Albert Pujols and Joey Votto talk during a game at Busch Stadium
Trying to pick the best first baseman in the National League can be a very difficult task. These players are some of the most powerful, most productive and most exciting players in all of Major League Baseball. And with the 2011 season well under way, some familiar NL first basemen are once again having stellar seasons.
In the first part of this series, we will be counting down the top five National League first basemen so far this season. There will be some very familiar names and some not-so-familiar names, but one thing is certain: They are all potential legends of the game.
Ryan Howard is once again off to one of his notorious slow starts.
Fortunately for Howard though, a slow start would be a career first half for most Major League players.
Howard has been one of the most powerful first basemen to ever play in the Majors through his first six seasons as a professional. He is a former Rookie of the Year and MVP, so I fully expect Howard to explode in the second half as usual. He has impressive numbers (.247 BA, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 32 R) so far in 2011, and he should only improve on these numbers after the All-Star break.
If Howard had a higher average, he would surely be higher on this countdown. But Phillies fans need not be worried. Howard is poised to have a huge second half of the season as he always does, so expect him to be a serious candidate for NL MVP and certainly the best NL first baseman.
Rarely will you ever find Albert Pujols this low in a midseason countdown of the best first basemen in the National League.
Pujols has been the best first baseman in baseball for not only the National League, but for MLB for several years. He has already broken many records in baseball, and he is poised to break many more if he can stay healthy throughout the remainder of his career.
This year though, Pujols is hitting slightly less consistently (.274 BA, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 46 R) than he normally does starting a season. Even with his slightly low batting average though, Pujols has managed to be one of the most powerful hitters in baseball.
Pujols is clearly still keeping the fans happy by regularly blasting souvenirs into the outfield stands. He has still had a very productive season in 2011, even with his slightly low batting average. As with Howard, I believe Pujols' numbers will only increase in the second half, and he will also be at the top of the list for best 2011 National League first baseman.
Gaby Sanchez is the least-known first baseman on this list, mainly because this is only his second full-time season in Major League Baseball.
Sanchez has been one of the Marlins' hottest hitters over the first half of this season. He has been a huge reason why the Marlins remain in the pennant race at only seven games back with more than half the season left to play. Sanchez has an impressive mix of power and consistency, which is evidenced by his 2011 numbers (.312 BA, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 35 R).
I expect Sanchez to continue his strong performance into the second half of the season. This youngster has the sky as his limit, and I believe he is just getting comfortable in the pros. Expect big things from this young first baseman for years to come.
At No. 2 is another youngster in Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.
The 2010 NL MVP is once again off to an outstanding start, and his numbers are as impressive as ever. Votto leads all National League first basemen with a .333 average and six stolen bases. It does not sound like a lot, but when a team can rely on their first baseman to steal 15 bags a year, it can be a huge offensive booster.
While Votto is worthy of praise for his stolen bases, his other offensive numbers are much more impressive (.333 BA, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 47 R). With these amazing numbers, Votto would seem to surely hold down the No. 1 spot for NL first basemen of the year.
Unfortunately for Votto, he can thank our No. 1 player's ridiculous start for his runner-up status.
Bring on the champion of the countdown!
It isn't every year you can find a clear leader for any category in baseball, much less the most productive National League first baseman in the season's first half.
In 2011 though, this is far from the case.
Prince Fielder has been the hands down leader in this category so far, and he has seemingly made it a one-horse race. Fielder is putting up MVP numbers in the first half, and he should easily get the vote to be the 2011 All-Star game starting first baseman.
He has had a tremendous year, as you can tell by his numbers thus far (.303 BA, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 39 R). Fielder has always been a solid hitter, but I believe this will be one of his most productive years ever. He is seeing the ball very well at the plate, and his power numbers are as solid as they come.
With production like this, the Milwaukee Brewers could not be happier with their franchise face through the first 67 games of the 2011 season. Fielder is set to have a monstrous season and solidify himself as one of the best first basemen in Major League Baseball.
There were a few National League first basemen who just missed the cut that definitely deserve an honorable mention.
I am a huge fan of both of these players, and they are both having tremendous seasons in 2011.
The first player is Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies. Helton, the former University of Tennessee Volunteer, has been the Rockies' leader for several years, and he has been a huge part of their recent success.
After a subpar performance in 2010, Helton has made a huge turnaround in 2011 (.314 BA, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 29 R). Had it not been for his low RBI numbers and Ryan Howard's huge RBI numbers, he would have been the No. 5 player on this countdown.
The second honorable mention player is Ike Davis of the New York Mets. Davis is having a great season so far (.302 BA, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 20 R), even though his Mets have been struggling mightily. He has a good average and good power to complement his sterling defensive play.
Davis has not let the Mets down in terms of production, and I expect big things from this youngster in the near future.