Ranking the Top 25 First Basemen of the 2022 MLB Season

Joel ReuterNovember 10, 2022

Ranking the Top 25 First Basemen of the 2022 MLB Season

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    Freddie Freeman and Matt Olson
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    It's time to put a bow on the 2022 MLB season with Bleacher Report's final positional rankings.

    Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position power rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now it's time to finalize those rankings while expanding the list to the 25 best at each position.

    Just like the regular-season rankings, past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order—this is simply a rundown of the best and brightest of 2022.

    To qualify for inclusion, a player simply had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was only included at the position where he played the most innings.

    Let's get things started with a rundown of the top 25 first basemen.

Nos. 25-21

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    Ryan Mountcastle
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    25. Carlos Santana, Kansas City Royals/Seattle Mariners

    Still productive in his age-36 season, Santana provided his usual mix of power (19 HR) and on-base ability (14.0 BB%) while splitting the season between Kansas City and Seattle. He had a 101 OPS+ with 15 home runs and 39 RBI in 79 games with the Mariners after he was acquired on June 27.

    24. Eric Hosmer, San Diego Padres/Boston Red Sox

    The Padres finally found a taker for Hosmer at the deadline, flipping him to the Red Sox after he vetoed being included in the Juan Soto blockbuster. He hit .268/.334/.382 for a 108 OPS+ with 27 extra-base hits in 419 plate appearances, and he still has three years remaining on his eight-year, $144 million contract—most of which San Diego is on the hook for.

    23. Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins

    Cooper hit .283/.349/.435 with 29 extra-base hits during the first half to earn a surprise All-Star selection, but his production dipped significantly after the break. His OPS dropped 102 points and he hit just .210 with two home runs in 38 games during the second half. The first-half performance was still good enough to earn him a spot on this list.

    22. Ji-Man Choi, Tampa Bay Rays

    Choi was used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching in 2022, and he hit .233/.341/.388 for a 114 OPS+ with 22 doubles, 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 419 plate appearances. The 31-year-old could be a non-tender casualty for the small-market Tampa Bay Rays this winter.

    21. Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles

    After a 33-homer rookie season in 2021, Mountcastle was once again a productive middle-of-the-order bat for an Orioles team on the rise. He finished second on the club in home runs (22) and RBI (85), though his limited on-base ability (.305 OBP) again undercut his overall value. Improving his walk rate will be the key to his evolution.

Nos. 20-16

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    Rowdy Tellez
    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    20. Seth Brown, Oakland Athletics

    One of Oakland's few above-average contributors, Brown posted a 116 OPS+ and led the team in home runs (25) and RBI (73). The 30-year-old also added 11 steals in 13 attempts and played passable defense at first base and both corner outfield spots, tallying 1.7 WAR in 150 games.

    19. Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals

    Pasquantino made his MLB debut on June 28 after posting a .931 OPS with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 73 games at Triple-A Omaha, and he continued to show middle-of-the-order potential in the majors. The 25-year-old had a 135 OPS+ with 10 doubles and 10 home runs in 72 games, and he should be a staple in the Kansas City lineup for the foreseeable future.

    18. Jose Miranda, Minnesota Twins

    Miranda hit .344/.401/.572 with 30 home runs in 127 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, and a season-ending knee injury to Miguel Sanó opened the door for him to step into an everyday role this year. Playing in the shadow of Julio Rodríguez and other high-profile AL rookies, he posted a 116 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 15 home runs and 66 RBI in 125 games.

    17. Joey Meneses, Washington Nationals

    After 10 seasons and 894 games in the minors, Meneses finally got his first MLB opportunity when the Juan Soto/Josh Bell blockbuster created a roster void. The 30-year-old rookie hit .324/.367/.563 for a 165 OPS+ with 14 doubles, 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 56 games, and by season's end, he was unquestionably the best player on the Nationals.

    16. Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers

    A burly 6'4", 255-pound slugger, Tellez launched a career-high 35 home runs hitting in the middle of the Milwaukee lineup. His .306 on-base percentage and poor defensive metrics paint him as a one-dimensional player, and while that is more or less the case, he did quietly raise his walk rate from 7.1 to 10.4 percent.

