Editor’s note: Couch Side is very pleased to bring back its annual MLB preseason position power rankings. This year, we will offer two positions every Wednesday and Friday. Each blog ranks the top 10 players at each position and is written by some of Couch Side’s best bloggers. The following is part two of what will be a 12-part series. Enjoy!
When it comes to raw power, first basemen usually take the cake.
Currently, there are still some super sluggers playing the position, but surprisingly, the big fly isn’t as common as it used to be from first baseman. Guys like Albert Pujols and Joey Votto can still crush. Yet, their games are becoming much more complete as both of those top players have been known to chase the triple crown. Usually, when ranking first basemen, power would be the ultimate factor. However, like everything in sports, the position has changed. A young core of first basemen is on the rise and a handful of veterans are still proving that they’re some of the best still in the game.
Couch Side’s official preseason first basemen power rankings will cover my six through 10 briefly before jumping into the heavy hitters. I must apologize to some who will come up just short: Billy Butler, Ike Davis and Anthony Rizzo, but the good news for them is they’re still very young and could make me look very stupid as I rank the top 10 first baseman in the MLB for 2013:
10. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (.259 AVG, 23 HR, 94 RBI):
With Chipper Jones hanging up his cleats, Big Fred may actually be the hitter to watch out for in Atlanta. Yes, I know they have the Upton brothers now, but this 23-year-old is destined for greatness.
9. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (.271 AVG, 33 HR, 100 RBI):
The big question surrounding LaRoche is can he do it again? The 33-year-old set career highs in home runs, RBI and WAR last year. For that reason and that reason only is why the big man makes this list.
8. Paul Konerko, Chicago Whitesox (.298 AVG, 22 HR, 75 RBI):
In the first half of last season, Konerko was far better than Pujols. He may not be able to repeat that this year, but this crafty veteran is one of the best contact-hitting first basemen in all of baseball.
7. Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (.299 AVG, 18 HR, 108 RBI):
Gonzales still hasn’t earned his large paycheck. His dismal numbers with the Dodgers after he was traded to the boys in blue also raise some red flags. If he can find his old form, which he definitely could by returning to the NL West, Gonzales may just regain some of that lost respect.
6. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (.251 AVG, 24 HR, 84 RBI):
The reason big tex is so high on my list, is simply because I’m a sucker for the Yankee slugger. He had a year to forget in 2012 and was bit by the injury bug. However, I think he may just bounce back with a New York lineup that is much weaker than year’s past. That added pressure could bring back the Texas version of Teixeira.
5. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (.286, 20 HR, 82 RBI):
Now that I’ve finally cracked into my top five, Goldschmidt had better not make me eat my words this year. I predict Goldschmidt to have a golden year because of what Snakes general manager Kevin Towers did this offseason. He made room in his starting lineup for top prospect Adam Eaton and acquired Martin Prado, two players who should score a lot of runs with Goldschmidt’s power drving them home. Mlbdepthcharts.com has Goldshmidt slotted in the No. 6 spot in the D-Backs’ batting order, but don’t expect him to stay there for long. Eaton should prove to be a prominent lead off guy and I believe Prado will eventually become the team’s No. 2 hitter, giving Goldschmidt plenty of opportunities to drive in his two new teammates. Also, a fun fact: Goldschmidt led all first basemen in steals last season with 18.
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow,com writer
Predictions are a great waste of time. They provide opportunities for petty arguments that will last from now until the end of time, now that the season is on our doorstep, it’s time to prophesize the 2012 winners and losers.
• Reasoning: The slightly biased Dbacks fan in me is fearful of a regression by the Snakes. After a modest overachieving season in 2011, whereas the Giants lost all semblance of offense in the stretch run, San Francisco is expecting a full season of superstar Buster Posey, along with the best starting staff west of the Mississippi. A normalized progression of events along with an improved Rockies bunch will make this west particularly wild.
