Ranking MLB's Top 25 First Basemen Since 2000

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2020

Ranking MLB's Top 25 First Basemen Since 2000

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    Matt Brown/Getty Images

    In the upcoming weeks, while we continue to wait on the start of the 2020 MLB season, we will be taking a look back at the best and brightest of the past 20 years.

    On Wednesday, we published our top 25 starting pitchers since 2000 list.

    Now it's on to the first basemen.

    A player's peak performance, his full statistical body of work since 2000 and his postseason production were all taken into account when determining the final rankings.

    While no single stat was the end-all, be-all in this conversation, OPS+ and WAR/500 are two important ones to know.

    OPS+ is simply a hitter's on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted to take into account the ballparks in which he is hitting. An OPS+ of 100 is league-average, while each number above 100 represents one percentage point better than the league average.

    WAR/500 is a stat of my own creation. It's simply a hitter's WAR total divided by his total plate appearances then multiplied by 500, thus giving us his WAR per 500 plate appearances. The idea is to make it easier to contextualize WAR totals across different sample sizes.

    Let's kick things off with some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

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    Eric Hosmer
    Eric HosmerBrian Davidson/Getty Images

    These players received serious consideration for the final list but came up short:

    • Jeff Bagwell
    • Sean Casey
    • Eric Hosmer
    • Aubrey Huff
    • Ryan Klesko
    • Adam LaRoche
    • Tino Martinez
    • Mitch Moreland
    • John Olerud
    • Richie Sexson

25. Carlos Pena

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,893 PA, .232/.346/.462 (117 OPS+), 286 HR, 818 RBI, 25.5 WAR

    Postseason: 80 PA, .269/.388/.522, 4 HR, 14 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.16

    Carlos Pena was the No. 10 overall pick in the 1998 draft and one of the top prospects in all of baseball prior to the 2001 (No. 11) and 2002 (No. 5) seasons, according to Baseball America.

    He spent time with the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox before finally finding a home with the Tampa Bay Rays for his age-29 season.

    Entering 2007, Pena had shown some pop at the MLB level with a 111 OPS+ in nearly 2,000 plate appearances, but he had yet to establish himself as a cornerstone piece.

    In his first season with the Rays, he did just that, posting a 172 OPS+ with 46 home runs and 121 RBI in a 7.2-WAR season.

    He followed that up with strong seasons in 2008 (129 OPS+, 31 HR, 102 RBI) and 2009 (133 OPS+, 39 HR, 100 RBI), and he was worth a total of 18.1 WAR in five seasons with the Rays.

    It was a short but impressive peak.

24. Mike Napoli

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,330 PA, .246/.346/.475 (117 OPS+), 267 HR, 744 RBI, 26.3 WAR

    Postseason: 227 PA, .228/.322/.396, 8 HR, 30 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 2.47

    Mike Napoli began his career as the offensive side of a platoon with Jeff Mathis behind the plate for the Los Angeles Angels.

    He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and then to the Texas Rangers leading up to the 2011 season—and went on to hit .320/.414/.631 (173 OPS+) with 30 home runs in his first season in Arlington.

    The Rangers ended up reaching the World Series that year, and Napoli hit .328/.414/.500 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 17 games during the postseason.

    He was an All-Star for the first time the following year, before joining the Boston Red Sox in free agency and shifting to first base.

    The burly slugger was a key contributor for a Red Sox team that won the World Series in 2013 (128 OPS+, 23 HR, 92 RBI) and a Cleveland Indians team that reached the World Series in 2016 (106 OPS+, 34 HR, 101 RBI).

    With more games at first base (678) than catcher (539) during his 12-year career, he's part of the conversation here.

23. Brandon Belt

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Stats: 4,221 PA, .261/.354/.448 (120 OPS+), 129 HR, 472 RBI, 23.0 WAR

    Postseason: 151 PA, .228/.331/.323, 2 HR, 13 RBI, Two-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 2.72

    Brandon Belt has never been a traditional power-hitting first baseman.

