MLB Position Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 First Basemen

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2017

MLB Position Power Rankings: B/R's Top 30 First Basemen

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    Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera both have a strong case for the No. 1 spot among first basemen.
    Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera both have a strong case for the No. 1 spot among first basemen.Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The first base position is home to some of the game's most dynamic sluggers.

    Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman are superstars in the middle of their respective primes, while veterans Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto are still elite-level players in their own right.

    And those five are far from the only impact players at the position.

    Ahead, we've set out to identify the top 30 first basemen in the league heading into the 2017 season.

    A few things to consider before we get started:

    • League averages: For the sake of reference, the league average triple-slash line for a first baseman last season was .259/.337/.453.
    • Eligibility: To be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least 300 innings at first base last season. That meant no Albert Pujols (233.2 innings), among others. However, there were a few exceptions to that rule to account for position changes. Namely, yes to including Ian Desmond and Luis Valbuena, and no to including Brad Miller.

    The other important thing to note is that the goal here was to identify the 30 best first basemen for the 2017 season and the 2017 season alone.

    Someone like Josh Bell has more upside than Mike Napoli going forward, but is he going to be better this coming year?

    For draft fans, think of this as a big board for the position if the entire league was doing a redraft for one all-or-nothing season in 2017.

    Previous top 30 series entries: Catchers

30. Dan Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2016 Offensive: .083 BA, .237 OPS, 1 H, 0 XBH, 0 RBI, 0 R

    2016 Defensive: -1 DRS, 0.0 UZR/150, -0.1 dWAR

    WAR: -0.3 WAR

    Player Outlook

    Dan Vogelbach is finally out from behind the 6'3", 240-pound roadblock named Anthony Rizzo and set for his first extended big league action.

    The 24-year-old was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Seattle Mariners last summer in exchange for lefty Mike Montgomery, and the departure of Adam Lind opens the door for him to seize at least a platoon share of the first base job.

    Vogelbach is never going to make an impact with the glove or on the basepaths, but his advanced approach at the plate should allow for a smooth transition to the bigs.

    He hit .292/.417/.505 with 25 doubles, 23 home runs and 96 RBI in Triple-A last season while tallying nearly as many walks (97) as strikeouts (101). A stacked M's lineup will allow him to hit in a low-pressure spot down in the order.

    Honorable Mentions: Yonder Alonso (OAK), Chris Carter (NYY), John Jaso (PIT), Logan Morrison (SEA), Steve Pearce (TOR), Justin Smoak (TOR), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)

29. Lucas Duda, New York Mets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2016 Offensive: .229 BA, .714 OPS, 35 H, 14 XBH (7 HR), 23 RBI, 20 R

    2016 Defensive: 0 DRS, 1.1 UZR/150, -0.3 dWAR

    WAR: 0.1

    Player Outlook

    Significant health questions are enough to land Lucas Duda at the No. 29 spot in the rankings, but he's capable of climbing higher if he can stay on the field.

    The 31-year-old played in just 47 games last season after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back, forcing the New York Mets to give considerable playing time to scrapheap addition James Loney.

    However, prior to last season, Duda slugged 57 home runs with an .834 OPS in 2014 and 2015 combined to emerge as a vital piece of the Mets' offensive attack.

    Duda is in his final year of arbitration, so his looming free agency will provide further motivation to prove he's healthy and capable of providing middle-of-the-order production once again.

28. Matt Adams, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2016 Offensive: .249 BA, .780 OPS, 34 XBH (16 HR), 54 RBI, 37 R

    2016 Defensive: 1 DRS, 1.3 UZR/150, -0.3 dWAR

    WAR: 0.7

    Player Outlook

    Matt Adams burst onto the scene with an .839 OPS, 17 home runs and 51 RBI in 319 plate appearances as a rookie in 2013, but he's failed to establish an everyday first baseman job in the years since.

    After losing playing time to Mark Reynolds in 2015 and Brandon Moss in 2016, he'll now have to contend with All-Star Matt Carpenter, who is set to shift over to first base on a regular basis after bouncing around the infield last season.

    Still, there's some reason for optimism surrounding the 28-year-old slugger.

    After an offseason of Pilates work, Adams showed up to spring training nearly 30 pounds lighter as he looks to avoid getting lost in the shuffle in a crowded Cardinals infield.

