How First Baseman Are Made

Mike Zarrilli

As part of FakeTeams' week-long look at first baseman, Craig Goldstein investigates why minor league first baseman are hard to find, but the major league crop always seems to be so deep.

As a part of our week-long focus on first baseman and on the heels of our consensus prospect rankings at the position, we thought it would be instructive to look at each teams' starting first baseman as of today and see what position they were drafted at and what position they played most in the minors. A couple disclaimers: For teams that do not have a clear first base picture I am going to use the player who played the most games there for them last year. What a clear first base picture is, is almost solely at my discretion. For teams that have viable first baseman who alternate at designated hitter, I will use the player who played more games at first base during the 2012 regular season.

Table

Name Position at Time of Draft Position Most Played in Minors (# of Games)
Chris Davis Third Base Third Base (252)
Jerry Sands Outfield Outfield (310)
Mark Teixeira Third Base Third Base (85)*
Carlos Pena First Base First Base (626)
Edwin Encarnacion Third Base Third Base (620)
Paul Konerko Catcher First Base (285)**
Casey Kotchman First Base First Base (298)
Prince Fielder First Base
First Base (422)***
Eric Hosmer First Base First Base (232)
Justin Morneau Catcher First Base (419)
Brett Wallace Third Base Third Base (211)****
Albert Pujols Third Base Third Base (125)
Brandon Moss Second Base Outfield (811)
Justin Smoak First Base First Base (168)
Mitch Moreland First Base/Pitcher Right Field (181)*****
Freddie Freeman First Base/Pitcher First Base (393)
Logan Morrison First Base First Base (407)
Ike Davis First Base First Base (177)
Ryan Howard First Base First Base (471)
Michael Morse Shortstop Shortstop (513)******
Anthony Rizzo First Base/Pitcher First Base (420)
Joey Votto Catcher First Base (568)
Corey Hart Outfield Third Base (187)
Gaby Sanchez Catcher/Third Base First Base (310)
Allen Craig Third Base Third Base (246)
Paul Goldschmidt First Base First Base (293)
Todd Helton First Base/Pitcher First Base (241)
Adrian Gonzalez First Base First Base (637)
Yonder Alonso First Base First Base (194)
Brandon Belt First Base First Base (128)

*Teixeira actually only played 2 games at 1B in his entire minor league career
** Konerko did log 121 games at C before transition to 1B. He also say over 100 games at 3B in the minors
***In what must have beem a hilarious sight, Fielder apparently logged two games in the outfield in 2004 in AA
****Also hilariously, Wallace appeared in 9 games as a shortstop in 2012, at AAA. Fantastic.
*****Moreland wanted to hit, Texas wanted him to pitch. After a bad debut season he asked for one more season as a hitter and if he didn't produce he'd willingly become a pitcher. He hit .324/.400/.536 and remained a hitter.
******WHAT!?!?!

What It Means

What this table tells us is that a full 1/3 of the projected or most recent starting first baseman for each team primarily played another position whilst in the minors. Additionally 14/30 were drafted to play other positions (not including any of the "/pitcher" classifications.

While this is no excuse for the mostly barren landscape of minor league first baseman, it's important to note that a significant portion of the major leaguers who currently occupy first base were drafted or slated to play other positions before finding their current home. All that said, we're still in a bit of a rough patch, but that doesn't mean we fantasy owners are going to be facing a dearth at the position anytime soon. A few failed third baseman, a slow footed outfielder or three and a lazy catcher, and we are back in business!

Depth at first base has been a staple of fantasy baseball for as long as I've been playing (admittedly not as long as many), and there's no law saying that can't change. However, the position has long benefited from being the last resort for the all bat/no glove model of baseball player and that isn't going to change any time soon. While we haven't seen the Hosmer, Alonso or even Laporta type of first base talent drafted in the last few years, it seems probably that more than a few of the bigger names currently occupying other positions will wind up chatting up every opposing player that works a walk, and us fantasy leaguers will continue to bemoan the lack of depth at catcher and third base while snagging value late in drafts at first.

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