Blue Jays: Jays again near top of the list in FanGraphs' first base power rankings
With FanGraphs continuing its annual Positional Power Rankings, it's time to look at how the Toronto Blue Jays rank at first base. While they aren't ranked as high as last season, the Jays still rank near the top of the league heading into 2023.
If you missed it, we previously reviewed the catcher power rankings.
In her introduction to the rankings series, Meg Rowley explains how the number crunchers at FanGraphs create player valuations. They calculate each player's WAR (Wins Above Replacement) using a 50/50 blend of the ZiPS and Steamer projections and include playing time estimates Depth Charts.
As for the Blue Jays, they rank third with a combined 4.4 WAR, behind Freddie Freeman and the Dodgers (5.1) and Paul Goldschmidt and the Cardinals (4.6). It's no surprise that as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. goes, so does the team's ranking at first base.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero is projected to get the lion's share of starts at first. While his overall projected WAR is 4.6 (which includes his at-bats as the DH), he's given a 3.7 WAR when he suits up as the first baseman.
Compare that number to his ranking heading into the 2022 season. Coming off his MVP-caliber 2021, Guerrero was projected to have another monster campaign. The Blue Jays topped the first base rankings with a 5.8 WAR, mainly due to Guerrero's projected WAR of 5.7.
According to the young slugger himself, the biggest reason for the decline was his anxiousness to improve on his stellar 2021.
As Jay Jaffe explains in his Blue Jays first base write-up, Vlad's pressing led to a decline in his quality of contact. Jaffe points out, however, that Guerrero is just 24 and has a "great shot at bouncing back."
While Cavan Biggio and Whit Merrifield will likely see some time at first, they aren't projected to contribute anything above a replacement-level player. Brandon Belt, on the other hand, projects to get 161 plate appearances as the first baseman and chip in a 0.7 WAR.
FanGraphs and Jaffe aren't convinced that Belt has much to contribute coming off a bleak, surgery-shortened 2022 season. Jaffe does provide a ray of hope, pointing out that Rogers Centre is much more favorable for left-handed batters, even if "staying on the field could be a challenge."