    He's never hit 20 home runs in a season, and his 120 OPS+ is more a result of his strong on-base ability (.354 OBP) than his power production (.448 SLG).

    However, with three seasons of at least 4.0 WAR on his resume, he's still been plenty productive.

    The starting first baseman during the San Francisco Giants title runs in 2012 and 2014, Belt was also an All-Star in 2016 when he hit .275/.394/.474 (135 OPS+) with 41 doubles, 17 home runs and 82 RBI.

    While he has never won a Gold Glove, strong defense has also helped drive his value. He's tallied an impressive 54 DRS at first base and showed the athleticism to occasionally man left field.

    Despite a disappointing 2019 season and some injury issues over the years, he's deserving of a spot in these rankings.

22. Mike Sweeney

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    Don Smith/Getty Images

    Stats: 4,434 PA, .300/.370/.497 (123 OPS+), 174 HR, 717 RBI, 20.3 WAR

    Postseason: 1 PA, 1-for-1

    WAR/500: 2.29

    Mike Sweeney spent the first four seasons of his MLB career serving as the Kansas City Royals backup catcher before a move to first base unlocked his offensive potential.

    From 1999 through 2005, he hit .313/.383/.521 (130 OPS+) while averaging 33 doubles, 23 home runs and 97 RBI.

    He was an All-Star five times during that seven-year span, including a huge 2000 season in which he hit .333/.407/.523 with 30 doubles, 29 home runs and 144 RBI.

    His production quickly faded from there and he spent the last five seasons of his career as a part-time player, but at his peak his combination of batting average and run-production ability made him one of the most productive players in the American League.

21. Justin Morneau

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,392 PA, .281/.348/.481 (120 OPS+), 247 HR, 985 RBI, 27.0 WAR

    Postseason: 54 PA, .302/.315/.491, 2 HR, 4 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.11

    If not for concussion issues, Justin Morneau might rank significantly higher on this list.

    His breakout season came in 2006 when he hit .321/.375/.559 (140 OPS+) with 37 doubles, 34 home runs and 130 RBI to edge out Derek Jeter for AL MVP honors.

    He went on to post a 132 OPS+ while averaging 30 home runs and 118 RBI during the four-year stretch from 2006 through 2009, before a concussion midway through the 2010 season derailed his career.

    He averaged just 95 games from 2010 to 2012, and he was not the same dangerous slugger upon returning to health in 2013.

    After a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he joined the Colorado Rockies and won the NL batting title in 2014 when he hit .319/.364/.496 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs and 82 RBI in a 3.4-WAR season at the age of 33.

    Despite its ups and downs, his career is more than worthy of a spot in these rankings.

20. Ryan Howard

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    John Williamson/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,531 PA, .258/.343/.515 (125 OPS+), 382 HR, 1,194 RBI, 14.7 WAR

    Postseason: 199 PA, .259/.357/.488, 8 HR, 33 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 1.13

    It may come as a surprise to learn that Ryan Howard was worth just 14.7 WAR over the course of his 13-year career.

    More than a third of that value came during the 2006 season when he hit .313/.425/.659 (167 OPS+) with 58 home runs and 149 RBI en route to 5.2 WAR and NL MVP honors.

    He went on to hit .266/.358/.539 (133 OPS+) while averaging 41 home runs and 129 RBI over the next five seasons.

    However, a torn Achilles tendon suffered during the 2011 postseason cost him a good chunk of the 2012 season, and he was never the same.

    In the end, his high strikeout rate (28.2% career) and poor defense (-74 DRS) undercut the value of his power production, and he was a one-dimensional player by the end of his career.

    Nevertheless, his 2006 performance is one of the best offensive seasons in MLB history.

19. Carlos Santana

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,147 PA, .250/.367/.450 (121 OPS+), 232 HR, 766 RBI, 30.5 WAR

    Postseason: 87 PA, .213/.322/.400, 4 HR, 8 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.48

    Since drawing 97 walks and posting a .351 on-base percentage during his first full season in the majors in 2011, Carlos Santana has been one of the best on-base threats in baseball.

