Spring Training is only one week away. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.
So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’re going to break down the top 10 players at each position over the next several days. Some things to keep in mind:
- The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, who do you want at the position?
- These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
- These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters.
Our positional rankings started with catcher and now it’s time for first basemen. Note that Carlos Santana, Mark Trumbo, Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales are going to be included in designated hitter rankings and not here.
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 1B
| Despite playing on a bad team, Joey Votto finished third in MVP voting in 2015 and seventh last season. Last year, he hit .326/.434/.550 (160 OPS+) with 101 runs, 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 97 RBI, eight steals while walking 108 times against 120 strikeouts. He’s very obviously one of the best batsmiths in the bigs. Defensive metrics didn’t love him (he actually had a negative-14 defensive runs saved), but that’s less important at this position than several others and it seemed to be an aberration compared to the rest of his career. Expect him to be a similar hitter and better fielder this season. |
Paul Goldschmidt Arizona Diamondbacks 1B
|Twice an MVP runner-up, Paul Goldschmidt actually took a big step back in 2016 with the bat, but he was still great. He slashed .297/.411/.489, which was down from .321/.435/.570 the previous year. He’s 29, so this wasn’t likely a decline and we like a return to form. One thing he does here that several others don’t? He stole 32 bases last season. We’re talking about an above-average defender with 30-30 potential who could slash above the .300/.400/.500 threshold.|
Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs 1B
| Fresh off a second straight top-five finish in MVP voting and winning a World Series ring, Anthony Rizzo is likely to have pretty much the same season he has the past two years. His OPS+ the past three years: 152, 146, 146. His home runs? 32, 31, 32. He’s topped 100 RBI in each of the past two seasons as well. Rizzo also won the Platinum Glove last season in the NL for the top overall defender and at age 27 he’s right in the middle of his prime. |
Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 1B
| As noted, it’s crowded here, because you could make an argument for Miguel Cabrera to be first here. The biggest issues are him entering his age-34 season and lack of defensive range. Still, Miggy is an utter force with the bat. Even at age 33 last season, he hit .316/.393/.563 (157 OPS+) with 38 home runs and 108 RBI. His MVP-caliber days are in the past, but he could still easily wind up in the top-10, as he did last season (ninth).|
Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 1B
| Was 2016 an outlier or a coming of age? Freddie Freeman hit .283/.379/.465 in 2014-15 combined and then went nuts with a .302/.400/.569 line in 2016. He also set or tied career highs in runs (102), doubles (43), triples (six), home runs (34) and total bases. A good defender and baserunner, Freeman ranked third in the NL in WAR among position players. He’s 27, so it’s possible he’ll continue to be the version we saw last year. If so, it’s possible he’s ranked too low here. |
Edwin Encarnacion Cleveland Indians 1B
| Ooh boy, love those power numbers. Edwin Encarnacion hit 42 homers and drove home an AL-best 127 last year. His .263 average is helped by his ability to take the walk, because his .357 on-base percentage is more than acceptable. He doesn’t really add anything with the glove or on the bases, but Indians fans will love him plenty for his bat. At age 34, a decline is coming soon, though. |
Matt Carpenter St. Louis Cardinals 1B
| Now that Dexter Fowler is on the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter can move to a middle-of-the-order spot and jack up that RBI total. In only 129 games last year, Carpenter had 36 doubles, six triples and 21 home runs. He also got on base at a .380 clip and has been over .500 in slugging each of the past two years. Expect more of the same in 2017 now as a full-time first baseman. |
Brandon Belt San Francisco Giants 1B
| Few players in the majors have their power more suppressed by their home park than Brandon Belt. If he played in, say, Coors Field, he’d probably be one of the more well-known power hitters in the bigs. Instead, Belt plays in AT&T Park, which kills lefty power (unless you’re one of the best players ever and clubbing no-doubters with ease like Barry Bonds). He had just 17 homers last season, but Belt also had 41 doubles and eight triples, several of which would have been bombs in other parks. The .394 OBP is beautiful and Belt is a good defender, too. Consider him underrated and an excellent number eight. |
Wil Myers San Diego Padres 1B
| We finally got a fully-healthy season from Wil Myers in 2016 and it was worth the wait. He homered 28 times and stole exactly that number. The .259/.336/.461 line leaves him down here in the rankings, but he’s also dinged by a tough home park in that slash. At age 26 and with only one full-time season, there’s room for growth.|
Chris Davis Baltimore Orioles 1B
| Chris Davis, or Crush, is pretty one-dimensional, but that dimension is outstanding. He’s hit 197 home runs in the past five seasons for the Orioles, topping out at 53. He’s a good bet to be in the 40 range again this season at age 31. Of course, he hit .221 with an MLB-high 219 strikeouts last season. He only doubled 21 times. Again, one-dimensional, but if you’re going to have one skill as a first baseman, hitting home runs should be that skill. Also, in fairness, he rates out as a quality defensive first baseman. |