MLB State of the Position 2020: Every Team's 5-Year Plan at First Base

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2020

MLB State of the Position 2020: Every Team's 5-Year Plan at First Base

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    First base is home to some of the most prolific offensive players in baseball, and there's no telling when the next Max Muncy or Christian Walker will arrive on the scene and exceed expectations.

    With that said, some clubs are better set up for success at the position than others.

    Ahead, we've broken down each team's present and future outlook at first base, highlighting their starter and top prospect, followed by a prediction about who will play there for the next half-decade.

    Think of it as the team's five-year plan at the position.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Seth Beer
    Seth BeerJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Christian Walker (Age: 29)

    Tasked with replacing Paul Goldschmidt at first base, Christian Walker was one of the breakout offensive performers of 2019, despite entering the season with only 61 MLB games under his belt.

    He posted a 111 OPS+ with 29 home runs and 73 RBI over 152 games in a 3.0 WAR season. With team control through the 2024 season, he'll give the D-backs a low-cost power source for years to come.

           

    Future: Seth Beer (Tier 2 prospect)

    Acquired in the Zack Greinke blockbuster last summer, Seth Beer has rocketed through the minor league ranks since going No. 28 overall in the 2018 draft.

    The 23-year-old hit .289/.388/.516 with 24 doubles, 26 home runs and 103 RBI in 122 games between High-A and Double-A last year. While his contributions will be limited beyond his power bat, he has middle-of-the-order run-producer potential.

    Other notable prospects: Pavin Smith (Tier 3), A.J. Vukovich (Tier 3)

            

    Prediction: Walker (2020-22), Beer (2023-24)

Atlanta Braves

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    Freddie Freeman
    Freddie FreemanKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Present: Freddie Freeman (Age: 30)

    The Atlanta Braves signed Freddie Freeman to an eight-year, $135 million contract at the onset of a top-to-bottom rebuild prior to the 2014 season.

    He has since the developed into arguably the best first baseman in baseball, posting a 136 OPS+ with career-high home run (38) and RBI (121) totals in 2019. It's hard to imagine him in another uniform at this point, and the Braves will have a big decision to make on his future following the 2021 season.

            

    Future: Bryce Ball (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Braves selected Bryce Ball in the 24th round of the 2019 draft after he hit .325/.443/.614 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI in 63 games at Dallas Baptist.

    The 22-year-old continued to rake after signing, hitting .329/.395/.628 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI in 62 games between rookie ball and Single-A. Despite his late-round status, he's a prospect on the rise and one to watch in the Atlanta system going forward.

           

    Prediction: Freeman (2020-24)

Baltimore Orioles

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    Ryan Mountcastle
    Ryan MountcastleJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Chris Davis (Age: 34)

    The Orioles still owe Chris Davis a $23 million salary in 2021 and 2022 to close out an ill-advised seven-year, $161 million contract.

    Davis was a minus-4.8 WAR player over the past two seasons when he hit .172 with a 53 OPS+ and a 37.9 percent strikeout rate, but he has remained a positive voice in the clubhouse amid those struggles. He went 7-for-15 with three home runs this spring before the season was halted, so perhaps there's a career renaissance forthcoming.

           

    Future: Ryan Mountcastle (Tier 2 prospect)

    Originally drafted as a shortstop in the first round of the 2015 draft, Ryan Mountcastle has since slid down the defensive spectrum to first base. He still has a chance to make an impact with his bat, though.

    The 23-year-old hit .312/.344/.527 with 35 doubles and 25 home runs in 127 games at Triple-A last year, and he has a chance to be a long-term piece of the rebuilding puzzle in Baltimore. Once he's deemed ready, Davis could be moved into a part-time role.

    Other notable prospects: Coby Mayo (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Davis (2020), Mountcastle (2021-24)

Boston Red Sox

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    Triston Casas
    Triston CasasMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Present: Mitch Moreland (Age: 34)

    A Gold Glove winner in 2016 and an All-Star in 2018, Mitch Moreland has put together a solid 10-year career in the majors while playing for the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox.

    The Red Sox brought him back on a one-year, $2.5 million deal during the offseason, and that contract includes a $3 million club option with a $500,000 buyout for 2021. He's a productive, low-cost placeholder at this point in his career.

            

    Future: Triston Casas (Tier 1 prospect)

    The Red Sox could hand the first base job to Bobby Dalbec in the short term, before moving him to third base and shifting Rafael Devers into the DH role once top prospect Triston Casas is MLB-ready.