    His .367 OBP ranks 19th among active players, and he ranks fourth behind only Albert Pujols (1,322), Joey Votto (1,180) and Miguel Cabrera (1,135) with 944 walks.

    He's more than just an extremely patient hitter, though.

    Santana has averaged 25 home runs and 83 RBI over the past nine seasons, and he has also proved to be extremely durable during that stretch with 154 games played per year.

    Originally a catcher, he has developed into a solid defender at first base with 0 DRS, 1.0 UZR/150 in 7,193.2 career innings, and he has even seen some sporadic action at the hot corner.

    The 33-year-old was an All-Star for the first time last year, hitting .281/.397.515 with 34 home runs and 93 RBI while racking up a career-high 4.6 WAR.

18. Jose Abreu

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Stats: 3,906 PA, .293/.349/.513 (134 OPS+), 179 HR, 611 RBI, 20.9 WAR

    Postseason: N/A

    WAR/500: 2.68

    After an impressive run in the Cuban National Series, Jose Abreu took MLB by storm as a 27-year-old rookie in 2014.

    He hit .317/.383/.581 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI while leading the AL in OPS+ (173) to take home Rookie of the Year honors and finish fourth in MVP voting.

    That still stands as the best season of his six-year MLB career, but he's been a steady force in the middle of some less-than-stellar Chicago White Sox lineups.

    His 8.2 percent walk rate in his rookie season proved to be an anomaly as he's walked at a 5.9 percent clip in the years since, and his below-average defense (-25 DRS) has also taken a bite out of his value.

    Still, he has four 30-homer seasons and five 100-RBI seasons to his credit, including an AL-leading 123 RBI last year for a White Sox team that finished 24th in the majors in runs scored.

17. Prince Fielder

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,853 PA, .283/.382/.506 (134 OPS+), 319 HR, 1,028 RBI, 23.8 WAR

    Postseason: 185 PA, .189/.276/.311, 5 HR, 12 RBI

    WAR/500: 1.74

    With a famous last name and a stellar minor league track record, Prince Fielder wasted no time emerging as one of the top sluggers in baseball.

    At the age of 23, he hit .288/.395/.618 with 50 home runs and 119 RBI in just his second full season in the majors. Overall, he hit 230 home runs in seven seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, good for third on the franchise's all-time list behind only Ryan Braun (344) and Robin Yount (251), before joining the Detroit Tigers on a nine-year, $214 million contract in free agency.

    Fielder posted a 136 OPS+ while averaging 28 home runs and 107 RBI in two seasons hitting alongside Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the Detroit lineup before he was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler.

    He went on to play just 289 more games, posting a middling 104 OPS+ in the process, before a chronic neck injury ended his career prematurely.

16. Kevin Youkilis

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Stats: 4,436 PA, .281/.382/.478 (123 OPS+), 150 HR, 618 RBI, 32.4 WAR

    Postseason: 125 PA, .306/.376/.568, 6 HR, 17 RBI, Two-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 3.65

    Kevin Youkilis was dubbed "The Greek God of Walks" during his time in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, and he lived up to that moniker upon reaching the majors.

    In 10 MLB seasons, he posted a .382 on-base percentage and a 12.2 percent walk rate, and at his peak he was a legitimate AL MVP candidate.

    From 2008 through 2010, he hit .308/.404/.560 (148 OPS+) while averaging 35 doubles, 25 home runs, 90 RBI and 89 runs scored, earning two All-Star selections and finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting twice along the way.

    His 18.2 WAR during that three-year stretch trailed only those of Albert Pujols (26.5), Chase Utley (23.1), Evan Longoria (20.0) and Joe Mauer (19.3) among all position players.

    He also hit .388/.475/.755 with four doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI in 14 games during the 2007 postseason to help the Red Sox win a World Series title.

15. Derrek Lee

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Stats: 7,151 PA, .288/.371/.508 (127 OPS+), 308 HR, 980 RBI, 34.3 WAR

    Postseason: 120 PA, .243/.300/.324, 1 HR, 8 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.40

    A first-round pick and highly touted prospect, Derrek Lee was traded to the Florida Marlins prior to the 1998 season as the centerpiece of the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Brown to the San Diego Padres.

