The list of AL East first basemen that will begin the 2012 season as starters includes Chris Davis (Baltimore), Adrian Gonzalez (Boston), Mark Teixeira (New York), Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay) and Adam Lind (Toronto).
Here, we will analyze each player in juxtaposition to one another to determine which teams will enter the the upcoming season with a positional advantage over their divisional rivals, and which teams are lacking.
The Blue Jays representative, Adam Lind, is looking to rebound after a rough campaign, but is in tough against some of the game's most accomplished sluggers.
In 2011 Chris Davis was shipped from the Texas Rangers to the Baltimore Orioles. The trade signified the Rangers throwing in the towel on Davis, who has failed to perform consistently since his rookie season in 2008.
While the Orioles hope Texas bailed on Davis a bit early, all indications are that they did not. Davis hit .266 last season, but was only able to slug five home runs in 59 games.
Though Davis has more power than he showed last year, his upside is quickly fading away; he is 25, and has had three consecutive sub-par seasons. 2012 will be Davis' last chance to convince the Orioles he is worth slotting into the starting lineup.
Even if he does up his game, Davis is likely to put up numbers inferior to all other first basemen in the AL East, which solidifies his place as the division's fifth most effective player at the position.
Lind made the transfer to full-time first basemen last year and proved to be a natural there. His defense was beyond solid, and he possess adequate power to be a mainstay at the power-rich position.
However, defense and power are his only positive attributes.
After posting a OBP of .370 in 2009, Lind followed it up in 2010 by posting an on-base rate of .287, and a rate of .295 in 2011.
The Blue Jay hit 26 home runs last season, but only knocked in 87 RBI, an underwhelming number considering he batted behind Jose Bautista, who got on base nearly half the time he stepped into the box. In order to become a complete hitter, Lind needs to refine his approach at the plate and get on base more often.
Unless Lind proves capable of getting on base at a considerably better rate in 2012, he will remain firmly entrenched as the division's fourth best first baseman, or may even slip to fifth.
Carlos Pena is similar to Adam Lind in that he plays solid defense and hits for power, but not average.
What sets Pena apart from Lind is that he gets on base. With 101 base on balls last summer, the former Cub posted an OBP of .357, 62 points better than Lind, despite hitting only .225.
Pena possesses extreme power and may very well hit 30-plus dingers in his first year back in Tampa Bay.
In many other divisions Pena would be a top two first baseman, but because he is back playing in the AL East, he just makes it on to the podium in third place.
Teixeira has a reputation as one of the most feared hitters in baseball. However, his production has tailed off a bit over the last two years as a result of a declining batting average and on-base percentage, though his power has stayed.
Defensively, Teixeira is one of the better first basemen around, though his performance in the field last season was less than what Yankee fans have come to expect from the Annapolis native.
At 31 years old, age alone cannot explain Teixeira's decline. Perhaps it plays a role, but may be functioning in combination with pitchers figuring him out. Perhaps he is growing complacent and settling for being a one-dimensional batter.
Or, perhaps he has simply hit a snag and will bounce back in 2012.
Even if Teixeira fails to boost his average this summer, he is a perennial threat to the 40 HR plateau, which puts him in elite company, and makes him the division's second best first baseman.
The AL East's best first baseman is...............Adrian Gonzalez!
Surprised? I didn't think so.
Gonzalez joined the Red Sox prior to 2011 campaign to the tune of some remarkably lofty expectations. Expectations he met and surpassed.
The former Padre hit a stunning .338, posted an OBP of .410, and a SLG of .548.
He did fail to reach the 30 home run mark for the first time in five years, but the improvements to his all around game, coupled by the fact that his 27 home runs remain impressive, makes Gonzalez's first go-around with the Sox his best season to date.
Gonzalez also supplanted Mark Teixeira as the American League Gold Glove winner at first base.
Because Gonzalez is the most complete hitter the division has to offer at first base, and because he is the position's most talented defensive player, he ranks as the overall best first baseman in the AL East heading into the 2012 season.
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