First base was always going to be a tough call in my preseason rankings. Would Chris Davis play like he did in 2014, or 2013? Would Edwin Encarnacion actually place first base? Would James Loney provide enough offense to support me ranking him ahead of Davis? Would Mike Napoli be too old to perform at a high level? And would Mark Teixeira actually stay healthy? To be honest, all of these questions were answered in a sound fashion, so let’s review.
Because so many people see time at first base, I am only listing people who played more than 10 games at the position.
END OF SEASON
Yep, the Davis from 2013 reappeared for the Orioles. The season didn’t exactly start well, but by the end, Davis led the league in home runs with 47, seventh in runs scored with 100, second in RBIs with 117, a surprising fourth in walks, and had the third best fielding percentage for a first baseman.
Sure, Davis also led the majors with 208 strikeouts. But the Orioles will gladly take that if he continues to mash the way he did in 2015. Davis’ on-base percentage was just off what it was in 2013, thanks to all the walks.
Pearce had a down year, Parmelee didn’t work out offensively, and Flaherty, well he is a utility guy at best. But Davis carries the O’s to first on the end of the season rankings.
2. New York Yankees – Mark Teixeira, Gregory Bird, Garrett Jones
Tex was an All-Star again in 2015, as he stayed healthy and was scorching hot in the first part of the year. He eventually would wear down and be out for the year, but not until he played in 111 games, hit 31 HRs and had 79 RBIs.
Teixeira also had a .997 fielding percentage as well. The Yankees got all they could have wanted from Teixeira. Will he ever be worth the mammoth contract he was signed to? No. But, he was one of the best first basemen in the AL in 2015.
The guy who would replace him in the starting lineup after he was out for the year did pretty well himself. In his first time in the majors in a pennant race, Bird hit .261 with 11 home runs. He doesn’t quite have the range that some other first basemen have, but he did more than enough at the plate.
3. Toronto Blue Jays – Justin Smoak, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello
If Encarnacion was the Jays’ primary first basemen, this race would be a lot more interesting. But he wasn’t, and Justin Smoak played the most games there for the Jays. Smoak hit .226 with 18 home runs, 16 doubles, and only 67 hits. He does play a good first base, as shown by being a defensive replacement throughout the playoffs so far.
Colabello and Encarnacion both had very good years and qualify at other positions, so we will have time to talk about their seasons later in the positional review.
James Loney had a decent year hitting for average, but in the AL East, you need a lot more than a .280 average. Loney hit four home runs, had 32 RBIs, 25 runs scored. That isn’t going to work from a power position. Especially for a guy being paid almost $9 million.
Loney also had one of his worst years defensively as well. In a year where offense was a struggle for the Rays, Loney was a perfect example.
Forsythe, on the other hand had a very good year. He only played about a dozen games at the position, but the utilityman had an excellent year all over the field.
5. Boston Red Sox – Mike Napoli, Travis Shaw
Mike Napoli isn’t known for being a defensive star. So when he only hits .207 and is so bad that he gets traded, it only makes sense that he is dead last in the AL East first basemen rankings.
Sure Napoli hit 13 home runs, but several of them came in just a few games. Napoli had a few hot streaks but overall was not good for the Jays.
Shaw was pretty good for the Red Sox in his games toward the end of the season, as the Red Sox showed some signs of life to wrap up the year. With Ortiz struggling badly all year, the issues at first base would be roped into DH as well. These offensive positions are largely what most brought down the Red Sox offensively in 2015.
As for the 2016 Baltimore Orioles, this is the second straight position shrouded in question marks. Will Chris Davis be back? Management says they want him, fans want him, the team wants him.
But, will it work out financially? CD is arguably the most expensive non-pitching free agent there is, so there are a lot of question marks as to whether he will be back. If not, Christian Walker and Steve Pearce (if he returns) will likely play first base next year. And they are nowhere near what Davis is.
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