B/R MLB 500: Top 35 First Basemen

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 3, 2013

B/R MLB 500: Top 35 First Basemen

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    If you ever find yourself on a baseball diamond and desperately needing to charge your phone, just plug it into first base. That's where the power is.

    First base is also where we're going to start a very special journey known as the B/R MLB 500. We'll be taking a look at all the best players in Major League Baseball position by position, and first basemen are up first.

    As with all other position players to come, the league's top first basemen are going to be scored on their ability to hit, hit for power, run the bases and field their position, and we're also going to take into account how healthy they are/have been.

    Because first base is such an offense-oriented position, the priority for first basemen will be on the offensive categories. The scoring goes: 30 points for hitting, 35 points for power hitting, 10 points for baserunning, 15 points for defense and 10 points for health. Add it all up, and you get 100 points.

    Hitting entails more than just what happens after the ball leaves the bat. Results do count for something, but so does the process. Each player's approach will be taken into account.

    Power is less complicated, but results will be taken into account just as much as scouting reports. A player may have tremendous natural power, but his score will be lowered if he has a hard time making it show up in games.

    For baserunning, it's all about whether a player can steal bases and how well, and whether he can get around the bases better (or worse) than the average player. Defense is also simple. How well can a guy do the things first basemen are supposed to do, and can he do anything extra?

    For hitting, power, baserunning and defense, keep the following in mind: A score that's, say, 15 out of 30 is not a failing score. That's an "average" score. Anything better is above average. Anything below is below average.

    As for health, that's basically 10 free points. Unless, of course, there's a reason to dock points. The scoring is subjective, but the general rule of thumb is that a player is only getting fewer than five points if he has a potentially career-altering injury/injuries.

    Lastly, here's a reminder that the whole idea is to round up guys we'd want on a team in 2014. That means top prospects who could potentially make an impact next season are in play, and they may be ranked higher than you think. And if there are any ties, the edge goes to the player we'd rather have.

    That's all there is to it, so let's take it away.

     

    Note: All prospect write-ups/scores were created by B/R's MLB Prospects Lead Writer, Mike Rosenbaum.

Sources

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    The statistics that informed these analyses came from all over, so we'd certainly be remiss if we didn't dish out some shout-outs.

    Baseball-Reference.com was the go-to site for basic statistics. FanGraphs provided more complex data, most notably that concerning plate discipline. Brooks Baseball also helped with that, and the site's tracking of spray charts for hitters is another thing that came in handy. 

    And if you're wondering where all of the injury information comes from, the credit is owed to the injury databases kept by Baseball Prospectus.

35. Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Hats go off to Sanchez for becoming a far more disciplined hitter. He’s seeing more pitches and taking more walks, and his strikeout rate hasn’t risen to an alarming degree like such things usually do when hitters make an effort to see more pitches. All he needs to do now is learn how to hit major league off-speed pitches.

    Power

    15/35

    Sanchez has had the misfortune of playing at two tough hitters’ parks in his career (Miami and Pittsburgh), so it’s no wonder his career power numbers are lacking. However, he’s only a slightly better power hitter on the road, and that makes sense in light of his consistently high fly-ball rates and consistently low HR/FB rates. He has the ability to pop one out of the yard, but he doesn’t do so often enough to justify all the fly balls.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Sanchez used to be good for the occasional stolen base, but more recently he’s become content to be more like many of the other first basemen featured in this countdown when it comes to rounding the bases: slow and cautious.

    Fielding

    9/15

    The advanced metrics don’t like the season Sanchez is having on defense in 2013, but he showed good defensive skills in 2011 and 2012 with more regular playing time. It helps that he has solid athleticism for the position that allows him to make plays out of his zone, and he's generally sure-handed to boot.

    Health

    10/10

    Sanchez has had some minor issues with his legs during his pro career, but you could say that about hundreds of other players. As it is, none of these issues have occurred recently.

    Overall

    54/100

    There’s a plethora of has-beens who could occupy the back end of this countdown. Sanchez is a bit of a has-been himself as a former Rookie of the Year contender and All-Star, but he made the cut because of how effectively he'd adjusted to life as a reserve.

34. Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres

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    Hitting

    20/30

    Alonso doesn’t wait around at the plate for very long, but he has one of the most discerning eyes of any hitter in the majors. This helps him draw walks, and he’s also among the better contact hitters first base has to offer. His ability to spray line drives to all fields helps him maintain high BABIPs that work with his patience to boost his OBP.

    Power

    13/35

    Alonso showed off some pop in 2011 with the Reds, but that same power hasn’t appeared on a regular basis with the Padres. Petco Park hasn’t been a factor, as Alonso’s home/road power splits don’t show significantly greater power away from home. If 2012 is any indication, he’s just more of a doubles hitter than a home run hitter, which is less than ideal for the position.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Alonso can steal the occasional base, but don’t let that habit fool you into thinking he’s a good baserunner. He made a whopping 18 outs on the bases in 2012, and he hasn’t totally kicked the bad habit in 2013.

    Fielding

    9/15

    Alonso has very little range around the first base bag, but he can help his fielders by scooping tough throws in the dirt. The error problem that plagued him in 2012 was apparently left at the door when the offseason came.

    Health

    8/10

    The right wrist injury Alonso suffered in June is scary, as it was no minor incident and it was indeed the second non-minor right wrist injury of his career. In late August, a new injury to Alonso's right hand cropped up. That would appear to be a fragile area.

    Overall

    54/100

    Alonso’s power leaves a lot to be desired in light of the position he plays, but he gets on base enough and plays good enough defense to earn his keep.

33. Brett Wallace, Houston Astros

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    Hitting

    12/30

    Wallace’s demotion to the minor leagues in April did him some good, as he came back in June and immediately started hitting more like an actual major league player. His plate discipline is better, though he does still have a tendency to go outside the zone only to swing at nothing but air. So improvements or no improvements, he’s still a high-strikeout, low-walk guy whose success depends too much on Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP).

    Power

    22/35

    Wallace has showed off more power than ever before in 2013, but that can be chalked up to a small sample and a huge HR/FB rate. It's also more than a little concerning that he hits more ground balls than fly balls. All the same, it’s always a good sign whenever a former prospect who was supposed to have major league power starts showing some off for a change.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Wallace is your typical slow-footed corner infielder. But like a lot of the guys on this list, he's at least able to stay out of trouble by knowing his limits on the bases. He’s not reckless, so he passes for an average baserunner.

    Fielding

    6/15

    Wallace is a converted third baseman, and it’s clear from the action he’s seen at first as a major leaguer that he still has improvements to make. He’s not the most agile defender, and that translates to a modest ability to make plays away from the bag. He also needs to get better at scooping throws in the dirt.

    Health

    10/10

    Wallace battled a neck issue during the spring, but his body has behaved since then. And with no scary or reoccurring injuries in his past, there's nothing to bar him from a perfect score here.

