by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Obviously these rankings are still in the infancy stage and have a good chance of changing (and will obviously grow) as the offseason progresses. That said, it’s never too early to start looking at rankings! Let’s kick things off with our first look at the Top 5 first basemen for 2014:
1) Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks
There is going to be people who would vote for Chris Davis as the top option at the position. Others may still lean towards Joey Votto. For me, it’s impossible not to put Goldschmidt sitting atop the rankings.
He’s a rare first baseman who brings both power and speed to the table. After showing big-time power in the minors, he brought that to the Majors (36 HR) while still chipping in 15 SB. Throw in a .300+ average (a number that’s repeatable given his power and career 22.3% line drive rate) and 100/100 ability (125 RBI, 103 R in 2013) and what exactly isn’t there to like?
He’s not just emerging as the best first baseman, but he’s becoming one of the elite sluggers in the game.
2) Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
Obviously, the 53 HR from 2013 is impressive but is it really repeatable? It remains to be seen if he can maintain a 29.6% HR/FB (his second half 21.3% mark may be more realistic). If the power drops, given his immense strikeout rate (29.6% in 2013) the average is going to go with it. The ability to hit 40+ HR keeps him near the top, but the risk has to keep him out of the top spot.
3) Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
He’s seemingly become patient to a fault, drawing an 18.6% walk rate (but 26.4% with runners in scoring position). Sure he can hit, but if he’s not going to swing with runners on base he isn’t going to be able to drive in a ton of runs. Throw in his 37 HR from a few years back looking more like an aberration and it’s impossible to put him at the top.
4) Edwin Encarnacion – Toronto Blue Jays
He proved that his power outburst in 2012 was for real, swatting 36 HR in 530 AB. With home runs looking to continue, what exactly is there not to like?
5) Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
We talked about him and his upside a lot already (click here for our comparison of Freeman to Joey Votto), but the bottom line is that he has the potential to be one of the better hitters in the game. He’s now posted a line drive rate over 26% over the past two seasons, the question is if the power continues to grow (never more than 23 HR). If he can hit over 30, along with his average potential, and he would be a Top 2 or 3 option.