Norichika Aoki Jersey #8
Have you noticed how bad American League first basemen have been this season? Yonder Alonso Jersey has been terrific in a breakout season, after changing his swing to hit more fly balls. He already has 11 home runs, matching his career high set in 2012. Logan Morrison Jersey has been pretty good, though he’s another player with a long track record of mediocrity.
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After that? Miguel Cabrera Jersey missed some time on the disabled list, Carlos Santana Jersey is off to a slow start, Mike Napoli Jersey looks old, Eric Hosmer Jersey hasn’t been good, and Jose Abreu Jersey and Chris Davis Jersey are struggling.
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That leads to a fun discussion: Which is the best position in the majors?Limited Norichika Aoki Jersey I’ll rank each position in each league, considering what has happened this season as well as last year. Norichika Aoki Jersey #8 Ryan Zimmerman Jersey has turned back the clock and is mashing once again for the Nationals. Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports1. National League 1B (.281/.371/.539) Top five: Freddie Freeman Jersey, Paul Goldschmidt Jersey, Anthony Rizzo Jersey, Joey Votto Jersey, Ryan Zimmerman Jersey Weak spots: Caleb Joseph Jersey, Justin Bour Jersey, Adrian Gonzalez Jersey Indeed, National League first base ranks as the best position in the majors. Only three teams rated below average in value at the position, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and the addition of Thames and the rejuvenated Zimmerman have added two stars to a position already loaded with depth. Thames looks like the real deal, Carpenter remains one of the most under-appreciated players in the majors, and neither can crack my top five. 2. National League 3B (.261/.331/.445) Top five: Kris Bryant Jersey, Nolan Arenado Jersey, Justin Turner Jersey, Eugenio Suarez Jersey, Anthony Rendon Jersey Weak spots: Jose Reyes Jersey, Adonis Garcia Jersey, Maikel Franco Jersey You have the reigning NL MVP and another of the game’s all-around stars in Arenado, but what lifts this position is the potential breakout performance of Suarez, who is hitting .327/.408/.600 entering Tuesday, with improved strikeout and walk rates that suggest some of that improvement is going to stick. Jedd Gyorko Jersey is tearing it up for the Cardinals, and Jake Lamb Jersey and Travis Shaw Jersey are slugging .500. There are few glaring holes, and eventually Franco will improve on that .217/.292/.374 line. 3. American League CF (.255/.332/.402) Top five: Mike Trout Jersey, George Springer Jersey, Lorenzo Cain Jersey, Kevin Kiermaier Jersey, Adam Jones Jersey Weak spots: Rajai Davis Jersey, Leury Garcia Jersey, Tyler Collins Jersey The overall offensive numbers aren’t anything great, especially once you get past Trout, but what makes this group rank high — besides the best player in baseball — is its ability to run down fly balls. Kiermaier is a spectacular two-time Gold Glove winner, and Kevin Pillar Jersey, who is off to a good start the plate, isn’t far behind him. Byron Buxton Jersey might prove to be as good as Kiermaier, and Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr. Jersey are also elite defenders. Jacoby Ellsbury Jersey is also playing his best baseball in years. 4. American League 3B (.244/.323/.430) Top five: Manny Machado Jersey, Josh Donaldson Jersey, Jose Ramirez Jersey, Miguel Sano Jersey, Kyle Seager Jersey Weak spots: Pablo Sandoval Jersey, Yunel Escobar Jersey, Trevor Plouffe Jersey This position would deserve a higher ranking, but Donaldson has spent much of the season on the DL and Adrian Beltre Jersey has spent the entire season on the DL (though Joey Gallo Jersey has performed well in his place). Seager and Longoria are off to slow starts, perhaps to be replaced by Ramirez and Sano as new stars at the hot corner. Alex Bregman was supposed to be in that group as well, but he has yet to hit a home run. 5. American League 2B (.240/.313/.385) Top five: Jose Altuve Jersey, Robinson Cano Jersey, Ian Kinsler Jersey, Brian Dozier Jersey, Dustin Pedroia Jersey Weak spots: Devon Travis Jersey, Danny Espinosa Jersey, Whit Merrifield This