    Overall

    55/100

    Whatever hope Wallace had of becoming a star player seems to have passed him by, but it bodes well for him that he's figuring things out and while he's still in prime territory at the age of 27.

32. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hitting

    13/30

    Howard has always had a tendency to chase and whiff, and it became much more pronounced in 2013. He expanded the zone often and seldom made contact when he did. This fed a bad strikeout habit, and Howard is still hopeless against left-handers. His 2013 numbers admittedly look solid, but that’s largely thanks to a high BABIP inflated by an unsustainable average on ground balls.

    Power

    29/35

    Howard’s best days as a power hitter are long gone. He doesn’t send fly balls over the fence at the rate he used to, and his power up the middle and to left field has decreased to mere doubles power. However, he can still make ballparks look small when he gets hold of one.

    Baserunning

    2/10

    To put it bluntly, Howard isn't very useful on the bases. He’s as slow as they come, and bad things tend to happen when he find himself in a position where a quality baserunning play has to be made.

    Fielding

    7/15

    Relative to his usual standards, Howard’s defense was actually passable in 2013. He still has no range, but he picked more throws in the dirt than usual and made very few mistakes. Perhaps this was him understanding that he needs to up his defensive game with every other part of his game in decline.

    Health

    4/10

    A ruptured Achilles suffered in October of 2011 cost Howard a good chunk of the 2012 season, and 2013 has been about knee troubles. Surgery to repair a torn meniscus in July effectively ended his season, and one unfortunately has to think it might not be Howard's last surgery at the rate he’s going.

    Overall

    55/100

    This score might strike you as being too low for such a marquee player, but Howard is undeniably a star more by reputation than reality these days. 

31. Justin Morneau, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Morneau’s hitting mechanics are still as solid as ever, but he doesn’t have the explosive bat speed he once did, and his plate discipline has declined as well. He expands the zone a ton and is generally much more of a hacker at this stage of his career than he was earlier. The good news for him is that he still draws just enough walks and makes just enough solid contact to pass for a decent hitter.

    Power

    21/35

    The power Morneau had in his heyday is long gone, but some of it made a big-time comeback in August when he hit nine home runs and had a .293 ISO (Isolated Power). There's not a whole lot he can do to the left side of the field, but he made it very clear with his big August that he still has plenty of pull power.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Morneau was never a burner, and he’s more of a station-to-station first baseman now than ever before. Fortunately, he's at least able to stay out of trouble on the basepaths.

    Fielding

    8/15

    Morneau has good hands and plenty of experience at first base, but at this point he’s little more than an average defensive presence around the bag. He can still scoop throws and field the balls that are hit at him, but he can’t move like he used to.

    Health

    7/10

    Morneau has been able to enjoy generally good health over the last two seasons, but his injury history can't be ignored. He's had a very rough go of things, and he obviously isn't getting any younger.

    Overall

    56/100

    Morneau is far from the player he used to be, and his health should be trusted only as far as it can be thrown. However, his bat isn't dead just yet.

30. Corey Hart, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Hitting

    19/30

    Hart is not the most patient hitter in the world, but his plate discipline could be a lot worse for a guy with a strike zone as big as the one his 6’6” frame allows. And while whiffs have always been and always will be a big part of Hart’s game, he has a way of making things happen when he puts the ball in play. For the position, he’s an above-average hitter.

    Power

    25/35

    Hart’s power numbers are impressive on the surface, as he hit at least 25 homers each year between 2010 and 2012 while maintaining an ISO above .200 along the way. The catch is that his power is (or was) significantly less impressive away from Miller Park, which of course is one of baseball’s more notorious power-hitting havens.

    Baserunning

    6/10

    Hart has the athleticism to steal an occasional base and take an extra base, and he can do the latter without running into an excess of unnecessary outs. For a first baseman, he’s a useful baserunner.

    Fielding

    4/15

    Hart’s defense at first base is largely an unknown, as he really didn’t start logging time at the position on a regular basis until last year with Prince Fielder gone and nobody else to hold down the position. The results were about as ugly as you’d expect for a career outfielder trying to pass as an infielder. The advanced metrics basically gag when you ask them about Hart’s defense at first.

    Health

    3/10

    Hart is out for 2013 following surgery on his left knee in June, and he had a notable history of knee injuries even before that. He might not be the same player from here on out, hence the low score.

    Overall

    57/100

    Hart is a free agent at the end of the year. Somebody will take a chance on him based on his track record, and they could be rewarded with a steal if he's able to stay healthy in 2014.

29. Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Hitting

    17/30

    Adams has shown off a far more patient approach in 2013 than the one he showed in a small sample in 2012, seeing more than four pitches per plate appearance and drawing more walks. That’s a plus, and his more patient approach has come with improved plate discipline and fewer whiffs to boot. The contact Adams makes is generally hard, and he’s even been solid against southpaws. His bat is still an unknown given the small amount of major league action he's seen, but it’s clear that it belongs.

    Power

    23/35

    Adams’ raw power is huge, and it’s been translating pretty well in games this year. His fly balls have tended to be driven well, and his increased line-drive percentage has allowed him to pick up some extra doubles. It’s worth noting that Adams’ power has shown up against lefties just as much as righties this year, and it's certainly fair to conclude that the best is still to come.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Adams is basically your classic base-clogging first baseman. He’s slow even for a first baseman, and the only real talent he has on the basepaths is knowing when to stay put. With his speed, that would be “always.”

    Fielding

    5/15

    The Cardinals play Adams at first base because they can’t DH him. He wasn’t billed as a defensive whiz as a prospect, and playing time at first base has come too sparingly for him to develop any further. He could get better, but his hands, footwork and range are all subpar for the time being.

    Health

    9/10

    Adams hasn’t really been a picture of health in 2013, with his most notable injury being an oblique strain that landed him on the DL in May. Because he also battled an oblique problem as a minor leaguer in 2011, that's a red flag.

    Overall

    58/100

    Adams is a part-time player for the Cardinals, but his hitting approach and power make him an intriguing potential starter.

28. Mike Carp, Boston Red Sox

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    Hitting

    16/30

    Carp is a patient hitter whose plate discipline has improved greatly the last two years. But he still has a strikeout problem, and his success in 2013 is the product of an elevated BABIP that’s way too good to be true. And not surprisingly for a lefty-hitting platoon man, Carp isn’t good for much against southpaws. He’s an average hitter who just so happens to have way-above-average numbers due to luck and circumstances.

    Power

    20/35

    Carp struggled hitting for power in 2012, but he showed solid pop away from Safeco Field in 2011. He’s been able to tap into that power in 2013 with Boston, sending balls over the fence at an impressive rate and hitting a lot of doubles up the middle and the other way. He’s a power overachiever, but the power is there.

    Baserunning

    6/10

    Carp is athletic enough to play left field adequately, and that athleticism occasionally shows through on the basepaths. He’s not a base stealer, but he’s taken quite a few extra bases for the Red Sox this year without getting caught.