    He may never emerge as the perennial 30-homer threat many envisioned following his rookie season, but he's still capable of making a significant impact with the bat.

27. C.J. Cron, Los Angeles Angels

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2016 Offensive: .278 BA, .792 OPS, 113 H, 43 XBH (16 HR), 69 RBI, 51 R

    2016 Defensive: 3 DRS, 8.5 UZR/150, -0.3 dWAR

    WAR: 2.1

    Player Outlook

    C.J. Cron was always going to go as far as his bat carried him.

    A converted catcher during his time at the University of Utah, Cron went No. 17 overall in the 2011 draft and made his MLB debut with 11 home runs in 253 plate appearances in 2014.

    The 27-year-old has steadily improved in each of his three big league seasons, posting a career-best .792 OPS last season while raising his on-base percentage from .300 to a more respectable .325 thanks to a slight uptick in his walk rate.

    However, that didn't stop the Los Angeles Angels from signing Luis Valbuena in the offseason and proclaiming that he would see the bulk of his playing time at first base, per Daniel Kramer of

    With Albert Pujols entrenched as the everyday designated hitter, that could leave Cron with the light side of a timeshare.

26. Tommy Joseph, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    2016 Offensive: .257 BA, .813 OPS, 36 XBH (21 HR), 47 RBI, 47 R

    2016 Defensive: -6 DRS, -0.1 UZR/150, -1.1 dWAR

    WAR: 0.5

    Player Outlook

    Last season, Tommy Joseph turned in the first 20-homer season by a Philadelphia Phillies rookie since Ryan Howard went deep 22 times in his debut back in 2005.

    The former catcher came to the Phillies organization in the 2012 deadline deal that sent outfielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants.

    Considering he never homered more than 11 times above the Single-A level and was a career .255/.306/.427 hitter over seven minor league seasons, his contributions ranked as a pleasant surprise for the rebuilding club.

    Now the question is how long he can hold on to the starting job.

    Rhys Hoskins emerged as one of the league's top first base prospects with a 38-homer season in Double-A, and the team's abundance of catching prospects could eventually push one of Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp to first base as well.

25. Luis Valbuena, Los Angeles Angels

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2016 Offensive: .260 BA, .816 OPS, 31 XBH (13 HR), 40 RBI, 38 R

    2016 Defensive: 2 DRS, 50.6 UZR/150, 0.3 dWAR

    WAR: 2.6

    Player Outlook

    A hamstring injury cut short what had been a career year for Luis Valbuena, but he still parlayed his solid numbers into a two-year, $15 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels that includes a mutual option for 2019.

    After slugging a career-high 25 home runs in his first season with the Houston Astros, Valbuena followed that up with a career-best .816 OPS thanks to a significant uptick in his on-base percentage (.310 to .357) stemming from a terrific 12.9 percent walk rate.

    Valbuena has always been a low-average, high on-base percentage player with middle pop and a decent glove capable of playing all over the infield.

    Now, his improved power stroke allows his bat to better play at a corner spot, and he could prove to be one of the better bargain signings of the offseason for an Angels team that desperately needed more production from the left side of the plate.

24. Yulieski Gurriel, Houston Astros

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    Brad Mangin/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2016 Offensive: .262 BA, .677 OPS, 34 H, 10 XBH (3 HR), 15 RBI, 13 R

    2016 Defensive: 0 DRS, 3.5 UZR/150, 0.0 dWAR

    WAR: 0.2

    Player Outlook

    Yulieski Gurriel came to the majors with as impressive an international track record as anyone since Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui made their way over from Japan.

    Over 15 professional seasons in Cuba and a brief stop in Japan, the 32-year-old hit .335/.417/.580 with 1,585 hits, 250 home runs and 1,018 RBI before finally defecting last year.

    The Houston Astros signed him up on a hefty five-year, $47.5 million deal in July, and he made his MLB debut a month later after shaking off the rust in the minors.

    With Alex Bregman seizing the starting third base job and prospect A.J. Reed failing to ascend as expected, Gurriel has landed at first base and could be a dark horse for AL Rookie of the Year honors now that he's had some time to acclimate.

23. Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2016 Offensive: .317 BA, 1.101 OPS, 137 H, 72 XBH (40 HR), 118 RBI, 117 R

    2016 Defensive: N/A

    WAR: N/A

    Player Outlook

    "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

    Winston Churchill was talking about Russia when he famously uttered those words, but it works for new Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames as well.

