Once again, the evaluations will be the last three seasons of both offensive and defensive prowess, along with several advanced metrics to determine the rankings. Players with less than 700 plate appearances will not be included in our evaluations. So, health will play a factor in the rankings as well. A player with, say, 1500 plate appearances will be weighted more than one with 1000.
All stats are a three-year average (2015-2017) unless otherwise noted.
#10- Eric Hosmer, FA
Hosmer, still awaiting employment in 2018, is our number ten first baseman. He had a career year in 2017, posting a 135 wRC+, .179 ISO, and a 4.1 WAR. Hosmer can hit to all fields and has above average plate discipline.
Defensively, Hosmer leaves a bit to be desired. He holds a -21 DRS although his UZR significantly improved in 2017; -6.1 (2016) to -4. Whomever ends up signing Hosmer will get a great hitter who may be in the prime of his career. Or, a guy who played hard to get paid.
#9- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Cabrera was long considered not only the best first baseman, but the best player in Major League Baseball. He’ll turn 35 at the start of the 2018 season but he’s still an above average hitter. Not the most nimble athlete in the league, he’s still a strong defensive first baseman; .994 fielding percentage, and a (barely) positive UZR (0.3). Of eligible first baseman, he holds a .301 batting average; good for third overall. His BIP launch angle (barrels/solid contact/flares) from the last three years doesn’t show much variation, giving no reason to think 2018 will be a further dive for Cabrera (-0.2 WAR in 2017).
#8- Chris Davis, Orioles
Davis has been one of the more consistent sluggers in the league. However, like Cabrera, his power numbers are starting to drop off a bit.
Yet in the last three seasons, he’s second in HRs (111) and in ISO (.252). Davis still strikes out way too much (career 32%) and his eye was never considered strong at the plate. In 2012 his hitting style changed and Davis become strictly a power hitter, so his free-swinging at the plate is understandable. He’s been pretty good in high-leverage situations and sits as high as he does on this list because he’s still a highly respected power hitter who can change a game in an instant.
#7- Brandon Belt, Giants
While his hitting won’t blow you away (.268 BA), seven-year veteran Belt is the best defender on this list; .995 fielding percentage, 41 DRS, and 28.8 UZR for his career.
Although he sports a .206 ISO, he’s only averaged about 18 HRs. Belt has a terrific eye at the plate (.371 OBP, 8 IBB) and is a good contact hitter, with just 6.2% of his hits as infield pop-ups for his career. Belt averages a .335 BABIP and in 2017 he posted a .284, indicating he had some bad luck. Perhaps a bounce-back from Belt will help the new-look San Francisco Giants make a push to a National League West division title in 2018.
#6- Freddie Freeman, Braves
Freeman is one of the good guys in baseball; an easy to like. Just 28, he’s hitting his peak and could climb this list fast with a big 2018.
And while Freeman’s offense speaks for itself, he’s a good defender at first as well. Injuries have popped up a couple of times in the last three years, which held him to just 117 games in 2017. When he returned from injury last year, he took reps at third base and finished with 3 defensive runs saved in 136 innings of action. If Freeman stays healthy this year and the Braves young players exceed expectations, they are sure to challenge for a Wild Card; perhaps even giving the Washington Nationals a run for their money. Regardless, the best is surely yet to come for Freeman.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of the top 10 list!