    Fielding

    7/15

    It's totally understood if you’re surprised to see Carp listed as a first baseman rather than an outfielder, but he’s a first baseman by trade, and it is his best defensive position. He’s not actually anything special at first, but he’s able to hold his own on the bag with some solid range to boot.

    Health

    10/10

    Carp went on the DL three times in 2012, but he’s been healthy in 2013 outside of some minor hamstring tightness earlier in the year.

    Overall

    59/100

    Carp is hardly a household name, but his bat has been good enough to make him one of baseball’s top reserves in 2013. If given a chance, he could probably hold his own as a starter.

    Carp is hardly a household name, but his bat has been good enough to make him one of baseball’s top reserves in 2013.

27. Darin Ruf, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Ruf is still largely an unknown as a major league product, but we know that he doesn’t mind taking his walks. That’s a positive that helps balance out a strikeout problem that’s a pretty hefty negative. And while he does make good, solid contact, the BABIP he has in 2013 is a freak occurrence brought on by an unsustainable average on ground balls. Consider him an average hitter for now.

    Power

    23/35

    Ruf’s raw power is legit. He’s been able to show it off in his brief major league career because he’s sent a ton of balls in the air, and a good chunk of them have found their way beyond the fence. The power potential definitely appears to be there, but Ruf has compiled his power numbers in too small a sample size and mainly at too friendly a home ballpark for them to be taken at face value.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Ruf’s never going to be a weapon on the basepaths, but at least he’s shown that he has the ability to avoid running into outs. That'll do for a first baseman.

    Fielding

    6/15

    Ruf wasn’t billed as a quality defensive first baseman as a minor leaguer, and he hasn’t exactly proved the scouting reports wrong in his time in the majors. From the looks of things, he’s going to be the kind of guy who mainly stays glued to first base, so he better get good at picking throws in the dirt.

    Health

    10/10

    Ruf doesn’t have any medical red flags to speak of. That's our cue to move along to...

    Overall

    59/100

    Exactly how Ruf fits into Philly’s long-term plans with Ryan Howard at first base is unclear, but he’s certainly earned a shot based on what he's shown in 2013. He's overachieved, but he looks like a decent major league hitter.

26. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Hitting

    17/30

    Jones is the kind of hitter who can be easily neutralized by anything slow that has some movement, and this year his predicament has been made worse by struggles against hard stuff. But there’s no ignoring the sense that he deserves better than the numbers he has, as he’s seen his line-drive percentage skyrocket this season only to see his BABIP stay put. With a few less at-‘em balls to left field, he'd be doing better.

    Power

    22/35

    The raw power is there with Jones, and what’s impressive is that he hasn’t had issues making it show up at PNC Park, a known haven for pitchers. His power is down in 2013, however, and it’s hard not to notice his declining fly-ball percentage and the fact that his 2012 HR/FB rate looks like an outlier. 

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Jones isn’t a great baserunner, but he’s a better baserunner than he used to be. He made a ton of outs on the bases in 2011 and 2012, and has improved that habit this year simply by being less aggressive.

    Fielding

    5/15

    Jones is occasionally needed in right field as well as at first base, and the lack of consistent playing time at first hasn’t helped his development there. He can’t do much more than hold his own. His hands are iffy, and he lacks both instincts and range to be anything more than adequate.

    Health

    10/10

    There’s nothing worth reporting on the injury front. Jones hasn't avoided aches and pains entirely since he turned pro, but his body has remained in good shape.

    Overall

    59/100

    Jones may have peaked with his performance in 2012, but he's not as mediocre as he's shown in 2013 either. A little more luck and a little more power will mean better times in 2014.

25. Chris Carter, Houston Astros

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    Hitting

    10/30

    Throwing Carter fastballs is not advised. He can hit those. It’s the slower pitches he can’t hit, particularly sliders and changeups and especially those thrown by right-handers. And while Carter gets points for being a patient hitter, he has a swing-and-miss tendency that feeds an absolutely horrific strikeout problem.

    Power

    31/35

    There’s no frowning on the kind of power Carter brings to the table. He has easy pop, and it goes to all fields. Standing in the way of a perfect score, however, is the fact that Carter’s power is a little all or nothing. He’s not one to take a tough pitch and poke it into the gap for a double.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Carter has shown off a stolen base tendency in the minors, but not in the majors. He’s not entirely hopeless when it comes to getting around the bases, but he’s managed to rack up some outs on the basepaths while being generally nonaggressive.

    Fielding

    5/15

    Carter is a man without a position, as he’s split time at first base, left field and DH as a major leaguer. First base is his best defensive position, even if he’s not great around the bag. He’s sort of cut from the Ryan Howard mold: a lumbering presence with little range and iffy hands.

    Health

    10/10

    Carter struggled with a nasty thumb injury a few years back, but his health has been fine since.

    Overall

    60/100

    It can be painful to watch Carter try to hit. But he's a guy who can hit the ball a mile, and he has value as a major leaguer because of that.

24. Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros

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    Hitting

    14/30

    Singleton’s hit tool has the potential to be above average in the major leagues. He demonstrates a legitimate feel for the strike zone. He’s adept to working counts and drawing walks, but he also whiffs his fair share. In general, Singleton has plus bat speed thanks to quick-twitch wrists and forearms, and he has shown a natural up-the-middle approach in previous seasons. If there’s one knock on the 21-year-old, it’s his ongoing struggles against same-side pitching.

    Power

    21/35

    Singleton is a physically strong player at 6’2”, 235 pounds who boasts plus raw power from the left side. While he has sufficient pop to put up multiple seasons with 20-plus home runs, his power frequency will depend on the improvements he makes to his approach and overall plate discipline.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Singleton used to have fringe-average speed as a teenager in the Phillies system, but he has since lost a step as he’s developed physically.

    Fielding

    10/15

    He's a first base-only prospect whose size limits his overall athleticism. His weak arm counters any notion of stashing him in left field. At first base, Singleton has decent footwork around the bag as well as an average glove that should improve as he gains experience.

    Health

    10/10

    Aside from his 50-game suspension for a second positive test for drug abuse (marijuana), Singleton has remained healthy throughout his career, appearing in more than 120 games in each of the past two seasons.

    Overall

    60/100

    As a first base-only prospect, Singleton’s bat will have to carry him to the major leagues. Luckily, he has a good one, not to mention one that should have him hitting in the middle of the Astros order for years to come. However, after missing the first 50 games of the 2013 season and struggling upon his return, he may require more seasoning in the minor leagues than originally expected.

23. Logan Morrison, Miami Marlins

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    Hitting

    21/30

    Morrison has shown an improved ability to stay back on off-speed stuff in 2013, but it’s come at the expense of his ability to hit fastballs. He’s also taken to hitting a ton of balls on the ground, which is not what you want out of a first baseman. All the same, LoMo is a patient hitter who draws his walks and has been able to maintain a solid BABIP in 2013 thanks in large part to a healthy line-drive habit. He's definitely made strides.

