Ladies and Gentlemen: 30 days, 30 MLB position rankings. Nine positions and the top starting pitcher ranked from each team in three parts each. Each player on the list is based on who the projected starter is for a team for the 2020 season by position. On day five of this series, we’ll look at MLB first basemen ranked 20-11.
Check out my previous rankings from this series:
20. Daniel Murphy, Colorado Rockies
2019: 132 games, .279/.328/.452 splits, .780 OPS, 13 Home Runs, 78 RBIs
A three-time all-star, Daniel Murphy had one of the worst years of his career in 2019 despite playing at Coors Field. Murphy has also been a lackluster defender, and that didn’t change as he’s played more at first in recent years. Murphy has always been a contact hitter, but doesn’t draw enough walks, and no longer provides much as a runner on the base paths. At age 35, Murphy likely doesn’t have a ton of time left in the MLB.
19. Justin Smoak, Milwaukee Brewers
2019: 121 games, .208/.342/.406 splits, .748 OPS, 22 Home Runs, 61 RBIs
Justin Smoak doesn’t hit for a high average but makes up for it by drawing a lot of walks. After spending the last five seasons in Toronto, Smoak signed with Milwaukee to be their everyday first baseman in 2020. Smoak has always been an elite scooper and a great defender. He’s committed just seven errors at first since the start of 2017.
18. Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox
2019: 91 games, .252/..328/.507 splits, .835 OPS, 19 Home Runs, 58 RBIs
A ten year MLB veteran, Mitch Moreland battled injuries but had a solid year in 2019. Moreland doesn’t do much to stand out but has consistently been very solid at the plate. Moreland is defensively above average with his glove and a one-time gold glove winner from back in 2016. Michael Chavis, who is listed on my second base list, may move to first with Moreland sitting against left-handed pitchers for 2020.
17. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
2019: 142 games, .261/.357/.411 splits, .768 OPS, 15 Home Runs, 47 RBIs
Joey Votto has always been seen as an analytics favorite due to his ability to draw walks, raising his OBP. However, at age 35, Votto had the worst year of his career in 2019, posting career-lows across the board. After leading the NL in OBP every year from 2016-18, Votto didn’t even rank in the top twenty last year. Once an MVP winner, Votto is well past his prime at age 36.
16. Eric Thames, Washington Nationals
2019: 149 games, .247/.346/.505 splits, .851 OPS, 25 Home Runs, 61 RBIs
It’s likely Eric Thames and Ryan Zimmerman will platoon this season, but at this point in their careers, Thames is the better option. After returning from the KBO, Thames provided a spark the last three seasons in Milwaukee. Thames has a lot of power from the left side of the plate but does struggle with strikeouts at times. Defensively, Thames is above league average, but far from elite as well.
15. C.J. Cron, Detroit Tigers
2019: 125 games, .253/.311/.469 splits, .780 OPS, 25 Home Runs, 78 RBIs
In his lone season with the Minnesota Twins, C.J. Cron displayed his power with the bat last year. Cron destroyed left-handed pitchers, with a 1.020 OPS against southpaws in 2019. However, against righties, his OPS was way down at .658. With the glove, Cron is below average as he committed eight errors last season. It’s worth mentioning that signing Cron moves Miguel Cabrera to a permanent DH role.
14. Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
2019: 160 games, .226/.364/.454 splits, .819 OPS, 29 Home Runs, 85 RBIs
After a strong first half of 2019, Rhys Hoskins completely fell off after the all-star break in 2019. Hoskins looked lost at the plate at times, with his OPS dropping to an abysmal .624 in September. Hoskins led the MLB with 116 walks in 2019, but as a result, wasn’t as aggressive at the plate. Defensively, he is below-average as well. Hopefully, Hoskins can figure it out and re-gain his swing in 2020.
13. Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
2019: 152 games, .259/.348/.476 splits, .825 OPS, 29 Home Runs, 73 RBIs
Christian Walker came out of nowhere and had a breakout season for the Diamondbacks in 2019. Coming into the season with just 99 plate appearances under his belt, Walker made a major impact for Arizona, earning the everyday job. Defensively, Walker is still well below-average, but his power on offense makes up for his struggles in the field. It will be interesting to see if Walker can continue to emerge in 2020, or if 2019 was a fluke.
12. Luke Voit, New York Yankees
2019: 118 games, .263/.378/.464 splits, .842 OPS, 21 Home Runs, 62 RBIs
Luke Voit was having a great season for New York before suffering an injury at the end of July. Voit came out of nowhere in 2018, breaking out for the Yankees after he was acquired mid-season from St.Louis. Voit’s power makes him a major threat in an already potent lineup. Defensively, Voit needs to improve, especially at scooping, as he made several mistakes last season.
11. Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
2019: 144 games, .298/.343/.541 splits, .884 OPS, 31 Home Runs, 104 RBIs
Quietly, Yuli Gurriel had a great season for the Astros in 2019. The biggest issue with Gurriel is that he came into the league very late. Despite having a breakout season, Gurriel is already 36 years old after his debut at age 32. Defensively, “La Pina” is one of the best first basemen in the MLB due to his ability to scoop. He fits well into a strong Astros’ lineup at the plate as he ranked ninth in the AL in RBIs in 2019, tied with Mike Trout.
Come back tomorrow for my top 10 first baseman ranking!
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