Top 10 first basemen models of consistency

January 29th, 2017

MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, looking at the best players at each position headed into 2017, will air two positions each Sunday night until Feb. 12. As each position is revealed,'s Mike Petriello, a participant in the show, will unveil his list along with the reasoning behind it. Rankings were compiled with a combination of subjective and analytical data, and no, batting average was not considered. We'll also include the rankings of "the Shredder," the MLB Network research department algorithm based on player performance that accounts for both offense and defense.
Position overview: A position of consistency like none other, the top five first basemen are basically the same top five we've seen for the past few seasons -- and you could really argue for the top five to be ordered in just about any way. Put another way, there's maybe a larger distance between No. 5 and No. 6 than there is between No. 1 and No. 5. We can't stress this enough; the top group are all so similarly valuable. It's still a deep position, though, as 6-to-7 quality hitters missed out.
Previous lists: Shortstop | Second base | Third base | Left field | Starting pitcher
The list...
1. , Cubs (Shredder rank: 4)
Rizzo hit .292/.385/.544 (145 wRC+) with 32 homers in 2016, and he's put up basically the exact very good season for three straight years. That's valuable consistency, and unlike a lot of lefties, he's got no real platoon advantage to be exploited. Throw in Rizzo's plus glove at the position, and it's not hard to make a case for him at the top. Also, don't forget his age -- he'll be entering his age-27 season as a true superstar, and he's six years or more younger than the next two names on this list. 
Gif: Anthony Rizzo is excited at 3B
2. , Tigers (Shredder rank: 2)
Speaking of consistency, the slam-dunk Hall of Famer Cabrera hit .316/.393/.563 (152 wRC+) in 2016, and if that sounds familiar, it's because it just about mirrors his career line perfectly (.321/.399/.562, 153, wRC+). While he'll be 34 in March and isn't the defender that Rizzo is, there's little doubt that Cabrera is one of the best right-handed hitters to ever live, and he's still acting like it.

3. Joey Votto, Reds (Shredder rank: 3)
While it can't be overstated how obscenely good Votto was in the second half last year, putting up an otherworldly .408/.490/.668 (201 wRC+) line, that's not why he's No. 3 here. He's here because, like Cabrera, his 2016 line of .326/.434/.550 (158 wRC+) basically matches his career line of .313/.425/.536 (157 wRC+). That's as good or better than Cabrera's line, even if he's never spoken about in the same terms because the Reds aren't winning and he doesn't put up the same silly power numbers.

4. , D-backs (Shredder rank: 1)
It must be nice to have had such a great career that you can put up a very solid season line of .297/.411/.489 (124 wRC+) and have it be considered a "down" season, but that's what happened in the desert in 2016. Goldschmidt also stole 32 bases, a stunning number for a first baseman, and added his usual defensive contributions. If there's such a thing as a "five-tool first baseman," he's it.
5. Freddie Freeman, Braves (Shredder rank: 5)
Remember above when we said that the Top 5 could really have been ordered in just about combination? Freeman had a career year by hitting .302/.400/.569 (152 wRC+), putting up a very similar line to Cabrera, and yet he's fifth, which we understand is the most controversial choice here. So why is he here? It's mostly because of the glut of superstars ahead of Freeman who all deserve to be ranked highly, but it's also because his 2016 numbers far outweighed his career .366 OBP and .466 slugging entering 2016. Can he keep that up again? If so, Freeman will be higher than No. 5 next year.
Gif: Freddie Freeman claps
6. , Giants (Shredder rank: 8)
Perhaps the most underrated player in baseball, all Belt does is produce, but because he's never hit 20 homers in a season, he gets somewhat lost in this group. His homer-killing home park has a lot to say about that, of course. Belt just put up a pair of nearly-identical seasons, hitting .278/.377/.476 (136 wRC+) in 2015-16, and if that doesn't seem to stand out, well, you can thank the monsters on the list ahead of him.
7. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (Shredder rank: 7)
Known for his versatility, Carpenter is slated to be St. Louis' regular first baseman in 2017, and he's managed to pull off a neat trick over the past few years. After arriving as a high-OBP, low-power infielder, he changed his approach to add some power, but he did it without actually killing his ability to get on base. So when Carpenter puts up a line of .271/.380/.505 (135 wRC+), as he did in 2016, it puts him squarely among the game's quiet stars. Unlike in years past, moving from third (and sometimes second) to first won't make the competition much harder, given how stacked the hot corner is these days.

8. , Indians (Shredder rank: 6)
9. , Indians

We lump these two together in part because they'll be sharing first base and DH duties in the middle of Cleveland's lineup in 2017, but also because they're coming off similar '16 seasons. Encarnacion (.263/.357/.529, 134 wRC+) had a little more power in Toronto's hitter-friendly park, while Santana (.259/.366/.498, 132 wRC+) held a slight edge in on-base percentage. Since 2010, these two have combined for 14 above-average seasons, which is to say, they're above average every single year. Now, they're teammates -- and too bad for the rest of the AL Central.

10. , Red Sox
Given how disappointing Ramirez's debut with Boston was in 2015, it was perhaps easy to miss the bounceback he had in '16. While the start to his season was decent, he really took off after a reported mechanical change in June, because from June 22 on, he hit a scorching .305/.386/.616 (161 wRC+) with 25 homers. If we know anything about Ramirez, it's that he's as infuriatingly inconsistent as he is talented. That said, he showed he could be a capable defensive first baseman, and this was his third very good season at the plate in the past four.
Gif: Hanley Ramirez home run
Just missed (in no order):, White Sox (Shredder rank: 10); , Padres; , Orioles; Chris Davis, Orioles (Shredder rank: 9); , Royals; , Dodgers
This list was created before Trumbo returned to Baltimore, which is why the Orioles have two first basemen here, both with big power and assorted contact issues, but the two closest "just missed" names here are probably Abreu and Myers. During a breakout age-25 season, Myers managed 28 homers and steals, though his line of .259/.336/.461 (115 wRC+) was more "good" than "great." That's roughly what Abreu had (.293/.353/.468, 118 wRC+), though he did so with a monster second half (.319/.384/.514, 142 wRC+).