WIth the catchers done, now we can take a look at the first baseman of the NL West. A relatively light hitting group, only the Padres go into '09 with a healthy slugger. If Helton can stay healthy the Rockes are set here too, but the rest of the NL West is lagging behind.
I'll be ranking the teams based on their total projected 2009 WAR (wins above replacement) for each position. I'll be using the spreadsheet provided here by Beyond the Box Score. Marcels projections will be used to project playing time. If correct playing time is not being accounted for in the projections, I will adjust the plate appearances to equal projected playing time . I will calculate wOBA by averaging the wOBAs projected by Marcels, CHONE and ZiPS. For fielding I will use the projections provided here.
5. San Francisco Giants
|Per 700 PAs|
The Giants have no one really deserving of the first base job for 2009. 25 year-old Travis Ishikawa will be given the job for now but his numbers in the minors until 2008 were mediocre. He only reached an .800 OPS once in his first six years. But then last year in 64 games in AA he put up an .844 OPS. He was then promoted to AAA where in 48 games he put up a staggering 1.107 OPS. He was given a cup of coffee and put up a .769 OPS in 95 AB's in the majors. Did he really breakout in 2008 or was that just a fluke? We'll find out this year. The backup will either be the unexciting Rich Aurilia or the similiarly bad but at least young John Bowker. Eventually Pablo Sandoval will probably have to move to first as he's not very good at third or at catcher. Angel Villalona, an 18 year-old with tremendous raw power but little athleticism, could be the next Miguel Cabrera or the next Joel Guzman but he's a long ways away from the majors.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
|Per 700 PAs|
With Conor Jackson's move to left, Chad Tracy is the D-Backs' starter at first. He should easily beat his projected playing time as long as he stays healthy. His extra at bats would come at the cost of Tony Clark, who hasn't had 300 plate appearances since 2005. Tony Clark shouldn't really be on this team, Josh Whitesell should make the team ahead of Clark. Whitesell was the D-Backs Minor League Player of the Year in 2008 and also happens to be a really cool dude (Okay, so I know the guy. It's okay to root for one D-Back right?). If he plays in place of Clark eventually, the D-Backs could expect at least similiar production with upside. In fact, Whitesell projects to have a .348 OBP and .434 SLG with a .345 wOBA, better than either Tracy or Clark.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
|Per 700 PAs|
The Dodgers sit in the middle of the pack with James Loney at first base. While Loney is a decent hitter, he needs to hit for more power (or a lot higher OBP) if he's ever going to become a really valuable player. Luckily for us, this seems feasible. If Loney breaks out this year, the Dodger offense could go from dangerous to downright deadly. If he stays at his 2008 level, the Dodgers will have to start thinking about replacing him as he starts to get more expensive through arbitration. Prospect Andrew Lambo could be the guy if that is the case. Doug Mien.... ah hell, Eye Chart is not technically on the team yet, but with Torre's recent comments I'd be very surprised if he's not wearing Dodger blue on April 6th. He brings a good glove and some welcomed better-than-Mark Sweeney hitting.
2. Colorado Rockies
|Per 700 PAs|
Todd Helton has typically been a rock at first base, playing at least 144 games every season since 1998, his first full season in the majors. But that changed in 2008 when he was limited to 81 games because of back injuries. Now his health is in question because of the tendency for back injuries to linger, especially to players already in their mid 30's. Whether Helton can remain healthy for a full season again remains to be seen, although his health is less of a factor than it would be for other teams because of Colorado's depth at first base. How can they have depth at first base when only one player is listed you ask? Because starters Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe can both play at first as well as Jeff Baker. If Helton were to get hurt, Atkins (who played 61 games at first last year) could slide across the diamond and Ian Stewart would play third. Because of this the Rockies have less PA's projected at first than the other teams, but they will make up for it with extra PA's at third base. Joe Koshansky, the one guy who could be considered an actual first baseman, was recently claimed off of waivers by the Rangers.
1. San Diego Padres
|Per 700 PAs|
Like the Rockies, the Padres don't really have a backup first baseman. Adrian Gonzalez has a surprisingly low WAR for someone who's considered one of the best first baseman in the NL. But he could easily beat this projection simply by getting more plate appearances; he's reached 700 plate appearances each of the last two years. For now and until at least 2012, Gonzalez will continue to provide great production for a cheap price. He's only scheduled to make $13.25 million over the next three years. Kyle Blanks, the Padres top prospect according to John Sickels, is a huge slugger (literally, he's 6'6'' and 270 lb.), but may have to be trade bait if he can't learn to play LF as long as Gonzalez stays with the Pads.