    Casas, 20, was the No. 26 overall pick in the 2018 draft and one of the best pure hitters in his class. He batted .256/.350/.480 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI between Single-A and High-A last year, and he's now the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Boston system.

    Other notable prospects: Bobby Dalbec (Tier 2), Blaze Jordan (Tier 3)

             

    Prediction: Moreland (2020-21), Dalbec (2022), Casas (2023-24)

Chicago Cubs

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    Anthony Rizzo
    Anthony RizzoJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Anthony Rizzo (Age: 30)

    The deal that sent Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres in exchange for a young first baseman named Anthony Rizzo will go down as one of the greatest trades in Chicago Cubs franchise history.

    In his eight seasons on the North Side, Rizzo has become a baseball institution, and his contributions on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community make him a solid bet to spend the rest of his career in a Cubs uniform. He has a $16.5 million club option for 2021 before hitting free agency for the first time.

            

    Future: Alfonso Rivas (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Cubs acquired Alfonso Rivas from the Oakland Athletics during the offseason in exchange for utility man Tony Kemp.

    The 23-year-old was a fourth-round pick in 2018, and he hit a respectable .292/.387/.423 with 39 extra-base hits in 122 games between High-A and Triple-A last year. He gives the Cubs some quality depth in the upper levels of the minors and a potential contingency plan if he can find a bit more power.

         

    Prediction: Rizzo (2020-24)

Chicago White Sox

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    Andrew Vaughn
    Andrew VaughnRon Vesely/Getty Images

    Present: Jose Abreu (Age: 33)

    After initially accepting a qualifying offer, Jose Abreu then signed a three-year, $50 million extension that will keep him in a White Sox uniform through the 2022 season.

    A model of consistency since exploding onto the scene to win AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2014, Abreu hit .284/.330/.503 with 33 home runs and an AL-leading 123 RBI while earning his third All-Star selection in 2019.

             

    Future: Andrew Vaughn (Tier 1 prospect)

    Andrew Vaughn was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft after posting a 1.243 OPS with 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 52 games during his junior season at the University of California. He's as polished as any college hitter in recent memory and might have jumped straight to the majors in a different era.

    As soon as he's ready, he'll be the team's everyday first baseman, with Abreu shifting into the DH role. Edwin Encarnacion signed a one-year deal with a 2021 club option during the offseason to serve as the DH in 2020, so the team has some flexibility with that role.

    Other notable prospects: Zack Collins (Tier 3), Gavin Sheets (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Abreu (2020), Vaughn (2021-24)

Cincinnati Reds

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    Joey Votto
    Joey VottoJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Joey Votto (Age: 36)

    Can Joey Votto bounce back from the worst season of his career?

    The perennial on-base machine hit a lackluster .261/.357/.411 for a career-low 98 OPS+ last season, but he's only one year removed from being a 4.0 WAR player and two years removed from an 8.1 WAR season.

    His current contract will pay him $25 million annually through 2023, and concludes with a $20 million club option for 2024 that carries a hefty $7 million buyout.

           

    Future: Rece Hinds (Tier 3 prospect)

    With a strong 6'4", 215-pound frame, Rece Hinds had some of the best raw power in the 2019 draft class, and the Reds selected him the second round.

    A shortstop in high school, he moved to third base to start his pro career, and it's not out of the question to think he will eventually need to move across the diamond as he continues to physically mature. He'll go as far as his power bat carries him, and he could wind up being the Reds' first baseman of the future if everything clicks.

    Other notable prospects: Bren Spillane (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Votto (2020-23), Hinds (2024)

Cleveland Indians

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    Bobby Bradley
    Bobby BradleyNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Carlos Santana (Age: 34)

    After spending the 2018 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, Carlos Santana returned to the Indians by way of a three-team trade and promptly earned his first All-Star selection while hitting .281/.397/.515 for a 136 OPS+ with 34 home runs and 93 RBI in a 4.6 WAR season.

    The three-year, $60 million deal he signed with the Phillies runs through the 2020 season and carries a $17.5 million club option for 2021, at which point he'll be 36 years old.

    Jake Bauers is also an in-house option after he split his playing time between left field (53 games), designated hitter (35 games) and first base (31 games) last year.

