First base is a fun position to rank. It’s loaded with top-tier offensive talent and defense can be treated as an afterthought for these elite sluggers. Paul Goldschmidt won the National League’s MVP trophy in 2022, marking the third time in the last three years. This year, the position is as deep as ever. There were multiple players who were deserving but were just left off this list.
10. Anthony Rizzo, NYY (Last year: 9)
Anthony Rizzo had a bounce-back year in 2022 but moves down a spot on this list due to the parity at the position. This offseason, he re-signed with the New York Yankees on another two-year deal. Last season, Rizzo had the 2nd worst batting average of his career, but also put up a career-high mark with a .256 ISO.
In 130 games, Rizzo had a 133 wRC+, tied his career-high with 32 home runs, and slugged .480. In 2023, expect more of the same from Rizzo. After all, he has put up fairly consistent numbers over the last decade.
9. Nathaniel Lowe, TEX (NR)
Nathaniel Lowe had a massive outburst in 2022, posting a .302/.358/.492 with a 143 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR. Since being dealt to Texas, Lowe has made significant adjustments to his batted-ball profile. In Tampa, he had a 31.8% strikeout rate and a 32.9% flyball rate.
In Texas, however, he has struck out just 24 percent of the time and a 51.1% groundball rate. As a result, his average launch angle has fallen from 11.4 degrees to 6.6. In 2023, Steamer projects Lowe to be a 132 wRC+ hitter, a slight drop from his career-high mark in 2022.
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8. Jose Abreu, HOU (NR)
Jose Abreu was one of the best hitters in baseball in the latter half of the 2022 season. After May 22, he up a .334/.404/.477 slash line with a 154 wRC+ in 520 plate appearances. In the offseason, he signed a three-year deal worth $60 million dollars with the Houston Astros.
In his nine-year stint with the White Sox, Abreu put up 243 home runs, a 133 wRC+, and totaled 27.6 fWAR. Now in the twilight of his career, he is still one of the better 1st basemen in baseball despite no longer being the Rookie of the Year and MVP award winner he was in the past.
7. Vinnie Pasquantino, KCR (NR)
On the other hand, Vinnie Pasquantino is on a skyrocketing upward trajectory. At the beginning of the 2021 season, he was a 23-year-old in High-A ball trying to make a name for himself. On June 28th, he made his MLB debut. Then, in August, he got hot. In his last 40 games, he slashed .362/.442/.553 with a 183 wRC+, and a .394 xwOBA.
All the signs point toward his offense being sustainable. Steamer projects Pasquantino as a 140 wRC+ hitter in a full 572 plate appearances in 2023. If he does that, he’ll find himself a few spots higher on this list next year.
6. Ty France, SEA (8)
Ty France has been an absolute revelation for the Seattle Mariners since they landed him in a midseason trade in 2020. In the last two seasons, he has slashed .283/.353/.440 with a 128 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR in 292 games.
He made his first all-star game in 2022, and at 28 years old brings some veteran presence to a youthful Mariners lineup. In 2023, expect another near-130 wRC+ season from France.
5. Matt Olson, ATL (3)
A few years ago, you could make the argument that Matt Olson was the best first baseman in baseball. Since then, he hasn’t taken much of a step back. However, the players around him have taken strides forward, knocking him down a few pegs on this list.
In 2021, Olson cut down his strikeout rate to just 16.8% but reverted to his early career ways with a 24.3% clip in 2022. In 2022, Olson played all 162 games and had a somewhat pedestrian .240/.325/.477 (120 wRC+) and 3.1 fWAR. Olson will most likely bounce back in 2023. The only question is how much.
4. Pete Alonso, NYM (7)
Pete Alonso plain and simply hits tanks. After setting the rookie home run record with 53 in 2019, he has followed that up with two more 35+ home run seasons in 2021 and 2022. Last season, he had a .518 SLG, 143 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR, and led the entire league in RBI with 131.
Over the past two years, Alonso has been able to lower his strikeout rate despite maintaining his high home run rate. If he can put it all together in 2023, Alonso could put himself right in the middle of the MVP conversation.
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR (1)
When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2021, it seemed like he took a massive step forward from his first two seasons. Then, in 2022, he took a step back. It wasn’t quite as poor as his first two seasons, but Guerrero Jr. didn’t live up to the MVP hype that he built himself in 2021.
In 2022, he played in 160 games, slashed .274/.339/.480, slugged 32 home runs, and finished with a 2.8 fWAR. All major projection systems believe 2022 was the fluke year, not 2021. Steamer pegs Guerrero Jr. as a 5-WAR player for 2023 and his projected 161 wRC+ is the 5th-best mark of all hitters in the league.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, STL (4)
Paul Goldschmidt had the best season of his Hall of Fame career at age 34 in 2022, slashing .317/.404/.578 (177 wRC+) and winning the National League MVP. For the second time in his career, he led the National League in OPS. For the 3rd time, he finished within the top 2 in NL MVP voting.
He’s now entering his age-35 season but given Goldschmidt’s track record, it’s hard to predict anything other than another amazing offensive output in 2023.
1. Freddie Freeman, LAD (2)
Many stars have struggled to adjust in their first year after moving to a new team. Freddie Freeman, on the other hand, put up more of the same incredible offensive numbers. Among all qualified 1st basemen in 2022, Freeman ranked 2nd in wRC+ (157), 1st in batting average (.325), 1st in BsR (5.4), 1st in xwOBA (.403), and tied for 1st in fWAR (7.1).
Outside of the abbreviated 2020 season, in which Freeman took home the NL MVP, those wRC+, AVG, and fWAR marks were the best of his Hall of Fame career. Steamer projects another elite year out of Freeman, though they expect a slight decline to the tune of a 145 wRC+ and 4.7 fWAR.
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