|Albert and the Other 1B|
|Written by Christopher Kreush|
|Thursday, 17 February 2011 03:10|
The Albert Pujols saga is over…for now. After the deadline imposed by Phat Albert and his agent for a new contract came and passed at noon Wednesday, all negotiation are off until after the season, at least on the surface. Who knows what will continue to go on behind the scenes. If Cardinals management calls Dan Lozano and says look, ‘you were asking for this and we’re prepared to offer something in the ballpark’ would Albert and his agent not listen? I wouldn’t bet on it. So something may eventually get done before the end of the season or even the beginning of the season for that matter.
But in the meantime, Albert is preparing for his eleventh year in the big leagues – all of them, obviously, with the St. Louis Cardinals. Over that time he has averaged an incredible 41-118-123-.331-7. He has easily been the premier baseball player of the past decade.
And nothing is in imminent danger of changing any time soon, let alone this coming season.
As far as ranking the first basemen is concerned, Albert Pujols is in a league all to himself. He is head and shoulders above every other offensive player in MLB. When laying out the tiers, it’s not even like Pujols is in a tier just slightly ahead of the next. There is a big step down from Albert to the next level of players.
Don’t get caught up in the noise that his play will drop off because of the contract thing hanging over his head. Pujols has been nothing but the consummate professional the past ten years and will continue to be in 2011. Don’t be afraid to bid for 40+ HR, 110+ R, 120+ RBI, .320 BA because that is what you’ll get. Take it to the bank. And you can count on double digits SB from the 1B position as a bonus.
Now let’s take a look at the rest of the 1B tiers in the National League:
Joey Votto is a nice consolation prize if you lose out on Albert Pujols. He’s certainly not in Pujols league but he is a bit above the next level of 1B. He has improved each year in the league and, while he might not hit 40 HR, he will still have mid to upper 30’s power with 100+ R, 100+ RBI and a .320 BA.
Ryan Howard’s HR power fell off in 2010 and most people (including manager Charlie Manuel) are attributing it to an ankle injury he suffered in August. Howard says it is not quite 100% but a lot better than it was at the end of last year. Look for a bounce back in his power numbers across the board, particularly HR. But remember, it comes with a bunch of strikeouts and a batting average almost 50 points lower than Pujols and Votto.
Prince Fielder just signed a new one-year deal to avoid arbitration and could potentially be a free agent at the end of the year. Given that, he might even be trade bait if the Brewers fall on their face before the trade deadline. In five full seasons, Fielder has never player less than 157 games in any year. He has played the up and down game with the number of homeruns he has hit each season with odd numbered years on the up side of the pendulum. So that bodes well for 2011 if you believe in those kinds of things.
Carlos Pena is coming over to the National League after signing a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs. He had a disappointing 2010 for the Tampa Bay Rays as he failed to crack the 30 HR barrier for the first time in four years. He also was below the Mendoza line for BA. Look for the HR power to come back a bit in Wrigley and for the BA to be bad instead of putrid.
Gaby Sanchez finally got to show what he could do on the big stage last year and he acquitted himself well. He’s got 20 HR power with a BA that won’t kill you. Just realize there isn’t a whole lot of upside since he is 27 years old already.
Adam LaRoche is one of those guys that every year seems to sneak up on you with mid 20’s HR and a .270 BA. He should be good for close to another year of ho-hum production after signing a contract to play the next two years for the Washington Nationals.
James Loney isn’t the quintessential 1B as he doesn’t hit many homeruns. His career high was 15 and that was in his first year. He has steadily declined to the point where he hit just ten last year and even saw his BA drop to .267. Look for a little bit of a bounce back but you’re not going to get anywhere near the kind of production you look for in a corner man with him.
Ike Davis played well enough for the New York Mets in 2010 that he will again get the nod at 1B. He will most likely top out at 20 to 25 HR power with a .270 BA. Decent but not exciting.
Aubrey Huff had resurged in 2010 with the San Francisco Giants. He hit better for the Giants than he did playing for the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards if you can believe that. Don’t expect a repeat of 2010.
Freddie Freeman is another rookie the Atlanta Braves will work into their lineup after the successful debut season of Jason Heyward last year. Freeman should develop into mid 20’s HR power but the mid teens will probably be the ceiling for 2011.
Brett Wallace was traded a few times before becoming a Houston Astro and took over for Lance Berkman at 1B after he was traded to the New York Yankees. Wallace’s HR power is still developing but could hit for a decent average as he demonstrated he could hit .300 in the minors.
Lyle Overbay rebounded to 20 HR power with the Toronto Blue Jays last year but don’t be fooled. Expect mid to upper teens with a .260ish BA and you won’t be disappointed.
Todd Helton should still hit for a decent BA but probably not reach double digit HR. Long gone are the seasons of over 30 HR and .320 BA.
Brad Hawpe was a major disappointment last year hitting just nine HR between the Colorado Rockies and Tampa Bay Rays. And now he moves to pitcher friendly Petco Park where he will attempt to fill the very big shoes of Adrian Gonzalez.
Lance Berkman will not be playing 1B much anymore with some guy named Albert Pujols in front of him. But he still has 1B eligibility although he is just a shell of what he used to be. Still capable of mid teens HR and a .270 BA.