Continuing on with the rankings, today we will be looking at the first baseman, this is a stacked position with a combination of both new faces, and older veterans who are still proving they can ball. As always, the list with be from 30 all the way to one, and it is going off the current first baseman of the team, and if the team does not have one, the first baseman with the most reps the last two years combined with the team will be the one being analyzed.
Also, Albert Pujols, Daniel Vogelbach and a couple others will be included in the DH list, which is now possible because of the universal DH in 2020.
Lets get started.
Evan White (SEA)
The 24 year old White, who the Seattle Mariners had such a large deal of confidence in going into the 2020 season, offered him a six year 24 million dollar contract before the beginning of the 2020 season. White repaid them for their bode of confidence, with a uninspiring .176/.252/.346 slashline and a .599 OPS in his rookie year. The number four prospect in the Mariners farm system going into his debut, surprisingly was in the top 5 percent of the league in 2020 in Hard Hit percentage, but was rewarded with a horrific slash line, why is that? White had one of the higest strikeout percentages in the majors in 2020, with a strikeout coming in 41.6 percent of his AB’s. But when White made contact, it went far, as his average distance on a fly ball in 2020 was 308.1 feet. White defensively is a rising star, as he took home the Gold Glove at first base, which might be weird to see him this low on the list, the defense at 1B, does not make up for the lackluster offensive stats. Look for White to get better with my reps on a rebuilding Mariners team.
Josh Fuentes (COL)
Fuentes, the 27 year old from Rancho Santa Margarita California, and Saddleback Junior College graduate (#bandit) got his first opportunity to be a full time player for the disappointing Colorado Rockies in 2020, and posted some decent numbers. All together, the batting average looks great at .306, but looking just a smidge deeper, you would notice Fuentes did not reach base at a high clip and also did not hit for power. Along with that, his launch angle, exit velocity and hard hit percentage were all below league average. This is a little worrisome, coming from someone playing in arguably the greatest ballpark to play in when it comes to offense. Fuentes also did not walk at all (1.9 versus league average 8.3). Fuentes was an average defensive first baseman in 2020 (league average OAA), and I expect him to remain about the same going forward. I believe with more reps at first base and playing in a bandbox like Coors, Fuentes will make strides going into his age 28 season, a .285/.335/.450 slash with 10 homeruns is achievable for him, but if that would be enough to keep him at first base going forward for the franchise, i’m not sure.
Ryan O’Hearn (KC)
The powerful left handed hitting bat of O’Hearn is next, who broke out in 2018, posting a .950 OPS, but since then, has been absolutely horrendous. O’Hearn in the last two seasons hasn’t posted a batting average above .175 nor an on base above .305. O’Hearn might be one of the bigger wild cards in the game, because his ceiling is very high, and his rock bottom is currently being played out. This is likely the main reason the Royals keep taking a chance on him, because of that potential he showed back in 2018. One thing that has changed significantly with O’Hearn is his launch angle numbers, which have taken a big dive from his outstanding rookie season (down over 6 percent). Who knows what will happen with O’Hearn moving forward, but this next season will likely be his last one with the Royals if it is another stinker.
Ryan Mountcastle (BAL)
A season that has gotten swept under the rug, because of the lack of publicity on the Orioles and also just overall how bad they are, is how good Ryan Mountcastle was last year in his rookie season. The rookie had a .333/.386/.492 with a .878 OPS and a 140 OPS+. The 23 year old, split time between the outfield and first base, but is expected to be the opening day first baseman for the O’s next season. Overall Mountcastle looks like a very good piece for the Orioles moving forward, as they are slowly starting to put a competitive team back on the field, and look to make some noise in a competitive AL East.
Jared Walsh (LAA)
Speaking of seasons by newcomers that got swept under the rug because of how bad their team was, how about Jared Walsh’s 2020 season, the one that saw him have an .971 OPS. That earned him a 7th place finish in the AL ROTY voting right ahead of previously mentioned Ryan Mountcastle. Also maybe my favorite thing about Jared Walsh is the fact that he actually is a pretty damn good pitcher too, in 2019 they used Walsh in 5 games and he pitched to a 1.80 ERA. Move over Ohtani.
