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2012 projections: top 10 first basemen

Feb 6, 2012, 9:54 PM EST

Joey Votto Getty Images

Last night’s go at the catchers led to some hard feelings apparently, so let me make it clear, these are just OPS projections for 2012, they’re not meant for a hard statement on the game’s best at a position. Anyway, here are the top 10 at first base:

1.017 – Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) – 589 AB – 1.033 in 2011
.993 – Albert Pujols (Angels) – 596 AB – .906 in 2011
.990 – Joey Votto (Reds) – 567 AB – .947 in 2011
.946 – Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox) – 604 AB – .957 in 2011
.921 – Prince Fielder (Tigers) – 563 AB – .981 in 2011
.873 – Mark Teixeira (Yankees) – 583 AB – .835 in 2011
.864 – Ike Davis (Mets) – 553 AB – .925 in 2011
.860 – Lance Berkman (Cardinals) – 485 AB – .959 in 2011
.850 – Ryan Howard (Phillies) – 380 AB – .835 in 2011
.846 – Paul Konerko (White Sox) – 551 AB – .906 in 2011

- I’ll rank Cabrera with the first basemen for now. He’ll open the season at third for Detroit, but I doubt he’ll finish it there. Of course, he would have topped that list, too. The 1.017 projection is the highest I’ve given to any player this year.

- I would have had Fielder higher had he stayed in the NL, but there will probably be an adjustment period with the league switch. Also, Comerica Park favors right-handed hitters over lefties, which will probably cost Fielder some homers. I have him hitting 32 this year after he finished with 38 last season.

- Just missing the cut were sophomores Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman. I have Hosmer improving from .799 to .836 in year two and Freeman going from .795 to .823.

  1. pellypell - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    By seasons end, Hosmer cracks the top 5*.

    *This prediction has has nothing to do with me owning him in my keeper league.

  2. rkel10 - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    What about Goldschmidt? It wouldn’t shock me if he has a breakout year, the ball flies off his bat!

  3. vols84 - Feb 6, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    Hosmer will be a beast

  4. bigharold - Feb 6, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    “… these are just OPS projections for 2012, …”

    I think its either or with the Tigers. You can’t rank Cabrera AND Fielder at first base because clearly one of them won’t be at first.

    • Lucas - Feb 6, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      Sure you can. They will likely end up splitting time at 1B and DH. The Cabrera at 3rd experiment isn’t going to last long.

      • yettyskills - Feb 7, 2012 at 1:54 AM

        Going to last all the way to multiple Gold Gloves

      • Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:07 AM

        Multiple gold gloves? Thanks for the morning joke!

    • bigharold - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM

      “The Cabrera at 3rd experiment isn’t going to last long.”

      Yoour likely right. but, f that’s the case then Fielder will get 100-125 ABs at 1st and the rest a DH. Which leads to the question how can you rank him in the top 10 with such a small sample size?

  5. buffalomafia - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    How long will it take for Howard to recover?

    • kiwicricket - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:45 AM

      Back to what exactly?

  6. Jonny 5 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    Leave Howard alone!© Oh hi Len.

  7. phlockar - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    Give Votto some protection and he’s higher than 3rd. Tough to put up great numbers when you get pitched around almost every at bat.

    • mattjg - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:33 AM

      Lineup protection is (at least mostly) a myth: http://www.sabernomics.com/sabernomics/index.php/2004/09/the-protection-externality-it-doesnt-exist/

      If Votto is being pitched around in nearly every at bat because pitchers don’t fear the next batter, his OBP should increase due to the additional walks, thus raising his OPS.

      • Francisco (FC) - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:32 AM

        Wha? It’s either a myth or it’s not, what is this “At least mostly” you’re peddling? Don’t go for half-tush. Grab it with both hands and own it dude!

      • Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:35 AM

        The point is that “protection” is a tradeoff, and if it made a difference, we’d see that differenc in how people actually do at the plate with protection behind them. But batters don’t do any better with sluggers behind them than without.

  8. mattjg - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    Not to nitpick, but why use OPS? As a rate stat, OPS fails to take into account the added value of having more plate appearances.

    Additionally, and more importantly, OPS overstates the value of slugging percentage compared to on base percentage. Why not use a stat like wOBA that does a better job of weighting the various components or even just give us slugging and on base separately?

    Again, these are just minor gripes. I always enjoy seeing preseason rankings even if I don’t agree with them 100%.

    • thekcubrats - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Well, since Matthew just pulls his numbers out of his [hat], what’s the diff?

    • Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      It’s not a great stat, but OPS is known to most everyone at this point. wOBA or wRC+ aren’t.

      The rate stat issue isn’t a big deal to me since we’re also given projected ABs.

      I would like to see OBP and SLG. A .400/.450 player is very very different from a .300/.550 player

  9. stex52 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Pretty severe fall off projected for Berkman. It will depend on his left-handed power. I admit they will miss Pujols, but the middle of that lineup is still deadly and Berkman did some of his worst damage while Pujols was out of the lineup. He will still be a Walks machine.

  10. greggbo - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Gonzalez should improve, not fall off. Shoulder should be completely healed, which should add much more power.

    • Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Those things tend to recur, though, so we don’t really know. Here’s hoping you’re right!

  11. spartybob9 - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    How can you use the NL-AL switch to justify a huge drop for Fielder (which I tend to agree with), while at the same time giving Pujols an 0.087 pt lift as he makes a similar move; and after he signs a huge 10-year deal… I don’t see it. Let’s be clear, Comerica is a hitter’s park. With a short(er) right field porch, how does it favor righties?

    • Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:30 AM

      Your reply is waiting in the lobby, sir. (Reply fail.)

    • umrguy42 - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      I don’t know how the Angels’ park plays, but Pujols was out for a couple weeks last year, which along with a (seemingly) slow start, presumably affected his stats (I’d almost guarantee he’d’ve continued his streak of .300/30HR/100RBI seasons if he hadn’t missed that time – IIRC, he ended with .299/30-something/99 as it was).

  12. Ari Collins - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    I’m not so sure how you should factor in AL-NL switches, but for park factors, Matt is spot on. It’s MUCH harder to hit a home run in DET as a left-hander than a right-hander, and it’s much EASIER to hit a homer as a left-hander than a righty in MIL. Similarly, while Anaheim is a bit of a pitcher’s park, the new Busch Stadium is even more so. So right away, Pujols is going to a park that should improve his numbers, and Fielder is going to somewhere that will hurt his.

    Most projections also factor in a bounceback year from Pujols, considering his “down” (but still excellent) year, and a falloff from Fielder, who’s been merely good two of the last four years.

  13. redbirdsin7 - Feb 7, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    thanks for giving some credit to konerko. it seems every year he gets dogged in pre season projections and expectations for whatever reason. check out his last couple of years. despite his advanced age, he belongs

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