Throughout this offseason I will address all aspects of the Cardinals team going through each position. Our first entry will go over what the Cardinals look like at First Base. First was a difficult position for the Cards this past year. They tried out 1B Matt Adams in an outfield role instead of his natural position and they tried Matt Carpenter at first even though he had spent most of his time at either 3B or 2B in the big leagues. The Cardinals have been linked to a couple first basemen this offseason thus far. Here I want to look at the Cardinals depth at the position as well as who they are linked to and see where they can improve. All stats were obtained by Baseball Reference.
OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION – CURRENT CARDINALS
Offensively Carpenter took a slight step back batting over 30 points lower than his career average of .277. While he wasn’t getting as many hits, Carpenter was 2nd in the National League in walks giving him a .384 OBP, good for 12th in the National League. He will consistently hit between 20-25 home runs and will look for the right pitches to hit. I expect him to bounce back in terms of his average and I still expect him to have a ridiculous OBP. He needs to work on his baserunning to help eliminate outs.
Compared to Carpenter, it was a pretty similar year. He had similar production in home runs and RBI’s even though he had significantly less PA in 2017. With a more full time schedule I would expect the production to be a bit higher. He doesn’t walk nearly as much as Carpenter, but he does have more power and does have a 30 HR year on his resume from 2016. It wouldn’t be crazy to assume he can do that again in 2018.
Luke Voit – Minors Stats
Voit doesn’t have quite a large enough sample size from his time in the Majors, but if you look at his 2017 year in AAA Memphis, there is a lot of potential. He had probably his best offensive year thus far with a .327 average and had a good OBP of .407. He has enough pop that he can be a 20-25 homer guy in the next level if he gets stable playing time. He looks to be the starter in AAA this year so we will see what kind of number he puts up.
Jose spent the majority of his time in the outfield this past year in limited playing time, but spent some time at 1B. This offseason, there are reports that he will work more at 1B than his other positions, leading most fans to believe this will be a more permanent position for him. He was able to put up a respectable .309 averages in 272 AB while hitting 14 home runs. If given a full season at 1B, he looks to be a 25 HR player with the ability to get on base pretty frequently.
The only real first baseman the Cardinals currently have is Luke Voit. Carp, Martinez, and Gyorko are not natural first basemen and they traded away the first baseman they had last season (Adams).
There isn’t a clear cut winner in that group. Voit had a great year in the minors, but didn’t do enough to wow his in time in the Majors.
Gyorko probably had the best offensive production out of the four, but Carpenter stays in the fight with a high OBP. Gyorko would probably be more suited playing a 2B or 3B position if Carp stays at 1B.
The Cardinals have talked to Carpenter about a “super utility” role. He isn’t exactly a gem defensively at any position, and having him switch positions throughout the week won’t help much I’m afraid. He won’t get enough regular reps at one position.
I’m curious to see how Martinez would fare at 1B in a more permanent role especially seeing as though the Cardinals are loaded at his natural OF position.
OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION – CARDINALS RUMORS
This is more or less looking at whether giving up Adams was the right idea. To my knowledge they are not pursuing him. Offensively speaking he probably had his best year in the bigs. He had over 150 fewer AB than Carpenter and managed to hit 20 HR. If he had the same amount of AB he would have hit 30 given his yearly pace. He hit a respectable .274 and had a decent OBP of .319. He does need to work on his strikeouts, but overall it was a successful campaign and I think he was the one that got away this past year.
This guy has been a model of consistency since he broke onto the scene in 2014. His worst campaign was in 2016, and he still managed a 2.8 WAR and batted .295 with 25 HRs. The Cardinals have been rumored to have inquired about Abreu and for good reason. He would be a significant offensive upgrade at 1B.
Hosmer had arguably his most productive season in 2017 where he had a career high .318 average and tied his career high with 25 home runs. One interesting trend is that Hosmer has been more productive in odd number years. While that probably isn’t much more than a coincidence, it was interesting all the same. He has 4 gold gloves to his name which will definitely peak the Cardinals interest.
I am very intrigued by the idea of trading for a guy like Abreu. He has shown that he can contribute with his bat at the Major League level. He will be a consistent .300/.340/.500 slash for a few more years. He not only gets hits, but he gets extra base hits. He had 25 more extra base hits than Hosmer did with a similar amount of ABs.
Hosmer on the other hand did have a better average and OBP than Abreu did. One thing holding a Hosmer deal back is his agent Scott Boras, who will do everything he can to squeeze every dime out of a team who wants to sign him.
Adams did well filling in for Freeman while he was on the DL. He got regular playing time and showed that he can be counted on. His numbers aren’t quite as good as Hosmer or Abreu, but for a lot of teams, he would be a solid choice at first.
When it comes to first base, you have to be able to dig out those low throws and you need to be flexible to make sure you get those extra outs. We are gonna look at some stats that these guys have while playing 1B and compare them to see what we can get.
Player Innings TC PO A E DP FPCT
Carpenter 17 949 976 895 74 7 103 0.993
Gyorko 16-17 105 108 96 11 1 8 0.991
Voit AAA 17 538 532 485 42 5 34 0.991
Voit MLB 17 186 169 154 15 0 15 1.000
Martinez 17 259 250 232 16 2 28 0.992
Adams 17 515 536 499 32 5 43 0.991
Abreu 17 1197 1221 1135 78 8 130 0.993
Hosmer 17 1338 1314 1235 75 4 124 0.997
TC (Total Chances), PO (Putouts), A (Assists), E (Errors), DP (Double Plays) FPCT (Fielding Percentage)
It’s not surprising that the two guys who are natural first basemen led in innings and fielding percentage, but what is surprising is that Carpenter put up a respectable .993 fielding percentage even though it may have looked awkward along the way.
Gyorko didn’t have much of a sample size so I used his 2016 and 2017 campaign with the Cardinals and he was a serviceable 1B when guys needed rest.
I thought it would be important to show that in his limited MLB time Voit was a rather productive first baseman, not allowing an error in his 169 MLB innings.
Martinez was able to gain playing time this past year at 1B and he did a pretty good job at it. The Cardinals are reportedly working him more at the position so I can see him improving upon these numbers in 2018.
All in all Adams had a good year offensively and a passable defensive year. He slimmed down this past offseason to help his mobility and I think he will improve with more reps, which may be hard to come by with the return of Freddie Freeman.
Although he is most known for his bat, Abreu was good enough at his position as well. He had the 2nd largest sample size out of the list and only had 8 errors in over 1200 chances.
Hosmer of course shows why he has 4 Gold Gloves to his credit. He definitely leads the pack with a .997 fielding percentage and has been a solid defender for a number of years.
I think overall Hosmer has the edge here, and with a solid offensive year in 2017, I fully expect the Cardinals to be players for the former Royal. He would be a defensive upgrade over anyone the Cardinals currently control, and he would be a solid 3 hole hitter. A good darkhorse is definitely Abreu, who would be a great middle order bat the Cardinals desperately need.