            

    Future: Bobby Bradley (Tier 3 prospect)

    Bobby Bradley checked in at No. 93 on the Baseball America Top 100 list prior to the 2016 season after a 27-homer, 92-RBI full-season debut at the age of 19.

    He's dealt with some ups and downs in the years since while attempting to navigate the considerable swing-and-miss in his game, but he still has a chance to be an impact run producer in the majors. In 2019, he hit .264/.344/.567 with 33 home runs in 107 games at Triple-A.

    Other notable prospects: Jhonkensy Noel (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Santana (2020-21), Bradley (2022-24)

Colorado Rockies

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    Ryan McMahon
    Ryan McMahonDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Present: Ryan McMahon (Age: 25)

    With Daniel Murphy likely to occupy the everyday DH role in 2020 and Ian Desmond opting out of the season, Ryan McMahon now looks like the favorite to serve as the Colorado Rockies' primary first baseman.

    He hit 17 of his 24 home runs during the second half last season, and with a top prospect pedigree, he is still capable of taking a significant step forward. He's under club control through the 2023 season, and for the time being, first base will be his defensive home.

            

    Future: Michael Toglia (Tier 3 prospect)

    With an imposing 6'5", 226-pound frame and the raw power to match, Michael Toglia was selected with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

    The UCLA standout hit .314/.392/.624 with 17 home runs and 65 RBI in 63 games during his junior season, then slugged another nine home runs in 41 games at Low-A after signing. He's the headliner of a deep crop of corner infield talent that stands as the strength of a thin farm system.

    Other notable prospects: Colton Welker (Tier 3), Tyler Nevin (Tier 3), Grant Lavigne (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: McMahon (2020-22), Toglia (2023-24)

Detroit Tigers

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    Spencer Torkelson
    Spencer TorkelsonMark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Present: C.J. Cron (Age: 30)

    Miguel Cabrera is probably finished playing first base on even a semi-regular basis after 107 of his 133 starts came as a DH last season.

    The Detroit Tigers signed slugger C.J. Cron to a one-year, $6.1 million deal during the offseason after a 25-homer season with the Minnesota Twins last year and a 30-homer season with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018. He doesn't provide much value beyond his power production, but he's a solid stopgap option who could play his way into being a viable trade chip.

            

    Future: Spencer Torkelson (Tier 1 prospect)

    Here's what I wrote in the third base edition of our state of the position series:

    "The Tigers drafted Spencer Torkelson as a third baseman with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, and the decision to start him at the hot corner is likely just an effort to add some versatility. His best and most likely fit long-term is still first base."

    He might already be the best offensive player in the entire organization, and it won't take him long to reach the majors. The rebuilding Tigers have no reason to rush him, but a 2022 debut still seems more than reasonable given his overall polish.

    Other notable prospects: Reynaldo Rivera (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Cron (2020), Free agent (2021), Torkelson (2022-24)

Houston Astros

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    Yuli Gurriel
    Yuli GurrielMark Blinch/Getty Images

    Present: Yuli Gurriel (Age: 36)

    Yuli Gurriel played 15 seasons in Cuba and one season in Japan before he made his MLB debut on Aug. 21, 2016 at the age of 32.

    He had the best season of his MLB career last year, hitting .298/.343/.541 for a 126 OPS+ with 40 doubles, 31 home runs and 104 RBI. He has also spent some time at second base, shortstop and third base over the past two seasons, providing some rare versatility at the position.

    His five-year, $47.5 million contract runs through the 2020 season, and with George Springer and Carlos Correa both headed for significant paydays, the Astros could opt to let him walk.

    Abraham Toro is MLB-ready without a defensive position to call home, and he could be a short-term solution at the position.

        

    Future: Taylor Jones (Tier 3 prospect)

    Taylor Jones built off a breakout 2018 season with another strong showing last year, hitting .291/.388/.501 with 28 doubles, 22 home runs and 84 RBI in 125 games at Triple-A.

    The towering 6'7", 225-pounder was a 19th-round pick in 2016, so he has already exceeded expectations. If he continues to rake in the upper levels of the minors, he'll play his way into an MLB opportunity.

    Other notable prospects: J.J. Matijevic (Tier 3)

            

    Prediction: Gurriel (2020), Toro (2021), Jones (2022-24)

Kansas City Royals

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    Ryan O'Hearn
    Ryan O'HearnEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Present: Ryan O'Hearn (Age: 26)

    Ryan O'Hearn looked like a potential long-term piece for the Royals when he posted a 154 OPS+ with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 170 plate appearances over 44 games as a rookie in 2018.

