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5 bold first basemen predictions for 2020

Dan Vogelbach gets his batting average back to a respectable level this season.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Welcome to First Base Week! Here are some bold predictions for first base:

1. We see a 20% bump from 2019 in stolen bases from First Baseman

Justification: In 2017, they had 175 steals, then 156 in 2018 and down to 130 last year. Christian Walker fell behind Cody Bellinger with eight, Freddie Freeman chipped in for a few as did Anthony Rizzo. I think we see Paul Goldschmidt take a few more than the three he had last year, ultimately as we see less of the old guard names such as Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Albert Pujols we will see the fill-in younger bodies steal 1-2 here and there, I really see this as an effort of many vs. the emergence of few.

2. Yuli Gurriel lands outside the top 20 First Basemen

Justification: First, Gurriel’s BA vs. xBA had him outperforming expectations by 14 points last season. Second, Yuli and his 31 HR was among the seven lowest average HR distances among all first basemen and DH batters (meaning he barely cleared the wall a few times). Third the Astros could regress this year without added, um, help. Fourth, he jumped from runs and RBIs in the 70s to 104 RBIs last season (mostly thanks to a HR bump from 13 to 31). I think he regresses down to previous levels.

3. Michael Chavis is a top 20 First Baseman this year

Justification: With just over half a season played last year, Chavis had 46 Runs and 58 RBIs, that is a tough pace to keep up but it puts him near/over 100 in those two categories to go with a .254 average, 18 home runs, and two stolen bases. I would not be surprised to see a streaky season from him with electric stretches and back to back to back Hr games followed by some droughts, but in the end it averages out net positive. Guess who had the 2nd longest average HR distance last year among all First Baseman AND DH hitters? When he hits it….he HITS IT.

4. Daniel Vogelbach hits above a .240 AVG with 30 HR, 80+ runs and RBIs

Justification: Vogelbach is ranked in the mid to late 20s among first basemen this season, and to some degree I get it; however, this guy had 30 home runs last year, 70+ runs and RBIs, and honestly it was the average (.208) that really held him back. In 2017 and 2018 he averaged above .240 at both Double-A and the MLB. He keeps a HR/FB% above 19%, he is patient with the bat (12%+ BB rate) and he generally makes hard contact (40%+ of the time). Add to that Evan White taking first base duties and letting Vogelbach put all his focus on hitting from the DH spot, and I’m expecting good things from him. Vogelbach has a top 11 swing speed among all 1B and DH batters.

5. Max Muncy is one of three First Basemen to hit 105+ Runs and RBIs, hit 35+ HR and 5+ SB

Justification: The other two will probably be Peter Alonso and Freddie Freeman. Muncy’s biggest issue is his batting average where he has batted below .255 three of the last four years in the professional leagues. Everything else looks great and I think this is his breakout(er) campaign where he continues to ascend and impress.

2019 (Last Year’s) Bold First Basemen Predictions

1 . Miguel Cabrera has at least 80+ Runs and RBIs as well as a .300+ avg. for the first time since 2016.

Result: With 41 Runs, 59 RBIs and a .282 AVG, he fell short of all metrics. I was dead wrong, he’s done. (Incorrect)

2. Jake Bauers finishes as a Top 10 first baseman.

Result: An Indians First Baseman was in the top 10 but it went back to Carlos Santana who had 110 runs and 93 RBIs. The concept of what Cleveland does for this position remains true—right team, wrong player. (Incorrect).

3. Jesus Aguilar finishes outside the Top 15 first basemen.

Result: Aguilar ended up playing 131 games with 39 runs and 50 RBIs in a lost season. (Correct)

4. Cody Bellinger swipes more than twice as many bases as the next closest first baseman.

Result: Here’s the thing. He had 15 stolen bases, and depending on how we interpret Danny Santana (who had 21), Cody’s next closest competition was Christian Walker with eight—so I’m leaning toward a ‘basically’ on this one. Bellinger is now in a different position as well, so the analogy here becomes clear as mud.

5. Luke Voit finishes as a Top 10 first baseman. (Currently projected in the 20s)

Result: Luke Voit finished right where he was anticipated, 20th. He logged just 118 games, and I think with a full season, his .272 AVG, 46 Runs, and 36 RBIs could have moved up to the top 10 area.