In this series, Brooklyn Beat writers Andrew Young and Justin Worsley will be examining each position. See prior position discussion here.
Who is the top first baseman in the game today?
AY: For the past half decade, there was no debate, as Miguel Cabrera put up numbers that were otherworldly, and won a Triple Crown. But it seems Cabrera is starting to hit his decline as his last few seasons have been solid, but not spectacular. His slugging has significantly dropped. On the other hand, Freddie Freeman seems to be just entering his prime. Prior to a mid-May wrist injury, Freeman was absolutely tearing the cover off of the ball. Freeman is leading all first basemen in both on base percentage and slugging. While these numbers are probably a little higher than where Freeman will end up, as he has never posted an OPS over 1.000, it certainly seems that he has kicked it up at another level.
JW: With both Cabrera and Albert Pujols on the downswing of their careers, to me there really isn’t a true No. 1 first baseman in the game today. Instead, I see both Freeman and Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as the 1 and 1A. Freeman has better offensive numbers this year, but he also has 81 less at bats than Goldschmidt. Both players are in the prime of their career, have an OPS above 1.000 and Goldschmidt has a WAR of 3.6 the best in baseball among first basemen.
What under-the-radar first baseman do you think could be the next big thing?
JW: At age 29, I wouldn’t call him the “next big thing” but Justin Bour has quietly come into his own this year, owning a slash line of .295/.369/.589 and 16 home runs, tied for the third most among first basemen.
AY: Cody Bellinger has certainly looked the part since coming into the league. The 21-year-old has shown the ability to hit for power, with 12 home runs already on this young season. He still will predominantly play outfield until the Dodgers decide what to do with Adrian Gonzalez, but Bellinger looks like he will continue to tradition of Dodgers winning Rookie of the Year, and deserves to play in the mid-summer classic.
Who is the greatest first baseman of all-time?
AY: While everyone talks about the Yankees and Murderers’ Row, no one discusses the team that beat them out for three straight pennants from 1929-1931. The Philadelphia A’s were led by my pick, Jimmie Foxx for the top first baseman in history. The three-time MVP led the league in OPS five times and won three batting titles. In 1933, Foxx won a triple crown, posting a .356 batting average to go along with 48 homers and 163 RBIs. That wasn’t even his best season. A year before that, Foxx hit .364 with 58 homers and 169 RBIs. He also scored 151 runs. In his 1938 MVP season, he knocked in 175 RBIs, despite walking 119 times.
JW: In his playing days, Lou Gehrig may have been the Scottie Pippen to Babe Ruth’s Michael Jordan, but he was also one of the most cherished ball players of all time, shown by how an entire nation wept when he died at age 37 from a disease which would later bear his name. During Gehrig’s iron-man streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, he socked 492 home runs and 1,981 RBIs. He is third all-time in slugging (.632), fifth in on-base percentage (.447) and of the six highest single season RBIs in MLB history, three of them are owned by Gehrig.