• Reasoning: In all honesty, you can interchange the top three teams in the central, and you’d have a legit chance of making bank in Vegas. The Cardinals lost first baseman Albert Pujols, but they come into the season with a strong team, and ace Adam Wainwright as he returns from Tommy John surgery. The Reds had a busy offseason where they traded for the solid Padre Mat Latos, while signing closer Ryan Madson who is now out for the season. To sure up the back end of the pen, they acquired underrated lefty Sean Marshall, who will see plenty of end game action. And not to forget, they just resigned the premier first basemen in the NL in Joey Votto, who will be in Cincy for years to come. What’s wrong with the Brewers? Not much, I’m having a hard time pegging their success; they are returning the same roster minus Prince Fielder and adding Aramis Ramirez. Aside from that, the pitching staff is still very good, but for some reason, the Cardinals still feel like the team to beat in this division to me. Oh, and let’s not forget they are the reigning World Series champions. (more…)
BY STAYSON ISOBE, Couchsideshow.com writer
Couch Side’s own Stayson Isobe actually worked at the West Regional of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and was able to snap some shots for our site. We would just share the slideshow on this post, but Kizoa’s embedding doesn’t seem to be compatible with Word Press. You can still access Stayson’s slideshow from March Madness, however, by clicking the link below:
Last week, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work the NCAA Men’s Basketball West Regional in Tempe and what an experience it was.
For those that don’t know, when I’m not moonlighting as a Couch Side writer, I work at Northern Arizona University as a graduate assistant in the media relations department as the Sports Information Director for the Lumberjack women’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis programs.
This past fall, Arizona State, the host of last week’s West Regional Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games at the U.S. Airways Center, asked our media relations department if we would like to volunteer at the games and really who would turn down an opportunity like that? Well the four of us in the department as well as our assistant AD for marketing made the trip down to the Valley last Wednesday and I can’t lie, I was stoked (and again who wouldn’t be?) (more…)
In part three of Couch Side’s 12 part series on the best position players going into 2012, we’ll take a look at what could be the deepest position in the MLB – first base. Although this is my top five, one guy you won’t see on the list is Miguel Cabrera, who is expected to move across the infield to third with the Tigers’ addition of Prince Fielder.
With that said, let’s take a look at my top five first basemen heading into the new season.
When a season consisting of a .299 batting average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs, is considered a “down season,” you know you’re one of the game’s best. That was Pujols’ line from a year ago and it snapped his 10-year streak of hitting .300 with 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs. This season, Pujols moves out West following 11 seasons with the Cardinals fresh off his second World Series title, but nothing short of a “bounce back” season is expected from him. Pujols is a career .348 hitter in interleague play, so although the jersey may have changed, the colors haven’t and if there’s such a thing as a sure-bet, Pujols is just that. There’s a reason why he’s called The Machine. “El Hombre” or not, the Angels need their new $240 million acquisition to the man if they hope to reclaim their spot atop the AL West.
Until last year, A-Go had spent his previous five seasons in the spacious confines of Petco Park and still managed to knock out 32 dingers a season as a Padre. So expectations were sky-high moving to the American League where he could swat balls over the short right field porch at Fenway with that sweet lefty swing. Well, Gonzalez actually only managed to hit 27 balls out of the park, but in exchange he hit a career-high .338, more than 30 points above his previous career-high, and topped 200 hits for the first time. This year, the batting average might dip a little, but I expect an increase in his home run production between 30-35 in that murderer’s row that is the Red Sox lineup. Oh and he’s also won three Gold Gloves in the last four years, so there won’t be any Bill Buckner moments with this guy.
Looks like I’ll have to eat my own words that Prince Fielder was going to be a Washington Nationals. I was so far off, I didn’t even guess the right league as the Detroit Tigers swooped in — completely out of left field — to sign the free agent first baseman to a nine-year, $24 million contract Tuesday afternoon.