    The 30-year-old left for the Korean Baseball Organization three years ago as an anonymous fourth outfielder with limited MLB success.

    He returns as one of the most prolific sluggers in KBO history.

    Just look at these numbers:

    • 2014: 1.111 OPS, 30 2B, 37 HR, 121 RBI, 11 SB
    • 2015: 1.288 OPS, 42 2B, 47 HR, 140 RBI, 40 SB
    • 2016: 1.101 OPS, 29 2B, 40 HR, 118 RBI, 13 SB

    How well is that going to translate back to the MLB game?

    We shall see, but that three-year, $16 million deal could look like a stroke of brilliance in a few years.

22. Justin Bour, Miami Marlins

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2016 Offensive: .264 BA, .824 OPS, 28 XBH (15 HR), 51 RBI, 35 R

    2016 Defensive: 0 DRS, 4.1 UZR/150, -0.5 dWAR

    WAR: 1.2

    Player Outlook

    It appears Justin Bour will have every chance to shed the platoon player label this coming season.

    "We've talked about trying to challenge him more and expose him more to left-handed pitching," team president Michael Hill told Joe Frisaro of

    The 28-year-old has hit just .223/.273/.291 with zero home runs in 110 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching to this point in his career.

    He's been a terrific find as a former minor league Rule 5 selection, though.

    A rise in his walk rate from 7.6 to 11.8 percent last season speaks to a player who is still making positive adjustments, so perhaps he can take that next step forward to become an everyday option.

21. Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2016 Offensive: .233 BA, .720 OPS, 43 XBH (22 HR), 60 RBI, 49 R

    2016 Defensive: 7 DRS, 9.2 UZR/150, 0.0 dWAR

    WAR: 0.7

    Player Outlook

    With Hanley Ramirez shifting to designated hitter and David Ortiz riding off into retirement, the Boston Red Sox essentially replaced a franchise icon with Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $5.5 million deal.

    Good luck, Mitch.

    Obviously, no one expects Moreland to fill the shoes of Big Papi, and he's certainly capable of providing some decent value at that low price point.

    The 31-year-old has at least 20 home runs and 60 RBI in three of the past four seasons, and he should be a significant defensive upgrade at first base.

    HanRam transitioned better than expected to first base, but he was never going to be confused for a Gold Glove contender. In fact, it was Moreland who took home the AL honor last year.

20. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2016 Offensive: .261 BA, .752 OPS, 37 XBH (11 HR), 49 RBI, 68 R

    2016 Defensive: 6 DRS, 1.9 UZR/150, -0.2 dWAR

    WAR: 2.2

    Player Outlook

    Joe Mauer is not the same dynamic offensive player he was during the prime of his career, and he probably won't be adding that fourth batting title anytime soon.

    However, he's still one of the league's best on-base threats with consistent contact skills, posting a .363 on-base percentage last season with 79 walks against 93 strikeouts.

    His contract has become an albatross with two years and $46 million left on the eight-year, $184 million pact he signed at the start of the 2010 season.

    At this point, he's still a valuable veteran clubhouse presence on a young Minnesota Twins team and a table-setter ahead of young sluggers Miguel Sano and Max Kepler.

19. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Age: 35

    2016 Offensive: .239 BA, .800 OPS, 57 XBH (34 HR), 101 RBI, 92 R

    2016 Defensive: -4 DRS, -6.1 UZR/150, -1.4 dWAR

    WAR: 1.0

    Player Outlook

    Mike Napoli has found his way back to the Texas Rangers for a third time.

    The 35-year-old was one of the best bargain signings of 2016 when he made good on a one-year, $7 million deal with the Cleveland Indians and played a key role in the team reaching the World Series.

    While there was some mutual interest in a reunion early in the offseason, the eventual signing of Edwin Encarnacion effectively spelled an end to Napoli's tenure in Cleveland.

    Instead, he returns to Texas, where he hit .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI in what was the best season of his career back in 2011.

    His skills are limited at this point, as he's a below-average defender and a base-clogger who probably won't hit .250, but another 30-homer, 100-RBI season isn't out of the question in hitter-friendly Arlington.

    There are also few better clubhouse guys in the game today.

18. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2016 Offensive: .273 BA, .775 OPS, 35 H, 11 XBH (3 HR), 19 RBI, 18 R

    2016 Defensive: -3 DRS, -32.8 UZR/150, -1.0 dWAR

    WAR: -0.5

    Player Outlook

    Josh Bell is still learning to tap into his plus raw power, but his hit tool will make him an impact offensive player even if he never turns into a 30-homer threat.

    "Bell is ready to be an everyday big leaguer, one who will continue to learn to drive the ball and be the run producer the Pirates initially envisioned...,"'s Prospect Watch noted.

    The 24-year-old hit .295/.382/.468 with 23 doubles, 14 home runs and 60 RBI over 484 plate appearances at the Triple-A level before impressing in his first taste of MLB action.

    Meanwhile, a platoon led by John Jaso and David Freese produced a .252/.340/.417 line with 19 home runs and 76 RBI at the first base position for the Pirates a year ago.

    As long as there are no lingering issues stemming from the minor knee surgery that currently has him sidelined, Bell should be able to improve on those numbers as a potential NL Rookie of the Year candidate.

17. Greg Bird, New York Yankees

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    2015 Offensive: .261 BA, .871 OPS, 20 XBH (11 HR), 31 RBI, 26 R

    2015 Defensive: -3 DRS, -6.1 UZR/150, -0.6 dWAR

    WAR: 0.9

    Player Outlook

    Before Gary Sanchez took the Bronx by storm last summer, it was Greg Bird who looked like the next big thing for the New York Yankees.

    However, after an impressive 46-game debut in 2015, Bird missed the entirety of last season following spring shoulder surgery.

    If his performance so far this spring is any indication, he's ready to pick up right where he left off.

    The 24-year-old is 6-for-16 with two doubles and three home runs in early Grapefruit League action.

    "I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe he's not 100%, which is really good," manager Joe Girardi told Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News. "He's looked great."

    That could mean a limited role for slugger Chris Carter, who was signed to a one-year deal as an insurance policy of sorts for Bird.

16. Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2016 Offensive: .286 BA, .866 OPS, 59 XBH (30 HR), 111 RBI, 81 R

    2016 Defensive: -5 DRS, -4.7 UZR/150, -1.3 dWAR

    WAR: 2.8

    Player Outlook

    The first two seasons in a Boston Red Sox uniform have been a mixed bag for Hanley Ramirez.

    After hitting .249/.291/.426 with 19 home runs while turning every game into an adventure in left field in 2015, he moved to first base last year and bounced back nicely with a .286/.361/.505 line that included 30 homers and 111 RBI.

    Now he's slated to replace David Ortiz as the team's primary designated hitter, though he'll likely still see occasional time at first base.

    Ramirez is a completely different player than the one who won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 on the strength of a 51-steal performance.

    His game is all power now, and he'll be tasked with protecting MVP candidate Mookie Betts this season as the team will be counting on another 30-homer, 100-RBI performance from the 33-year-old.

15. Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies

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    Chris Coduto/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2016 Offensive: .285 BA, .782 OPS, 54 XBH (22 HR), 86 RBI, 107 R

    2016 Defensive: N/A

    WAR: 2.7

    Player Outlook

    It has to be said: That five-year, $70 million deal the Colorado Rockies gave Ian Desmond to play first base this offseason is as big a head-scratcher as any big-money deal in recent memory.

    However, we're not here to determine which first baseman is the best value.

    A disappointing end to his tenure with the Washington Nationals forced Desmond to settle for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Texas Rangers last winter that came with a move from shortstop to the outfield.

    The 31-year-old rewarded that roll of the dice by posting the fourth 20/20 season of his career, even shifting over to center field and holding his own defensively.

    He's capable of making some serious noise with the bat in Colorado, but a .237/.283/.347 line after the All-Star break last year leaves him with plenty of questions to answer as well.

14. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2016 Offensive: .266 BA, .761 OPS, 50 XBH (25 HR), 104 RBI, 80 R

    2016 Defensive: -6 DRS, -6.1 UZR/150, -1.5 dWAR

    WAR: 1.0

    Player Outlook

    Despite setting new personal bests in home runs (25) and RBI (104), Eric Hosmer clearly took a step backward last season.

    After hitting .297/.363/.459 in a breakout season of sorts in 2015, his triple-slash line dipped to .266/.328/.433 as he walked less (61 to 57) and struck out more (108 to 132) in an identical 667 plate appearances.

