Baseball's Worst: Los Angeles Dodger First Basemen

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIMay 18, 2011

Now that we are about a quarter through the 2011 baseball season, we are going to start to take a look at position by position teams that are really struggling in certain areas. These teams have the worst performing players at a position.

First up is the position of first base. There are a lot of teams that have struggling first basemen this season — the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, and Oakland A’s come to mind — but no team takes the cake like the Los Angeles Dodgers. Let’s take a look…

Loney could be toast in LA

First Basemen

James Loney

Jerry Sands

Russ Mitchell

Casey Blake

Major League Rankings

Average – 24th (.219)

OBP – 30th (.263)

SLG – 29th (.258)

HR’s – 29th (1)

ISO – 30th (.037)

wOBA – 30th (.229)

WAR – 30th (-0.9)

Analysis: The main culprit for the Dodger first basemen struggles is Loney. Loney is enemy No. 1 in LA and is taking a lot of the blame for the Dodgers struggling offense.

Loney is batting .231/.265/.269 on the season with one HR and a grand total of four extra-base hits on the season. I always called him Mark Grace Light, but this is ridiculous. He is now Casey Kotchman Light.

Loney’s avg., OBP, and SLG have decreased three straight years and his 4.8 BB Percentage is almost half of what it was last season and down six percent from what it was in 2009. His approach at the plate has been hideous in 2011.

If Loney continues to struggle, Sands could find himself playing first on a more consistent basis as the season moves on. However, Sands really hasn’t done much when he has been given the opportunity to play first this season.

He has six AB’s as a first baseman this season and has just one hit. That one hit was a double that did drive in two runs.

Mitchell has nine plate appearances on the season and on cue, he is 0-for-7 with two walks. On a positive note, Mitchell’s BB Percentage is 18 percent higher than Loney’s.

The Future: If the Dodgers really grow disenchanted with Loney and don’t believe Sands is the long-term answer at first or if they feel he is better suited in left, the Dodgers do have a couple of minor league options.

They could call up career minor leaguer JD Closser. Closser was once a fifth round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 1998 and his hitting .296/.400/.481 with three HR’s in 100 PA’s for Triple-A Albquerque.

As well as Closser is hitting right now, he is more of a seat filler than anything else and most likely doesn’t fit into the Dodgers plans moving forward.

The other minor league option they have is Scott Van Slyke, who is the son of former Pittsburgh Pirate CF Andy Van Slyke. The younger Van Slyke plays first base and is hitting .365/.446/.619 with four HR’s, three triples, and 16 doubles in just 148 PA’s for Double-A Chattanooga.

Conclussion: Either way, this will be Loney’s last season with the Dodgers and first base will be a hole for them in the lineup. Even if the Dodgers do call up Van Slyke at some point, they can’t expect him to be Don Mattingly circa 1985.

Also, remember something about Van Slyke. Baseball Prospectus didn’t have him ranked in the top-20 amongst Dodger prospects before the season, so his torrid start is a little unexpected.