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

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2017

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

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The first base position is home to some of the game's biggest stars.

    Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman are unquestionably among the biggest names in the sport.

    However, this season, it's also been home to some of the league's biggest surprises.

    Who would have guessed that Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison and Eric Thames would all put together All-Star-caliber seasons and Ryan Zimmerman would return from the depths to post MVP-caliber numbers?

    Ahead we've set out to rank the top 30 first basemen here at the midway point of 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 this season is .267/.348/.495.
    • Eligibility: To be considered for inclusion, a player must have played at least 51 percent of his games at the first base position this season.
    • Preseason Rank: Included is a look at where each player stood in our preseason rankings, which can be found here.

    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.

    Is someone like Miguel Cabrera a better bet to produce going forward than Matt Adams?

    Probably, but that's not what this is about—it's about ranking players based on their performance so far this season.

          

    Previous top 30 series entries: Catchers

30. Jesus Aguilar, Milwaukee Brewers (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .286 BA, .883 OPS, 40 H, 20 XBH (6 HR), 21 RBI, 20 R

    2017 Defense: 2 DRS, -3.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.0

        

    Player Summary

    After spending the past three seasons buried on the depth chart and playing for the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate, Jesus Aguilar was finally given a chance this season when he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Serving in a platoon with Eric Thames—who has also seen some time in the outfield—Aguilar has continued to flash the power that helped him slug 68 home runs over the past three seasons, including a career-high 30 in 2016.

    The 26-year-old may never be a star or even a full-time player, but that hasn't stopped him from making a positive impact for a surprise contender.

        

    Honorable Mentions: Adrian Gonzalez (LAD), Tyler Moore (MIA), Luis Valbuena (LAA)

29. Adam Lind, Washington Nationals (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .324 BA, .958 OPS, 33 H, 13 XBH (6 HR), 27 RBI, 18 R

    2017 Defense: -1 DRS, -10.0 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.6

        

    Player Summary

    Adam Lind slugged 20 home runs for the Seattle Mariners last season, but he did it while hitting .239 with a .717 OPS, and his fairly one-dimensional game generated little interest in free agency.

    He eventually landed with the Washington Nationals on a one-year, $1.5 million deal that includes a $5 million mutual option for 2018, and he's quietly been one of the best bargain signings of the winter.

    Aside from serving as a capable spot starter at first base to help keep Ryan Zimmerman fresh, he's also gone 9-for-21 with three home runs as a pinch-hitter.

28. Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers (Preseason Rank: 19)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .191 BA, .667 OPS, 42 H, 20 XBH (14 HR), 32 RBI, 26 R

    2017 Defense: 2 DRS, 0.1 UZR/150

    WAR: -0.5

        

    Player Summary

    Mike Napoli was a key cog in the Cleveland Indians' run to the World Series last season, posting an .800 OPS with 34 home runs and 101 RBI to give the team a long-absent right-handed power source.

    The addition of Edwin Encarnacion closed the door on a potential reunion in Cleveland, and Napoli eventually returned to the Texas Rangers for the third time in his career on a one-year, $8.5 million deal.

    He's picked up his production since a brutal month of April (.146 BA, .505 OPS, 3 HR), but he is still striking out at a staggering 33.6 percent clip. He'll hit 30 or so home runs and provide a solid clubhouse presence.

27. Tommy Joseph, Philadelphia Phillies (Preseason Rank: 26)

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .249 BA, .748 OPS, 63 H, 24 XBH (12 HR), 37 RBI, 28 R

    2017 Defense: -8 DRS, -8.5 UZR/150

    WAR: -0.6

        

    Player Summary

    Last season, Tommy Joseph became the first Philadelphia Phillies rookie since the man he replaced—slugger Ryan Howard (2005)to reach the 20-homer mark in his first season.

    The 25-year-old has flashed solid power once again this season with 12 home runs in 278 plate appearances, but the rest of his offensive game is still somewhat lacking as he's been about a league average contributor with a 96 OPS+.

    Prospect Rhys Hoskins has followed up a 38-homer performance in Double-A last year by hitting .301/.398/.591 with 19 doubles, 17 home runs and 61 RBI for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It might be only a matter of time before he's manning the position.

26. Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros (Preseason Rank: 24)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .278 BA, .748 OPS, 71 H, 26 XBH (8 HR), 32 RBI, 31 R

    2017 Defense: -1 DRS, -4.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.6

        

    Player Summary

    The Houston Astros signed Yuli Gurriel to a five-year, $47.5 million deal last summer after a standout career overseas that included 1,585 hits, 250 home runs and 1,018 RBI over 15 seasons in Cuba and Japan.

    The 33-year-old is obviously not your run-of-the-mill rookie given his considerable professional experience, and he's made a smooth transition to being the team's everyday first baseman this season after spending the bulk of his career manning the hot corner.

    He's in a relatively low-pressure role hitting near the bottom of the lineup in a loaded Houston offense, and his power and run production skills have no doubt played a role in the team's fast start.

    For now, his on-base skills keep him from ranking any higher, as he's walked just six times for a .305 on-base percentage.

25. Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (Preseason Rank: 9)

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .223 BA, .710 OPS, 65 H, 27 XBH (9 HR), 41 RBI, 46 R

    2017 Defense: 4 DRS, -2.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.1

        

    Player Summary

    Carlos Santana set new career highs in OPS (.865), hits (151), home runs (34), RBI (87) and runs scored (89) last year while spending a good portion of the season hitting in the leadoff spot.

    The 31-year-old is hitting just .223 this season, but he's one of only 14 players with 40 RBI, 40 runs scored and 40 walks on the year.

    Despite his plus power, Santana's value stems more from his on-base ability and table-setting skills for the rest of the Cleveland lineup. He's also an underrated defender at first base and has shown the ability to play third base or corner outfield in a pinch.

24. Danny Valencia, Seattle Mariners (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .277 BA, .755 OPS, 70 H, 20 XBH (7 HR), 39 RBI, 31 R

    2017 Defense: 3 DRS, -4.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.1

        

    Player Summary

    The Seattle Mariners acquired Danny Valencia to serve in a platoon with rookie Dan Vogelbach at first base.

    Instead, Vogelbach has hit just .176 in 20 plate appearances in the majors and spent the bulk of the season in Triple-A, which has opened the door for Valencia to step into an everyday role.

    The 32-year-old had a solid season in Oakland last year when he hit .287/.346/.446 with 22 doubles, 17 home runs and 51 RBI. As long as he doesn't become an off-field distraction again, he should prove to be a solid pickup for the Mariners.

23. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (Preseason Rank: 20)

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .283 BA, .752 OPS, 69 H, 20 XBH (4 HR), 29 RBI, 32 R

    2017 Defense: 2 DRS, 12.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.8

        

    Player Summary

    Joe Mauer isn't worth his $23 million salary and hasn't hit over .300 in a full season since 2013, but he's still a good offensive player and an important leader on a young Minnesota Twins team.

    His career .307/.390/.444 line speaks to just how good of a hitter he was in his prime, and he's still an above average on-base threat with a 9.6 percent walk rate and a .354 on-base percentage.

    He's also developed into a quality defender at first base, and his role as the primary veteran presence on a surprise contender further adds to his intangible value.

22. Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates (Preseason Rank: 18)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .230 BA, .772 OPS, 59 H, 28 XBH (14 HR), 34 RBI, 35 R

    2017 Defense: 3 DRS, 0.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.8

        

    Player Summary

    Josh Bell was one of just a handful of rookies who were essentially guaranteed a starting job heading into spring training this year, and he's done nothing to this point to cause the Pittsburgh Pirates' confidence in him to waver.

    The biggest question surrounding the 24-year-old seemed to be how much of his plus raw power would translate to in-game production, as he never hit more than 14 home runs in a single season in the minors.

    However, he's already launched 14 in 289 plate appearances this year, and he may only be scratching the surface of his vast potential as a middle-of-the-order run producer.

21. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (Preseason Rank: 13)

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .226 BA, .781 OPS, 49 H, 22 XBH (14 HR), 26 RBI, 34 R

    2017 Defense: 0 DRS, 7.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.5

        

    Player Summary

    What you see is what you get with slugger Chris Davis.

    He's going to hit a lot of home runs, he's going to go on some serious hot streaks, and he's going to strike out at ton—in fact, he's fanning at a career-high 38.0 percent rate so far this year.

    The 31-year-old is a solid defender at first base who is also capable of playing corner outfield and third base in a pinch. He walks enough to at least somewhat offset his low batting average, but he'll still have a hard time living up to that $161 million contract in the years to come.

20. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (Preseason Rank: 3)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .261 BA, .798 OPS, 61 H, 24 XBH (9 HR), 37 RBI, 27 R

    2017 Defense: -4 DRS, 3.0 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.4

        

    Player Summary

    It's weird to see Miguel Cabrera this low, but remember these rankings are solely based on 2017 performance.

    The 34-year-old was his usual MVP-caliber self once again last season when he hit .318/.393/.563 with 38 home runs and 108 RBI—the eighth time in his illustrious career that he's authored a .300-30-100 season.

    However, his production is down across the board this season, and injuries have played a significant role.

    "The two-time AL MVP and 11-time All-Star selection has been dealing with back, oblique and groin strains and picked up a hip flexor issue Thursday," wrote ESPN.com news services on June 16.

    With the Tigers rapidly falling out of contention, it might be time for Miggy to shut it down for a stretch and get healthy.

19. Wil Myers, San Diego Padres (Preseason Rank: 12)

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .262 BA, .816 OPS, 75 H, 31 XBH (15 HR), 39 RBI, 39 R

    2017 Defense: -4 DRS, -14.3 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.6

        

    Player Summary

    The San Diego Padres committed to Wil Myers as a cornerstone piece of their rebuilding efforts with a six-year, $83 million extension in January.

    And why not?

    The 26-year-old posted a .797 OPS with 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases last season while making a smooth transition from the outfield to first base defensively and proving more than capable of taming pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

    His hard contact rate (33.6 to 43.9 percent) and flyball rate (33.9 to 41.0 percent) are both way up, and the first 30-homer season of his career could be coming as a result. The defensive metrics have been less-than-stellar, but he's still capable of being a solid defender.

18. Lucas Duda, New York Mets (Preseason Rank: 29)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .253 BA, .919 OPS, 46 H, 29 XBH (13 HR), 29 RBI, 22 R

    2017 Defense: 1 DRS, 1.8 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.2

        

    Player Summary

    Lucas Duda slugged 57 home runs between 2014 and 2015, but he was a non-factor for the New York Mets last season when he played just 47 games while dealing with a stress fracture in his back.

    In his absence, the first base position produced a middling .718 OPS that ranked 25th in the majors.

    The 31-year-old is back healthy this season and has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing Mets team. With free agency awaiting in the offseason, don't be surprised if his name comes up in trade rumors this summer. What's left of his $7.25 million salary shouldn't be hard for most contenders to squeeze into the budget.

17. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants (Preseason Rank: 7)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .231 BA, .794 OPS, 65 H, 30 XBH (14 HR), 34 RBI, 42 R

    2017 Defense: 8 DRS, 12.5 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.0

        

    Player Summary

    The San Francisco Giants will almost certainly be sellers at the trade deadline, and according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the only players who will be off limits in trade talks will be Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford.

    Notably absent from that list is first baseman Brandon Belt.

    The 29-year-old just signed a five-year, $72.8 million extension in April, and while his batting average is down, he remains one of the team's top offensive contributors and an elite defender.

    Belt might never be the traditional 30-homer threat at the first base position, but he's averaged 37 doubles, 18 home runs and 75 RBI to go along with a 4.1 WAR the past two seasons, and he's well on his way to similar numbers this year.

16. Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers (Preseason Rank: 23)

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .245 BA, .924 OPS, 61 H, 35 XBH (20 HR), 40 RBI, 50 R

    2017 Defense: -3 DRS, -5.8 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.1

        

    Player Summary

    Regression was inevitable for Eric Thames after he hit an absurd .345/.466/.810 with 11 home runs in the month of April.

    Indeed he's crashed back to earth considerably in the two months since, batting just .194 since the start of May with nine home runs in 197 plate appearances.

    So where does that leave us?

    Thanks to a 15.7 percent walk rate, Thames remains a solid on-base threat, and that's driving his offensive value more than his power production at this point.

    He's been a fun story, but it's hard to rank him any higher than this given the considerable drop-off in his post-April numbers.

15. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (Preseason Rank: 14)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .306 BA, .833 OPS, 87 H, 27 XBH (9 HR), 32 RBI, 40 R

    2017 Defense: -2 DRS, 1.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.2

        

    Player Summary

    Eric Hosmer set career highs in home runs (25) and RBI (104) last season, but it came at a cost.

