Preseason Position Power Rankings: Couch Side’s top five first basemen for 2013
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.
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (.280 AVG, 42 HR, 110 RBI):
A year ago Encarnacion may not have even landed on this list. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have pegged him to make the Jays’ starting lineup. One huge power surge in 2012 has him now getting some MVP looks, though. With the exception of perhaps his teammate Jose Bautista, I have never seen any baseball player turn their career around like Encarnacion. Usually peaks in numbers such as Encarnacion’s would raise suspicions of steroid use, but for the sake of this list, let’s presume he’s innocent. With that said, expect Encarnacion to have another breakout year. Although it may be hard to top his incredible 2012 campaign, Encarnacion has some new teammates that could make it quite possible. The additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera probably have Encarnacion watering from the mouth. The top of this lineup is scary and only gets more frightening as the opposition works its way through. Encarnacion will be waiting smack dab in the middle and it’s pretty much a guarantee that he’ll make pitchers pay even more this season.
3. Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels (.285 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI)
Speaking of first basemen who have plenty of support in front of them, Pujols is entering a year the simply spells success. The squad now has Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout is finally in the MLB. Is it possible for Pujols to surpass some of those MVP years he had in St. Louis? With his second-half surge last year, Pujols certainly looks like he has adjusted to his new setting. The Angels as a whole still may be a year out from being world champs because some of their new studs will be going through the same thing, but perhaps they can learn from Pujols’ trials last season. He is back into a leadership role, a duty that he only thrived in as a Cardinal. So there’s no need to bust out the rally monkey Angels fans, this lineup is absolutely insane and Pujols is the driving force behind it.
2. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers (.313 AVG, 30 HR, 108 RBI)
I was certainly surprised that Fielder didn’t have more pop in his bat last season. But where he failed to impress in power categories, he made up for by achieving a career high batting average. It’s not very often you will see a first baseman hit .300 or better and still swat in 30 homers and 100-plus RBI. If Fielder can get a little bit of that power back, he imay make a run at the triple crown, just like teammate and former Tiger first baseman, Miguel Cabrera.
1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (.337, 14 HR, 46 RBI)
Votto was making his own run at the triple crown before he missed a month for a couple of knee surgeries. He didn’t bounce back like many though he would, but he’s had plenty of time to fully heal this offseason. I believe Votto’s injury will fuel his red-hot fire this year. The addition of Shin-Shoo Choo will increase his RBI numbers and could also provide a little inter-squad competition because this team has very few power hitters. Brandon Phillips also will be just another duck on the pond for Votto’s bat to drive in. Depending on how the 29-year-old bounces back from his only injury-plagues season, I could honestly see Votto dethroning Buster Posey as the NL MVP.