Ronald Guzman (TEX)
Sweet swinging Ronald Guzman is up next, who has been about below league average in most of his statistics up to this point in his career. The positive about Guzman is the fact that he is barely 25 years old, and has shown some power in his bat, hitting 16 home runs in 2018, and shows slightly above average tools with the glove, he will not make the spectacular play, but we will convert on most all of the routine ones. Nothing to get too excited about when talking about Guzman, but he has potential moving forward, being so young.
Ryan Zimmerman (WSH)
After sitting out the 2020 season, it is almost 100% that the Nationals will resign Zimmerman to a platoon role with a LHH bat this offseason, as he is the face of Nationals baseball (besides that really good outfielder). Zimmerman who is the longest tenured National by a wide margin will likely enter his 16th season with the club that drafted him, and holds the majority of the club records. With all the good stuff out of the way, lets move onto the unfortunate truth, Zimmerman is entering his age 36 season, now four years removed from his resurgent 2017 season that saw him get an All-Star selection. His last year of playing in 2019, saw him post a well below average 88 OPS+ and at this point in his career is no longer the defender he once was when they first moved him over from third base. A Nationals Hall of Famer with no doubt, but Mr. National is sadly coming to the end of his playing days.
Jedd Gyorko (MIL)
Another free agent aging slugger, how quickly this list fell into patterns. Gyorko had himself a good 2020 season with the Milwaukee Brewers, posting a .245/.333/.504 slash, and posting the highest OPS of his career at .838. Gyorko was better suited as a first baseman than a second baseman, posting a negative dWar in every season at second base, and last year posting a 0.4 dWar as a first baseman with Milwaukee, a small improvement, but a good sign. It is unsure where Gyorko will sign in 2021, but is coming off of a good season, and should start for a lower level team.
Garrett Cooper (MIA)
The Miami Marlins first baseman finally got his opportunity to start in 2019, and has not looked back since, since getting the starting job in 2019, he has averaged a .282/.349/.473 slash and a .822 OPS in the two seasons. The shocking thing is, according to XBA and XSLG, which measures the expected numbers based on the likelihood of a batted ball becoming a hit, say that Cooper should’ve put up better stats in 2020. XBA says his batting average should have been .304 and his XSLG says his SLG% should have been .521, which would have put his right ahead of Trevor Story at 29th in baseball. The knock on Cooper, is the fact he is not a good defensive first baseman, as he was worth -2.0 dWAR in 2020, and an even worse -3.3 in 2019. Cooper if he continues to progress, has the potential to be an all-star caliber first baseman.
Jeimer Candelario (DET)
Owner of one of the best nicknames in baseball, “The Candyman” finally had a breakout season in 2020, that the Tigers envisioned when they traded for him from the Cubs back in 2017. All together, Candelario slashed .297/.369/.503 with a .872 OPS and likely would have been the Tigers lone All-Star representative this season, if there was an All-Star game (Thanks COVID). Fielding wise, he wont win or lose you a game, as he is just a little below average since making the move to first base from third. Now the question is, if Candelario can build on the strong numbers from 2020, or if it was an outlier.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)
Maybe the most hyped up player on this entire list, and potentially the one with the highest ceiling, Guerrero was the top prospect in the Blue Jays system, and got his first taste of playing in the big leagues and put together a very solid rookie season, but people were disappointed, expecting an unearthly type of rookie season surrounding all the hype. Guerrero followed that with another above average season in his sophomore year, moving from third to first. Combined in his first two seasons, Guerrero is slashing .269/.329/.462 with a .778 OPS. All of these stats are above league average for a 21 year old who is playing at the highest level. Give him time people, he will develop into a star.
Ji-Man Choi (TB)
Quite possibly the most entertaining personality of all the players on this list, Choi’s story is one of finding the right club that will utilize your talents on the field. After playing for four different teams in three seasons, he found himself on the Tampa Bay Rays, who have a habit of finding diamonds in the rough. It appears they have found another one in Choi, who has put together two good seasons for the Rays in 2019 and 2020 with the bat. One of the more undervalued aspects of Choi’s game, is how often he gets on base, in 2019 he reached base at a .363 rate, which puts him at 24th in the majors in between Conforto and Story.