    His defense also went south as he posted a negative DRS (-6) and negative UZR/150 (-6.1) on the heels of winning three straight Gold Glove awards.

    Now he's facing a contract year, and all signs point to the 27-year-old hitting the open market, as there have been no significant talks of an extension with the Royals, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

13. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2016 Offensive: .221 BA, .792 OPS, 125 H, 59 XBH (38 HR), 84 RBI, 99 R

    2016 Defensive: 8 DRS, 4.0 UZR/150, -0.2 dWAR

    WAR: 3.0

    Player Outlook

    Chris Davis is going to have a tough time living up to the massive seven-year, $161 million deal he signed to return to the Baltimore Orioles last offseason.

    While he still slugged 38 home runs last season, his overall numbers represented a rather significant step back from his 2015 production.

    His average dropped 41 points (.262 to .221), his OPS dropped 131 points (.923 to .792), and his 107 OPS+ certainly didn't match his $23 million price tag.

    Luckily, Davis is not a one-dimensional player, as he provides some nice value with the glove and is capable of sliding over to third base or into right field if the need arises.

    Again, we're not ranking these guys based on value relative to salary, and there's no question Davis is a valuable player.

12. Wil Myers, San Diego Padres

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    Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    2016 Offensive: .259 BA, .797 OPS, 155 H, 61 XBH (28 HR), 94 RBI, 99 R

    2016 Defensive: 8 DRS, 8.8 UZR/150, -0.3 dWAR

    WAR: 3.2

    Player Outlook

    After struggling through back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, Wil Myers finally stayed healthy last season, and he quickly cemented himself as a cornerstone piece of the San Diego Padres' rebuilding efforts.

    The team made that abundantly clear when it signed him to a six-year, $80 million extension during the offseason.

    The home/road splits posted by Myers last season remain something of a head-scratcher, as he raked at pitcher-friendly Petco Park but struggled on the road:

    • Home: .954 OPS, 20 2B, 18 HR, 58 RBI, 60 R
    • Road: .633 OPS, 9 2B, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 39 R

    At any rate, the 26-year-old provided a unique blend of power (28 HR) and speed (28 SB) at the position and proved to be an above-average defensive first baseman in his first full season at the position.

    As long as he can avoid further injuries, his stock appears to be on the rise.

11. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    2016 Offensive: .285 BA, .784 OPS, 162 H, 49 XBH (18 HR), 90 RBI, 69 R

    2016 Defensive: 3 DRS, -0.6 UZR/150, -0.7 dWAR

    WAR: 2.1

    Player Outlook

    Adrian Gonzalez has been a model of consistency throughout his career.

    Over the past 10 seasons, he's hit .291/.364/.494 while playing in at least 156 games and driving in at least 90 runs each year.

    He may no longer be a threat for 40-plus home runs like he was during his time with the San Diego Padres, but he's still one of the game's most reliable run producers.

    The 34-year-old hit .297 with runners in scoring position last season, and he's a .323 career hitter in that situation, which has helped him pile up 1,146 career RBI to rank seventh among active players.

    Gonzalez has two years left on his current contract, at which time most expect him to be supplanted by top prospect Cody Bellinger.

10. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2016 Offensive: .293 BA, .820 OPS, 183 H, 58 XBH (25 HR), 100 RBI, 67 R

    2016 Defensive: -5 DRS, -6.5 UZR/150, -1.4 dWAR

    WAR: 2.8

    Player Outlook

    Jose Abreu has yet to duplicate his monster rookie season, but he's still been well worth the six-year, $68 million investment the Chicago White Sox made to sign him following his defection from Cuba.

    Abreu hit .317 with 35 doubles, 36 home runs and 107 RBI while leading the AL in slugging (.581) and OPS+ (173) in 2014 to win Rookie of the Year honors and finish fourth in MVP voting.

    In the two years since, he's hit .292 with a 130 OPS+ while averaging 28 home runs and 100 RBI.

    That's still stellar production, especially as the focal point of a relatively weak White Sox offensive attack, but it's not quite top-tier production.

    Now the 30-year-old will be asked to serve as a mentor to the team's up-and-coming core, including fellow countryman Yoan Moncada.

9. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2016 Offensive: .259 BA, .865 OPS, 151 H, 68 XBH (34 HR), 87 RBI, 89 R

    2016 Defensive: 1 DRS, 4.6 UZR/150, -1.1 dWAR

    WAR: 3.0

    Player Outlook

    With Edwin Encarnacion replacing Mike Napoli this coming season, it sounds like Carlos Santana will see the bulk of the playing time at first base for the Cleveland Indians.

    "I think Carlos will play significantly more (at first base) than he did last year," manager Terry Francona told Paul Hoynes of "I think he's really excited about that. I've said it a number of times. Everything about Carlos' game has gone forward for the better - his work ethic, his attitude, his openness to listen. I'm so proud of him. It's fun to talk about him."

    The 30-year-old reached new career highs in OPS (.865), hits (151), home runs (34), RBI (87) and runs scored (89) while posting the same number of walks as strikeouts (99).

    He's not the prototypical leadoff hitter, but his on-base skills make him a good fit as a table-setter, and he'll likely see plenty of time in the No. 1 spot again after leading off 85 times a year ago.

8. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2016 Offensive: .271 BA, .885 OPS, 128 H, 63 XBH (21 HR), 68 RBI, 81 R

    2016 Defensive: 1 DRS, 4.0 UZR/150, -0.7 dWAR

    WAR: 3.4

    Player Outlook

    With Kolten Wong and Aledmys Diaz set to man the middle infield spots and a position battle brewing between Jedd Gyorko and Jhonny Peralta at third base, Matt Carpenter is expected to see the bulk of his playing time at first base for the St. Louis Cardinals this coming season.

    The 31-year-old served in a super utility role of sorts last year with significant playing time logged at first (45), second (40) and third base (54), but his glove probably plays best at first base at this point in his career.

    Regardless, his value has always come from his offensive game.

    Carpenter is one of the league's best on-base threats, and the addition of Dexter Fowler will allow him to move out of the leadoff spot and down to more of a run-production role where his newfound power stroke can be put to better use.

7. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants

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    Brad Mangin/Getty Images

    Age: 28

    2016 Offensive: .275 BA, .868 OPS, 149 H, 66 XBH (17 HR), 82 RBI, 77 R

    2016 Defensive: 9 DRS, 5.8 UZR/150, 0.1 dWAR

    WAR: 4.3

    Player Outlook

    The San Francisco Giants locked up Brandon Belt with a six-year, $79 million extension last April, continuing their recent success with extending core players before they reach free agency.

    "He's been one of the best first basemen out there for the past five or six years," manager Bruce Bochy told Chris Haft of

    The 28-year-old took his game to new heights in 2016, though.

    His on-base percentage spiked from .356 to .394 thanks to an improvement in his walk rate from 10.1 to 15.9 percent, earning Belt his first All-Star Game appearance.

    He also led the Giants in OPS (.868), doubles (41) and home runs (17), while finishing second in RBI (82) and runs scored (77).

    Throw in his plus defense and ability to play left field when Buster Posey makes a start at first base and Belt provides value in a multitude of ways.

6. Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    2016 Offensive: .263 BA, .886 OPS, 158 H, 76 XBH (42 HR), 127 RBI, 99 R

    2016 Defensive: 0 DRS, 3.5 UZR/150, -1.2 dWAR

    WAR: 3.7

    Player Outlook

    The rich got richer when Edwin Encarnacion essentially fell into the Cleveland Indians' laps on a three-year, $60 million deal.

    Granted, that was still the largest free-agent signing in franchise history, but it was also an awful lot less than anyone expected him to sign for at the start of the offseason.

    While Encarnacion will see the bulk of his action at DH this coming season, he's not as bad a defender at first base as he's often made out to be and was essentially league average with the glove over 636.1 innings of work last season.

    It's the elite home run power and run production numbers that earn him a spot just outside the top five, though.

    Since the start of the 2012 season, Encarnacion ranks second in the majors in home runs (193) and second in RBI (550), trailing Chris Davis (197) and Miguel Cabrera (569), respectively.

5. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2016 Offensive: .302 BA, .968 OPS, 83 XBH (34 HR), 91 RBI, 102 R

    2016 Defensive: 9 DRS, 4.0 UZR/150, -0.1 dWAR

    WAR: 6.5

    Player Outlook

    Freddie Freeman led all first basemen with a 6.5 WAR last year in what was easily his best all-around performance to date.