    After hitting .297/.363/.459 with 18 home runs and 93 RBI as a 3.6 WAR player the previous season, he hit just .266/.328/.433 amid his increased power numbers and was just a 1.0 WAR player in the process.

    The 27-year-old is back to showing a more well-rounded offensive game this season—just in time for his looming free agency.

    At 11-4 in their last 15 games, the Kansas City Royals are among the hottest teams in baseball, but if they can't pull back into the playoff picture before the deadline, Hosmer is among the players expected to be shopped.

14. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (Preseason Rank: 8)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .234 BA, .837 OPS, 58 H, 28 XBH (14 HR), 40 RBI, 41 R

    2017 Defense: 4 DRS, -0.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.5

        

    Player Summary

    The offseason addition of Dexter Fowler has allowed Matt Carpenter to move out of the leadoff spot in the St. Louis Cardinals lineup and into more of a run-production role this season.

    He currently leads the team in home runs (14) and RBI (40) and ranks 19th in the NL with a .373 on-base percentage despite his low batting average. That's thanks to his 53 walks, which are tied with Kris Bryant for the NL lead.

    A .280 career hitter, Carpenter should be in line for some positive regression in the batting average department thanks to a .253 BABIP, so expect to see that average creep closer to the norm in the months to come.

13. Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox (Preseason Rank: 21)

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .275 BA, .853 OPS, 69 H, 30 XBH (12 HR), 41 RBI, 39 R

    2017 Defense: 4 DRS, 2.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.6

        

    Player Summary

    Tasked with replacing David Ortiz in the lineupat least from a personnel standpoint—Mitch Moreland has done as well as anyone could have hoped this season.

    Moreland spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Texas Rangers, during which time he posted a trio of 20-homer seasons and won the first Gold Glove of his career last season.

    He's undoubtedly an upgrade over Hanley Ramirez defensively, and he's been a steady contributor at the plate this season for a Red Sox team that is suffering through something of a power outage.

    At his current pace, his previous career highs of 23 home runs and 85 RBI should be within reach, and his .853 OPS would also be a new personal best, making him one of the bargains of the offseason on a one-year, $5.5 million deal.

12. Matt Adams, Atlanta Braves (Preseason Rank: 28)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .296 BA, .918 OPS, 55 H, 24 XBH (13 HR), 38 RBI, 29 R

    2017 Defense: 0 DRS, 8.2 UZR/150

    WAR: 0.7

        

    Player Summary

    Matt Adams has been a revelation since joining the Atlanta Braves in a May 20 trade to replace the injured Freddie Freeman.

    The 28-year-old is hitting .297 with a .981 OPS in 35 games with the team, tallying eight doubles, 12 home runs and 31 RBI along the way and helping the Braves to a 19-17 record since their best player has gone to the sidelines.

    Adams has shown the club enough during his short time in Atlanta that once Freeman returns from his broken wrist, it will be as a third baseman, at least in a trial capacity.

    Regardless of how that situation unfolds, it looks like the rebuilding Braves picked up a nice asset on the cheap in Adams.

11. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (Preseason Rank: 10)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .299 BA, .856 OPS, 90 H, 34 XBH (13 HR), 51 RBI, 47 R

    2017 Defense: -3 DRS, -4.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.5

        

    Player Summary

    Jose Abreu has never quite lived up to his monster rookie season, but he's settled in as a steady middle-of-the-order presence for the Chicago White Sox.

    His current triple-slash numbers are right in line with where he's been the past few seasons, and his 90 hits are good for seventh in the AL and second on the team behind Avisail Garcia (92).

    While a number of players are expected to be on the move for the rebuilding South Siders this summer, don't expect Abreu to be among them. His value to the team stretches well beyond his on-field production, as he'll serve as a valuable mentor and sounding board to fellow countrymen and prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert.

10. Justin Bour, Miami Marlins (Preseason Rank: 22)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .293 BA, .938 OPS, 65 H, 26 XBH (18 HR), 50 RBI, 31 R

    2017 Defense: 0 DRS, 5.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.9

        

    Player Summary

    Justin Bour was used almost exclusively in a platoon role last season, seeing just 30 plate appearances against left-handed pitching and hitting .233 with a .533 OPS and zero home runs.

