The Determinator: First Base: #10-6 + Honorable Mentions
Today I will reveal the #10-#6 First Basemen in the MLB as well as some honorable mention first basemen from across the league. Tomorrow, I will announce the #5-1 first basemen in the MLB. For a background about The Determinator, see my article about my methodology, changes for 2021, and schedule, here.
The Determinator: First Base-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 239 (!) different players who played any amount of time at first base during the past two seasons, I set-up two boundaries to keep it as close to having only starters:
They must’ve had at least 350 PA’s over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
They must’ve had at least 750 innings at first base over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
This limited the number of catchers down to 26.
However, without further ado, let’s get to the first half of the Top-10:
If a first baseman led a statistic, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
Top-5: OBP, Innings
Top-10: Games, HR, wRC, Off, WAR, Fld, UZR
Top-15: SLG, SB, wRC+, BsR
Total Score: 35Embed from Getty Images
After praising good health from Hoskins last season and noting his all-around game, he did end up missing a fair amount of games late in the 2020 season with a left elbow strain. However, even with this taking away from his biggest asset last year (availability), he did improve his numbers across the board from a group of good offensive seasons in 2018 and 2019. Combined with his 140 wRC+ last year, Hoskins nearly matched his 2019 offensive value (9.6 and 9.0) in just over 1/4th of the games (160 and 41), while also improving upon his defense. If he can continue this type of play (which was similar to his brief debut in 2017) Hoskins may be able to advance beyond the #10 ranking, after taking it two years in a row.
Number 9: Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
Top-5: AVG, SB, DRS
Top-10: Games, SLG, Off, WAR, UZR, Def
Top-15: HR, wRC, wRC+, BsR, Innings
Total Score: 38Embed from Getty Images
This was a surprising selection from The Determinator, as Yuli Gurriel had a 2020 season that did not match near his career norms, from which I expected him to fall off the Top-10. It was his first season with negative offense (-5.5) and defense (-3.4) as he also had his first negative WAR season (-0.1). He is being carried by his 2019 performance, but there is a clear indication as to why he faltered: a horrific .235 BABIP. We cannot forget that he is going into his age-37 season, so a fall from norms should be expected, although not as drastic as we saw in the shortened season.<a href="Embed from Getty Images“> He held the #9 spot from last year, but I would expect it to be his last.
Number 8: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Top-5: Games, AVG, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+
Top-10: Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: OBP, SB
Total Score: 41Embed from Getty Images
After missing out on the Top-10 last season (he ranked #11), Jose Abreu went off to win the AL MVP and (arguably more important) getting himself to place in The Determinator’s first-base rankings. An offense-or-bust first baseman, Abreu ranked across only 11 metrics, including none for categorizing defense. However, the 1B leader in games played (219) obviously didn’t need the game diversity as his six Top-5 rankings (30 points) are the most among 1B not in the Top-5 and alone would’ve gotten him included on a Top-10 list as the #11 player scored just 28 points. His team does take a risk with Abreu, but with offensive numbers like he has, the risk is highly mitigated.
Number 7: Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
Top-5: SB, BsR, Fld, DRS, UZR
Top-10: Games, AVG, wRC, Innings
Top-15: OBP, SLG, HR, wRC+, Off, WAR, Def
Total Score: 44Embed from Getty Images
A candidate I was calling for a surprise Top-5 1B finish in 2020, Christian Walker not only continued his versatile game, but added to it by placing Top-15 in every single metric. He doesn’t truly overwhelm in any facet of the game, but his consistency at the bat, on defense, and on the basepaths is what has earned him a #7 spot (jumping up from #8 last year). There is room for improvement, but it is hard to critique a player who is overall ‘good’ instead of ‘great’ at one particular thing and average at the rest. I’m going to hold true with my expectations from last year and say that 2021 will be his breakout season and he will earn a Top-5 finish at 1B going into the 2022 season by The Determinator.
Number 6: Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
Top-5: HR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: SLG, wRC+, BsR, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: Games, OBP, wRC
Total Score: 46Embed from Getty Images
Falling slightly from a 4th place finish last year, Olson did continue to show great first base defense, but did not show his same offensive prowess from seasons past. Hitting under .200 (.195) will do that to diminish what you do on the field (see: Gary Sanchez) because it will hinder performance across many metrics of note (OBP, SLG, etc.). However, his 2019 season did help him to stay near the games top 1B as we’re anticipating 2020 was a fluke year given his .227 BABIP. Still the 1B leader in Fld (+9), DRS (+23), and UZR (+9), Olson is the token defense-first player who makes The Determinator lists because of it’s emphasis on playing a well-rounded and complete game. Expect Olson to continue to be among the games best 1B for the next few years because of it and his expected return with the bat.
Below is a selection of first basemen who led statistics but did not place in the Top-10 rankings, notable veterans, any former Yankees players, and the Yankees player/s who qualified for the position if they failed to rank in the Top-10.
Luke Voit – Ranked #11 with 28 points
Josh Bell – Ranked #12 with 26 points (fell from #7 last year)
Ronald Guzman – First Base leader in Def (-3.8), Ranked #14 (tied) with 19 points
Eric Hosmer – Ranked #18 with 16 points
Joey Votto – Ranked #21 (tied) with 10 points
Chris Davis – Ranked #23 with 9 points
Albert Pujols – Ranked #24 (tied) with 5 points
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.