    But in an extended look last year, he hit only .195/.281/.369 for a 70 OPS+ while striking out at a 26.8 percent clip. His power production also cratered with 14 home runs in 370 plate appearances.

    The rebuilding Royals can afford to give him and Ryan McBroom a long look the next few seasons while they continue to wait on the arrival of their next wave of young talent, but both players have a lot to prove before they can be considered future pieces.

        

    Future: Nick Pratto (Tier 3 prospect)

    Nick Pratto was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 draft and the fourth high school position player selected after Royce Lewis (No. 1 to MIN) and Austin Beck (No. 6 to OAK).

    After hitting .280/.343/.443 with 14 home runs and 22 steals in his full-season debut in 2018, he struggled mightily at High-A last year. He finished with a .191 average, and his OPS plummeted by nearly 200 points while his strikeout rate rose from 27.9 to 34.7 percent.

    He's still only 21, so there's plenty of time for him to deliver on his potential. 

             

    Other notable prospects: Kelvin Gutierrez (Tier 3)

           

    Prediction: O'Hearn (2020-21), Free agent (2022), Pratto (2023-24)

Los Angeles Angels

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    Matt Thaiss
    Matt ThaissJohn McCoy/Getty Images

    Present: Albert Pujols (Age: 40)

    With Shohei Ohtani likely to see regular action in the DH role even with his impending return to the mound, Albert Pujols will once again be the starting first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels.

    The future Hall of Famer posted a sub-100 OPS+ for the third straight season last year, hitting .244/.305/.430 with 23 home runs and 93 RBI in 131 games.

    He's owed $30 million in 2021 to wrap up his 10-year, $240 million contract.

          

    Future: Matt Thaiss (Age: 25)

    Matt Thaiss hit .279/.363/.445 over four minor league seasons after going No. 16 overall in the 2016 draft, and he made his MLB debut last July.

    He had an 88 OPS+ with eight home runs and 23 RBI in 53 games as a rookie, splitting his time between third base (43 games) and first base (13 games). He'll continue to fill a utility role while he waits in the wings to take over as the Angels' everyday first baseman.

    Other notable prospects: Jared Walsh (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Pujols (2020-21), Thaiss (2022-24)

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Max Muncy
    Max MuncyJohn McCoy/Getty Images

    Present: Max Muncy (Age: 29)

    Max Muncy was a late-blooming star for the Dodgers in 2018 when he posted a 161 OPS+ with 35 home runs in a 4.1 WAR season, and he slugged another 35 home runs in a 5.7 WAR campaign last year. The Dodgers rewarded that performance with a three-year, $26 million contract that includes a 2023 club option. 

    Muncy played second base (70 games), first base (65 games) and third base (35 games) last year as manager Dave Roberts continued to aggressively platoon. While he could continue to bounce around, the arrival of Gavin Lux likely means less time at second base.

          

    Future: Miguel Vargas (Tier 3 prospect)

    Miguel Vargas defected from Cuba in 2015 and eventually signed with the Dodgers for $300,000 on Sept. 7, 2017.

    The 20-year-old hit .308/.380/.440 with 38 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 77 RBI in 123 games between Single-A and High-A last year while playing primarily third base. He fits better at first base long-term, and if he can tap into a bit more raw power, he could emerge as the Dodgers' first baseman of the future.

    Other notable prospects: Michael Busch (Tier 2), Edwin Rios (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Muncy (2020-23), Vargas (2024)

Miami Marlins

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    Lewin Diaz
    Lewin DiazMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Present: Jesus Aguilar (Age: 30)

    Jesus Aguilar exploded for a 35-homer, 108-RBI season with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, earning a spot on the All-Star team and finishing 16th in NL MVP voting.

    After he slumped to start last season, the Brewers eventually traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Miami Marlins claimed him off waivers this winter. With team control through the 2022 season, it was a smart buy-low move that could pay dividends for a team in the midst of a rebuild.

    Garrett Cooper will also see time at first base after posting a 110 OPS+ with 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 421 plate appearances last season. He's capable of manning a corner outfield spot as well.

           

    Future: Lewin Diaz (Tier 3 prospect)

    With a strong 6'4" frame and 55-grade power, Lewin Diaz looks like part of a future middle-of-the-order slugger.

    The 23-year-old hit .270/.321/.530 with 33 doubles and 27 home runs between High-A and Double-A last year, with eight of those long balls coming after the Marlins acquired him from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for veteran reliever Sergio Romo at the trade deadline.

    Other notable prospects: Evan Edwards (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Aguilar (2020-21), Diaz (2022-24)

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Justin Smoak
    Justin SmoakNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Justin Smoak (Age: 33)

    Justin Smoak put together a solid three-year stretch with the Toronto Blue Jays that included a 101 OPS+ with 22 home runs in 121 games last season. However, he was only able to find a one-year, $4 million contract in free agency that includes a $5.5 million team option in 2021 with a $1 million buyout.

    He'll replace what was a platoon of Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar at first base, with Ryan Braun likely moving into the DH role after initially shifting to first base during spring training.

    Ryon Healy and non-roster invitee Logan Morrison provide some further organizational depth.

          

    Future: Thomas Dillard (Tier 3 prospect)

    A fifth-round pick out of Ole Miss in 2019, Thomas Dillard saw time at catcher, first base and left field during his time on campus and in his pro debut.

    He has drawn comparisons to Kyle Schwarber, and it remains to be seen where he'll wind up defensively, but his power will play at the MLB level if he continues to refine his approach and hit tool.

    Keep an eye on Luis Castro, who hit .304/.419/.552 with 27 home runs and 105 RBI between High-A and Double-A in the Colorado Rockies system last season before joining the Brewers as a minor league free agent.

    Other notable prospects: Lucas Erceg (Tier 3), Luis Castro (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Smoak (2020-21), Free agent (2022-24)

Minnesota Twins

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    Alex Kirilloff
    Alex KirilloffBrace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Present: Miguel Sano (Age: 27)

    The addition of Josh Donaldson in free agency means the Twins will be shifting Miguel Sano from third base to first base moving forward, and that will be a better fit for him defensively after he posted negative defensive metrics at the hot corner throughout his career.

    Sano signed a three-year, $30 million extension in January that includes a $14 million club option for 2023. He launched a career-high 34 home runs in 105 games last year while ranking among the MLB leaders in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, according to Baseball Savant.

            

    Future: Alex Kirilloff (Tier 1 prospect)

    Nelson Cruz turned 40 years old on July 1, and even if he is retained beyond his current contract, which runs through 2020, he's coming down the homestretch of his career.

    Once he's no longer in the picture, the Twins could shift Sano back to the DH role, which would open the door for top prospect Alex Kirilloff or 2020 first-round pick Aaron Sabato to take over as the starting first baseman.

    Kirilloff, 22, took a step backward last year after a standout 2018 season, but his future remains extremely bright.

    Other notable prospects: Aaron Sabato (Tier 3), Brent Rooker (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Sano (2020-21), Kirilloff (2022-24)

New York Mets

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    Pete Alonso
    Pete AlonsoJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Pete Alonso (Age: 25)

    Pete Alonso set an MLB rookie record when he slugged 53 home runs last season while hitting .260/.358/.583 for a 148 OPS+ to finish seventh in NL MVP balloting.

    He has the on-base ability to make up for the swing-and-miss in his game, and even if he regresses a bit from his record-setting home run total, he should be a perennial 30-homer, 100-RBI threat in the middle of the Mets' offensive attack with club control through 2024.

    Few players benefit more from the universal DH than Dominic Smith, who was miscast as a left fielder after playing primarily first base in the minors. Veteran Matt Adams is also an option at first after signing a minor league deal.

           

    Future: Brett Baty (Tier 2 prospect)

    With Mark Vientos getting the nod as the third baseman of the future in the hot corner edition of our state of the position series, that raises the question of where 2019 first-round pick Brett Baty will play.

    The 6'3", 210-pound slugger has a strong arm that fits well at third base, and he's athletic enough to handle the move to a corner outfield spot. But first base is also a possibility. For now, the presence of Alonso makes the first baseman of the future discussion a moot point.

    Other notable prospects: David Thompson (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Alonso (2020-24)

New York Yankees

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    Luke Voit
    Luke VoitMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Present: Luke Voit (Age: 29) and Mike Ford (Age: 28)

    A platoon of right-handed-hitting Luke Voit and left-handed-hitting Mike Ford could be extremely productive for the Yankees in the years to come if they continue to produce at the level they did in 2020.