    By the 2000 season, he had established himself as an intriguing young slugger, and over the next four years he hit .276/.368/.495 (125 OPS+) while averaging 27 home runs and 81 RBI.

    He took his game to another level in 2003 when he posted a 131 OPS+ with 31 home runs and 21 steals in a 2.9-WAR season, helping lead the Marlins to a World Series title.

    The Chicago Cubs acquired him that offseason in exchange for first base prospect Hee-Seop Choi, and he became a staple in the middle of the North Siders lineup.

    In 2005, he led the NL in batting average (.335), slugging (.662), OPS (1.080), OPS+ (174), hits (199), doubles (50) and total bases (393) while tallying 46 home runs and 107 RBI to rack up 7.7 WAR and finish third in NL MVP voting.

    Aside from his offensive prowess, he was also a three-time Gold Glove winner, and he quietly swiped 104 bases over his 15-year career.

    One of the more underrated players of the past 20 years.

14. Paul Konerko

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    Stats: 8,694 PA, .280/.356/.490 (120 OPS+), 408 HR, 1,302 RBI, 26.9 WAR

    Postseason: 80 PA, .243/.300/.554, 7 HR, 17 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 1.55

    Paul Konerko was traded twice before finding a home with the Chicago White Sox.

    He was 23 years old in his first full MLB season when he hit .294/.352/.511 (116 OPS+) with 24 home runs and 81 RBI to establish himself as an everyday player.

    Fast forward 13 seasons and he was still wearing a White Sox jersey and still going strong at the age of 36, hitting .298/.371/.486 (130 OPS+) with 26 home runs and 75 RBI to earn his sixth and final All-Star nod.

    He finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting in 2005 (136 OPS+, 40 HR, 100 RBI) and 2010 (160 OPS+, 39 HR, 111 RBI), recording seven 30-homer seasons and six 100-RBI seasons in total.

    His grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series stands as one of the most memorable moments in White Sox history, and his 432 home runs with the team trail only that of Frank Thomas (448) on the franchise's all-time list.

13. Adrian Gonzalez

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Stats: 8,046 PA, .287/.358/.485 (129 OPS+), 317 HR, 1,202 RBI, 43.6 WAR

    Postseason: 140 PA, .266/.329/.453, 7 HR, 21 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.71

    Adrian Gonzalez put together an underappreciated peak with the San Diego Padres when he became one of the few players in franchise history to make Petco Park look small.

    In five seasons with the Padres, he hit .288/.374/.514 (141 OPS+) and averaged 35 doubles, 32 home runs and 100 RBI. He hit a career-high 40 home runs in 2009 and finished fourth in NL MVP voting the following year for a 92-win Padres team.

    He was eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that sent a young Anthony Rizzo the other way, and he enjoyed a productive 282 games in Boston before he was flipped again to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    While he was no longer a 30-homer threat during his time with the Dodgers, he was still an excellent run producer, posting a 124 OPS+ and averaging 24 home runs and 99 RBI in his four full seasons with the team.

    A four-time Gold Glove winner, he also tallied 74 DRS at first base over his 15-year career.

12. Anthony Rizzo

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,173 PA, .273/.373/.488 (130 OPS+), 218 HR, 729 RBI, 33.5 WAR

    Postseason: 154 PA, .217/.299/.391, 6 HR, 18 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 3.24

    Anthony Rizzo was the first key piece of the puzzle to fall into place for the rebuilding Chicago Cubs.

    Acquired from the San Diego Padres as a 22-year-old with just 49 forgettable games of MLB experience, Rizzo took a few years to develop into the player he is today.

    Once he overcame his struggles against left-handed pitching, his career took off. Over the past six seasons, he's hit .284/.388/.513 (138 OPS+) while averaging 33 doubles, 30 home runs, 99 RBI and 4.9 WAR.

    Aside from his elite on-base skills and 30-homer power, he's also one of the best defensive first basemen in the league.

