Mar 12, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) reacts after he hit a 2-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Florida Auto Exchange Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
One post up in the series and already have some old-school stat haters. I have access to all numbers thanks to our friends at baseball-reference.com so I know what the other numbers are. I may not use the latest UZR or WAR or whatever but that doesn’t mean I can’t break it down in terms we all know. We can all learn together and debate together. If you want to dispute my rankings go for it…it’s your prerogative. Onto the First Basemen again brought to you by team alphabetically!
Probable Starting First Basemen
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
Not that he came out of absolute oblivion but who saw a 50 homer campaign out if Chris Davis? You did? Yeah I wonder. He has always been expected to hit in the majors but it came along slowly when he was with the Texas Rangers. He hit well as a rookie in 2008 but after that season power was all he showed as proved by having an OBP of .310 or under for the next 5 seasons. In 2012 he hit enough to warrant being included in a deal that sent Koji Uehara to the Rangers.
What transpired I don’t think anyone could foresee. Davis has proven he is the real deal (check out his Spring Stats). He has played all over the field but with his size and lack of range he is best suited as American League First Basemen…that is he eventually will also be a DH. Can he repeat his offensive output from 2013? Most likely not but he should come really close.
Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli
A solid above average hitter who transitioned from catching to first base as his defense started to erode. If you look at the size of the man there is no wonder why. With 6 straight seasons of 20+ homeruns he is a definite power threat. The rest of his offensive game is quite limited to the amount of games he plays. He has played more than 140 games in a season…0 times. Last year he had 139 games played so perhaps leaving the rigors of catching has allowed him to realize more of his offensive potential and ability to play more games. This would bode well with a career OPS a decent .859.
Defensively he is an average first basemen. He fits the mold of a David Ortiz or Prince Fielder type. He is a big man who only can really play one position…2 if you count DH. He can catch in a pinch but that is out of dire circumstance. If you want consistency on offence you could definitely do worse than Napoli…if your choices are few.
New York Yankees: Mark Teixeira
Now here is our first truly possible Hall of Famer. Teixeira has had a truly stellar career that has been halted by injury. I find it amazing that So far all three first basemen we have in the AL East spent sometime as a first baseman with the Rangers. If they just had some patience…anyway. Teixeira is a two time all star and a three time Silver Slugger winner. He has had power to burn and a great eye as evidenced by his career .368 OBP. That is a phenomenal number. At one point he would have been in the discussion for best first baseman currently playing gthe game.
Defensively he is a stud with 4 Gold Gloves to prove it. Great range, soft hands. Truly fun to watch at first…at least he used to be. The former first-rounder had a very rough year battling a wrist injury. If he is fully healed he is definitely the man in the East…question is is he truly healthy?
Tampa Bay Rays: James Loney
So what does it say about James Loney that Tampa Bay tried as hard as it could to find another first baseman? Loney is the epitomy of wasted talent. He has the skills to be a .300 hitter with 20 dingers and a high OBP. .340 is a nice career OBP but the power has never been there and he is extremely inconsistent. A .761 OPS is not enough tomake up for his one saving grace: his fielding.
Loney has good hands and decent range in the field. Some might even call him above average. The Rays brought him back for his glove as much as his ability to get on base. Thing is his numbers would translate better at 2nd or left field even. For a first baseman in the AL East he is an also-ran.
Toronto Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion
Well it would seem 2012 was no fluke. In fact, 2013 could be argued as the better of the two seasons for one Edwin Encarnacion. Before 2012 he seemed to be the butt end of a trade with the Reds that dealt seasoned veteran Scott Rolen. Turns out the Jays stole him from the Reds. Only Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera have hit more homers in the last two years. The fact he switched to first from third was a stroke of genius. The power numbers play there as does the fact that he will not have to throw as much…his achilles heel at third. With an OPS over .900 the last two seasons he is right in the middle of his prime. With the protection behind him and his keen eye we may yet to have seen the best Edwin.
Fielding is another story. As a third baseman he made a great first baseman. He had the yips at third and developed a bad reputation as a well below average fielder. His fielding percentage is 48 points higher being at first rather than third. Yes I know Adam Lind will spend some time here too but on opening day it will be Encarnacion…and I am just fine with that.
And the medalists are:
Davis, Encarnacion, Teixeira, Napoli and Loney. If Teixeira is able to produce his usual season before the injuries I would move him to top spot, no questions asked. This has shown us that the AL East is pretty stacked at first and the Blue Jays can more than hold their own. We may not have the best right now but if Davis regresses Edwin could slip into top spot…and no Adam Lind talk…let’s save him for a DH comparison. NEXT!