As the baseball season is upon us, with Spring Training underway, the superstars of the MLB are returning and preparing for a full campaign after the 2020 abbreviated season. As everybody gets back into the baseball mood, let’s take a look at the 10 best first basemen in the MLB as 2021’s regular season approaches and consider who has a shot at being the best 1B in 2021.
10. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
Starting off our list strong, Rhys Hoskins sets the tone for what teams look for over at first. The best first basemen usually have one thing in common – power.
Hoskins definitely has that – and pitchers are very aware of it, he led the NL in walks in 2019. As a rookie, Hoskins hit 18 homers and drove in 48 runs in just 50 games, coming fourth in ROTY voting. In 2018 and 2019, the Phillies slugger continued to rake, with 34 and 29 homers respectively, while driving in 96 and then 85 RBI’s.
In 2020’s shortened campaign he wasn’t quite as productive as he had been through the first few years of his career, but I expect him to bounce back and return to form in 2021.
9. Brandon Belt, Giants
A consistently productive player for the Giants for years, Brandon Belt went above and beyond in 2020. Entering this season, the San Francisco first baseman had a career slash of .261/.354/.448, with 14 homers and 52 RBI’s a year. 2020 looked a little bit different.
Through 51 outings, he hit .309/.425/.591 with 9 deep shots and 30 RBI’s. This production came out of nowhere and resulted in an OPS of 1.015. While this year looks like an outlier of fantastic hitting, Belt will be looking to build on it and continue to improve. Belt might miss some time to start this season but when he’s healthy, he is capable of being one of the best first basemen in the league.
8. Pete Alonso, Mets
Pete Alonso had one of the most absurd rookie seasons of all-time when he burst onto the scene in 2019. The 24-year-old slugger rolled up, played 161 games and set the rookie record with 53 home runs. He led all of baseball in the stat and was just 6 RBI’s shy of 1st with 120 driven in.
The Mets are a team with so much potential and Alonso will be central to their success. His abbreviated sophomore season wasn’t anywhere near as productive as his first one, but his power hasn’t gone anywhere. The biggest problem with Alonso is that his defense isn’t the best, but his offensive upside is so huge that he is still one of the best first basemen out there anyway.
7. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Their rebuilding process added him in 2012 and by the time they were ready to push he was a star. From 2014 through 2018, Rizzo was top 20 in MVP voting every single year, including two top-five finishes.
The Cubs won it all in 2016 and Rizzo had the best year of his career, but his consistency hasn’t wavered. In his nine seasons, he has a 162-game pace of 31 homers a year and 99 RBI’s, which is unbelievable to have as an average pace. 2020 wasn’t the best of his campaigns but in 2021 I expect him to get back to his usual form.
6. Matt Olson, Athletics
Someone who nobody is surprised to see produce at a serious level is Matt Olson of the Oakland Athletics. After having a great rookie season, hitting a ridiculous 24 homers in just 59 games, back in 2017, Olson asserted himself as the everyday first baseman in Oakland.
Olson is one of the best first basemen in the league and has been for a while. He has phenomenal power and he is one of the more productive players on an underrated team. 2019 was his best season to date, hitting for a .267 average and driving in 91 runs and hitting 36 homers despite only playing in 127 games. He was on fire. If he hadn’t missed the start of the season due to hand surgery, he would have been in the MVP conversation.
5. Max Muncy, Dodgers
After talking up Olson, let’s talk about a guy who was supposed to be in his position. The Athletics had a young Max Muncy start his major league career, but he struggled. He was released in 2017, which is when the Los Angeles Dodgers took a chance on him.
Muncy spent the season in the minors, but then he exploded back into the big leagues in a phenomenal 2018-19 stretch. He hit 70 homers and drove in 177 RBI’s with a handful of stolen bases and solid contact. The Dodgers slugger was one of the best first basemen in the league through that period. He didn’t hit for as much contact in 2020 but he still had his pop and he is still a fantastic player and he should continue to produce as we return back to full-length campaigns.
4. Luke Voit, Yankees
Someone who absolutely exploded last season in the abbreviated campaign, Luke Voit mashed a league-leading 22 homers. He also drove in 52 RBI’s (fourth in MLB and 3rd among 1B) and continued his great form since joining the Yankees.
In 2018 when he came to New York, he played 39 games and hit an utterly ridiculous slash of .333/.405/.689. Voit returned to a more realistic line in 2019 but his 2020 dominance has shown that his elite hitting wasn’t a fluke. As he enters 2021, he will be looking to continue his impressive production in his age-30 season. Whatever we thought his ceiling was a year ago, he broke through it. Now he has to try and sustain it for a full season.
3. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
One of the very rare cases of a first baseman who can hit for a legitimately good average, here. Paul Goldschmidt is one of the most reliable hitters that we’ve ever seen at the position.
He’s a career .293 hitter and he is a good defensive player, too. Despite being known for having great contact, he also has fantastic power, averaging 29 homers a year in full-length seasons. Goldy is a great player and he even used to steal really effectively, too, when he was younger. He is a Diamondbacks legend, but after heading over to St. Louis, he is looking to leave a legacy with the Cardinals, too. He has been one of the most versatile 1B’s of the last decade and I believe he will continue to be up there as one of the best first basemen in 2021.
Goldschmidt might look even better with his new third baseman, but we’ll talk about him in a different list.
2. Jose Abreu, White Sox
The cat might be out of the bag on what sets the elite, absolute best first basemen apart, now. Honestly, though, these top guys are so good you probably already knew what to expect. To be a good first baseman you should have power. To be a really great one, though, you need both power and contact. Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox has all of that and more. Since making it to the show in 2014, he has been an absolute stud. He has been in the majors for seven years and he has produced at an elite level. His 162-game average is unbelievable, with 33 home runs and 113 RBI’s.
In 2020 he added another feather to his cap, winning the American League MVP – and deservedly so. He hit 19 home runs and driving in 60 RBI’s, with a slash line of .317/.370/.617. This was the best season of his career so far, at age 33 and he will try to maintain this phenomenal form this year. He won MVP and he will look to be right up there, as not only one of the best first basemen but one of the truly elite players in baseball.
1. Freddie Freeman, Braves
If you were asking how it’s possible that the winner of the MVP award isn’t the best player at his own position, here’s your answer. You put the person who won the other MVP at number one, Freddie Freeman.
The Braves superstar is undoubtedly one of the best baseball players on the planet and his NL MVP was incredibly deserved. Freeman is a legitimate hitting superstar as well as a great defender. Freeman came second in ROTY voting when he burst into the majors in 2011, behind only his teammate Craig Kimbrel. Even after a hot start, we had no idea how good he was going to be. In 2013, he made his first all-star game and hit .319, starting his utterly dominant hitting spree. From that campaign through last season, he has an outrageous eight-year slash line of .302/.394/ .526. At first base.
Freddie Freeman is the best player on an incredible baseball team. Spoiler alert, in my outfielder articles, two Atlanta stars already featured in the top-three at their respective positions. The Braves first baseman, however, is truly the undisputed number one at his position. Freeman is one of the best players in all of baseball, a good defender, elite hitter and for my money, he will be the best 1B in 2021 and an MVP candidate again.