1B: Atlanta Braves, Starter: Freddie Freeman
This one was close. While the argument could be made for Rhys Hoskins and by the end of the year Pete Alonso could hold the title, Freddie Freeman is still the best first baseman in the NL East and maybe in all of baseball.
Freeman made his third All-Star team and finished fourth in the MVP voting in 2018. His efforts led a young Braves squad to a 90 win season (18 games better than the previous season) and first place in the NL East.
Freeman played Gold Glove-caliber defense at first and reached the 90 RBI mark for the fourth time in his career. Freeman will likely go toe to toe with Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo for the title of best first baseman in baseball and will likely contend for MVP once again.
Now it is time to address the curious case of Pete Alonso and the New York Mets. Initially, Todd Frazier was expected to be the opening day first baseman; that changed with an oblique injury suffered during spring training. Pair this with an injury to Jed Lowrie and the Mets are out two corner infield positions before the season even begins.
While it seems clear that Jeff McNeil will fill in at third, first base remains a question. Dominic Smith was once considered the first baseman of the future. That torch seems to have been passed to minor league slugger Pete Alonso, who was first in home runs and RBIs among all minor league levels. Spring training has been no different for Alonso; he is currently second in baseball in OPS (spring training 2019) and third in batting average. Ironically, Smith is number one.
This has been a classic spring training battle and while most people wrote off Smith in the winter, he has made the Mets decision even tougher and could ultimately force the hand of GM Brodie Van Wagenen. While Alonso’s play is deserving of a starting job at the major league level, he may ultimately fall victim to the Super Two deadline and in this case, would remain in AAA until May.
The Phillies made an important trade after the 2018 season, sending Carlos Santana along with J.P. Crawford to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Jean Segura. While Segura will improve the Phillies on both sides of the ball, this trade has more importance than simply acquiring Segura.
This trade shifts the abysmal outfield glove of Rhys Hoskins to first base where he is more suited to play. This trade also opened up an outfield spot which the Phillies eventually used to sign Bryce Harper. Hoskins slugged 34 home runs in 2018 and his steady approach at the plate helped him draw 87 walks.
Hoskins still needs to cut down on the strikeouts and hold off on pitches below the strike zone, where he was most vulnerable last season. Hoskins will likely slug his way to an All-Star appearance and fits in perfectly between Harper and Realmuto in the Phillies lineup.
Miami plans to use Neil Walker at first base every day. The 33-year-old is coming off a down year with the Yankees in which he hit .219 in 113 games. Walker has battled neck, back, knee and hamstring injuries in recent years and should he be absent from the lineup, journeyman Martin Prado would likely back up at first. That is, until he is traded.
While it once looked like Ryan Zimmerman’s career was coming to an end, the two-time All-Star came back rejuvenated in 2017 hitting .303 after a .218 season the season prior. While Zimmerman’s 2018 campaign wasn’t as strong, he still managed to slash .264/.337/.486 in an injury-shortened season.
Zimmerman’s arm strength is not what it once was and the move across the diamond to first base allows Zimmerman to continue to produce offensively without the liability of his defense at third. Zimmerman owns a .993 fielding percentage for his career at first base.