Josh Bell (PIT)
Who knows what Josh Bell you will get year in and year out, will you get the one in 2019 that was an All-Star slamming 37 home runs and driving in 116, or will you get the 2020 version that had a .669 OPS. This is a frustrating player to talk about, because he has the tools to be a top 50 player in the game, and has shown a full season of that ability, but he just cant stay consistent with him levels of production. One thing that has taken a toll on Bell’s production, has been his strikeout rate, which has steadily been climbing during his career, and rose over seven percent in 2020. Bell will have to make more consistent contact, and maintain the top tier exit velocity from his strength, and if he can do that, he will once again look like a star.
Carlos Santana (CLE)
It might be surprising to find Carlos Santana this low on this ranking, being an All-Star caliber player and receiving MVP votes in 2019, but I am prescribing to the idea that Santana is going to begin to decline, and 2020 was the beginning of that. With that being said, I do firmly believe that Santana is an excellent first baseman, but the way he preformed in 2018 and in 2020 say to me that the 34 year old is beginning to reach the twilight of his career. Santana does still have an unreal eye at the plate, leading the league in 2020 in Base on Balls with 47, like he did in 2014 with 113. Owning a career .366 OBP means that even as Santana gets older he will be valuable, but to what extent, is unclear.
Christian Walker (ARI)
The lofty expectation of being Paul Goldschmidt’s replacement has not hampered Walkers level of production, as he has been a consistent power hitter in the middle of the Diamondbacks lineup since earning the starting job. Posting a .809 combined OPS from 2019-2020 and being a consistent force with the glove (8 Outs Above Average, finishing second among first baseman) is building the resume of a very strong player moving forward. The biggest knock against Walker is his strikeout rate, which has harmed his OBP, and has been increasing every year. Look forward to seeing Walker rake in the desert for years to come.
Well how about that 2020 season from Belt, a career high in BA, OBP, SLG and a ridiculous 1.015 OPS, which somehow only netted him a 16th place finish on the MVP voting. Belt goes underappreciated in San Francisco, because of the flashy stars that have been around him his entire career, but he is a great player on both sides of the ball. A career .810 OPS, a keen eye at the plate (career 13.3 BB%) and an excellent defender at first base, make him one of the more underappreciated players in baseball. Now is he a 1.000 OPS player? Simple answer would be definitely not, but he is someone that makes your team significantly better. And if the Giants aren’t in contention in 2021, he will be a good player for a GM to attempt to trade for, plus he has a good amount of postseason experience.
Yuli Gurriel (HOU)
Coming off his worst seasons as a professional in the Majors, the 36 year old is looking to bounce back for an Astros team that desperately needs him back to his 2019 self. In 2019, Gurriel saw his numbers rise to an excellent .884 OPS with 31 home runs and 104 driven in, but in 2020 we saw a different type of player. He managed to slash only a .232/.274/.384 slash line. The even more worrisome factor of Gurriel’s 2020 season, was the fact that he was in the lower 12 percentile of BB%, which has never been a large part of his game, but last year it played a role in how bad his statistics were. Gurriel is running out of time to show that 2020 was a blip and not a sign of the end of his playing days, turning 37 during next season.
Eric Hosmer (SD)
After signing a 8 year 144 million dollar contract coming off of his best season in his career in 2017, Hosmer’s time in San Diego has been more than disappointing, putting together back to back seasons of sub .740 OPS. Things began to turn around for the 31 year old in 2020 though, putting together an excellent .851 OPS, while also cutting down on his strikeout rate and increasing his barrel percentage. Hosmer does have some deficiency’s with the glove at first base, being in the bottom portion among all first baseman in OAA, and DRS, but he has shown in the past that he has the ability to be a gold glove caliber fielder, as evident by his four career gold gloves. Hosmer will likely only progress more in his time in San Diego, now that he is surrounded by the talented bats of Fernando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado and Tommy Pham.
Mitch Moreland (BOS)
Quite possibly the most under the radar free agent, “Mitchy Two-Bags” as they call him in Boston, has been one of the most productive first baseman in baseball for the last two seasons, averaging a .865 OPS in his time with Boston and San Diego. On top of that, he has been an above average defender in his career, with a rising ability to draw walks (10%) in 2020. Moreland will not be a highly talked about free agent, but he will make an impact regardless of where he ends up.