    He took home Platinum Glove honors in 2015, has won three Gold Glove Awards and all told has contributed 68 DRS at a position where defense is often sacrificed for offensive production.

11. Freddie Freeman

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,703 PA, .293/.379/.504 (137 OPS+), 227 HR, 805 RBI, 35.7 WAR

    Postseason: 61 PA, .286/.344/.446, 2 HR, 2 RBI

    WAR/500: 3.13

    After using veterans Troy Glaus and Derrek Lee at first base the previous season, the Atlanta Braves turned the starting job over to 21-year-old Freddie Freeman in 2011.

    He hit .282/.346/.448 (116 OPS+) with 21 home runs and 76 RBI as a rookie, and two years later he was a bona fide NL MVP candidate.

    While he missed time to injury in 2015 (118 games played) and 2017 (117 games played), he has still hit .300/.390/.520 (144 OPS+) while averaging 36 doubles, 26 home runs and 91 RBI over the past seven seasons.

    The 30-year-old set career highs in home runs (38) and RBI (121) last season to finish eighth in NL MVP voting, and a strong case can be made that he's the best first baseman in the league heading into 2020.

10. Mark Teixeira

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Stats: 8,029 PA, .268/.360/.509 (126 OPS+), 409 HR, 1,298 RBI, 50.6 WAR

    Postseason: 183 PA, .222/.339/.320, 3 HR, 14 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 3.15

    Mark Teixeira began the 2003 season as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America.

    After a modest debut where he posted a 102 OPS+ with 26 home runs and 84 RBI, he quickly developed into one of the most reliable power threats in baseball.

    Over the next eight seasons, he had at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI every year, batting .284/.377/.537 for a 136 OPS+ and 41.4 WAR during that stretch.

    Originally a third baseman, he was also an excellent defender at first base, winning five Gold Glove Awards in his 14-year career.

    While injuries limited him to just 488 games and 95 home runs after his age-31 season, his impressive run of elite-level production prior to that is enough to earn him a top-10 spot.

9. Paul Goldschmidt

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,390 PA, .292/.391/.524 (141 OPS+), 243 HR, 807 RBI, 43.1 WAR

    Postseason: 75 PA, .290/.347/.609, 6 HR, 13 RBI

    WAR/500: 4.00

    Despite a somewhat disappointing first season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, Paul Goldschmidt remains one of the most dynamic first basemen to play the game in the past 20 years.

    After a strong first full season in the majors, he exploded to lead the NL in slugging (.551), OPS (.952), OPS+ (160), home runs (36) and RBI (125) during the 2013 season to finish runner-up in NL MVP voting.

    He was second in the balloting once again two years later when he hit .321/.435/.570 (168 OPS+) with 38 doubles, 33 home runs, 110 RBI and 21 steals.

    There have been just 19 individual seasons in MLB history where a player who primarily played first base had at least 20 home runs and 20 steals, and two of them belong to Goldschmidt.

    His 141 OPS+ through nine MLB seasons ranks sixth among active players and 70th on the all-time list among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances.

    He signed a five-year, $130 million extension with the Cardinals that kicks in this season, so he has plenty of time to right the ship after a slow start to his St. Louis tenure.

8. Carlos Delgado

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    Brad Mangin/Getty Images

    Stats: 5,938 PA, .286/.394/.553 (144 OPS+), 324 HR, 1,045 RBI, 33.0 WAR

    Postseason: 43 PA, .351/.442/.757, 4 HR, 11 RBI

    WAR/500: 2.78

    Carlos Delgado kicked off the new millennium by hitting .344/.470/.664 for a staggering 181 OPS+ with 57 doubles, 41 home runs and 137 RBI to finish fourth in AL MVP voting in 2000.

    He was already 28 years old at that point and an established star, and he continued to produce at an elite level for the better part of the next decade.

    From 2000 through 2008, he hit .286/.394/.554 (144 OPS+) while averaging 36 home runs and 114 RBI. During that nine-year stretch, he had eight 30-homer seasons and seven 100-RBI seasons, and he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times.

