With Spring Training just days away, we continue our countdown of the top 10 players at every position in baseball. We started with catchers, and now we’re on to first basemen. So without further ado, here are the Top 10 first basemen going into 2018.
10. Carlos Santana, Phillies
Santana signed a 3-year, $60 million deal this offseason to become the new first baseman in Philadelphia. He leaves the established Indians to become a veteran presence on a Phillies team with a promising young core. A career .249 hitter, Santana’s power numbers will add a lot to the Philadelphia lineup, hitting 23 HR and driving in 79 runs in 2017 after a career-high 34 and 87 in the Indians’ pennant-winning 2016. Look for the Phillies’ lineup to be better than expected in 2018.
9. Justin Smoak, Blue Jays
A highly touted prospect for years, Smoak finally had a breakout season in 2017, batting .270 with 38 HR and 90 RBI en route to his first All-Star nod. In a lineup that saw down years from the likes of Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, Smoak shined. As a Yankee fan, a healthy Blue Jays lineup performing up to its potential might scare me as much or more than the Red Sox’ power-dry lineup. Time will tell if Smoak has really figured it out, or if 2017 was just a fluke.
8. Wil Myers, Padres
Myers has been a bright spot in what’s been a rough stretch for the Padres. After a breakout .259, 28 HR 94 RBI 2016, his average dipped a bit to .243 last year, but the power numbers stayed high at 30 HR and 74 RBI. In a deeper lineup, perhaps Myers could be even better. But for now, he’ll have to figure it out in an NL West that already includes last season’s World Series runner-up in the Dodgers, two more playoff teams from 2017 in the Rockies and Diamondbacks, and an improved Giants team.
7. Eric Hosmer, Free Agent
In what has been the weirdest MLB offseason to date, Hosmer is one of the top-tier free agents who remains unsigned just days before Spring Training. This is despite reportedly having lucrative multi-year deals on the table from both his team, the Royals, and the Padres. Not only can Hosmer hit, as he batted .318 with 25 HR and 94 RBI last year, he is also one of the game’s best defensive first baseman as a four-time Gold Glover. It’s interesting to see where Hosmer will sign as the season quickly approaches.
6. Jose Abreu, White Sox
Abreu has done nothing but rake since his Rookie of the Year 2014 season. When the Red Sox were rumored to be in talks to acquire him earlier this offseason, THAT scared me. In four seasons, he hasn’t hit any lower than .290, any less home runs than 25, and has driven in 100 or more runs each season. He doesn’t get enough attention as the White Sox have been dismal and played in the Cubs’ shadow basically since Abreu broke into the league, but make no mistake, Abreu is one of the premier hitters in baseball.
5. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
Bellinger had a historically great rookie campaign, with 39 HR and 97 RBI leading to an All-Star nod, World Series appearance, and the NL Rookie of the Year. If not for Aaron Judge, Bellinger would have gotten even more attention. Just as with Judge, we will have to see whether Bellinger will build on his dominant rookie season or suffer a sophomore slump, but I’ll bet he figures it out just fine.
4. Freddie Freeman, Braves
As is the case with Abreu, Freeman can get overlooked because his team is bad. A career .290 hitter, Freeman has improved on his power numbers in the last two seasons with 34 and then 28 home runs. Already a two-time All-Star, Freeman is still just 27 with room to improve. Look for him to be one of baseball’s best again this year.
3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Along with Kris Bryant, Rizzo has been a huge part of the Cubs’ recent success, including their 2016 World Series victory. He has topped 30 HR in the last four seasons while maintaining a solid batting average. He is also an elite defender, with a Platinum Glove in 2016. He and the Cubs both got off to shaky starts in 2017 before hitting their stride, let’s see if Rizzo can come out of the gate strong this year.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks’ playoff appearance came as somewhat of a surprise last year, and Goldschmidt was no small reason for the team’s success. He hit .297 with 36 HR and 120 RBI while also stealing 18 bases, pretty unusual for a first baseman. An All-Star in the last five seasons, a two-time runner up for NL MVP, and a three-time Gold Glover, Goldschmidt is quietly one of the best players in all of baseball. If not for this next guy, it would be easy to make a case for him as the number one first baseman today.
1. Joey Votto, Reds
Votto is hands-down the best first baseman in baseball. A career .313 hitter, he can also hit for power, with 29/29/36 homers in the last three seasons. As a Gold Glover, he also fields the position well. But the best part of his game is his ability to get on base, as he’s led the league in on-base percentage SIX times.
All things considered, there are a lot of great first basemen in the game today, but Votto is the best.
That’s all for this list, check back for more Top 10 lists as the season approaches on Below The Belt.