Joey Votto (CIN)
After back to back above average years, the question is becoming whether Votto has reached the end of his career, entering his age 37 season. The 2010 NL MVP has spent the last 14 years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds and accumulated quite the trophy case. In 2019 and 2020, he showed he still had some left in the tank, posting respectful .768/.800 OPS years, while his glove begins to deteriorate. Votto would be the prime example of adding the DH to both leagues, and would likely allow him to remain in the league for a few more seasons, and likely help his bat as well, not having to play defense.
Miguel Sano (MIN)
One of the biggest hitters in baseball, listed at 6’4 272 pounds on BaseballReference.com, Sano enjoyed an MVP caliber 2019 season, in which he had a .923 OPS as the Twins won 101 games and he was one of the catalysts driving that team to success. In 2020, it was a similar story for the Twins, who won the AL Central, but Sano did not enjoy the same success he found in 2019, leading the American League in strikeouts, and mustering up an average .757 OPS and average 104 OPS+. Sano, who is still only 27, likely still has plenty of good seasons ahead of him, but will need to maintain his level of average exit velocity (top 1% in baseball at 95.2) and cut down on the swing and miss in his game.
Rhys Hoskins (PHI)
Hoskins has the potential to be a star in this league, with a rare combination of plus power and a selective eye at the plate. Get this, in 2019, Hoskins led all of major league baseball in walks with 116, and had a good .819 OPS, all of this while having a .226 batting average at the end of the season. This is one prime example of why batting average is a deceptive statistic and does not fully show the rate in which a player is helping their team win. In 2020, Hoskin’s posted another very solid season, ending with a .887 OPS, 137 OPS+ and reaching base at a .384 rate, which was 18th best in baseball. With the glove, he is definitely better suited playing playing first base than a corner outfield spot, which the Phillies tried with him as recently as 2018, but defense is not his strong suit, coming in second to last place in OAA, and posting a negative dWAR.
Max Muncy (LAD)
The 2020 Champion Dodgers first baseman Muncy, is coming off of his worst season as a Dodger, posting a below average .720 OPS, after two season in 2018 and 2019 that saw him finish top 15 for MVP voting. The 30 year old from Midland Texas, while still seeing his stats fall, reached base at a high rate, being in the 93rd percentile in BB% and finding a way even through a down season to help his team win. Expect Muncy to bounce back in 2021, as he attempts to lead the dodgers to back to back world series titles, something that hasn’t been accomplished since 2000.
Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
One of the easiest guys in baseball to root for, Rizzo finally found a home in Chicago, after being drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, traded to the Padres in 2010, and finally getting traded to the Cubs in 2012 for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na (oof). Rizzo has been the face of the Cubs team that has broken the 108 year curse of the billy goat and has posted an OPS above .800 in all but two of his nine seasons with the team. 2020 was one of the two seasons in which his OPS fell below .800, sitting at around league average at .755 as he struggled in 2020 at finding barrels and making hard contact, ranking in the bottom 30% in exit velocity and hard hit percentage. Fielding wise, Rizzo has always been a great fielder at first base, continuing that in 2020, as he was 3.9 runs above average defensively according the the statistic Fielding Runs Above Average. Expect a big bounce back season from Rizzo in 2021.
Pete Alonso (NYM)
The rookie that came on the scene and set the baseball world on fire, hitting 53 home runs in his rookie season, setting a league record. As many predicted, Alonso did have a little bit of a sophomore slump in the shortened season, but still posted an above average .817 OPS and a solid .490 SLG. While it might be hard for Alonso to keep up the same level of production that he posted in his amazing 2019 rookie season, seeing as pitchers have begun to adjust to him, he still ranked in the top 87th percentile in barrel percentage, and taking his walks when given to him, at an above average 10.3 percent rate. He did regress a little bit with the glove in 2020, seeing his slightly above average numbers drop to slightly above average, but it likely defensively he is somewhere around an average defender who gives extraordinary amounts of effort while playing defense.