    The fact that he received just 3.8 percent of the vote and went one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot is a travesty.

7. Jason Giambi

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    JOHN G. MABANGLO/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,160 PA, .267/.407/.526 (144 OPS+), 334 HR, 1,023 RBI, 38.2 WAR

    Postseason: 174 PA, .290/.425/.486, 7 HR, 19 RBI

    WAR/500: 3.10

    Jason Giambi was already an established slugger with five MLB seasons under his belt when he took his game to the next level in 2000.

    He hit .333/.476/.647 for an AL-leading 187 OPS+ while tallying 43 home runs, 137 RBI and more walks (137) than strikeouts (96) en route to AL MVP honors.

    The following season he led the AL in on-base percentage (.477), slugging (.660), OPS (1.137), OPS+ (199), doubles (47) and walks (129) in a 9.2-WAR season to finish second in MVP voting, and he parlayed that performance into a seven-year, $120 million contract with the New York Yankees.

    While his tenure with the Yankees may be defined by the fact that the team failed to win a ring during that seven-year stretch, Giambi remained productive with a 143 OPS+ and 209 home runs during his time in the Bronx.

    He wound up playing until he was 43, spending the final six seasons of his career as a power bat off the bench and a player/coach of sorts.

6. Jim Thome

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    Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

    Stats: 6,531 PA, .270/.396/.558 (147 OPS+), 416 HR, 1,120 RBI, 43.2 WAR

    Postseason: 72 PA, .143/.250/.206, 1 HR, 2 RBI

    WAR/500: 3.31

    Jim Thome technically played more games at DH (776) than he did at first base (733) from 2000 through the end of his career, but he dusted off his glove frequently enough to earn a place on this list.

    The Hall of Fame slugger was 29 years old with 196 career home runs under his belt when the 2000 season arrived. He went on to hit another 368 home runs during the 2000s, despite playing in just 59 games in 2005 when he underwent season-ending elbow surgery.

    He topped 40 home runs five times during the 2000s, including a career-high 52 in 2002 when he led the AL in walks (122), slugging (.677), OPS (1.122) and OPS+ (197) en route to a seventh-place finish in MVP voting.

    He signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins in 2010 at the age of 39 and showed he still had something left in the tank by posting a .283/.412/.627 line with 25 home runs in 340 plate appearances to garner some down-ballot MVP support for the AL Central champions.

    Thome ranks among the all-time leaders in home runs (612, eighth), RBI (1,699, 27th), OPS (.956, 17th), walks (1,747, seventh) and at-bats per home run (13.8, fourth).

5. Lance Berkman

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Stats: 7,708 PA, .294/.407/.539 (145 OPS+), 362 HR, 1,219 RBI, 51.8 WAR

    Postseason: 224 PA, .317/.417/.532, 9 HR, 41 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 3.36

    Lance Berkman began his career in the Houston Astros outfield, even spending a season as the team's primary center fielder, before settling in at first base.

    The first time he topped 500 plate appearances was the 2001 season, and he seized the opportunity by hitting .331/.430/.620 with 55 doubles, 34 home runs 126 RBI to finish fifth in NL MVP voting.

    That kicked off an impressive nine-year stretch, all spent with the Astros, where he hit .301/.415/.558 (150 OPS+) and averaged 37 doubles, 32 home runs and 107 RBI. He made five All-Star appearances and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times during that window.

    After he posted the worst numbers of his career to date in 2010 at the age of 34, the St. Louis Cardinals took a chance on him in free agency. He rewarded them with a 164 OPS+ and 31 home runs, and they rewarded him with a World Series ring.

    Berkman goes down as one of the best switch-hitters of his era and an underrated slugger in an era filled with them.

4. Todd Helton

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    Don Smith/Getty Images

    Stats: 8,100 PA, .317/.419/.536 (135 OPS+), 304 HR, 1,185 RBI, 55.9 WAR

    Postseason: 66 PA, .211/.303/.281, 0 HR, 4 RBI

    WAR/500: 3.45

    Todd Helton had the unenviable task of replacing Andres Galarraga at first base for the Colorado Rockies during the 1998 season.

