The 10 Best First Basemen Heading into the 2013 MLB Season
Falling from the Top
When I was a young lad, I decided to play first base in Little League. Actually, it may not have been much of a choice, but rather my only option since I had the range of a turtle. But first base was also a position that had a lot of baseball’s best hitters. I grew up watching Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Bagwell consistently dropping 40+ bombs and driving in 100+ runs a season. Those are just the first three guys that came to mind that rocked the first base position - - there are definitely more.
In 2013, however, it’s very possible that first base is actually one of the weaker positions in baseball. There are only three players that I consider locks for success for the upcoming season. In a lot cases, the “good” first basemen are aging and declining. Ryan Howard was considered elite a few seasons ago, and now he might not even be a top 15 guy. Mark Teixeira definitely was a top five guy, but his numbers keep declining at an alarming rate, so I don’t know if I can consider him a top ten guy anymore.
Nevertheless, these are my top ten first basemen heading into the 2013 season. It may surprise you how high I have some of these guys, but I really can’t find another way to order this list. Feel free to disagree - - it’s called Rant Sports for a reason.
Catchers will be next on the chopping block.
I always picked an emerging player as number ten last season, so why not keep up with that line of thinking? I was debating between Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo, but took Rizzo based on the potential. Rizzo definitely has a chance to not only reach the top ten, but could possibly reach the top five at season's end. During the 2012 season, the Cubs' slugger eclipsed the .800 OPS benchmark in half of a season, compiling a 1.8 fWAR. It's very possible we see Rizzo break the four-win plateau in full-time action this season.
There aren't a whole lot of players who have slugged over .500 in each of the last three seasons, and I'm guessing a lot of fans would be surprised to learn Corey Hart is one of those people. The Brewers' first baseman used to be a full-time rightfielder, but the emergence of Carlos Gomez pushed Hart out of the outfield.
Paul Konerko just keeps hitting. Before he hit a wall in the second half, Konerko took the baseball world by storm when he hit nearly .400 during the first two months of the 2012 season. I don't really know if Konerko can keep putting up quality numbers at his age, but I'm certainly not going to bet against him.
Adam LaRoche was Washington's most consistent hitter in 2012, which is one of the main reasons the team felt the need to give him in extension during the off-season. I'm not entirely sure LaRoche will have a season of that caliber again - - but we'll see.
You will not find a better name than Goldschmidt, and sooner rather than later you probably won't find a whole lot of first basemen better than him, too. Goldschmidt does a little a bit of everything on the field: he hits for average, draws walks, has power, and even steals some bases.
Since the 2011 postseason, I have been a passenger (if not the conductor) of the Allen Craig bandwagon. First base completely belongs to Craig in 2013, and there's little doubt in my mind that he will be a top five first baseman by the end of the year.
Although Adrian Gonzalez had a down year last season, he still has the skills that makes him one of the best pure hitters in baseball. A fresh start should help Gonzalez and the Dodgers greatly in 2013, and he could drive in as many as 120 runs in that stacked lineup.
I took a little heat last season when I put Pujols fourth on my first basemen's list - Cabrera was still a first baseman then - but it looks like I may have been right. Pujols is still awesome, but it's very likely that he is in the midst of a decline. If Pujols wants to reach the top once again, he will need to remember what made him one of the best hitters of all-time. Pujols' walk percentage keeps dropping at an alarming rate, so look out for that number in 2013 to know if the real Pujols is back.
The power may have diminished a bit with the move to Comerica Park, but Prince Fielder is still one of the best first basemen in baseball. It's still very unlikely that he lives up to that ridiculous contract; however, he still has many five-win seasons ahead of him.
I had no problem claiming that Joey Votto was the best first baseman last season, and there's nothing to change my mind now. Before his freak knee injury, Votto was on pace to hit about 70 doubles and 30 home runs, which is pretty remarkable. With Votto leading the way, the Cincinnati Reds have legitimate World Series aspirations in 2013.