    With 34 longballs, he bested his previous single-season high by 11, and he was one of just four players with a .300/.400/.500 triple-slash line en route to a .968 OPS that was good for third in the NL.

    The 27-year-old is signed long-term with five years and $106.5 million left on his current contract, and it appears the rebuilding Atlanta Braves have every intention of him being a part of their next contending team.

    With a full season of Matt Kemp providing protection in the lineup and Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson serving as table-setters ahead of him, even bigger things could be on the horizon for Freeman in 2017.

4. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2016 Offensive: .326 BA, .985 OPS, 65 XBH (29 HR), 97 RBI, 101 R

    2016 Defensive: -14 DRS, -6.6 UZR/150, -2.4 dWAR

    WAR: 4.0

    Player Outlook


    That's what Joey Votto hit over 314 plate appearances in the second half last season.

    That's ridiculous.

    His .434 on-base percentage on the year paced the NL for the fifth time in seven years, and his career .425 OBP is tops among active players and good for 12th-best all-time.

    The 33-year-old is sort of the last man standing for a rebuilding Cincinnati Reds team that has parted ways with Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, among others, in recent years.

    The Reds have given no indication that they intend to move the face of the franchise anytime soon, though.

3. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2016 Offensive: .316 BA, .956 OPS, 70 XBH (38 HR), 108 RBI, 92 R

    2016 Defensive: -6 DRS, 2.7 UZR/150, -1.5 dWAR

    WAR: 4.9

    Player Outlook

    We've arrived at the tough decision of how to order the top three guys on this list.

    Miguel Cabrera is a living legend at this point and undoubtedly one of the best hitters to ever play the game, but he's also started to slow down a bit in recent seasons.

    That's all relative, though:

    • 2009-13: .335/.419/.598, 39 2B, 38 HR, 122 RBI
    • 2014-16: .320/.398/.541, 37 2B, 27 HR, 98 RBI

    After an 18-homer, 76-RBI season in 2015 that was abbreviated by a calf strain, Cabrera rebounded with a 38-homer, 108-RBI performance last year to prove he still belongs among the game's most feared hitters.

    No one would blame you for taking him ahead of anyone else at the position for the upcoming season, but we'll go with the two younger guys for the top spots.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    2016 Offensive: .297 BA, .899 OPS, 172 H, 60 XBH (24 HR), 95 RBI, 106 R

    2016 Defensive: 4 DRS, 1.1 UZR/150, -0.6 dWAR

    WAR: 4.8

    Player Outlook

    With 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases last season, Paul Goldschmidt joined Jeff Bagwell and Ryan Klesko as the only first basemen in MLB history with multiple 20/20 seasons.

    In fact, there have only been 15 such seasons by a first baseman in MLB history.

    Dating back to his breakout 2013 season, Goldschmidt has hit .305/.412/.538 while averaging 36 doubles, 28 home runs, 100 RBI and 19 stolen bases.

    That stretch includes a pair of second-place finishes in NL MVP voting, and with David Peralta and A.J. Pollock back healthy to provide further support in the lineup, he'll be a candidate for the award once again.

    The $34.475 million he's owed over the next three years is a coup for the Diamondbacks.

1. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

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    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    Age: 27

    2016 Offensive: .292 BA, .928 OPS, 79 XBH (32 HR), 109 RBI, 94 R

    2016 Defensive: 11 DRS, 5.0 UZR/150, 0.2 dWAR

    WAR: 5.7

    Player Outlook

    As soon as Anthony Rizzo figured out how to hit left-handed pitching, he immediately became one of the best offensive players in the game.

    After posting a .189 average and .625 OPS against lefties in 2013, Rizzo saw that jump to a .300 average and .928 OPS the following season.

    Dating back to things clicking in 2014, he's hit .285/.386/.527 while averaging 36 doubles, 32 home runs and 96 RBI.

    Then there's the defense.

    Rizzo not only won his first Gold Glove award in 2016, but he took home Platinum Glove honors as the best all-around defender in the National League.

    Those two-way skills and his standing as an on- and off-field leader for the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs is enough to give Rizzo a slight edge over the two guys ranked behind him and the No. 1 spot among first basemen.

    Standard stats and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Other advanced stats (DRS, UZR/150, BABIP, etc.) courtesy of FanGraphs.


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