    Despite their respective ages, Voit is controllable through 2024 and Ford is controllable through 2025, thanks to the fact that both players were late-bloomers. For now, they look like the present and future at the position.

          

    Future: Miguel Andujar (Age: 25)

    Miguel Andujar undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery opened the door for Gio Urshela to seize control of the everyday third base job, and now it's unclear how Andujar fits into the team's plans.

    While the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up posted a 130 OPS+ with 27 home runs and 92 RBI in his debut, brutal defensive metrics at third base (minus-21 DRS, minus-24.5 UZR/150) undercut his overall value. He profiles best as a DH long-term, but he could also see some time at first base.

    Other notable prospects: Chris Gittens (Tier 3), Dermis Garcia (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Voit (2020-24)

Oakland Atheltics

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    Matt Olson
    Matt OlsonChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Present: Matt Olson (Age: 26)

    Matt Olson is the best two-way first baseman in baseball after posting a 137 OPS+ with 36 home runs and 91 RBI while also winning his second straight Gold Glove Award.

    Can Oakland afford to keep him long-term?

    He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, and he's under club control through 2023, at which point he'll reach free agency ahead of his age-30 season.

           

    Future: Kyle McCann (Tier 3 prospect)

    The Athletics selected Kyle McCann in the fourth round of the 2019 draft after he performed well replacing Joey Bart as the starting catcher at Georgia Tech.

    MLB.com wrote: "If it all clicks, he could fit the profile of a lefty power-hitting backstop, but he also might have enough pop to be a first baseman if the catching end of things doesn’t come together."

    With Sean Murphy and Jonah Heim ahead of him on the prospect pecking order, first base may indeed be his ultimate landing spot.

    Other notable prospects: Lawrence Butler (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Olson (2020-24)

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Rhys Hoskins
    Rhys HoskinsHunter Martin/Getty Images

    Present: Rhys Hoskins (Age: 27)

    Rhys Hoskins has something to prove in 2020.

    After a dynamite rookie campaign and a 34-homer second season, he posted a .931 OPS with 20 home runs and 59 RBI during the first half last season.

    That was followed by a brutal .180/.318/.361 line and just nine home runs in 313 plate appearances after the All-Star break. His age-27 season could determine whether he continues on his ascent to stardom or flames out.

          

    Future: Rixon Wingrove (Tier 3 prospect)

    One of a number of Australian-born prospects in the Philadelphia farm system, Rixon Wingrove hit .298/.374/.500 with 24 extra-base hits over 48 games in his second tour of rookie ball in 2019.

    The 20-year-old has plenty of power potential packed into his 6'5", 260-pound frame, and he's the type of prospect who could take a significant step forward in his full-season debut.

    Other notable prospects: Cole Stobbe (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Hoskins (2020-23), Wingrove (2024)

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Josh Bell
    Josh BellJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Present: Josh Bell (Age: 27)

    Josh Bell was one of the most productive offensive players in baseball last season, hitting .277/.367/.569 for a 143 OPS+ with 37 doubles, 37 home runs and 116 RBI to earn his first All-Star selection.

    As the Pirates embark on what could be a lengthy rebuilding effort under their new front office, Bell could wind up being a trade chip. He's arbitration-eligible through the 2022 season, and he might be moved even sooner. At the very least, it's a longshot he'll be signed to a long-term deal given the current state of the franchise.

           

    Future: Mason Martin (Tier 3 prospect)

    Mason Martin was a 17th-round pick in 2017, and he entered last season well off the top prospect radar after hitting .220 with a .722 OPS and 14 home runs in 104 games between rookie ball and Single-A in his first full season.

    The 21-year-old is on the radar now after logging a .908 OPS with 35 home runs and 129 RBI in 131 games between Single-A and High-A. His 30.2 percent strikeout rate needs work, but his 60-grade power is the real deal.

    Other notable prospects: Will Craig (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Bell (2020-22), Martin (2023-24)

San Diego Padres

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    Eric Hosmer
    Eric HosmerRich Schultz/Getty Images

    Present: Eric Hosmer (Age: 30)

    The San Diego Padres have made some excellent moves over the last few years to build up an impressive core of young talent and a roster on the cusp of contention.

    Signing Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million deal was not one of them.

    After a forgettable debut with the team in 2018, he posted a 93 OPS+ and minus-0.2 WAR last season while earning $21 million. The back-loaded deal will pay him $21 million annually through 2022 and then $13 million in each of the final three years of the contract.

