We ranked 2017’s top free-agent first baseman. Overall ranking in the 2017 free-agent class is in parenthesis.
1. (4) Eric Hosmer, 1B: Odd as it feels to put a first baseman this high in the rankings, it reflects the general adoration for Hosmer inside of front offices. Even the analytical sorts who question his glove buy into the idea of Hosmer as a transformative personality inside of a clubhouse – of a leader. And while that’s difficult to quantify, his walk-year slash line isn’t: .318/.385/.498 set career highs in all three categories, and it came after a mess of an April. In the last five months, those numbers jumped to .335/.402/.533, and with a glove nearly every team rates elite (contrary to fielding metrics), Hosmer is this high in the rankings because he warrants it.
2. (14) Carlos Santana, 1B: Since his first full-time season, Santana’s OBPs have been: .351, .365, .377, .365, .357, .366 and .363. The incredible consistency with which Santana gets on base puts him in this echelon, and that he manages to complement it with power and an above-average glove at first gives him a unique skill set for this class. He’s the guy with the bad body who can bat leadoff and nobody blinks an eye.
3. (16) Logan Morrison, 1B: Two very important numbers: 38 and 81. The first is how many home runs Morrison hit with Tampa Bay in 2017. The second is how many times he walked. Morrison’s hard contact says this was no fluke, and a breakout more than a half decade in the making finally happened last season. Considering all the open first-base jobs, Morrison should get the first big multiyear deal of his career.
4. (30) Yonder Alonso, 1B: Even after his insane mid-May run, Alonso was a more-than-solid producer, which won’t necessarily get him paid as arguably the fourth-best first baseman available but might allow a smart team to poach him at a relative bargain.
5. (36) Lucas Duda, 1B: During his two months in Tampa Bay, struck out more than twice as many times as he got a hit, and those hits went like this: 13 home runs, 10 singles, seven doubles. Duda’s 116 OPS+ and 30 homers sound good, but with this many first basemen available, he Darvish’d himself down the stretch.
6. (47) Mitch Moreland, 1B: A rare case where a player goes to the hitters’ funhouse that is Fenway Park and leaves looking no better than when he came. Moreland is the guy you’ll take if you don’t get the guy you really wanted.
7. (64) Mark Reynolds, 1B: With the juiced ball turning mediocre power hitters average and average into beasts, Reynolds’ single greatest attribute – his ability to hit a baseball a very long way – loses some of its luster. Between that and the deep first-base class, he’s unlikely to get a deal that reflects a 30-homer, near-.850-OPS season.
8. (65) Adam Lind, 1B: An excellent first-base or DH platoon candidate. OPS’d nearly .900 against right-handers last year and exceeds .850 for his career.
9. (68) Wilin Rosario, C/1B: Destroyed the Korean league for the past two seasons, though the offensive environment and pitching there are admittedly conducive to such destruction. Won’t find himself with quite an Eric Thames-like offer, but a return to the big leagues is certainly possible.
10. (87) Mike Napoli, 1B: The party ended last year with a .193 average. Even a big league deal isn’t a guarantee with all the first basemen available and the free-agent DH market shrinking into nothingness.
11. (138) Pedro Alvarez, 1B: The rare player whose past performance hasn’t bought him another major league shot.
13. (168) Ike Davis, RP/1B: Threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in rookie ball for the Dodgers, whose field-to-mound transition of Kenley Jansen is the standard bearer.
14. (180) Michael Morse, OF/1B: Even if he never plays an inning of baseball again, hopefully he makes a full recovery from the concussion that ended his season – and that would never have happened if Hunter Strickland hadn’t held his ridiculous, petty, childish grudge on Bryce Harper and thrown at him, setting off the brawl in which Morse was injured.
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