In an effort to more thoroughly predict the AL East this season, I have decided to rank each team, position-by-position. Last time, I ranked the catchers. In today’s piece, I rank the starting first basemen within the division.
Before we get started, a disclaimer: a lot can change between now and the start of the regular season. For example, Greg Bird is expected to be the everyday first basemen for the Yankees, but the team will try to find at-bats for newly signed Chris Carter, which means there could be a platoon at the position. This list is based on multiple reported depth charts to this point in spring training.
So let’s get to it. The first basemen in the American League East:
1. Chris Davis – Baltimore Orioles
2016: .221/.332/.459, 38 HR, 84 RBI
Davis is easily the best first baseman in the American League East, a position that is surprisingly weak within the division given the caliber of the teams that reside in it. Known for his prolific power, Davis surpassed 30 HR and 80 RBI for the fourth time in five seasons in 2016 while also finishing the season as a finalist for the Gold Glove award for the second time in his career. Davis also finished fourth in the AL with 88 walks and scored 99 runs for the season.
However, with the good also comes the bad. Davis led all of MLB in strikeouts for the second consecutive season, amassing more than 200 K’s again while batting .221, the second time in three years that he has hit below .230. The Orioles are hoping the offensive decline was due to a hand injury suffered last April that Davis played with all year, and expect him to rebound in big way in 2017.
2. Mitch Moreland – Boston Red Sox
2016: .233/.298/.422, 22 HR, 60 RBI
The retirement of David Ortiz has already had a trickle-down effect on the Red Sox roster. Moreland signed in the offseason, moving the incumbent Hanley Ramirez into the DH role as Moreland is the better defender, having won the Gold Glove award at the position last season. So, here’s the good: Moreland has hit 20+ HR three of the last four years and has made just 22 errors in seven big league seasons, good for a .996 career fielding percentage. Not to mention, Moreland has been in the playoffs in five of his seven seasons, which is always a bonus.
Now the bad: Moreland has the enormous task of replacing Ortiz in the lineup. His .315 OBP career leaves much to be desired, and in his last three full seasons, he has failed to even get on base at .300 clip. Luckily for the Red Sox, the rest of the lineup is so stacked that it could be easy for him to get lost in the crowd. As long as Moreland doesn’t lose his glove on the way up from Florida, he and the Red Sox should have a solid relationship moving forward.
3. Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays
2016: .238/.319/.414, 14 HR, 43 RBI
Morrison is a solid, but not great, MLB first baseman. He has 20-homer power, hitting 23 bombs in 2011 while a member of the Marlins. He also brings with him a solid glove, posting a career .996 fielding percentage at first base. The downside is that Morrison has only played 140+ games once in his career, he has a career .245 BA, and he doesn’t provide the run production a team would prefer from their first baseman.
His middle-of-the-pack ranking just proves how weak the position is in this division.
4. Justin Smoak-Toronto Blue Jays
2016: .217/.314/.391, 14 HR, 34 RBI
The 11th pick in the 2008 draft, Smoak was once touted as a can’t-miss prospect, but has never lived up to his billing. His career .223 BA is sub-par, and his .308 OBP isn’t much better. He plays a solid defensive first base and is still a threat to go deep, but Smoak certainly doesn’t strike fear in many pitchers. Much like the Red Sox, however, the Blue Jays lineup is loaded, so they don’t have to lean on him too heavily.
5. Greg Bird- New York Yankees
2016: DNP (Injury)
Greg Bird had been expected to be the starting first baseman of the future for the Yankees after slashing .261/.343/.529 with 11 HR and 31 RBI in just 46 games in 2015, but a torn labrum in his right shoulder sidelined him for the 2016 season before it even started. Finally, healthy, the Yankees are hoping Bird can be a suitable replacement for the now-retired Mark Teixeira. For Bird, the low ranking comes from his injury history and lack of experience.
A solid 2017 campaign could pay major dividends for the Yankees and help the youth movement in New York run much more smoothly.
1. Hanley Ramirez-Boston Red Sox*
2016: .286/.361/.505, 30 HR, 111 RBI
2. Mark Trumbo-Baltimore Orioles*
2016: .256/.316/.533, 47 HR, 108 RBI
3. Chris Carter-New York Yankees
2016: .222/.321/.499, 41 HR, 94 RBI
4. Steve Pearce-Toronto Blue Jays
2016: .288/.374/.492, 13 HR, 35 RBI
5. Brad Miller-Tampa Bay Rays
2016: .243/.304/.482, 30 HR, 81 RBI
*Team’s primary DH
That does it for the first basemen in the AL East. As always, this list is up for debate, and is just one man’s opinion, nothing more. Up next, we take a look at the second basemen within the division.