        

    Future: Josh Naylor (Age: 23)

    Josh Naylor is a man without a position.

    The 5'11", 250-pound slugger profiles best at first base, but he's been forced to the outfield with Hosmer blocking his path.

    He hit .314/.389/.547 with 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 42 RBI in 54 games at Triple-A last season, and he had 23 extra-base hits over 279 plate appearances in the majors while manning the corner outfield spots.

    Other notable prospects: Jason Vosler (Tier 3)

           

    Prediction: Hosmer (2020-24)

San Francisco Giants

24 of 30

    Brandon Belt
    Brandon BeltNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Brandon Belt (Age: 32)

    Brandon Belt has never been a prototypical first baseman, generating his value with defensive and on-base ability rather than power production. He's had some trouble staying healthy throughout his career, and while he managed to play 156 games last season, he posted a career-low 98 OPS+ with 17 home runs and 57 RBI in a 0.8-WAR season.

    The Giants owe him $17.2 million in the final year of his contract in 2021, at which point they might consider moving Buster Posey to first base to clear a path for Joey Bart behind the plate.

    One way or another, expect Belt to be playing elsewhere in 2022

          

    Future: Logan Wyatt (Tier 3 prospect)

    Logan Wyatt hit just 15 home runs in 648 plate appearances at the University of Louisville, posting a .305/.460/.475 line in the process.

    With a strong 6'4", 230-pound frame, he may be a reworked swing path away from tapping into his considerable raw power. That gave him enough upside to be worth a second-round pick in the 2019 draft, and he'll be one to watch over the next few years.

    Other notable prospects: Luis Toribio (Tier 3), Sean Roby (Tier 3), Garrett Frechette (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Belt (2020-21), Posey (2022), Wyatt (2023-24)

Seattle Mariners

25 of 30

    Evan White
    Evan WhiteChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Present: Daniel Vogelbach (Age: 27)

    Daniel Vogelbach launched 30 home runs last season and earned a spot on the AL All-Star team, posting a 112 OPS+ and tallying 92 walks and a .341 on-base percentage to help offset a .208 batting average.

    He'll be the team's primary DH going forward.

           

    Future: Evan White (Tier 1 prospect)

    The future is now for top prospect Evan White after he was signed to a six-year, $24 million extension in November before ever making his MLB debut.

    The 24-year-old was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2017 draft, and he hit .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs and 55 RBI in 92 games at Double-A last year to show the front office he was MLB-ready.

    Now that he has an MLB contract in place, the Mariners have no reason to play service-time games, so he'll be given every chance to be the starter from the get-go in 2020.

    Other notable prospects: Tyler Keenan (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: White (2020-24)

St. Louis Cardinals

26 of 30

    Paul Goldschmidt
    Paul GoldschmidtDenis Poroy/Getty Images

    Present: Paul Goldschmidt (Age: 32)

    The St. Louis Cardinals acquired Paul Goldschmidt prior to last season in a blockbuster deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then they signed him to a five-year, $130 million extension in March.

    The six-time All-Star performed below his usual standards in 2019 and still finished with a 113 OPS+ and 34 home runs in a 2.4-WAR season. The Cardinals are now banking on him returning to the form that saw him finish in the top 10 in MVP voting four times during a six-year stretch.

           

    Future: Luken Baker (Tier 3 prospect)

    A two-way standout when he arrived on campus at TCU, Luken Baker eventually turned his full attention to hitting after suffering a series of injuries during his college career.

    A hulking 6'4", 280-pound masher with a first base-only profile, he will go as far as his bat carries him after he was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.

    The Cardinals aggressively sent him to High-A for his first full season, and he responded by hitting .244/.327/.390 with 32 doubles, 10 home runs and 53 RBI in 122 games. Stay tuned.

    Other notable prospects: Elehuris Montero (Tier 3), Malcom Nunez (Tier 3), Alec Burleson (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Goldschmidt (2020-24)

Tampa Bay Rays

27 of 30

    Ji-Man Choi
    Ji-Man ChoiJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Present: Ji-Man Choi (Age: 29)

    An underrated contributor last season, Ji-Man Choi posted a 119 OPS+ with 19 home runs and 63 RBI in his first extended MLB action.

    Thanks in part to a 13.1 percent walk rate, his .363 on-base percentage ranked 43rd among players with at least 400 plate appearances, and he was a 2.0-WAR player.