    He responded by finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, and by 2000 he was one of the faces of the sport.

    In 2000, he made a legitimate run at a .400 batting average, ultimately winning the batting title with a .372 average. He also led the NL in on-base percentage (.463), slugging (.698), OPS (1.162), hits (216), doubles (59), RBI (147) and total bases (405) while swatting 42 home runs.

    He averaged 36 home runs and 117 RBI over the next four seasons before his power production dipped, but he remained a high average hitter, posting a .302/.385/.466 line with 14 home runs and 69 RBI in 2011 at the age of 37.

    Helton spent his entire 17-year career in a Rockies uniform.

3. Joey Votto

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Stats: 7,372 PA, .307/.421/.519 (150 OPS+), 284 HR, 944 RBI, 62.0 WAR

    Postseason: 37 PA, .250/.324/.250, 0 HR, 1 RBI

    WAR/500: 4.21

    There are players with strong on-base skills, and then there is Joey Votto.

    The longtime Cincinnati Reds first baseman has led the NL in on-base percentage seven times in his 12 full seasons in the majors, and his .421 career OBP is good for 17th on the all-time list.

    While he's never been a traditional masher at the position, he has a pair of 30-homer seasons to his credit, to go along with three 100-RBI campaigns and five seasons with 100 runs scored.

    He took home NL MVP honors in 2010 when he hit .324/.424/.600 with 36 doubles, 37 home runs, 113 RBI and 106 runs scored in a 7.0-WAR season.

    The 2002 second-round pick is a six-time All-Star and has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting six times.

    My favorite Votto stat?

    He hit .408/.490/.668 in 314 plate appearances during the second half of the 2016 season. Can you imagine the hype if he had done that during the first half?

2. Miguel Cabrera

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Stats: 10,236 PA, .315/.392/.543 (148 OPS+), 477 HR, 1,694 RBI, 69.5 WAR

    Postseason: 235 PA, .278/.368/.517, 13 HR, 38 RBI, One-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 3.39

    Miguel Cabrera debuted at the age of 20 in 2003 and by season's end he was hitting cleanup for the Florida Marlins in the World Series.

    In his first full season, he hit .294/.366/.512 (130 OPS+) with 33 home runs and 112 RBI as a corner outfielder, before eventually moving to third base and finally to first base after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers.

    At his peak, Cabrera was one of the best hitters the game has ever seen.

    From 2010 through 2013, he hit .337/.425/.612 while averaging 40 doubles, 39 home runs, 127 RBI and 7.2 WAR.

    During that stretch, he won three batting titles, two MVP Awards and the AL Triple Crown in 2012 when he hit .330/.393/.606 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI.

    Now 37 years old, he's no longer the feared slugger he was in his prime, but he's still a tough out. He figures to add to his counting numbers in the seasons to come with four years left on his current contract.

1. Albert Pujols

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Stats: 12,231 PA, .300/.379/.549 (147 OPS+), 656 HR, 2,075 RBI, 100.8 WAR

    Postseason: 334 PA, .323/.431/.599, 19 HR, 54 RBI, Two-time WS winner

    WAR/500: 4.12

    A strong case can be made that Albert Pujols is the greatest right-handed hitter in MLB history.

    He exploded on to the scene as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001, hitting .329/.403/.610 (157 OPS+) with 37 home runs and 130 RBI to win Rookie of the Year and finish fourth in NL MVP balloting.

    That was the first of 10 straight seasons in which he hit at least .300 with at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBI. During that decade-long stretch, he won three NL MVP Awards and compiled a staggering 81.4 WAR.

    He remained a well-above-average hitter for the next six years after that, including his first five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, posting a 127 OPS+ and averaging 29 home runs and 98 RBI.

    His contract has now become an albatross as he gets set to enter his age-40 season, but that does nothing to diminish one of the most electrifying primes in MLB history.

    He's an all-time great, folks.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.


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