    Power

    20/35

    Morrison hasn’t been elevating the ball very often in 2013, but the balls he has elevated have tended to be driven well. You’d never know that from taking a quick look at his stats, but what his stats obscure is the fact that Marlins Park hurts his power just as much as it hurts the power of anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton. Realistically, LoMo’s power is above average.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Like most other first basemen, Morrison is not a guy who’s going to swipe bags. And while he can get going pretty well when he has an excuse to turn on the jets, for the most part he falls into line with all the other first basemen. It’s all about being cautious rather than being out.

    Fielding

    6/15

    LoMo is better at first than he is in the outfield, but most fans would handle the outfield better than he does. The early returns in 2013 at first base have been decent, but not great. He hasn’t proven himself as a master of scooping or a first baseman with great range. There’s plenty of room for him to improve.

    Health

    8/10

    LoMo is healthy now, but he already has a track record of knee injuries that makes a perfect score an impracticality.

    Overall

    60/100

    It’s hard to get too excited about LoMo in light of how things have gone since the start of 2012, but he was a good-looking young player back in 2011. He still has a few years to go before he hits the big 3-0, and that means plenty of time to realize his potential.

22. Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers

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    Hitting

    13/30

    Credit Moreland for being more patient and productive against southpaws in 2013, but he’s still a below-average hitter. He has a tendency to go fishing on pitches outside the strike zone only to come up empty, and his BABIP has suffered from a decrease in line drives after a quality season in that department in 2012.

    Power

    24/35

    Moreland’s power has always been solid, and this year it’s showing through more often. He’s sending balls over the fence with a bit more regularity, and he’s also clanking a few off the warning track for easy doubles. And lest you chalk it up to the Ballpark in Arlington, Moreland’s home/road power splits are pretty even in 2013.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Moreland is neither a base stealer nor a base taker, but he’s also not one to run into that many outs. He’s a guy who knows his limits as a baserunner.

    Fielding

    9/15

    Moreland’s job at first base is made easy by the fact that he plays with some great defensive infielders, but he holds his own around the bag. He also has a little more range than your average first baseman. Moreland may not be that far above average defensively, but he is above average.

    Health

    9/10

    Moreland has generally been healthy in his career, but both of his two DL stints in the last two seasons have been the result of hamstring injuries. That’s a red flag.

    Overall

    60/100

    The Rangers no doubt wish they had Chris Davis at first instead, but they could do worse than Moreland. His power help makes up for the inconsistency of his bat, and his glove is solid.

21. Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners

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    Hitting

    20/30

    A lost cause as recently as, oh, five minutes ago, Smoak has quietly transformed into the hitter everyone expected him to be—or at least something close enough to that player. He’s been more patient this year, and he has picked his spots better when he’s gone fishing on pitches out of the zone. Factor in improvement against fastballs, and you get a much-improved hitter.

    Power

    21/35

    Elite power was supposed to be Smoak’s calling card, but merely improved power will have to do for now. He’s gotten more efficient at sending balls over the fence, and an improved line-drive habit has helped him pick up some extra doubles. And while his power numbers warrant a lower score at first look, Smoak gets a boost here because he’s lost some power to Safeco Field’s still-formidable dimensions.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Baserunning may be Smoak’s next target for improvement. He’s not much of a runner, but he could stand to be a little more aggressive than not aggressive at all. He seems to be allergic to taking extra bases.

    Fielding

    7/15

    Smoak wasn’t billed as much of a fielder when he was a prospect, and he’s still not much of a fielder. He’s not one to scoop many throws in the dirt, and he lacks the first-step quickness and the range to make plays away from the bag. For now, he's best described as "just OK."

    Health

    9/10

    Smoak has been healthy throughout his career, but he is docked a point here due to the issues he had with his oblique earlier in 2013. Oblique injuries have a tendency to come back, and this year's oblique injury was not Smoak's first.

    Overall

    61/100

    There’s still some untapped potential in Smoak's bat. But with more hits falling and a decent number of them being sent a long way, his bat is certainly more alive than it's ever been.

20. Ike Davis, New York Mets

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Davis was hopeless enough at the plate earlier in 2013 to earn a demotion to the minor leagues. He made sure that trip wasn’t for nothing. He’s been much more disciplined at the plate since being recalled, even walking more often than striking out. That marks quite the turnaround, and it is emblematic of how Davis has gone from being a well below-average presence at the plate to at least an average presence at the plate.

    Power

    22/35

    Davis has plenty of raw power, but he's had problems showing it at the major league level. It was largely absent early in 2012, and very absent early in 2013. Davis’ power has made a slight comeback since he was recalled from the minors, but his main emphasis has been on not embarrassing himself more so than on hitting for power.

    Baserunning

    7/10

    Davis isn’t a very fast runner, but he’s as much a quality baserunner as the next Mets player. They all seem to have an innate ability to take the extra base without getting caught, and Davis is no different.

    Fielding

    8/15

    Davis posted unreal defensive numbers back in 2010, in large part because he made a ton of plays away from the first base bag. He’s been less assertive in doing so over the last few years, and he has had issues with boots on top of that. He's not bad, but he's no longer good either.

    Health

    10/10

    Davis showed no ill effects from either his 2011 ankle injury or his bout with valley fever in 2012. His most recent health scare is the strained oblique that could keep him out through the end of 2013. He doesn't have a history of oblique injuries, though, and the injury itself shouldn't be a long-term problem.

    Overall

    62/100

    It’s downright ugly when things are out of whack for Davis, but he worked his way back from the brink of disaster in 2012 and was able to do so again in 2013 before he got hurt. His future is uncertain, but this much is clear: When things come together, he can indeed hit.

19. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Hitting

    19/30

    Lind has re-emerged as a relevant player in 2013, and his rise can be traced to a couple of different things. He’s performing well against fastballs after they gave him all sorts of troubles for a few years, and he’s also shown off an improved awareness of the strike zone. He’s not going fishing as often, resulting in more walks and better contact. The one catch is that he’s still hopeless against southpaws.

    Power

    23/35

    Lind’s resurgence hasn’t come complete with the same kind of power he showed in his great 2009 season, in part because he’s just not hitting the ball in the air as often. However, he’s still driving the ball well when he does get it in the air, and he still has some solid power to the left-center field gap.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Lind is your fairly typical non-burner on the basepaths, but he does have the athleticism to take extra bases when they’re there to be taken. He also doesn’t run into an excess of outs on the basepaths, so he'll do for an average baseunning first baseman.

    Fielding

    6/15

    Lind’s playing time at first base is inconsistent, so it’s hardly a shocker that he’s not among the game’s top defensive first basemen. He’s capable of holding his own, but there are complaints to be made about both his hands and his range.

    Health

    9/10

    Lind has been healthy in 2013, but he has a history of back issues that amount to a red flag that can’t be ignored.

    Overall

    62/100

    Lind’s 2009 production looks like a clear outlier, but at least he’s back to being a productive major leaguer again. So long as he's only playing against righties, he's a quality on-base guy with power.

