Albert Pujols ranks fifth in all-time home runs with 679, only 17 behind Alex Rodriguez who has 696. The 13th round pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1999 draft began by landing as the NL Rookie of the Year. Among the modern era that’s the farthest back anyone was drafted to be among the top five in home runs by far—although Jim Thome, who is 8th on the list, was initially not drafted.
1. Carlos Santana has more runs this season than the last two seasons combined.
Justification: A shortened 2020 season left him with just 60 games played (and 34 runs) but he is one of the most disciplined first base hitters in the league. He now sits in a lineup that could include Bobby Witt Jr., Whit Merrifield, and Adalberto Mondesi—as well as upside hitters like Andrew Benintendi and one of the best catchers in Salvador Perez. I think there is enough juice in this lineup to bring him home at least 100 times this year.
2. Ryan Mountcastle doubles his stolen base count this year.
Justification: He had four last season, and he sits at a respectable 75th percentile in sprint speed. He was also sixth among first basemen in attempted steals last season. The last time he stole eight bags was at A+ but I could see him working towards an increase, especially if we see Cedric Mullins take a slight step back from his 30/30 season. I am bullish on a real emergent year from Ryan based on patience at the plate and aggressiveness on the basepaths this year.
3. Max Muncy is a top 7 first baseman this year.
Justification: Muncy, even in a down year by BABIP standards, came out with 36 HR, 95 runs, and 94 RBI in 2021. That puts him among the top 10 in runs, RBI, and homers. His batting average has never been a selling point, but with a BB% above 13% he has a top 10 OBP (among players with at least 100 games played) and a top 10 SLG too. He can be volatile as a player but look at three of his last four seasons and you see strong numbers.
4. Bobby Bradley is top 5 in home runs among first basemen this year.
Justification: Bobby is a Jim Thome type, an all or nothing batter—but he is showing increased patience at plate while he looks for the right pitch. He saw his walk rate go up over the last two seasons and with it came a slight increase in batting average and a hefty increase with his HR/FB (12.5% - 37.5%). He upped his exit velocity and sweet spot rate to allow for better probability of home runs among his contact made.
5. Nathaniel Lowe is a top 10 first baseman this season.
Justification: Lowe was among the top 26% in average exit velocity, hard hit rate, and walk rate last season. He is patient, he is hitting the sweet spot, he doesn’t chase bad pitches, and he spreads the ball evenly across the field. There is too much about Lowe that screams potential breakout. I will be trying to grab him right around 100, which might be on the early side—but that seems deep enough to take a flier on someone with a strong likelihood of upside.