First Basemen: Comparing MLB Network’s Top 10 Right Now to projections

MLB Network has been airing a segment recently with Brian Kenny and various guests breaking down the top 10 players at each position “right now”. The statistically-minded Kenny seemingly has a grasp of the nuances of sabermetrics, but how do the show’s first base rankings match up with those of various projection systems? First, here are lists for first basemen as presented on the show. The show itself had a list, and then Sean Casey and Bill James each had one:

Rank MLB Network Bill James Sean Casey
1 Miguel Cabrera Miguel Cabrera Miguel Cabrera
2 Joey Votto Paul Goldschmidt Joey Votto
3 Paul Goldschmidt Joey Votto Paul Goldschmidt
4 Adrian Gonzalez Chris Davis Freddie Freeman
5 Joe Mauer Joe Mauer Chris Davis
6 Mike Napoli Freddie Freeman Prince Fielder
7 Chris Davis Edwin Encarnacion Adrian Gonzalez
8 Freddie Freeman Adrian Gonzalez Joe Mauer
9 Prince Fielder Mike Napoli Albert Pujols
10 Edwin Encarnacion Eric Hosmer Edwin Encarnacion

Spoiler: Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, and Paul Goldschmidt are good at baseball. However, the rest gets a little trickier. Chris Davis’ monster counting stat season actually got him highest on illustrious sabermetrician Bill James’ list, and converted catchers Mike Napoli and Joe Mauer were sprinkled throughout. Prince Fielder was tabbed for a comeback while Albert Pujols went under the radar a bit more. Edwin Encarnacion’s resurgence in Toronto was given a nod, and Bill James ensured that Eric Hosmer’s name could come up on this blog.

Freddie Freeman, meanwhile, is an interesting case. He put up a 4.8-WAR season last year, fifth best among this crop, and he certainly merited his spot on the charts. Meanwhile, Brandon Belt was seventh (and Hosmer ninth!) and yet only got a shout-out in a graphic at the end of the show for the players who just missed, along with Pujols, Brandon Moss, and Nick Swisher. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Belt needs to be regarded in the same breath as Freeman, but perhaps his low counting stats and pitcher-friendly home park are to his detriment in that regard.

Now, here are the lists for the projection systems:

Rank Steamer Oliver BEANS
1 Miguel Cabrera* Miguel Cabrera* Miguel Cabrera
2 Joey Votto Paul Goldschmidt Joey Votto
3 Paul Goldschmidt Chris Davis Paul Goldschmidt
4 Freddie Freeman Joey Votto Chris Davis
5 Albert Pujols Edwin Encarnacion Brandon Belt
6 Adrian Gonzalez Freddie Freeman Freddie Freeman
7 Edwin Encarnacion Brandon Belt Mike Napoli
8 Prince Fielder Joe Mauer Joe Mauer
9 Allen Craig Brandon Moss Anthony Rizzo
10 Chris Davis Adrian Gonzalez Allen Craig

*Miguel Cabrera was listed and treated like a third baseman, but a conversion of his stats still led to him leading the pack.

Again, Cabrera, Votto, and Goldschmidt lead the way. Anthony Rizzo and Allen Craig made cameos, but Rizzo’s relatively poor season last year and Craig’s possible shift to LF likely kept them off most lists, along with a sheer lack of name recognition.

Finally, here is the aggregation of all 6 lists:

Rank Aggregate
1 Miguel Cabrera
2 Joey Votto
3 Paul Goldschmidt
4 Chris Davis
5 Freddie Freeman
6 Adrian Gonzalez
7 Joe Mauer
8 Edwin Encarnacion
9 Mike Napoli
10 Brandon Belt/Prince Fielder
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