Nos. 15-11

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    Rhys Hoskins
    Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    15. C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies

    Cron was an All-Star during the first half (90 G, .298 BA, .902 OPS, 21 HR, 69 RBI) and a non-factor during the second half (60 G, .197 BA, .604 OPS, 8 HR, 33 RBI), making him one of the tougher players to slot in these rankings. He finished with a 107 OPS+ and 2.1 WAR, enough to land him at the bottom of Tier 2 at the position.

    14. Josh Naylor, Cleveland Guardians

    Still just 25 years old, Naylor finally stayed healthy for a full season and delivered on the potential that made him a top prospect throughout his time in the minors. In 122 games, he posted a 121 OPS+ with 28 doubles, 20 home runs and 79 RBI, and he spent much of the season protecting José Ramírez out of the cleanup spot in the lineup.

    13. Josh Bell, Washington Nationals/San Diego Padres

    Bell was a strong candidate for a top-10 spot before he was traded to San Diego at the deadline. He hit .301/.384/.493 for a 153 OPS+ in 103 games prior to the trade but a dismal .192 with a 75 OPS+ in 53 games after he was dealt. He still finished with a 128 OPS+ and 3.0 WAR in a contract year, and now he gets to test the free-agency waters.

    12. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

    The longest-tenured position player on the Phillies, Hoskins posted a 122 OPS+ with 33 doubles, 30 home runs and 79 RBI, reaching the 30-homer mark for the first time since his first full season in the majors in 2018. The 29-year-old added six home runs in 17 games during the team's postseason run.

    11. Ty France, Seattle Mariners

    France proved his 2021 breakout was the real deal with another strong showing in 2022. The 28-year-old posted a 125 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 20 home runs and 83 RBI in a 3.1-WAR season, and he earned his first All-Star selection. With three more years of team control, he will continue to be a key cog in the Seattle offense.

10. Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees

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    HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 20:  Anthony Rizzo #48 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout during Game 2 of the ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, October 20, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
    Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    After a solid two-month run with the team following a deadline deal with the Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo returned to the New York Yankees on a two-year, $32 million deal that ultimately became a one-year pact when he opted out earlier this week.

    The 33-year-old posted a 131 OPS+ and finished a (distant) second on the team with 32 home runs, all while playing his usual stellar defense at first base and posting 2.3 WAR in 130 games.

    Despite his age, another multiyear deal likely awaits this offseason, though he will likely be saddled with a qualifying offer from the Yankees now that he has opted out.

9. Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves

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    PENNSYLVANIA, PA - OCTOBER 15: Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the fourth inning in game four of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 15, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)
    Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

    Despite the fact that his OPS+ dropped more than 30 points, Matt Olson still had a rock-solid first season with the Atlanta Braves, successfully filling the void left by the departure of Freddie Freeman.

    The 28-year-old Olson played in all 162 games and logged a 122 OPS+ with 44 doubles, 34 home runs and 103 RBI, finishing ninth in the National League with 294 total bases.

    It already looks like the Braves got a nice bargain when they signed him to an eight-year, $168 million extension after he was acquired from Oakland in March, and he was a 3.3-WAR player in the first season of that deal.

8. Nathaniel Lowe, Texas Rangers

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    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 27: Nathaniel Lowe #30 of the Texas Rangers at bat against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    Nathaniel Lowe hit .339/.399/.566 with 15 home runs and 38 RBI in 72 games after the All-Star break, and his .965 OPS during that time trailed only Aaron Judge (1.286) and Yordan Alvarez (.967) among all qualified hitters.

    The 27-year-old finished the year hitting .302/.358/.492 for a 141 OPS+, tallying 26 doubles, 27 home runs, 76 RBI and 3.3 WAR in a breakout season for a Texas Rangers team building toward contention.

    The six-player deal to acquire him from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2021 season has a chance to go down as one of the better trades the Texas front office has made in recent memory.

7. Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker (53) at bat during the MLB game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 21, 2022 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Arizona Diamondbacks easily could have non-tendered Christian Walker after he hit a punchless .244/.315/.382 with 10 home runs and 0.5 WAR in 115 games during the 2021 season.

    They brought him back on a modest $2.6 million salary, and he put together a career year, posting a 126 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 36 home runs and 94 RBI while starting 157 games in the cleanup spot and tallying an impressive 5.1 WAR.

