Where Do Pujols and Fielder Rank?
As we creep closer to spring training, excitement surrounding the upcoming 2012 season is beginning to grow. In addition the dust is beginning to settle on what has been one of the most exciting and eventful offseasons in recent memory. Many familiar faces are now in new places. Among the many players to move cities and change uniforms are some of the game's top first basemen.
Over the years, the first base position has evolved into one of the most important positions in the game. Many teams look to the first base position as a place to house a valuable power bat. This could be why some of baseball's best players can be found playing first base.
Since there are so many quality players at the first base position, it can be quite entertaining to rank these players. As fun as it may be, it can be extremely difficult to determine which players are better than others.
For these rankings, careful consideration was taken into determining who qualifies as a first baseman. In order to make this list complete for 2012, a player must have played at least 90 games at first base in 2011 and is likely to play first base in 2012.
Let the ranking begin!
If the beginning of the 2011 season is any indication, Toronto's Adam Lind may have found the swing that led to his outstanding 2009 season.
After a sub par 2010 season with the Blue Jays, Lind entered the 2011 season and quickly caught fire. In the first half alone, Lind managed to hit 16 home runs and drive in 52 RBI while batting an even .300. His second half however was not as exciting. He cooled off significantly and that hurt his numbers at season's end.
Even so, the 2011 season was productive for Lind. He still managed to drive in a total of 26 home runs and 87 RBI. At the age of 28, there is still room for Lind to grow as a player. If he could stay consistent throughout the entirety of the 2012 season, Lind could become one of the top 10 offensive first basemen in the game.
The 2012 season will be a homecoming of sorts for 33-year-old slugger, Carlos Pena. After a brief one year stint with the Chicago Cubs, Pena will reunite with the likes of Evan Longoria to solidify the middle of the lineup for the Tampa Bay Rays. After joining the Rays in 2007, Pena made his name well known. That year, he erupted slamming 46 home runs while driving in 121 RBI and batting .282 with a .411 on base percentage.
Since 2007 however, Pena has struggled mightily to hit for average. In the four years following, he has failed to hit over .250. That does not take away from the fact that Pena has continued to drive in runs. Despite batting only .225 in 2011, Pena was still able to drive in 80 runs.
Being re-injected into the Rays lineup should help Pena drive in even more runs. In addition, he will be returning to the familiar American League East which could possibly help him regain 2007 form. At the age of 33, Pena should not be on the decline just yet. The Rays could use another big bat in the middle of the lineup and Pena would be glad to provide that extra boost.
This offseason must have been truly interesting for Gaby Sanchez. His team, the Miami Marlins, got a new stadium and signed big names such as Jose Reyes and Heath Bell. In addition, Sanchez was at the center of some trade speculation. With Prince Fielder in Detroit and Albert Pujols in Los Angels, it seems that Sanchez will remain a Marlin for the time being.
Sanchez's presence in not a bad thing for the Marlins either. In 2011, Sanchez was great asset for the Marlins. In his second full season in the majors, Sanchez was able to stay consistent with the numbers that he produced during his rookie campaign in 2010. Over the course of the season, Sanchez was able to hit 19 home runs while also batting .266 and driving in 78 runs.
The 2012 Marlins will look to Sanchez to put up the same sort of numbers. At the age of 28, it is very possible that Sanchez exceeds the sort of numbers that he has put up in the past two seasons. Along with his new teammates, Sanchez will look to help take Miami to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
After making a quick debut in 2010, Freddie Freeman was granted the starting first base position for the Atlanta Braves in 2011. Despite having some ups and downs, Freeman was able to put together a very decent season. Because he was able to prove himself over the course of the season, Freeman will likely be the starting first baseman for the Braves once again in 2012.
