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Wednesday, June 5, 2013
SweetSpot TV: Debating the first basemen

By David Schoenfield


In Tuesday's Franchise Player Draft, the only first baseman selected in the first round was Joey Votto, selected 10th overall. That makes sense, as first base isn't a premium position and the position has weakened the past couple of years with the declines of Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira, the move of Miguel Cabrera to third base, and the failure of prospects like Eric Hosmer and Justin Smoak to develop into stars.

My pal Eric Karabell says he would wait on drafting a first baseman in building a franchise -- that you can always find one. But I think you can make a good case that Votto won't be the only first baseman who could end up as one of baseball's top 30 players over the next five seasons. I see five good candidates:

Chris Davis, Orioles
2013 numbers: .355/.437/.744, 20 HR, 52 RBI, 29 BB, 55 SO
Age: 27

He's having a better offensive season than Miguel Cabrera, leading the majors in home runs, slugging, OPS, adjusted OPS and wOBA. His walk rate is up and his strikeouts are down, a strong indicator this could be more than just a two-month hot streak. He's tied for seventh in Baseball-Reference WAR among positions players and tied for second in FanGraphs WAR.

Prince Fielder, Tigers
2013 numbers: .283/.395/.519, 12 HR, 48 RBI, 35 BB, 48 SO
Age: 29

Old reliable. He never misses a game, gets on base (he leads the AL in walks) and has power. He's not going to help you in the field or on the bases, but you can plug him in for 160 games and know what you're going to get. In looking at a five-year window, his age isn't a huge concern to me considering his durability track record.

Freddie Freeman, Braves
2013 numbers: .311/.371/.480, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 16 BB, 40 SO
Age: 23

Freeman missed two weeks in April with a strained oblique but has driven in 40 runs in 45 games although his power totals don't match the others here. With him, the issues are whether you're buying the .311 average after he hit .259 a year ago, and how much you project him to improve considering he's still just 23 although already in his third major league season.

Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
2013 numbers: .335/.417/.599, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 31 BB, 53 SO
Age: 25

With Goldschmidt, throw in Gold Glove-caliber defense and the ability to swipe some bases (6 for 7 after stealing 18 last season). The big plus for Goldschmidt is that after a big platoon split in 2012, he's crushing right-handers as well this year -- .347 with eight home runs. He's also slugging .701 on the road. His wRC+ stat -- which adjusts his overall batting line for home park -- has him third-best in the majors, behind only Davis and Cabrera. He's a legit MVP candidate and just entering his prime seasons.

Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
2013 numbers: .257/.325/.491, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 19 BB, 46 SO
Age: 23

There's no denying the power potential, although he's been a streaky hitter so far, hitting eight homers in April but just one over his past 24 games. However, he does have eight doubles over that span. With 17 doubles on the season, you can see him converting some of those two-baggers into home runs as he gets more experience.

Who do you like? If I'm looking at a five-year window, I go:

1. Goldschmidt. Best all-around player of the five.

2. Davis. I'm buying the hot start and we're talking about his age 27-31 years, which should be relatively safe.

3. Fielder. Age is a little bit of an issue but the bat isn't.

4. Freeman. If he can consolidate hitting for average AND hitting for power, he'll be terrific.

5. Rizzo. More upside than Freeman with his 40-homer potential but needs more consistency.