18. Brandon Moss, Oakland A's

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    Hitting

    12/30

    Moss’ swing is geared to put the ball in the air, which is something he does often. That’s fine, but he also strikes out a ton. That’s a product of his tendency to expand the zone and his tendency to swing at air. It’s a good thing he takes his walks and that the A’s very much care about walks.

    Power

    31/35

    Moss hit for a ton of power in 2012, in large part because seemingly every fly ball he hit found its way over the fence. He hasn’t been as prolific in 2013, but he is still among the top power hitters the position has to offer. He aims to hit the ball hard, and he does so about as often as any first baseman not named Chris Davis.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Moss has set a career high for stolen bases in 2013, but he’s not a weapon on the basepaths. He has little speed to speak of, and he’s been reminded of that in the moments when he’s got nabbed trying to take extra bases.

    Fielding

    5/15

    Moss has generally been better at first base in 2013 with more regular playing time, but he is still below average for the position. His hands are iffy, and he doesn’t tend to stray far from the bag to make plays.

    Health

    10/10

    Moss had a left knee injury that required surgery in 2008, but that was almost five years ago. He’s been injury-free ever since.

    Overall

    62/100

    The A’s keep Moss around for his power production, and he fortunately provides enough of it to keep everyone happy.

17. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

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    Hitting

    18/30

    Pujols still has the kind of mechanics that can make a hitting coach swoon, but his approach has badly deteriorated. He expands the strike zone far more often than he used to, and he swings and misses more often. On top of that, he’s not handling fastballs like he did in the past, which suggests a loss of bat speed that would come as no surprise given his age (33). In short: still good, but far from the good old days.

    Power

    25/35

    Pujols’ power production is going nowhere but down, and fast. He can still elevate the ball, but what once was booming power has become more like warning-track power. The bright side, however, is that Pujols’ power was showing up much more away from the Big A before his season came to a premature end. It was the same story in 2012, meaning that his new home park is making his declining power out to be worse than it actually is.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Pujols was an outstanding baserunner in his heyday, but he ran into a ton of outs (a total of 27) on the bases in 2011 and 2012 and he was rendered useless as a baserunner by his foot injury this year.

    Fielding

    13/15

    Pujols was restricted primarily to DH duty thanks to his health, but the skills were still there when he was healthy in 2012. He still had good range, sure hands and the old instincts that made him the game’s top defensive first baseman in his glory days with St. Louis, so he gets the benefit of the doubt here.

    Health

    4/10

    Pujols’ body is a wreck. He had knee surgery over the offseason and then battled plantar fasciitis in his left foot before finally ending up on the DL for the rest of the season. At his age, it's perfectly fair to wonder if things are going to get any better.

    Overall

    64/100

    Pujols’ skills were already deteriorating, and now he has a collection of health problems to overcome. Worth noting: This is only year two out of 10.

16. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Napoli’s extreme patience at the plate is both a blessing and a curse. He puts himself in plenty of hitter’s counts and draws walks, but he also puts himself in a lot of pitcher’s counts and strikes out a ton. He’s in trouble when he has to go into protect mode, as his swing just isn’t geared for such occasions. The good news is that Napoli has developed an impressive line-drive habit in 2013, and it’s helping him maintain a high BABIP for the second time in three years. Despite the whiffs, he's a decent hitter.

    Power

    26/35

    Napoli has traded in some fly balls for line drives, resulting in a swap of home run power for doubles power. But don't be fooled: He still has extraordinary natural power, and his power production isn't as bad as the lack of home runs might make it out to be. He's still an easily above-average power hitter.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Napoli is more or less the definition of a base-clogger. He has very little speed, and he’s not the type to rack up baserunning value through intelligence. He does take the occasional base here and there, but he also runs into his share of outs.

    Fielding

    12/15

    For a guy who wasn’t supposed to be a very good defensive first baseman, Napoli has been, well, a very good defensive first baseman for the Red Sox in 2013. He has a surprising amount of range and has been able to handle throws in the dirt quite well. His defense is an unsung pleasant surprise.

    Health

    7/10

    Any man with a degenerative hip condition can’t have a perfect score in the health department, and then Napoli had to go and develop plantar fasciitis. With his 32nd birthday due up in October, these problems would indeed be red flags.

    Overall

    64/100

    The power hasn’t been there in spades, and Napoli can be frustrating to watch at the plate. Still, he has above-average pop and is further valuable in his ability to get on base and play defense. 

15. Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angles

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    Hitting

    10/30

    Trumbo’s approach at the plate has gotten a little bit better in 2013, as he’s not expanding the zone or swinging and missing as often as he did in 2012. But he’s still too aggressive for his own good, and he still swings at air all too often. And while his improved plate discipline has bought him more walks, he’s likely never going to be a high average guy due to his ongoing strikeout problem and his apparent allergy to line drives.

    Power

    30/35

    In terms of raw power, Trumbo is as dangerous as anybody else in the big leagues. However, he avoids a perfect score here because he hits more balls on the ground than a slugger of his ability should. The ball tends to go far when he hits it in the air, but he doesn’t do that often enough. Also, his lack of a line drive suppresses his ability to pile up doubles.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Trumbo has been known to steal the occasional base, but his success rate says he shouldn’t ever bother. He seems to have gotten the gist, as he’s not attempting as many steals in 2013. Elsewhere, he’s not rounding the bases as aggressively as he did in 2012. He looks to have settled into a life as a station-to-station baserunner.

    Fielding

    10/15

    Defense is an underrated aspect of Trumbo’s game. He makes the occasional error, but he has the athleticism and instincts to range out of his zone to make plays. He’s not great, but he's certainly better than average at first.

    Health

    10/10

    Trumbo has dealt with some minor issues here and there, but he’s been a picture of health in 2013 and throughout his career in general.

    Overall

    65/100

    Trumbo’s hitting ability is undeniably subpar, but his considerable power and solid defensive skills make him capable of passing for a quality regular.

14. James Loney, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Hitting

    24/30

    Loney will go fishing out of the strike zone, but he’s one of the best at making contact when he does so. And while he’s always been a line-drive machine, the Rays have made Loney into a line-drive mega-machine. Nearly 30 percent of his batted balls are line drives, so the high BABIP he’s been nursing all season is no accident, folks.

    Power

    15/35

    Loney doesn’t go up to the plate looking to hit the ball over the fence, which makes him a little unusual for a first baseman. But this season has seen him hit the ball with more authority when he does get it elevated, resulting in his strongest HR/FB rate in years. He’s a mediocre power hitter for a first baseman, but that’s an acceptable change seeing as how he was a downright poor power hitter in 2012.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Loney is capable of swiping bags, but his best base-stealing days are in the past. In terms of running the bases, his best talent is playing things safe. Loney hasn’t made many outs on the bases over the last two years.

    Fielding

    12/15

    Loney has a well-established track record as a quality defender at first base, showing off good hands, footwork and range. He’s not one to wow you at first, but he’s as serviceable as they come.

    Health

    10/10

    Loney has never been on the disabled list and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2010. He must have a guardian angel.