    Despite his age, he has team control through the 2023 season. He'll again see the bulk of the action at first base in 2020, alongside newcomer Jose Martinez.

            

    Future: Nate Lowe (Age: 25)

    Nate Lowe has nothing left to prove in the minors.

    He hit .289/.421/.508 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 93 games at Triple-A last year, and he had a 106 OPS+ with seven home runs and 19 RBI over 50 games in the majors.

    The first base/designated hitter situation is a bit cluttered, but he could hit his way into a bigger role.

    Other notable prospects: Kevin Padlo (Tier 3), Tristan Gray (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Choi (2020-21), Lowe (2022-24)

Texas Rangers

28 of 30

    Ronald Guzman
    Ronald GuzmanNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Present: Ronald Guzman (Age: 25)

    How many more chances will Ronald Guzman get to prove himself?

    Over the past two seasons, he's hit .229/.307/.415 for an 85 OPS+ in 723 plate appearances, and with limited value beyond his bat, he's been worth just 0.7 WAR during that time. He's controllable through the 2024 season, but he has a lot to prove before he can be considered the long-term answer.

    The Rangers also added Greg Bird and Sam Travis on minor league deals this offseason.

           

    Future: Sherten Apostel (Tier 3 prospect)

    There was already a good chance Sherten Apostel would need to shift from third base to first base, and the addition of Josh Jung to the farm system in last year's draft has made the switch a foregone conclusion.

    Apostel, 21, has loud raw power, and he's still growing into his 6'4", 200-pound frame. He hit .251/.339/.440 with 19 home runs in 478 plate appearances between Single-A and High-A last year in his full-season debut.

    A few years from now, the trade that sent Keone Kela from Texas to Pittsburgh could be better known as the Sherten Apostel trade.

    Other notable prospects: Randy Florentino (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Guzman (2020-21), Free agent (2022), Apostel (2023-24)

Toronto Blue Jays

29 of 30

    Travis Shaw
    Travis ShawCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Present: Travis Shaw (Age: 30)

    After back-to-back 30-homer seasons in 2017 and 2018, during which he racked up a combined 7.7 WAR, Travis Shaw struggled to the point of being demoted last season, and he was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers to start the offseason.

    The Blue Jays took a flier with a one-year, $4 million contract, and on paper, it looks like one of the best low-risk, high-reward moves of the offseason.

    Once prospect Jordan Groshans arrives in the majors, there's a good chance we'll see him take over as the starting third baseman with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moving across the diamond to first base.

          

    Future: Rowdy Tellez (Age: 25)

    Rowdy Tellez slugged 21 home runs in 409 plate appearances last season while serving as a part-time first baseman and designated hitter.

    His .227 average and .293 on-base percentage leave a lot to be desired, and at this point, it's fair to wonder if he's a finished product. Still, if Shaw struggles again, he'll be next in line for playing time.

    Other notable prospects: PK Morris (Tier 3)

         

    Prediction: Shaw (2020-21), Tellez (2022), Guerrero (2023-24)

Washington Nationals

30 of 30

    Eric Thames
    Eric ThamesJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    Present: Eric Thames (Age: 33)

    With Ryan Zimmerman opting out of the 2020 season and Howie Kendrick likely to receive the bulk of the DH work, Eric Thames is suddenly looking at an everyday role for the Washington Nationals.

    The veteran slugger signed a one-year, $3 million contract in January, and it includes a $3 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout in 2021. Since returning from an MVP run in the Korean Baseball Organization, he has posted a 118 OPS+ with 72 home runs over the past three seasons.

         

    Future: Drew Mendoza (Tier 3 prospect)

    Drew Mendoza wrapped up a productive three-year run at Florida State by hitting .308/.471/.594 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI in 65 games during his junior season.

    The Nationals took him in the third round of the 2019 draft, and he immediately became the top position player prospect not named Carter Kieboom or Luis Garcia in an extremely thin farm system.

    There's no shortage of raw power in his 6'5", 230-pound frame, and now that he no longer has to focus on refining his defense at third base, he can turn his full attention to hitting.

    Other notable prospects: KJ Harrison (Tier 3)

          

    Prediction: Thames (2020-21), Free agent (2022), Mendoza (2023-24)

           

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Spotrac. Prospect tiers refer to each player's status in B/R's most recent farm system rankings.

    Catch up on past State of the Position articles: Catcher, Second Base, Shortstop, Third Base