Votto hits a solo home run during the 6th inning against the New York Mets. (Image: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE_

Ranking the NL Central First Basemen: Votto and the 'Others'

Weird to just type that. For the past couple pf years, the NL Central has displayed a trio of excellent first basemen in the forms of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto. Well, the first two are now gone and there is chatter about the lone remaining “member” departing within the period of two years.

No matter, for now.

Here’s the rankings for the NLC first basemen…

1. Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Is there really a question here? While Votto saw the slightest regression offensively, he did pick up his defensive game in comparison to his MVP season of 2010. He was rewarded with a Gold Glove which seldom goes to the most deserving in the eyes of the fans.

The offensive regression is easily explainable…no one would pitch to him. When you did, it was trouble.

Estimated WAR: 6.8

2. Lance Berkman, St. Louis
What a way to re-introduce himself to the National League. Berkman had a stellar offensive season and will shift to first with Pujols heading to LA. He’s not a wizard defensively, but the bat may be able to sustain some of what he rediscovered in 2011. Maybe not to the extent Bill James projections show (27 HR, 92 RBI, slash: .279/.396/.498).

Berkman will be 36 when the season starts. Here’s to good health…again.

Estimated WAR: 3.2

3. Carlos Lee, Houston
Lee benefited both offensively and defensively in moving from left field to first base. This is the one experienced bat in the Astros lineup that opposing pitchers still must fear. For that reason, he might see even less good pitches in 2012.

El Caballo has never been a difference maker with the glove.

Estimated WAR: 0.8

4. Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh
Jones is versatile in that he can play the outfield as well. This helps should any injury to an outfielder occur, but I like him better at first. He’s a little better defensively and maybe even a little underrated. With the youth movement (still?) in Pittsburgh, you got to wonder when the plug will be pulled. I wouldn’t for this year.

I just like the guy.

Estimated WAR: 0.6

5. Mat Gamel, Milwaukee
These are some big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively. Gamel has shown great promise in the minors (twice listed in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects), but has not been able to transfer that to the bigs due to the presence of Prince Fielder which led to a lack of playing time. There was even a position switch to third base.

Well, that presence is gone, and it’s time to see if we’ve been missing anything.

Estimated WAR: 1.6

6. Bryan LaHair, Chicago
Why LaHair last? I’m not convinced he’ll be the everyday first baseman for the entire season. The Cubs did trade for Anthony Rizzo, you know.

Estimated WAR: 0.7


1. Votto
2. Berkman
3. Lee
4. Jones
5. Gamel
6. LaHair

It truly is Votto and the rest. Taking Berkman as #2 was also easy. It was after that I felt like I was splitting hairs. So you see the estimated WAR and wonder why I didn’t go in order of that for the remaining slots. I guess you could say I went in order of experience as the final four places are that way (I honestly just now discovered that!)

I could have flipped Lee and Jones between #3 and #4 as well as flipped Gamel and LaHair for #5 and #6. For the Lee/Jones debate, I could have flipped a coin, I decided on value to their respective teams. Lee means more to the Astros.

Regarding Gamel and LaHair, I think I made that point known in referring to Rizzo.

One to watch: Gamel
When 2012 is completed, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gamel rise to at least #3. Got to see in the bigs what was seen in the minors.

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Tags: Baseball Bryan LaHair Carlos Lee Cincinnati Reds Garrett Jones Joey Votto Lance Berkman Mat Gamel MLB

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