    Overall

    66/100

    Loney seemed to be a lost cause when he left Boston at the end of 2012, but he’s found his stroke again in Tampa Bay and looks more like the player he was supposed to be after hitting .331 as a rookie in 2007.

13. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

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    Hitting

    15/30

    Teixeira may be declining rapidly, but he was still among the game’s more disciplined hitters when we last got a good look at him in 2012. That is good, because he needs as many walks as he can get to account for the fact that he’s no longer capable of sustaining a high BABIP and, by extension, a high batting average.

    Power

    30/35

    We can’t draw any definitive conclusions about the state of Teixeira’s power based on what happened in 2013, as he was sidelined for much of the year with a wrist injury and then played in only a handful of games before aggravating the injury. But from 2010 to 2012, his power remained well above average even while his hitting skills were declining. He still has the goods to drive the ball over the fence from either side of the plate.

    Baserunning

    4/10

    Teixeira’s not exactly fleet of foot, and he has a history of being overaggressive on the bases. He amazingly didn’t make a single out on the bases in 2011, but he combined to make a whopping 22 in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

    Fielding

    15/15

    Teixeira is the gold standard for defense at first base. He has the hands to pick any throw and the range of a third baseman that allows him to make a lot of plays other first basemen can’t make. When he’s right, he’s the favorite in any argument about the best defensive first baseman in the business.

    Health

    3/10

    Teixeira’s health was already compromised due to a wrist injury he suffered in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, and then he aggravated it badly enough to need season-ending surgery. Knowing the problematic nature of wrist injuries, Teixeira may not be the same player when he returns in 2014.

    Overall

    67/100

    His wrist is a wreck and his skills have eroded, but Teixeira will continue to earn his keep if he stays healthy and is able to bring excellent defense and above-average power to the table in 2014.

12. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals

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    Hitting

    17/30

    LaRoche’s swing is one of the prettiest in the game, and he also has a measured approach at the plate that allows him to draw his share of walks. In addition, his contact habits (line drives, ground balls, fly balls) this season are right in line with his career norms. What’s not so good is that he’s striking out more often in 2013 than he did in 2012, and he hasn’t had much success against hard stuff. LaRoche is better than his numbers say he is, but there are concerns.

    Power

    22/35

    LaRoche had one of his best years ever from a power perspective in 2012 but has come back to the pack in 2013. That’s what happens when one trades in some fly balls and line drives for ground balls, and the balls LaRoche is hitting in the air aren’t going out as frequently. He still has above-average power, but it’s fair to wonder if he might be losing some thump with his prime years behind him.

    Baserunning

    6/10

    Give LaRoche credit for accounting for his decreased power with a couple of stolen bases this year. Aside from that, he’s been his usual solid self on the bases. He’s a good baserunner for a first baseman, taking extra bases when he can and rarely getting caught.

    Fielding

    13/15

    The defensive metrics will tell you that LaRoche has been "meh" on defense in 2013, but goodness knows his fellow infielders haven’t made it easy for him. He’s still one of the best you’re going to find at first base, with solid instincts, hands and range contributing to a quality overall package.

    Health

    9/10

    Surgery to repair LaRoche’s left labrum cost him pretty much the entire 2011 season. He’s been able to avoid major injuries since then, but the problems he’s had with his lower back stand out as a red flag in light of his age.

    Overall

    67/100

    LaRoche hasn’t been able to repeat his 2012 season in 2013, but he’s still as dependable as they come at first base and generally one of the league’s more underappreciated players. While 2013 has been a rough ride, it shouldn't be taken as a tell-tale sign of things to come.

11. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Hitting

    13/30

    There’s a bit too much movement in Rizzo’s hitting mechanics, and I wonder if that is to blame for his issues against off-speed pitches. The good news is that he’s shown a better knowledge of the strike zone in his first full season in the bigs, resulting in an increased walk rate that’s rescuing his OBP from a low BABIP brought on by too many grounders and useless fly balls.

    Power

    25/35

    Rizzo’s raw power is undeniably plus, and his power production in 2013 has been easily above average for the position. The Cubs also have to like how he’s improved his power production against left-handers. There are still things holding Rizzo’s power production back, however. He’s not much for home runs to the opposite field, and in general too few of the balls he elevates find their way over the fence.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Rizzo has tried to steal bases here and there as a big leaguer, but his success rate is the opposite of good. Realistically, he’s a guy who fits the station-to-station mold of most other first basemen when it comes to running the bases.

    Fielding

    14/15

    Rizzo was regarded as a strong defensive first baseman as a prospect, and he’s shown why at the major league level. With sure hands and the athleticism to make plays away from the bag, Rizzo is establishing himself as a favorite of the advanced metrics and a potential Gold Glove winner at first.

    Health

    10/10

    Rizzo had some minor injuries here and there in his pro career, but nothing that warrants anything less than a perfect score.

    Overall

    67/100

    He hasn’t quite put it all together yet. But with power and defense taken care of, Rizzo is definitely making progress in his quest to become a top first baseman.

10. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    Hitting

    22/30

    Fielder is still an above-average hitter, one who has good knowledge of the strike zone and who knows when to shorten up and try for a base hit. However, there are some warning signs in 2013. He’s striking out more regularly than he did in 2011 or 2012, and he hasn’t been crushing fastballs like he used to. That’s not an encouraging development as he prepares to exit his 20s.

    Power

    29/35

    Fielder’s raw power hasn’t gone anywhere, but it hasn’t been showing up very often in 2013. He’s been hitting more fly balls than he did in either of the last two seasons, but relatively few have found their way over the fence and far too many have landed harmlessly in leather out in left field. This would be yet another non-encouraging development.

    Baserunning

    2/10

    Fielder can get moving pretty well when he gets going, but don’t expect value out of him on the basepaths. His reputation as a hopeless station-to-station baserunner is well-deserved.

    Fielding

    4/15

    Fielder has never been known for his defense, and there are good reasons for that. He doesn’t react quickly, has zero range and isn’t very sure-handed to boot. If he’s not the worst defensive first baseman in baseball, he’s high in the running.

    Health

    10/10

    Say what you will about Fielder’s body type, but he’s done a fine job of staying healthy throughout his career. His next trip to the DL will be his first.

    Overall

    67/100

    Fielder’s overall score is lower than you’d expect based on his reputation, but there’s no ignoring the subpar season he’s having and the troubling developments (i.e. dwindling power) that are playing a role in it. For now, he's on the outside looking in at the elites.

9. Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians

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    Hitting

    22/30

    Swisher has a longstanding reputation as one of the game’s most patient hitters, and he’s at it again in 2013. He’s seeing his usual four-ish pitches per plate appearance and walking well more than 10 percent of the time. The hits haven’t been falling for him, but there’s some bad luck at work there. With the highest line-drive percentage of his career going on, Swisher deserves better than the numbers he has.

