and had 138 RBI. Davis had a breakout year, but I feel he can continue to put up similar numbers because Camden Yards is a perfect place for him to hit. The ball carries to left field in Baltimore, and Davis has excellent opposite field power. Davis showed in 2013 that he can be an above average defender making him a complete player.
3. Joey Votto, CIN 6.2 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .305/.435/.491, 154 OPS+
There is no other way to put it, but Votto is an incredible hitter. He may have the best plate vision in the game. His 135 walks was tops in the majors and that enabled him to score 101 runs. Votto has great bat control that allows him to hit to all parts of the field. He is a power hitting first baseman who hits for average, and his .435 on base percentage was second in the game behind Miguel Cabrera. Votto only drove in 73 runs because he hit second in the Red’s order for part of the season but do not let that fool you, because he is still one of the best run producers in baseball.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, ARI 6.4 fWAR, 156 wRC+, .302/.401/.491, 160 OPS+
Paul Goldschmidt should have won the NL MVP. I do not want to take away what Andrew McCutchen did for the Pirates but Goldschmidt had an incredible 2013 season. He hit for average (.302), hit for power (36 HR), scored runs (103), and won a Gold Glove. I don’t know what more Goldschmidt could have done other than demand a trade, because the only reason he did not win was because his team did not make the postseason. JOKE! The 26 year-old has emerged as one of the game’s best talents and expect him to have another solid season.
1. Miguel Cabrera, DET 7.6 fWAR, 192 wRC+, .348/.442/.636, 187 OPS+
Back to back MVP titles pretty much tells the story for Miguel Cabrera. He is one of the best right handed hitters of all time and he continues to impress. Cabrera has the ability to hit for a very high average and still have great power numbers. He has power to all fields and can hit any pitch in the zone. Cabrera dealt with a groin and abdominal injury for the second half and into the postseason that slowed down his hunt for another triple crown. He has had surgery on his abdomen and is expected to be ready for opening day. If he is healthy, he is the best hitter in the game and expect him to have another big season.