might have been the top position in 2016. Altuve and Cano finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting, Dozier slugged 42 home runs, and Kinsler, Pedroia and Jason Kipnis Jersey all registered at least 4.8 WAR. The best second baseman so far this season has been the Yankees’ Starlin Castro Jersey, however, and Kinsler and Pedroia are off to slow starts, with age a possible concern for those two. Throw in Rougned Odor Jersey’s all-or-nothing approach that features too much nothing, Brad Miller Jersey’s lack of power so far and some distinct weak spots, and this group gets downgraded for now. 6. National League CF (.248/.316/.401) Top five: A.J. Pollock Jersey, Christian Yelich Jersey, Charlie Blackmon Jersey, Dexter Fowler Jersey, Ender Inciarte Jersey Weak spots: Gorkys Hernandez, Michael Taylor Jersey, Keon Broxton Jersey This is a fun group, and you could easily include defensive wizards Billy Hamilton Jersey and the up-and-coming Manuel Margot Jersey in the top five. Phillies fans will argue that Odubel Herrera Jersey deserves consideration as well. Pollock is looking healthy again, and Yelich could end up hitting over .300 with 20-plus home runs and solid defense. The loss of Adam Eaton Jersey hurts, and some terrible starts by the various Giants (.176) and Mets center fielders (.153) lower the offensive numbers, though Michael Conforto Jersey could end up the regular for the Mets. Francisco Lindor Jersey is off to a fast start coming off a breakout season in 2016. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports7. American League SS (.258/.309/.396) Top five: Francisco Lindor Jersey, Carlos Correa Jersey, Jean Segura Jersey, Xander Bogaerts Jersey, Andrelton Simmons Jersey Weak spots: Alcides Escobar Jersey, Tim Anderson, J.J. Hardy Jersey Lindor versus Correa isn’t even an argument at the moment, given Lindor’s big advantage in the field and an early-season power stroke that his him on pace for 30-plus home runs. Segura is proving that his offensive output with Arizona in 2016 wasn’t a fluke, and Elvis Andrus Jersey, who is not in the top five, remains an asset, as he has added more pop. There are some huge holes at the bottom of the list, though; Anderson’s poor approach continues to hurt him, and Hardy’s decline from All-Star to waiver-wire fodder is nearing completion. 8. National League 2B (.268/.332/.394) Top five: Daniel Murphy Jersey, Cesar Hernandez Jersey, DJ LeMahieu Jersey, Javier Baez Jersey, Joe Panik Jersey Weak spots: Jose Peraza Jersey, Neil Walker Jersey, Jonathan Villar Jersey There isn’t a lot of flash here, but the position is pretty deep from top to bottom. Murphy is mashing once again, and Hernandez is proving that he is the Phillies’ second baseman of the present and future. Baez shares time with Ben Zobrist Jersey and remains a tantalizing talent, and LeMahieu, last season’s batting champ, is off to a mediocre .270 start. The three guys listed as weak spots have been terrible so far but were good in 2016 and should improve, which means every NL team should have at least a decent second baseman. 9. National League LF (.263/.339/.467) Top five: Marcell Ozuna Jersey, Yoenis Cespedes Jersey, Adam Duvall Jersey, Matt Kemp Jersey, Ryan Braun Jersey Weak spots: Whoever plays for the Giants, Travis Jankowski Jersey, Kyle Schwarber Jersey Even with Giants left fielders hitting .160/.241/.227, this group has the second-best offensive production of any position. Ozuna is off to a monster start; remember, he was an All-Star last year before an injury slowed him in the second half. There are some major defensive issues, however, with the likes of Kemp, Schwarber and Yasmany Tomas Jersey, and Braun’s metrics are terrible as well. If somebody can find Gregory Polanco Jersey’s bat, please return it to him. 10. National League C (.249/.317/.404) Top five: Buster Posey Jersey, J.T. Realmuto Jersey, Yasmani Grandal Jersey, Yadier Molina Jersey, Matt Wieters Jersey Weak spots: Diamondbacks, Tucker Barnhart Jersey, Austin Hedges Jersey This group is better than you might think, with solid offensive production. The Brewers’ pair of Jett Bandy Jersey and Manny Pina actually leads the NL in weighted on-base average (wOBA). Plus, even Hedges is showing power and comes with a good defensive reputation. 