    Power

    21/35

    Swisher’s fly-ball rate is on a clear downward trend, and with it his home run power is becoming more like warning-track power. He did, however, have problems with his left shoulder earlier in the summer that weren’t helping. That he started hitting for more power in mid-July is a good sign.

    Baserunning

    6/10

    Swisher was an everyday right fielder not too long ago, and the athleticism he needed to man that position is still there and coming in handy on the bases. He’s not one to swipe bags, but he’s pretty good at taking extra bases without getting caught.

    Fielding

    10/15

    First base is a good fit for Swisher. He’s not a natural when it comes to scooping throws out of the dirt, but he reacts and moves well enough to make plays away from the bag. He makes the grade as an above-average defender.

    Health

    9/10

    Swisher’s been healthy for the majority of his career, but he’s been plagued by some left shoulder issues in 2013. He was also banged up for much of 2012, too, so age might be taking its toll on his body.

    Overall

    68/100

    Swisher hasn’t been the same player for the Indians that he was for the Yankees, but he’s still a quality hitter who is adjusting well to regular duty at first.

8. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Hitting

    23/30

    Because Gonzalez still hasn’t ditched the habit of expanding the zone that he developed a couple of years ago, it’s safe to assume that his days as one of baseball’s top walk merchants are long gone. However, he’s still a productive hitter because of how he can use the whole field and hit line drives. He's hitting more of those now than he ever did in San Diego.

    Power

    19/35

    Gonzalez’s best power days are as long gone as his best walk days. That's in large part because he just doesn’t have the power to left field that he used to have. However, he can still pull the ball out to right well enough, and he hits enough line drives to collect his share of doubles.

    Baserunning

    2/10

    Gonzalez is one of the slowest baserunners in the league. That would be fine if he at least managed to avoid running into outs on the bases, but he still does so more often than he should.

    Fielding

    15/15

    Gonzalez has declined in other areas, but not defensively. He still has some of the best hands in the business and has more range than you would think for a man of his size (6'2'', 225 lbs) and foot speed. He owes that to instincts and the ability to make a quick first step.

    Health

    9/10

    Gonzalez has never actually been on the DL, but the fact that his power is still missing is enough to make you wonder if the shoulder surgery he had back in 2010 damaged him for good. Aside from that, the literal pains in the neck he's experienced this year attract one's attention.

    Overall

    68/100

    Gonzalez was one of the best first basemen in the league back when he had elite power. He doesn’t now, but he still does enough things well to qualify as a top-tier player.

7. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    Hitting

    22/30

    Hosmer appeared on his way to bust status for a while, but he caught fire in June and has been on a mission ever since. He seems to have recovered some bat speed, which would explain his improvement against hard stuff this year. And while one would like to see more walks out of him, Hosmer makes up for it by avoiding strikeouts and maintaining a solid BABIP with an ability to hit line drive after line drive.

    Power

    20/35

    The hot streak Hosmer started in June ushered in a revival of his power production, and there’s a good reason for that. He was rarely getting the ball in the air in April and May, continuing a trend that started in 2012. He’s gotten back to elevating the ball on a consistent basis and has been rewarded in the form of extra-base hits. One doesn’t want to get too excited about a couple of months’ worth of production, but Hosmer’s power is back on the track it was on in his rookie season in 2011.

    Baserunning

    7/10

    Hosmer is a good athlete for a first baseman, and he’s capable of using his athleticism to steal bases. He does so efficiently to boot, as his success rate is very strong for a first baseman. The trouble is that he’s been overaggressive on the bases in 2013, running into too many outs at second and third.

    Fielding

    9/15

    Hosmer rated as a disastrous defensive first baseman in 2011 and 2012 in the eyes of the advanced metrics, which frowned on pretty much everything he did. They’re not frowning now, as Hosmer has cleaned up his fielding and has gotten more assertive making plays away from the bag.

    Health

    10/10

    Hosmer suffered a shoulder injury toward the end of 2012 and some quad issues earlier in 2013, but for the most part he’s been in good health.

    Overall

    68/100

    After a rocky 2012 and beginning to 2013, Hosmer is back to hitting and is indeed back on his way to becoming one of the game’s top all-around first basemen.

6. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Hitting

    28/30

    Craig doesn’t have explosive bat speed, but he has a very simple, quiet approach at the plate that allows him to be right on top of anything. That includes fastballs, which Craig has been destroying in 2013. And while he’s not an overly patient hitter, Craig doesn’t strike out much. He’s racked up a high batting average by being a line-drive machine. Short version: The guy can hit.

    Power

    20/35

    Craig’s batting average and OBP look just fine, but his power production has gone way down in 2013. Some of that is the product of circumstance, as he’s found himself hitting in a lot of situations that have demanded that the ball simply be put in play. But then there’s the fact that both his fly ball percentage and HR/FB rate are on the decline, making his loss of power no accident.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Craig’s not much of a base stealer, but he gets around the bases pretty well for a first baseman. The one red flag this season involves a ton of outs on the basepaths, but the vast majority of them have come at home. That’s not entirely on Craig.

    Fielding

    7/15

    Craig is still needed in the outfield on occasion, so he hasn’t really gotten a chance to hone his skills at first base. It’s no surprise that he’s not among the game’s best at first. He’s gotten better at picking throws out of the dirt, but he doesn’t have much range and can still appear tentative around the bag.

    Health

    9/10

    Craig’s body has behaved in 2013, but there’s no ignoring how banged up his right knee was in 2011 and 2012. All four of his DL stints have been with leg injuries.

    Overall

    69/100

    Craig’s power is trending the wrong way, but he’s developing into one of the game’s top hitters in the meantime. That's a fair tradeoff.

5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    Hitting

    27/30

    Freeman’s 6’5” frame gives him a big strike zone to watch over, so he deserves credit for cutting down on his strikeouts while also shoring up his walk habit as his big league career has evolved. It helps that he has a short, quick stroke that allows him to smoke line drives all over the field. He has a huge BABIP in 2013, and it should be considered a gift of Freeman’s hard-hitting ways.

    Power

    22/35

    Freeman’s power production does leave something to be desired in light of the size of his body and the position he plays. However, he’s going to be a solid source of doubles as long as he continues to crank out line drives on a regular basis, and he has enough pop in his bat to hit the ball out of the yard in any direction.

    Baserunning

    5/10

    Freeman was an occasional base stealer in 2011 and 2012, but he hasn’t bothered keeping up the habit in 2013. He’s also not one to surprise you on the basepaths, as he more or less fits the mold of a typical station-to-station big guy.

    Fielding

    10/15

    Freeman’s a big target for Braves infielders to aim for, and he does a fine job of scooping throws out of the dirt. And while he’s not the quickest first baseman in the league, he’s gotten better at ranging out of his zone to make plays. He’s not among the elites defensively, but the signs of progress are there.

    Health

    9/10

    There’s a case to be made for a perfect score here, but Freeman was seemingly never 100 percent in 2012 and has run into more injury problems this year. He spent some time on the DL with an oblique strain earlier in the season and then had to sit out the All-Star Game with a bad thumb.