In 2011, Freeman was able to bat .282 while also hitting 21 home runs and 76 RBI. His outstanding statistics for the season caused Freeman to finish second in the Rookie of the Year balloting, behind teammate Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves will look for Freeman to continue developing at the first base position over the course of the 2012 season. His minor league stats suggest that Freeman can continue to hit for some power while also hitting for a high average. For a Braves team that has recently struggled to score runs, Freeman will be a valuable asset. His ability to produce and stay healthy could be crucial for the 2012 Braves.
The 2012 season is a little bit of a question mark for the Phillies' first baseman, Ryan Howard. Under normal circumstances, Howard would have been considered one of the top six or seven first baseman in all of baseball. During the final out of the 2011 National League Division Series, however, Howard tore his left Achilles tendon throwing part of his 2012 season into question.
Recently, Howard was cleared to begin exercises and while it seems that he may be able to return as soon as April or May, injuries can be tricky. His ranking among the top first basemen all depends on how well the remainder of his recovery process goes. It could go quick and he could return sooner rather than later or Howard could see some setbacks along the way. No matter how the recovery process goes it seems likely that his 2012 statistics will take a hit.
In 2011, Howard was able to accumulate 33 home runs, 116 RBI and a batting average of .253. Although the batting average was low, Howard remained one of the premium bats in the National League.
Predicting Howard's 2012 stats could prove tricky. While there is the chance that Howard struggles during the entire season as a result of recovery, it is more likely that he regains form at some point in the season. If so, Howard could still turn out to be a guy who hits 30 homers and drives in 100 plus runs. The question is, "Will he be healthy?"
Even after just one season in the big leagues, Eric Hosmer made his way onto this list. The highly touted first baseman for the Kansas City Royals was called up in early May of 2011. He continued to show why he was so highly thought of in the organization, slugging 19 home runs with 78 runs batted in and a .293 batting average. Hosmer was not to shabby on the base paths either as he led all first basemen in stolen bases with 11.
Based on his minor league numbers, look for Hosmer to continue doing the same in 2012. His ability to hit for power and average should make him one of the best young first basemen in the game today. It should be truly interesting to see what sort of numbers Hosmer can put up in a full season in the big leagues.
Even at the age of 35, Paul Konerko is still one of the most dangerous first base bats in all of baseball. In an average season, Konerko hits 30 or more home runs and knocks in 100 or more runs. His ability to get on base and hit for a decent batting average are also major traits of the long time White Sox slugger.
In recent years, Konerko has shown that he can hit just as well now as he did when he was in the prime of his career. Over the course of his fifteen year career, Konerko has seemingly remained under the radar. While he does not receive the sort of publicity that players like Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira receive, he has been able to put up comparable numbers throughout the entirety of his career.
It is hard to predict what 2012 might have in store for Konerko. When he enters the season, Konerko will be 36 years old and many will look for him to start declining. After a 2011 season in which he hit 31 home runs, knocked in 105 runs and batted .305, there is reason to believe that even a declining Konerko could be very lethal. There is also the possibility that Konerko remains just as outstanding as he was in 2011.
The 2011 season saw switch-hitting Mark Teixeira finish third in home runs in Major League Baseball with a total of 39 bombs. Although he did not reach his career high of 43 home runs, Teixeira's power and ability to stay healthy helped his team, the New York Yankees, reach the playoff once again.
Texeira's power and ability to drive in runs has led him to become one of the most feared batters in the American League. Over the course of his nine year career, Teixeira has averaged 37 home runs and 120 RBI per season.
Since joining the Yankees in December of 2008, Teixeira has seen a sharp decline in his batting average. After being a player who typically batted above .280, he saw his batting average drop to a dismal .248 in 2011. His .341 on base percentage in 2011 was also the lowest it had been since his 2003 rookie season.
Entering 2012, Teixeira will look to reverse these trends. Should he raise his batting average and on base percentage, he could become truly devastating in the middle of the Yankees lineup. His outstanding 2009 season should be a good example of what Teixeira is capable of doing.