    On top of his power production, he also had far and away the best defensive metrics (17 DRS, 14 OAA) of any first baseman. That stellar work was recognized with his first career Gold Glove win as he edged Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Olson for NL honors.

6. Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins

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    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 05: Luis Arraez #2 of the Minnesota Twins at bat against the Chicago White Sox during the second inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on October 05, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    A rare contact-oriented hitter in today's power-driven game, Luis Arraez hit .316 to win the AL batting title, and he did it while putting the ball in play on a whopping 84.6 percent of his plate appearances.

    All told, the 25-year-old hit .316/.375/.420 for a 130 OPS+ with 40 extra-base hits, 88 runs scored and 4.4 WAR in 144 games, and he was named to the All-Star team for the first time.

    Defensively, he split his time between first base (65 games), second base (41 games), designated hitter (38 games) and third base (7 games). Despite never playing first base in the big leagues before 2022, he was one of the three AL Gold Glove finalists at the position.

5. José Abreu, Chicago White Sox

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    OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox hits an rbi double scoring Andrew Vaughn #25 against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 11, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    In a down year by his standards from a power perspective, José Abreu was still one of the most productive all-around hitters in the American League.

    The 35-year-old batted .304/.378/.446 for a 133 OPS+ with 40 doubles, 15 home runs and 75 RBI, and even though his home run total was only half of what he hit the previous season, he still ranked among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (93rd percentile), hard-hit rate (97th percentile) and expected slugging (92nd percentile).

    After nine seasons with the Chicago White Sox, it sounds like his time with the South Siders is at an end, and he has a chance to be an impact addition to another team's lineup in free agency.

4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - JUNE 27:  Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on June 27, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    A year after finishing runner-up to Shohei Ohtani in the AL MVP race, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was once again one of the most productive middle-of-the-order bats in baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The 23-year-old hit .274/.339/.480 for a 132 OPS+, and he filled up the stat sheet with 175 hits, 35 doubles, 32 home runs, 97 RBI, 90 runs scored and he even added a career-high eight steals in 11 attempts.

    Defensively, he continued to settle into his new position across the diamond after breaking into the league as a third baseman, and he took a big enough step forward to take home AL Gold Glove honors.

3. Pete Alonso, New York Mets

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 08: Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets hits a solo home run off of Nick Martinez #21 of the San Diego Padres during the fifth inning in game two of the Wild Card Series at Citi Field on October 08, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Pete Alonso tied for the MLB lead with 131 RBI, and while that can often be viewed as a team-centric stat rather than a good gauge of a player's individual performance, he hit .300/.424/.675 in 210 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, which speaks to how consistent he was in his role as run producer.

    The 27-year-old had a 146 OPS+ and added 40 home runs to go with his gaudy RBI total, and he continues to be one of the most durable players in baseball. He has played in 530 of 546 games over the past four seasons.

    He is under club control for two more seasons, but don't be surprised if the Mets front office starts talking extension this offseason.

2. Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15: Freddie Freeman #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a two-run RBI double during the third inning against the San Diego Padres in game four of the National League Division Series at PETCO Park on October 15, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    It's not always easy to live up to the hype in your first season with a new team after signing a massive contract in free agency, but Freddie Freeman sure made it look that way with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022.

    After 12 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, he jumped ship and signed a six-year, $162 million deal with the Dodgers and then hit .325/.407/.511 with 21 home runs and 100 RBI.

    He also led the NL in hits (199), doubles (47) and runs scored (117), and his 152 OPS+ was his highest over a full season's worth of games since 2017. If St. Louis Cardinals teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado wind up splitting votes, he has an outside shot at taking home NL MVP honors.

1. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

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    CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 31: Paul Goldschmidt #46 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on August 31, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    After two runner-up finishes in NL MVP voting during his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks and three other top-10 finishes over his career, Paul Goldschmidt is poised to finally take home the hardware next week.

    The 35-year-old had a legitimate shot at the NL Triple Crown before he slumped during the final month of the season, but he still hit .317/.404/.578 for an NL-leading 180 OPS+ while tallying 41 doubles, 35 home runs, 115 RBI and 7.8 WAR.

    He has two seasons left on his contract, and the next few years will likely determine whether he has a legitimate Hall of Fame case when the time comes. He's not there yet, but he's also showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his late 30s.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.