    Overall

    73/100

    Freeman was good in 2011 and 2012. Not great, but good. It was clear all along that he had the potential to be great, and that potential is being realized this year.

4. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants

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    Hitting

    20/30

    Belt’s approach does have some holes, but he has enough knowledge of the strike zone to take his share of walks and a nice, compact swing that allows him to make plenty of solid contact. He’s not cranking out line drives in 2013 like he did in 2012, but the bright side is that he’s traded some in for more hard-hit fly balls. As a result, his average and OBP haven’t budged much.

    Power

    25/35

    This score might strike you as surprising, but Belt has always had solid power potential, and he’s started to realize it in 2013. He’s showing off more home run pop and is also driving the ball with authority to left field. His power production has gone way up as a result, and it would be up even more if he played his home games somewhere other than AT&T Park.

    Baserunning

    7/10

    Belt stole a dozen bases in 2012 and has added a few more to the pile this year. And while he hasn’t been quite as aggressive rounding the bases, it’s been for the best. He made 10 outs on the bases in 2012, and he won’t come close to approaching that number in 2013.

    Fielding

    12/15

    Belt is one of the more overlooked defensive gems that first base has to offer. His defense was well thought of when he was a prospect, and he’s shown why in the majors. His hands are fine, and he has the athleticism to make plays away from the bag. If he doesn’t actually earn a Gold Glove, he’ll probably win one on reputation someday.

    Health

    10/10

    Belt broke his left wrist on a hit-by-pitch back in 2011, but he’s shown no ill effects from that and has avoided other notable injuries.

    Overall

    74/100

    If you stopped paying attention to the Giants a couple of months ago, you've missed Belt's rise to power. Just like they said he would, he's hitting the cover off the ball on an almost daily basis.

3. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

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    Hitting

    25/30

    Davis used to be a giant of a man who had little hope of making contact against anything off-speed. He’s improved by leaps and bounds against the slow stuff in 2013, most notably against changeups. He still strikes out more than your average hitter, but Davis is drawing more walks and is hitting enough line drives in 2013 to maintain a high BABIP. That’s the recipe for a .300 hitter with a high OBP.

    Power

    35/35

    Davis’ power was the one thing that has never been in question. He’s as strong as a bull, and he makes that abundantly clear every time he swings his bat. He might have the most effortless swing in the majors, and the bad news for pitchers is that it’s geared to hit the ball in the air. Davis does that very well, and his raw strength does the rest.

    Baserunning

    8/10

    Stealing bases are not Davis’ thing, so this score might have raised your eyebrows when you first saw it. But for a guy who's not the fastest player the position has to offer, Davis is a surprisingly productive baserunner. He can and does go first to third on singles, first to home on doubles and whatever else the baserunning gods desire. And you'd be surprised how often he does so.

    Fielding

    8/15

    Davis has the offensive side of the game covered like a blanket, but defense is one area where he’s still human. His hands are fine, but he’s not one to go sprawling all over the place making Mark Teixeira-esque plays around the bag. He has neither the first-step quickness nor the athleticism to do so, making him about an average defender at first.

    Health

    10/10

    Davis was banged up pretty badly in 2011 when he had to hit the DL with a shoulder strain toward the end of the year and then went in for surgery to fix a sports hernia during the offseason. But ever since then, his body has collected few scratches.

    Overall

    86/100

    There are areas where Davis is not perfect, but he’s undoubtedly the best power hitter first base has to offer and indeed has been the best power hitter at any position in 2013.

2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    Hitting

    30/30

    Votto was born to hit. He has a better knowledge of the strike zone than anyone else alive, and he rarely goes hacking at pitches outside of it. His ability and willingness to take his walks will ensure that he always has a high on-base percentage, but Votto’s certainly no slouch when it comes to making contact. He’s a line-drive machine, and he can bombard any part of the field.

    Power

    25/35

    Votto’s power isn’t what it was back in 2010, a season in which he flirted with 40 homers and won the NL MVP award. It doesn’t help that he’s not hitting as many balls in the air these days, as he’s instead settling for line drive after line drive. The good news is that the fly balls he does hit are still finding their way over the fence at a high rate, and his opposite-field power is still very much intact. He may not be becoming a better power hitter, but he does seem to be turning into a more efficient power hitter.

    Baserunning

    9/10

    Votto isn’t bothering much with stolen bases anymore, but he’s one of the best baserunners in baseball at any position. He’s not the most athletic player, but he seems to go first to third every chance he gets and is quietly one of the best at taking extra bases when opportunities arise.

    Fielding

    15/15

    Votto has made more errors in 2013 than he usually does, but don’t let those fool you. He’s still an elite defensive first basemen, with the range, hands and instincts to do all the things the position requires.

    Health

    9/10

    Votto never looked right after having surgery on his left knee last summer, and then he had to go in for another surgery on the knee when the offseason rolled around. He’s looked a lot more like himself in 2013, but the fact that his power hasn’t come all the way back leaves one wondering.

    Overall

    88/100

    The power may not be as plentiful as it used to be, but Votto is still the best hitter first base has to offer, and he’s pretty good at running the bases and playing defense to boot. Shame on you if you're judging him by his RBI count.

1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Hitting

    27/30

    As a hitter, Goldschmidt has improved in pretty much every way possible since he first burst into the league in 2011. He’s more patient and disciplined at the plate, resulting in him taking more walks and racking up fewer strikeouts. And while he is certainly a hitter with above-average power, he doesn’t go up to the plate looking to elevate everything. He’ll settle for line drives and ground balls, which are good for one’s BABIP. As a result, Goldschmidt can hit for average as well as drive up his OBP with walks.

    Power

    33/35

    Goldschmidt’s raw power is legit, and he’s had little trouble making it show up in games in 2013. His ability to spray line drives all over the field makes him a threat to end up on second base at any moment. And while he doesn’t hit as many fly balls as your typical power hitter, the fly balls he does hit tend to be hit with authority. When he's at the plate, no part of the yard is safe from bombardment.

    Baserunning

    9/10

    He’s not Rickey Henderson, but Goldschmidt gets around the bases better than any other first baseman. He’s one of a very small number of first basemen who have the athleticism to end up in double digits in the stolen-base department, and he pads his baserunning value by taking his share of extra bases without getting caught.

    Fielding

    13/15

    Goldschmidt wasn’t billed as an elite defensive first baseman when he was coming up through Arizona’s system. But his defense is another thing that’s gotten better and better, to a point where he now rates as one of the game’s best defensive first basemen. He has the athleticism to make plays away from the bag, and he’s now able to scoop throws in the dirt with the best of 'em.

    Health

    10/10

    Goldschmidt developed a bad back toward the end of the 2012 season. Aside from that, his injury history is spotless.

    Overall

    92/100

    He’s not the best hitter, power hitter or defender that first base has to offer, but no other first baseman offers the total package like Goldschmidt does. The best way to think of him is as a modern-day Jeff Bagwell.