Since 2008, Joey Votto has silently become one of the game's most prominent young hitters. The 2008 and 2009 seasons saw Votto emerge as a young slugger with home run totals in the mid 20s with 84 RBI in each of the two seasons. In 2010, Votto made his presence truly felt around the National League. His 37 home runs, 113 RBI and .324 batting average allowed Votto to claim the National League Most Valuable Player award.
While 2011 was not as illustrious as 2010 for Votto, he still managed to produce solid numbers. While batting mostly third for the sub-.500 Reds, Votto was able to knock in 29 homers and 103 RBI with a .309 batting average. It would not be fair to mention Votto's 2011 season without also noting that he managed to capture his first career gold glove to honor his top notch glove work at first base.
Heading into the 2012 season, Votto looks poised to continue producing outstanding numbers for Cincinnati. While it may be difficult to repeat his MVP numbers from 2010, Votto has the potential to improve on his 2011 stats. It seems reasonable to predict that Votto could be a 30 home run and 110 RBI player once again.
Adrian Gonzalez has continued to produce throughout his eight seasons in the big leagues. Despite playing in the spacious Petco Park during five of those years, Gonzalez became well known and feared throughout the National League.
Before the 2011 season, Gonzalez would be traded to the Boston Red Sox. After moving to the American League, Gonzalez quickly adapted and seemingly took his game to the next level. he finished second in Major League Baseball in batting average, hitting .338. In addition, his 117 runs batted in would rank second among all first basemen. The move to Boston and the protection that their lineup provided allowed Gonzalez to grow in multiple categories including hits, doubles, runs batted in, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. It's also very important to note that Gonzalez's defensive abilities allowed him to capture his third career Gold Glove.
Prior to the 2011 season, Gonzalez had made a habit of decreasing his home run totals in order to raise his batting average. That somewhat changed however as Gonzalez was able to significantly increase the batting average without significantly decreasing the home run totals.
In 2012, Gonzalez will look to continue to balance the two categories. Another year in the American League should allow him to do just that.
This was supposed to be Miguel Cabrera's spot on the list. That is until Prince Fielder shocked the baseball world by signing with the Detroit Tigers. If early indications are correct, Fielder will man the first base position while Cabrera shifts over to third base.
Despite the fact that Fielder played in the hitter friendly Miller Park during his seven season with Milwaukee, there is reason to believe that his power will transfer to nearly any ballpark that he enters. Over the course of his career, Fielder has hit only 17 more home runs at home than on the road. His shift to the American League should give Fielder the opportunity to rest more frequently with an available designated hitters position. The ability to take a few days off from fielding, should allow Fielder to remain fresh throughout the entire 2012 season.
At the age of 27, look for Fielder to continue what he has done in past seasons. Although he will enter the 2012 season with a bigger ballpark to hit in, there is reason to believe that he will remain just as successful as he has been in the past. He will go from having Ryan Braun next to him in the lineup in Milwaukee, to partnering with Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. A pretty fair swap if you ask me.
For many years Albert Pujols has been considered the best player in Major League Baseball. Despite the fact that the gap may be closing, Pujols still deserves to be considered the top first baseman for 2012.
After signing a ten year $240 million contract with the Angels, many analysts and sports writers began to pick the 32-year-old slugger apart. While his dollar worth has been up for debate for some time, it is important to separate the man from the money when comparing him to his competition.
Despite missing just over two weeks with a wrist injury in 2011, Pujols finished third in home runs among all first baseman. He trailed the leader Mark Teixeira by only two home runs. In addition, Pujols also finished within the top 10 of nearly ever major category including runs batted in, average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
Outside of the fact that the wrist injury may have slowed his production for a bit, there are a few other reasons to believe that Pujols' numbers may get better in 2012. Coming into 2012, Pujols will not face the same pressures that he faced in 2010 and 2011. Throughout those two seasons, Pujols was under constant pressure by the media regarding his contract status. Now that all the contract questions have been dealt with, Pujols should be able to breathe again and do what he does best.