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Will Carlos Santana be even better at first in 2015 now that his position appears to be stable?

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We wrap up the infield with a look at first base and the guy who can't seemingly hit 30 homers.

Yin and Yang at first in 2014
Yin and Yang at first in 2014
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries:

After a decent conclusion in 2013, Nick Swisher looked to continue forward at first base in 2014. But injuries continually sapped Swisher of his bat speed and power. By the end of May, he was thankfully put on the disabled list. Jesus Aguilar made a few starts, as did Lonnie Chisenhall. But with Carlos Santana's continued hitting struggles while playing third base, Terry Francona situated Santana on first and let Chisenhall settle in at third.

At season's end, Santana had made 93 starts, Swisher 52, Aguilar 9, Chisenhall 5 and Chris Gimenez 3. Lonnie also made 6 relief appearances there, with Ryan Raburn also making a late inning appearance.

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Santana

411

274

406

506

912

162

Swisher

230

203

300

325

625

82

Aguilar

27

167

222

167

389

12

Chisenhall

24

333

348

476

824

132

Gimenez

9

000

000

000

000

-100

Raburn

0

-

-

-

-

-

As poor as Swisher was at the plate (although he was not as bad as Santana at third), Santana was smoking hot while playing first. His average was a respectable 274, but that on base percentage was filthy ridiculous. He walked 35%(!) of the time. He even crushed 20 big flies at first, which extrapolated out over a full season might have hit the meme. Chisenhall was very good in his short stint, while Aguilar struggled in his MLB debut.

Here is the rest of the AL Central:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Tigers

320

383

533

916

152

White Sox

270

345

501

846

133

Indians

244

357

422

779

126

Royals

276

329

417

745

109

Twins

251

316

353

669

87

No surprise that the Tigers, led by Miguel Cabrera dominate here. And Jose Abreu in his MLB debut did just fine, although I don't truly really consider him a rookie. But the Tribe first baseman fare well here too. And without Swisher's struggles might have finished right around the Tigers' numbers. Hosmer and Butler were decent, but with very little power. And that Joe Mauer contract really isn't working out for the Twins.

But the AL Central grades out very high here, with the Tigers first, White Sox third, Indians fourth, Royals sixth and Twins thirteenth in OPS. The only change in wRC+ occurs with the Royals slipping to seventh. The Indians tied for fourth in homers, were fourth in RBI and led the league in walks. This position was the power position for the AL last year as the league average was 21 HR and 84 RBI.

Fangraphs WAR time ...

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Santana

28.2

-0.9

-0.5

27.3

-7.8

3.6

Swisher

-4.5

-0.1

-5.8

-4.6

-9.8

-0.8

Aguilar

-2.6

-0.2

0.7

-2.8

0.1

-0.2

Chisenhall

0.8

0.0

0.1

0.8

0.1

0.1

Gimenez

-2.1

0.0

0.1

-2.1

-0.2

-0.2

Raburn

-

-

-

-

-

-

That 28.2 batting component is the best we've seen for the Tribe yet in the series and is just behind Miguel Cabrera's 31.2 as a first baseman. Santana grades out much better defensively here than his previous stints as a catcher and the short-lived time at third. Swisher was just terrible all the way around, offensively and defensively. I was a bit surprised that Swisher on two bad wheels graded out better on the basepaths however.

Chisenhall graded out very well in his limited time while both Aguilar and Gimenez also finished in the negative. Aguilar did post a decent fielding number.

Onto the AL Central totals:

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Tigers

40.7

-1.6

-3.1

39.1

-15.5

5.1

White Sox

25.2

-2.7

-5.9

22.5

-18.3

2.9

Indians

19.8

-1.3

-5.5

18.5

-18.0

2.5

Royals

6.9

-7.1

-0.5

-0.3

-13.0

1.0

Twins

-10.5

2.9

-0,6

-3.8

-13.7

0.4

The Tigers total not only includes Cabrera's excellent season, but the times that Victor Martinez covered at first, he also hit spectacularly, 352/409/541, allowing the Tigers to extend their lead further. The White Sox number would have looked even better, except that the quartet that filled in for Abreu were extremely poor. The Indians finished fourth in the batting component and offense, behind the Tigers, Blue Jays and White Sox.

Every AL team had a negative defense number, with only the Orioles, Angels, Red Sox and Yankees in negative single digits. The 5.1 WAR for the Tigers was easily the best in the league. The Blue Jays finished a distant second at 3.0, with the White Sox and Tribe in third and fourth. The Orioles were the only other team to best 2.0 WAR, with the Rangers and Astros the only teams with negative WAR.

Like shortstop, this position grades out very well for the Central against the rest of the league. Santana appears to have found a home at first. As long as he avoids those nasty long dry spells, I can see him pushing closer to a 5.0 WAR season. But that is only of he plays 90% of the games at first in 2015. I suspect Francona will still DH him often enough that he finishes with between 75 and 80% of the first base time with both Brandon Moss and Swisher filling in.

I think Santana will improve even more defensively with more reps at first as well. He doesn't have the typical height that is normally used at first, but I don't think that should be too detrimental once Francisco Lindor and perhaps Giovanny Urshela are on the left side of the infield.

Santana is signed through 2017 and I suspect he'll be much too expensive to retain. Aguilar is the current heir apparent, but he'll have to prove he isn't just a classic AAAA player. My best guess is he'll not still be around by 2018, dealt as a trade chip at some point. Nellie Rodriguez is the only minor leaguer to play over 100 games in the minors at first and had an 832 OPS as a 20 year old in Lake County. But Bobby Bradley is most likely the top prospect in the system at the moment as a true first baseman, but he will be just 19 in 2015. Of course, first base is the usual landing spot for any other position player who can't cut it elsewhere in the field, so there will be no shortage of candidates by 2018, hopefully.