    This year has been a different story entirely, as he's batting .340 with a 1.161 OPS and six home runs against southpaws in 57 plate appearances. That's helped him take his offensive game to another level.

    The 29-year-old is a great story as a former 25th-round pick and a minor league Rule 5 selection who has clawed his way up the ladder to earn his spot in the Miami Marlins lineup, and he's enjoying a true breakout season here in 2017.

9. Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .251 BA, .926 OPS, 64 H, 36 XBH (22 HR), 54 RBI, 43 R

    2017 Defense: 1 DRS, 6.2 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.4

        

    Player Summary

    The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Logan Morrison from the Seattle Mariners prior to last season as part of a concerted effort to add more punch offensively.

    He didn't exactly live up to his end of the bargain, though, hitting just .238/.319/.414 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI over 398 plate appearances on his way to a 0.5 WAR.

    Despite that middling production, the Rays re-signed the 29-year-old to a one-year, $2.5 million deal at the beginning of February, and that's turned out to be one of the best decisions of the offseason.

    Morrison ranks among the AL leaders in slugging (.569; fifth), OPS (.926; sixth), home runs (22; third), RBI (54; third) and total bases (145; 11th), and he's played a solid first base to boot.

8. Yonder Alonso, Oakland Athletics (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .288 BA, .963 OPS, 63 H, 30 XBH (17 HR), 38 RBI, 40 R

    2017 Defense: -7 DRS, -2.0 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.6

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Yonder Alonso was a legitimate non-tender candidate this past offseason after hitting .253 with a .683 OPS and just seven home runs in 532 plate appearances for the Oakland Athletics last season.

    Instead, the A's decided to bring him back in his final year of arbitration for $4 million, and he's rewarded their faith with a breakout performance.

    He's already set a new career-high with 17 home runs, and a sharp spike in his flyball rate (33.3 to 50.0 percent) is to thank, as he's bought into a new approach at the plate.

    Whether the A's flip him at the deadline or try to come to terms on an extension that makes sense for both sides, his stock is up as much as any player in the league this season.

7. Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .300 BA, .942 OPS, 80 H, 30 XBH (19 HR), 60 RBI, 44 R

    2017 Defense: -2 DRS, 0.0 UZR/150

    WAR: 1.4

        

    Player Summary

    Despite posting an .806 OPS with 14 home runs and 53 RBI in a part-time role last season, Mark Reynolds was forced to settle for a minor league deal in free agency to return to the Colorado Rockies.

    However, a spring injury to Ian Desmond opened the door for him to see regular playing time to begin the year, and he's run with that opportunity, causing the team to alter their plans of using Desmond as the primary first baseman.

    Reynolds has always been a major power threat, albeit one who also strikes out a ton.

    He's walking at a decent clip this year (12.4 percent), and his strikeout rate is at least palatable (26.1 percent). As long as he keeps hitting, the Rockies have no reason to mess with a good thing.

6. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (Preseason Rank: 5)

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .341 BA, 1.209 OPS, 46 H, 26 XBH (14 HR), 25 RBI, 35 R

    2017 Defense: 2 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.5

        

    Player Summary

    Freddie Freeman has been sidelined since May 17 when he suffered a broken wrist, but his production in the 37 games he played prior to that injury was good enough that he's still challenging for a spot inside the top five.

    The 27-year-old might be baseball's most overlooked superstar, and the fact that he's willing to give third base a try once he returns from injury in order to keep Matt Adams in the lineup speaks to his dedication as a teammate.

    He's scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this coming weekend and could rejoin the team as early as next week. There will be some rust to shake off at the plate, especially considering it was a wrist injury, but he was a legitimate NL MVP candidate before hitting the disabled list and could jump back into that race.

5. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Preseason Rank: 1)

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .258 BA, .887 OPS, 72 H, 32 XBH (17 HR), 49 RBI, 46 R

    2017 Defense: 5 DRS, 2.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.2

        

    Player Summary

    Anthony Rizzo has not been the same steady offensive contributor this season that the Chicago Cubs have grown accustomed to in recent years, as he's been far more streaky at the plate.

    That being said, he's still plenty productive with an .887 OPS and team highs in both home runs (17) and RBI (49).

    He also ranks 11th in the NL with a .389 on-base percentage, and he's drawn more walks (48) than strikeouts (37)—a rare feat for any player, let alone a middle-of-the-order power hitter.

