May 5, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics right fielderCraig Gentry
(3) is forced out by Seattle Mariners first basemanJustin Smoak
in the fifth inning of their baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
In all fairness, the modern day metrics do not accurately capture all things first basemen have to deal with. There is still no accurate way to encapsulate tasks like scooping balls from the dirt and player positioning into quantifying the abilities of a first baseman defensively.
With that said, the 2014 Jays’ first baseman were atrocious. That was mostly due to the offensive juggernaut Edwin Encarnacion who was particularly lamentable at the position. In 694 innings, Encarnacion costed the Jays five runs (-5 DRS) and had a UZR/150 score of -9.7. Ouch. With the exception of Danny Valencia who played 66 innings, all of his companions were below average defenders as well so it’s not as if Encarnacion was the only issue.
It’s hard to say who is going to take the reigns at first this season so it’s really anyone’s guess as to whether there will be an improvement. One of the leading candidates, the newly acquired Justin Smoak, is familiar with the position but really doesn’t present an upgrade from Encarnacion as far as defence is concerned.
Sadly, the other options at the position aren’t much better. The recent signing of Dayan Viciedo presents a new, interesting option but even he doesn’t have much experience on the corner. It’s possible Valencia plays the position against lefties, whom he hits well against, so maybe, if he can maintain his premature success, the Jays will be better at the position. Maybe.