Paul Goldschmidt (STL)
What some considered a disappointing start to Goldschmidt’s tenure in St.Louis in 2019, seeing him slash .260/.346/.476 with a .821 OPS, after averaging a .918 OPS in his eight seasons in Arizona. In 2020, Goldschmidt was much closer to the player he had shown for the previous eight seasons, raising his OPS to .883 and finishing 15th in NL MVP voting. Goldschmidt once again maintained his gaudy walk rates, which ranked in the top 94th percentile in baseball at 16.0 percent. Goldschmidt also continued his ways as an elite defender at first base, adding another positive DRS season to his career, which he has done in all but one of the years he has been a big leaguer.
Luke Voit (NYY)
The Yankees found themselves a steal in Voit, who was traded over during the 2018-2019 offseason in exchange for RHP Giovanny Gallegos and LHP Chasen Shreve. All Voit has done since coming over the Yankees has been rake, posting a .962 OPS combined between his 2.5 seasons with the Yankees. The scary thing is, his expected batting statiistics such as XSLG, WOBA and XWOBA all say that Voit should have posted an OPS closer to .980 than his already terrific .948 OPS. The biggest knock against Voit, is his below average glove, which has accumulated a career -21.3 below average adjusted league average dWAR. After 2021, Voit will enter the arbitration years of his career, and is going to be paid big time.
Matt Olson (OAK)
Coming off the worst season of his career, the two time gold glove winner and left handed crusher of baseballs is looking to bounce back in 2021, after posting a .195 batting average and .734 OPS. Olson is a force to be reckoned with in the Oakland lineup when he is making consistent contact and staying healthy. Olson saw his strikeout numbers rise by a whole 6+ percent in 2020, and was on the other side of some bad luck, as he ranked in the top 91st percentile in the majors in exit velocity, but had a paltry .227 BABIP, which shows that he was the recipient of a full season of bad luck. One thing that is always consistent with Olson, is his level of play with the glove, as he posted the highest OAA among all first baseman, and totaled 5 DRS in the shortened 2020 season.
Jose Abreu (CHW)
The vastly underrated Abreu finally got the attention he deserved, taking home his first MVP title in the 2020 season. The career .870 OPS hitter, posted an even better .987 OPS in 2020, with an absolutely insane .617 SLG which led the American League. On top of that, he was in the top 90 percentile for the following stats: exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG and barrel percentage. Lastly, Abreu was an excellent defender, ranking fourth in OAA, and matching Olson in DRS at 5, which was a huge improvement, seeing as Abreu has never been above 2 DRS before in his career, and finished in the negative 5 out of his seven season. Even going into his age 34 season, I expect to see more of the same from Abreu.
Freddie Freeman (ATL)
I mean, who else could it be? Speaking of severely underappreciated players who finally won an MVP award, theres Freddie Freeman, who took home his first in 2020 after posting an unreal 1.105 OPS in 2020 and pulverizing baseballs left and right. While also posting gaudy stats such as an average exit velocity of 92.4 MPH, how about the fact that Freeman had a 17.2 BB% versus a 14.1 K%, which is just unheard of in the game nowadays. Moving forward, the 8 year 135 million dollar contract that Freeman signed bac in 2014, was an absolute steal, but the 31 year old will be a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, so teams will be lining up the door in Atlanta for his services.
Updated Team Standings
30th: Colorado Rockies (4)
29th: Texas Rangers (10)
28th: Detroit Tigers (11)
27th: Los Angeles Angels (12)
26th (TIE): Tampa Bay Rays (15)
Miami Marlins (15)
24th: Toronto Blue Jays (16)
23rd (TIE): Baltimore Orioles (20)
Washington Nationals (20)
Seattle Mariners (20)
20th: Pittsburgh Pirates (21)
19th: Milwaukee Brewers (22)
18th: Houston Astros (27)
17th: Cincinnati Reds (28)
16th (TIE): Arizona Diamondbacks (30)
Kansas City Royals (30)
14th: San Francisco Giants (34)
13th: Cleveland Indians (35)
12th (TIE): New York Mets (37)
New York Yankees (37)
10th: San Diego Padres (41)
9th: Minnesota Twins (42)
8th (TIE): Boston Red Sox (43)
St. Louis Cardinals (43)
6th (TIE): Los Angeles Dodgers (48)
Oakland A’s (48)
4th: Chicago Cubs (50)
3rd: Philadelphia Phillies (52)
1st (TIE): Chicago White Sox (58)
Atlanta Braves (58)