    Throw in his standing as arguably the best defensive first baseman in the league and the clubhouse leader of the defending champs, and it's hard to rank him any lower than this.

4. Justin Smoak, Toronto Blue Jays (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .302 BA, .952 OPS, 76 H, 30 XBH (20 HR), 48 RBI, 43 R

    2017 Defense: 1 DRS, -1.6 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.3

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    The Toronto Blue Jays gave Justin Smoak a two-year, $8.5 million deal last July, despite the fact that he was hitting a middling .234/.332/.413 with 10 home runs at the time of the deal and had never quite lived up to expectations.

    "I know I can be a better player. It's all about staying consistent. That's what you strive for every day and that's the goal to keep working on ... to be a more consistent player," Smoak told reporters after signing that extension.

    And a better player he's become.

    The 30-year-old is one of just four players in the league with a .300 average, .900 OPS and 20 home runs this season, he's cut his strikeout rate nearly in half from 32.8 to 18.1 percent, and he's done it all with a .306 BABIP. It's hard to point to luck as the reason for his dramatic improvement.

3. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals (Preseason Rank: NR)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .340 BA, 1.020 OPS, 89 H, 40 XBH (19 HR), 59 RBI, 50 R

    2017 Defense: -1 DRS, -15.4 UZR/150

    WAR: 2.5

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Ryan Zimmerman was the face of the Washington Nationals franchise before the Bryce Harper era began, but he had been steadily declining before bottoming out last season.

    He hit just .218 with a .642 OPS in 2016, and over the past three years, he was a 0.0 WAR player while earning $42 million in the process.

    Zimmerman found the fountain of youth at some point during the offseason, though.

    The 32-year-old already has more home runs (19 vs. 15) and RBI (59 vs. 46) this year in significantly fewer plate appearances (286 vs. 467).

    He also ranks among the NL leaders in batting average (.340, second) and OPS (1.020, second) as one of the driving forces behind a Nationals offense that is pacing the majors at 5.6 runs per game.

    NL Comeback Player of the Year is already in the bag, and a run at NL MVP isn't out of the question if he keeps things rolling.

2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (Preseason Rank: 4)

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .304 BA, 1.009 OPS, 84 H, 38 XBH (21 HR), 55 RBI, 55 R

    2017 Defense: 4 DRS, 11.1 UZR/150

    WAR: 3.2

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    Joey Votto turned in a second half for the ages last season, hitting .408/.490/.668 over 314 plate appearances after the All-Star break.

    The Cincinnati Reds star has been brilliant once again to kick off the 2017 campaign, showing an elite power stroke that we've not seen since his 37-homer performance during his 2010 NL MVP campaign.

    As always, Votto is walking at an elite clip with 51 free passes and a 15.3 percent walk rate, his strikeout rate is at an all-time low at 11.1 percent, and he's made significant strides defensively.

    Simply put, he's the best pure hitter in the game today, and with his uptick in power production, he could be on his way to the best numbers of his career.

1. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (Preseason Rank: 2)

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    2017 Offense: .327 BA, 1.041 OPS, 91 H, 38 XBH (18 HR), 65 RBI, 68 R

    2017 Defense: 7 DRS, 3.9 UZR/150

    WAR: 4.2

    2017 All-Star

        

    Player Summary

    B/R's Zachary Rymer wrote an article earlier this week entitled: Paul Goldschmidt is MLB's Most Ignored Megastar.

    He's absolutely right.

    If the 29-year-old were playing in a major market instead of the Arizona desert, he'd be one of the faces of the sport given his dynamic offensive talents, but instead, he still toils in relative obscurity.

    At least, as much obscurity as a player with two second-place MVP finishes and four straight All-Star appearances to his credit can.

    On top of his more prototypical middle-of-the-order qualities, Goldschmidt also swiped 32 bases last season, and he has 13 thefts already this year, furthering his offensive value.

    He's also a standout defender who would be a perennial Gold Glove threat if he didn't share a league with Anthony Rizzo.

    Simply put, he's one of the most complete players in the game today and has taken over as baseball's best first baseman.

           

    Standard stats and WAR totals courtesy of Baseball-Reference and current through June 27. Other advanced stats (DRS, UZR/150, BABIP, etc.) courtesy of FanGraphs.

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