First base is typically a premium offensive position. Due to the relative ease of the position, first basemen tend to be more offensive-minded rather than the fielders at a position where defense is more highly valued. Of course, great defensive first basemen, such as Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt, do exist.
The MLB, particularly the National League, is filled to the brim with premium, young first base talent. Even with typical sluggers such as Prince Fielder (.267/.360/.453, 16 HRs, 0.8 WAR) and Albert Pujols (.255/.328/.438, 16 HRs, 0.6 WAR) having subpar seasons, the amount of young and fairly unknown talent this season is making up for that.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 first basemen in the MLB right now.
5. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals
As a former role player, Allen Craig really broke into the league in 2012 as a productive first baseman. Flying under the radar, Craig hit a solid .307/.354/.522 in his first full season at the big league level, clubbing 22 homers and driving in 92 runs. Craig was also the definition of clutch, hitting a whopping .400 with runners in scoring position. He also leads MLB first basemen with 114 hits.
Craig has improved himself enough in 2013 to be ranked among the better first basemen in the game. He’s hitting .333/.377/.490 with 10 homers and 76 RBIs on the year, and has been an instrumental part of a strong Cardinals’ offense. His numbers with RISP have been great again, and are really almost unbelievable. Craig is hitting .484 with runners in scoring position, and .407 with runners on base. He has simply been on fire and has come through in the most clutch of situations.
4. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Another young player to make his mark on the game, Freeman was voted an All Star through the final vote for the first time in 2013, over superstar phenom Yasiel Puig. Freeman has hit a robust .308/.385/.476 line on the season to go along with 10 homers and 64 RBIs.
There’s really not too much to say about Freeman other than that he’s a solid contributor. He doesn’t have any crazy stats like Allen Craig’s average with runners in scoring position, or Joey Votto’s OBP, but is the definition of consistent. He also plays an above average first base defensively, so that only ups his value. He has been worth 2.1 WAR on the year, which is top 10 for MLB first basemen.
3. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt has been a solid player throughout his career, but has really come in to his own so far in 2013, emerging as one of the better players in baseball.
Goldschmidt has done it all this year, hitting .307/.389/.546 with 21 homers, 77 RBIs, and even has kicked in 9 stolen bases. He’s also played elite defense at first base, posting a 6.2 UZR. He has emerged as an early MVP favorite, and one of the better players in all of baseball. If he can keep this up beyond 2013, he will eventually top this list.
2. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto has the best eye in all of baseball, except for maybe Miguel Cabrera, as his ridiculous .437 OBP would indicate. Votto is hitting a solid .319/.437/.504 on the season, with 15 homers, 44 RBIs, and 68 runs scored (second in baseball.) He is an integral part of the Reds’ offense, and is the reason why Brandon Phillips leads the NL in RBIs.
Votto’s WAR of 3.0 ranks third among MLB first basemen, and his wRC+ of 158 ranks second. Votto also leads MLB first basemen in walk percentage and is second in wOBA. While he’s not quite having a repeat of his 2010 MVP season, Votto is holding his own just fine as one of the best first basemen in baseball.
1. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Davis is the obvious choice for best first baseman in baseball right now. He’s hitting an insane .313/.388/.707 on the year with 37 homers and 94 RBIs. Along with Miguel Cabrera, Davis is only the second player in baseball history to go 30/90 before the All Star break. He’s also on pace to challenge the American League home runs record.
Davis leads first basemen in most categories. His home runs, obviously, ranks first as do his RBIs. His wRC+ of 189 is head and shoulders above anyone else (closest is Votto at 158) and his wOBA of .453 is also first by a huge margin. His ISO (isolated power) ranks first, as do his runs scored. His hits, with 110, ranks fourth behind Allen Craig, Joey Votto, and Paul Goldschmidt. His WAR of 5.1 is also first.
Basically, there’s no contest- Davis has been the best in baseball. Whether he can keep it up past 2013 is yet to be seen, but if he can- look out.
Honorable mentions go out to Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney.