They wear different gloves, they move on every single pitch and they are a different breed than the rest. We are of course talking about the first base position. Baseball greats in the likes of Lou Gehrig, Stan “The Man” Musial and Albert Pujols have all played this position at one point in time and have made the 3 one of the most historic bearings of all time. As we head into the 2019 season, the first base position is as talented as it has ever been. Featured on this list, you will see future HOFer’s, hitting machines and fielding connoisseurs. We start our list however, with a man who had a career year in 2018, and showed glimpses of power, that became seemingly superhuman.
5. Jesus Aguilar – Milwaukee Brewers
When Jesus Aguilar arrived to the Milwaukee Brewers training facilities in the spring of 2018, something felt different. After 4 rocky years to start his major league career, Aguilar decided it was time to hit the reset button. He came into the year with a mindset of starting fresh, and treating this as if it was his first season in the majors. Well it is safe to say that this mindset paid off for Aguilar in the utmost degree. Jesus had an EXPLOSIVE 2018 season in which he finished the year with a .274 BA, an .890 OPS, slugged 35 homers and drove in 108 runs. Aguilar was also selected to his first all-star game in July and finished in the top 20 of MVP voting come season’s end. 2018 came as an absolute shock to the baseball world, as Aguilar had shown nothing close to this range of power thus far in his career. In his first 3 years as a major leaguer, Aguilar failed to hit a ball over the fence and was jumping up and down from the minors as well as dealing with an assortment of injuries which kept him sidelined for quite some time. In 2017, when Aguilar was fully healthy and found his home at the major league level, he managed to hit only 16 home runs to go along with 52 runs batted in. This breakout year is truly a feel good story, as Aguilar is one of the nicest guys you will find in the majors and worked his ass off to get to this point. In 2019, I expect Aguilar to have much of the same success he had in 2018, and predict that he will finish the year with 30 homers, over 100 RBIs and anywhere from 40-50 doubles hit. Get used to this man’s name, because in just one season, Aguilar has become a star in our game.
4. Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs
If you ask a Cubs fans who their favorite player is, more likely than not they are going to say Anthony Rizzo. Over the last 7 years, Rizzo has captured the hearts of Chicago natives and in 2016, gave the city a World Series title for the first time in 108 years. Along with being a fan favorite, Rizzo is one of the elite first basemen in all of baseball. He is extremely sound and discipline in the batter’s box, has tremendous glove play and has produced power numbers year in and year out that make you smile. In the last 5 seasons alone, Rizzo has earned 2 GG awards (2016,2018) made 3 all-star game appearances, taken home a silver slugger award and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting three times. Last year, Rizzo finished his season with a .283 BA, a .376 OBP, clocked 25 homers and drove in 101 runs. He was also phenomenal in the field and made laborious plays look routine. The thing that attracts me most to Rizzo is that he is an absolute workhorse. Every since he made his debut in 2011, he has yet to take a day off. He grinds out every single at bat, refuses to let a ball get past him and has the mentality that he is going to outwork every player that is sharing the diamond with him. As far as my prediction goes for Rizzo in 2019, it his hard to say. His offensive numbers have slightly decreased over the last two seasons which means he is either due for a monster, bounce back season, or will continue his pattern of decay. If I was a betting man however, I would say he is more likely than not to have a monster season and will be a name you hear about all summer long.
3. Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Joey Votto is the most underrated player in the HISTORY of Major League Baseball. I find myself seemingly frustrated when I hear people undermine Votto and flat-out underappreciate his greatness. In 2017, Votto got absolutely robbed in the MVP race and it is something that still bothers me nearly 2 years later. Although Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 home runs were impressive, few understand just how special of a season Votto had. The Canadian gold glover finished the year with a .320 BA, led the majors with a .454 OBP, had a 1.032 OPS, led the league with 134 walks, played all 162 games of the regular season, hit 36 homers and drove in 100 runs. Oh and one more thing, he struck out just 83 times in 559 at bats. How that is not an MVP caliber season, I do not know. If this is not impressive enough for you, Votto finished his 2018 campaign in star-studded fashion. He finished the year with a .284 BA, was third in the majors with a .417 OBP, had an .837 OPS and struck out just 101 times. Joey Votto is a superstar and it is time we start to treat him like one. I expect Votto to have a huge 2019 season and am looking forward to watching him continue his road to Cooperstown.
2. Paul Goldschmidt – St. Louis Cardinals
Perhaps the most surprising move of the 2019 MLB offseason came in a trade that sent Diamondback superstar Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for seemingly nothing. Personally, I love the move for the Cardinals. They have a young pitching staff, a bright explosive offense and with the new acquisition of Goldschmidt, they may very well find themselves as division champions. As far as my take goes for Goldy on a personal level, I think he will fit in just fine with his new ball club. Goldschmidt is the type of player where no matter what park he hits in, he makes it his bitch. In 8 years with the Diamondbacks, Goldy hit 209 homers, drove in 710 runs and hit for an average OBP of .398. This was all accomplished while playing 81 games a season at one of the hardest hitters parks in baseball, Chase Field. With a much more hitter friendly ballpark now becoming Goldy’s new home, there is no telling just how much damage he could possibly do.
If you thought I was going to talk about Paul Goldschmidt without bringing up his defensive play, you are just flat-out dumb. With the word gold in his last name, it was only inevitable that Goldschmidt would become an elite defender in the sport. Goldy is as reliable of a first basemen defensively as you will ever find. He has already earned 4 gold gloves and some can make the argument that he deserves to have much more. The Cardinals prior starting first basemen, Jose Martinez, was an absolute mess last season defensively, so with Goldy’s glove alone, the Cardinals are thanking their lucky stars. I feel that this is ultimately a match made in heaven and think Goldschmidt will be in the MVP discussion when all is said and done in 2019.
1. Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
Taking home the top spot on our list is Atlanta Braves first basemen, Freddie Freeman. When one thinks about Freddie Freeman, they think about consistency. Freeman is just one of three players in Major League Baseball, to have hit for a .300 BA or better, over the last 3 seasons. In 2018, Freeman had an absolute sensational season and made a small case for MVP. Freeman finished the year with a .309 BA, a .388 OBP, a 6.1 WAR, was second in MLB in total hits with 191, hit 44 doubles, clocked 23 homers and drove in 98 runs. As a result for this great season, Freeman was selected to his third all-star game, won his first career gold glove, and finished 4th in MVP voting. The thing that propels Freeman and puts him atop our list, is his masterful ability to find the gaps. Freeman has to deal with a shift, a constant issue of being pitched around and with all those factors aside, still finds a way to rack up 191 hits and pound 44 doubles. It is almost mind-blowing how discipline Freeman’s approach is at the plate. He just never gets fooled and more often than not, he is going to do some serious damage when lumber is in his hands. He is also a tremendous defensive first basemen and has one of the higher baseball IQ’s the game has ever seen. In 2019, I predict Freeman to lead the majors in hits, bat .300 for the fourth straight season and slightly improve his power numbers by hitting close to 30 homers. Freeman is one of the players you love to play with, but hate to play against. As a fan, you better get used to this mans dominance, because he is not going anywhere, anytime soon.