Fielder and the Tigers shocked the baseball world by coming to terms to the fourth largest contract in MLB history. The historic deal also proved that Fielder won’t be settling after teams like the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals persuaded him heavily, but didn’t dish out the dough quite like Detroit. It seemed and was reported that Washington was the front runner, offering the 27-year-old a deal a little less lucrative than the one he landed. But instead, the former Milwaukee Brewer will be in the motor city — where his father shined for seven year — until he is 36. Here is how this blockbuster move could upstage Albert Pujols‘ deal and how it makes the Tigers quite possibly the best team in the American League.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t automatic favorites anymore with Pujols not in the picture. And the magic will have probably left Milwaukee — along with Fielder — when the final months of the 2012 season unfold. There’s no doubt the N.L. West will never be the same. But don’t be discouraged. The largest division in baseball should still create some late-season drama. The Cards and the Brew Crew did lose some big bats, but have bright stars in the waiting. And don’t count out the Chicago Cubs or the Cincinnati Reds, either. As usual, those four teams should be in a dead heat toward the end of the season for the division crown. Each club definitely has a shot and the division should be as competitive as ever.
Here’s Couch Side’s early preview of the N.L. Central and the top four clubs could finish out 2012:
BY STAYSON ISOBE, Couchsideshow.com special contributor
During the last handful of years, as a fan of the Anaheim Angels (yes get that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim crap out of here), the hot stove portion of the MLB offseason hasn’t been kind to my beloved team.
After all, I’ve seen Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Mark Teixeira and Vladimir Guerrero walk for a variety of reasons and seen my Angels squander opportunities to sign the likes of C.C. Sabathia, Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.
All of this despite constant claims from owner Arte Moreno about being ready to open up his checkbook. Granted last offseason’s marquee free agent acquisitions, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, were vital components to the Angels’ bullpen in 2011, they weren’t exactly the big signings us Angel faithful were clamoring for. Add in poor trades by former general manager Tony Reagins for the likes of Scott Kazmir and the Vernon Wells deal, and there’s a plethora of reasons why Angels fans were chomping at the bit for off season excitement.
That’s why I approached this winter with cautious optimism. Who could blame me? I knew where the weaknesses laid within the roster, namely at the back end of the starting rotation and at the hot corner. However, with a combination of a relatively weak free agent crop and a team payroll cash-strapped due to the albatross that is Vernon Wells’ contract, what could I really expect?
Then came the morning of December 9. That’s the morning that Moreno described as a “monumental day for Angel fans.” That’s the morning that Moreno and new general manager Jerry Dipoto brought Albert Pujols to Southern California. That’s the morning the Angels franchise, regardless of what you want to call them, changed forever.
Granted Pujols didn’t fix one of the aforementioned weaknesses on the roster, but how often do you get a chance to add a three-time MVP who only once in his 11-year career failed to knock in 100 runs and hit better than .300? For the record, he missed those marks this past season by batting .299 with 99 RBIs. This is a guy who’s won two World Series and is already in the conversation of becoming one of the greatest players of all-time up there with Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, you name it.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
Only one big name still stands after players like Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson were plucked off the Major League Baseball free agent market for big bucks.
And that big name comes with perhaps the biggest body and burliest beards in baseball. Yes, for some reason, Prince Fielder hasn’t found a team yet — despite easily being the second-best hitter on the market this winter. There’s been rumors about the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and even the Texas Rangers trying to woo the 275-pound first baseman. But this week the Washington Nationals, an unusual suitor, came out as the top team in pursuit of Fielder.
So why did it take so long for one squad to step up as frontrunners for a 30-year-old who hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs last season? Probably because Fielder’s agent is the dubious Scott Boras. It also likely had something to do with the amount of zeros in Pujols’ ground-breaking contract. And if you’re a team dealing with those two factors, deals aren’t going to happen fast.
Boras has made things tough by changing his mind at least a handful of times, trying to get what’s best for Fielder. At first, the pair thought it would be an Pujols-like deal. Interested teams didn’t. Then, the duo wanted a deal slightly less than Pujols’ hefty $240 million, 10-year contract — so somewhere in the $200 million range. Clubs also didn’t see eye-to-eye on that idea. So Boras thought Fielder could land a shorter contract, but still make the big bucks. That’s about where prospective negotiations are at now, but the asking price for Prince may still be too high, for some teams.
Enter the Washington Nationals.
In the premiere of the sports podcast, Couch Side, hosts Wade McMillin and Jordan Wheeler explore NFL playoff hopes for teams in the tightest divisions; debate if players are still loyal in the NBA; and react to Albert Pujols’ monster contract. Click below to beginning listening to Couch Side.