On Monday, Craig Edwards began our positional power rankings series by evaluating the catchers. If you’re unfamiliar with the process or concept, Jeff explained the series yesterday, too. Today, we tackle first base.
First base is at an interesting place. There remains plenty of familiar star power at the top of FanGraphs position rankings here, from Paul Goldschmidt to Anthony Rizzo to Joey Votto, the type of lineup-anchoring sluggers you expect to find at a position that is typically a run-production workhorse. There are also emerging young stars like Cody Bellinger and perhaps Matt Olson.
And first base has become home to a growing number of fly-ball revolutionaries, players attempting to make swing changes to get under the ball and save or extend careers standing by improving their overall offensive efficiency. It makes sense that players like Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison and Ryan Zimmerman would be among those motivated to launch more pitches into the air since they don’t have much defensive versatility to fall back upon.
First base, from a production standpoint, also appears to be a healthy place. First basemen led all position groups with a 113 wRC+ last season, their second-highest mark of the last decade. First basemen also produced their collective second-highest WAR total (80.7) of the last 10 years.
But the position has become crowded and so loaded with offensive sources that free-agent first basemen were having trouble finding work this winter. Power has become so common, so easy to find, it’s become devalued. For instance, Morrison hit 38 home runs last season and posted a 130 wRC+ but had to settle for a one-year, $2.5-million deal.
What it all means is that first base is deep and that, to excel at the position — for a player to separate himself — in the following rankings, he really has to hit.