11. National League RF (.255/.331/.441) Top five: Bryce Harper Jersey, Giancarlo Stanton Jersey, Jay Bruce Jersey, Yasiel Puig Jersey, Jason Heyward Jersey Weak spots: Hunter Renfroe, Carlos Gonzalez Jersey, Pirates Harper is playing like an MVP again, and Stanton is mashing home runs. Hot starts from Bruce and Scott Schebler Jersey have boosted the offensive numbers, and slow starts from stalwarts such as Gonzalez and Hunter Pence Jersey (plus Andrew McCutchen Jersey before he moved to center field after Starling Marte Jersey’s suspension) have dragged this group down. 12. National League SS (.238/.300/.384) Top five: Corey Seager Jersey, Trea Turner Jersey, Brandon Crawford Jersey, Addison Russell Jersey, Zack Cozart Jersey Weak spots: Dansby Swanson, Erick Aybar Jersey, Orlando Arcia Jersey Seager finished third in the MVP voting as a rookie and is off to a solid start. Turner and Crawford have spent time on the DL but are All-Star candidates otherwise, and Cozart is hitting .351 thanks to a .427 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Russell has turned into a Gold Glove candidate while we wait for his bat to mature. What drags this group down are some terrible hitters at the bottom, along with poor defenders such as Aledmys Diaz Jersey and Asdrubal Cabrera Jersey. There’s some upside here if young guys such as Swanson, Arcia and Trevor Story Jersey start playing better. Aaron Judge already looks likes one of the best right fielders in the American League. Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports13. American League RF (.258/.340/.421) Top five: Mookie Betts Jersey, Aaron Judge, Kole Calhoun Jersey, Mitch Haniger, Josh Reddick Jersey Weak spots: Royals, Jose Bautista Jersey, Matt Joyce Jersey Thank the baseball gods for Aaron Judge. At least he gives us another potential American League All-Star outfielder in a generally mediocre group. Remember that Michael Saunders Jersey, Ian Desmond Jersey and an aging Carlos Beltran Jersey were All-Stars last year. I’m not buying the hot starts for Avisail Garcia Jersey and Steven Souza, so I left them out of the top five, but at least they’re hitting, unlike Bautista, Joyce or Mark Trumbo Jersey. 14. American League LF (.239/.317/.393) Top five: Andrew Benintendi, Michael Brantley Jersey, Justin Upton Jersey, Khris Davis Jersey, Brett Gardner Jersey Weak spots: Alex Gordon Jersey, Blue Jays, Angels There are some decent players at the top but no MVP candidates. It’s telling that Benintendi, a rookie, is probably the best all-around left fielder in the league. There are some big issues at the bottom, starting with Gordon, who is a shell of the player he was just a few years ago. The Toronto platoon of Steve Pearce Jersey and Ezequiel Carrera Jersey has hit .225 with a .268 OBP, and the Angels’ platoon of Cameron Maybin Jersey and Ben Revere Jersey has been even worse. Heck, you could throw Melky Cabrera Jersey or the Rangers’ sorry situation (Delino DeShields Jersey at the moment) in here as well. 15. American League C (.226/.298/.368) Top five: Gary Sanchez Jersey, Brian McCann Jersey, Salvador Perez Jersey, Jonathan Lucroy Jersey, Welington Castillo Jersey Weak spots: Mike Zunino Jersey, Derek Norris Jersey, Stephen Vogt Jersey Getting Sanchez back will help, but outside of McCann and a fluky 60 at-bats from Alex Avila Jersey, nobody is doing much damage at the plate. Perez is probably vastly overrated at this point, a sub-.300 OBP guy who has never graded well as a pitch-framer, and Lucroy hasn’t hit at all. Zunino and Sandy Leon are showing that their solid 2016 seasons at the plate were probably accidents more than real improvement. 16. American League 1B (.246/.318/.423) Top five: Miguel Cabrera Jersey, Yonder Alonso Jersey, Carlos Santana Jersey, Jose Abreu Jersey, Chris Davis Jersey Weak spots: Mike Napoli Jersey, C.J. Cron Jersey, Danny Valencia Jersey Yuck. As you can see, this group is barely outhitting middle infielders. This is a reminder that all things are cyclical. In 2001, Jim Thome hit .291/.416/.624 with 49 home runs, and in 2002, he hit .304/.445/.677 with 52 home runs. He didn’t make the All-Star team either season.