MLB Top Ten First Basemen In 2020

MLB Top Ten First Basemen In 2020: Freeman, Rizzo And Alonso Lead In A New Era

Under normal circumstances, the 2020 Major League Baseball season would be rounding into its first full month of action. However, these are far from regular times and due to the global shift in the norm, whether Opening Day is delayed –or even outright canceled— is anybody’s guess.

Therefore, since the trivial is more necessary than ever, here is a look at the (currently anticipated) MLB top 10 players, by position, for the 2020 campaign.

First base is currently inhabiting an interesting place in the game. Gehrig, Foxx, McCovey, Pujols. Historically, it has been the spine to many lineups, with some of the game’s greatest offensive contributors calling it home.

However, in recent years the balance has shifted away from this traditional mold of offense running in a heavy fashion through a cleanup-hitting first baseman, instead shifting to much more all-in power approach from around the diamond. As a result, the role of the first basemen has become a more varied scene than ever before. Only 16 players started 50% of their games and received enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title in 2019, a departure from tradition that would’ve been though impossible just a decade ago. Think about it in line with how the role of the center has drastically changed in basketball or the shift away from one workhorse running back per team in football.

But that isn’t to say there still isn’t an impressive collection of players at the position. It produced nine different players with 30 home run seasons, surpassed only by right field (11).

1. Freddie Freeman, Braves

Freeman has steadily risen to the top of the crop at first base. Over the past two seasons, the 30-year-old has 40 more hits than any other first baseman with 367, while also leading in average (.302), doubles (78), OPS (.914), runs scored (207) and runs batted in (219). Freeman has twice finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting, while picking up a Gold Glove in 2018 followed by a Silver Slugger Award last year. His 38 home runs, 121 RBI and 113 runs scored all represented career bests, while he led the NL in times reaching base the second consecutive year. An elbow injury hampered him down the stretch last fall, keeping him from hitting .300 for the fourth consecutive season, but following offseason elbow surgery — in addition to the extra rest currently afforded league-wide — he should be in position to remain the backbone of a Braves lineup.

2. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

Rizzo remains as steady as ever, as he has mastered hitting only his zone and not giving at-bats away. His .405 on-base % was a career-best, while his .924 OPS was just shy of setting a new best as well. He failed to drive in 100 runs for the first time in five years, but made up for it with a four-year high in OPS+ and improving his runs scored by 15 from 2018. In the field, he picked up his third Gold Glove in the past four seasons.

Entering his age -0 season, Rizzo remains a cornerstone of the Cub franchise and his assured to be in town through at least 2021. The Cubs have a number of tough contractual decisions to make in the near future, but locking in Rizzo beyond the guaranteed time left on contract reached potential boiling point early in the year.

3. Pete Alonso, Mets

Alonso put together one of the most dominant debuts in history, connecting for 53 home runs, an MLB rookie record and 15 more than any other first baseman in either league. His 120 RBI were the fifth-most by a rookie ever and his 85 extra base hits were three shy of Albert Pujols’ rookie record.

Add in his standout performance in the All-Star Home Run Derby and his penchant for epic in-game homers, and the ‘Polar Bear’ has set himself up as a superstar in short order.

4. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

Goldschmidt took a step backwards from his elite levels production in his first year in St. Louis, as uncustomary bouts with inconsistency plagued him throughout the year. In the end, he produced career-lows in batting average (.260), OPS (.821), hits (155), walk rate (11.8%) and WAR (2.4).

But despite these setbacks, he still proved capable at times of being the type hitter he has built his reputation around. He raised his OPS to .886 following the All-Star break and his overall totals of 34 home runs, 97 RBI and 97 runs scored rank among the top five at the position in the NL.

2020 will be a pivotal season for proving if the last season was an exception, or the start of a pronounced decline, especially has a five-year, $130 million extension signed last spring begins.

5. Max Muncy, LAD

While Muncy made more starts at second base (70) than first base (65), with a few at third base (35), the presence of top rookie Gavin Lux will see him back at his natural position full-time in the new year. But regardless of what position he is listed at, Muncy has mashed over the past two years, hitting precisely 35 homers in each season. He made his All-Star debut in 2019 and his .927 OPS and 70 homers are second among all players who have at least 140 games played at first since 2018.

6. Matt Olson, Athletics

A missed month from a broken bone in his hand likely kept Olson from getting to some really crazy numbers in 2019. Despite the lost time, Olson hit 36 home runs and drove in 91 in just 127 games, while continuing to improve his other measurables as well. His batting average climbed 20 points to .267, while his OPS climbed over 100 points to .896. Meanwhile, he grabbed the second Gold Glove Award of his three-year career, seeing his defensive WAR climb from 0.6 to 1.3.

7. Josh Bell, Pirates

One the biggest breakouts of the past year came to Bell, who clubbed 37 home runs, 37 doubles, drove in 116 runs and sported the NL’s 10th best OPS at .936. However, his season was a tale of two halves, with the second one being nearly as disappointing as the first was spectacular. Bell’s average dipped to .233 and he had only 81 total bases in 55 games. However, the upside remains substantial and how Bell adjusts to having very little protection around him on a daily basis will go a long way in how he develops from here.

8. Carlos Santana, Indians

In year 10, the ever-consistent Santana tacked on another impressive campaign to his resume. He saw career-highs batting average (.281), run scored (110) and RBI (93), while tying his personal best with 34 home runs.

Santana’s greatest weapon throughout his career has been his measured approach at the plate, a skill that served him well yet again. His .397 on-base % was a career-high and third-best in the American League. He broke even between walks and strikeouts, at 108 of each on the year.

9. Jose Abreu, White Sox

Entering his age 33 season, Abreu remained one of the game’s foremost run producers. He led the AL in RBI with 123 in 2019, the fifth time in his six MLB seasons he topped the century mark in RBI. He also remained in the AL top three among first basemen in hits (180), doubles (38) and runs scored (85).

10. Yuli Gurriel, Astros

Gurriel gets lost in the shuffle some among his superstar teammates, but he is the most pivotal part of the depth in the Houston lineup. The 36-year-old has hit over .290 in all three of his full seasons and never struck out more than 65 times. In 2019, Gurriel set career-highs with 31 home runs and 104 RBI, while his .884 OPS was more 130 points higher than in 2018.


Left On Deck: Luke Voit (Yankees), Rhys Hoskins (Phillies), Joey Votto (Reds)

Top Prospects: Andrew Vaughn (White Sox, #16), Evan White (Mariners, #56) Triston Casas (Red Sox, #77)

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