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Where does Mike Napoli rank among AL Central first basemen?

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We have moved around the infield from left to right, leaving just first base to review. So let’s see how Mike Napoli will rank against the other AL Central first baseman.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After last week's posts on third base, shortstop, and second base, we move over to the first base bag in the AL Central projections.

But before we do, we need to do a little bookkeeping. When this series first started, we had ranked Giovanny Urshela as the weakest of the five third baseman. But with the breaking news of Juan Uribe joining the Tribe, we need to update our projections.

Let's just compare Urshela to Uribe:

Giovanny Urshela

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

336

8

242

284

381

289

81

0.7

ZIPS

472

9

247

285

371

286

1.0

Marcel

344

9

244

303

384

Giovanny Urshela

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

298

7

253

305

383

299

88

1.1

ZIPS

365

11

267

312

411

Marcel

439

13

268

319

422

Steamer has Uribe as a marginal improvement while Marcel and ZIPS like him a bit more, although I don't think those numbers have been updated since the signing. So let's just go with the marginal improvement of say 0.5 WAR for Uribe.

I think Uribe can maybe sneak into fourth in the division over Nick Castellanos, and an outside chance of third place over Trevor Plouffe, but I don't think he'll pass either in all honesty. But the drop off from Castellanos to Uribe will be marginal at best now, but for these rankings, I'll leave Uribe at fifth.

Ok, back to the regularly scheduled program, first base within the division...

Cleveland Indians

The good news is that the signing of Mike Napoli should improve the Tribe's home run power from the right side. But none of the projections really like him to recapture his 120 wRC+ from a few years back. And with good reason, he will be 34 this year and has had minor injuries off and on the past few years. Carlos Santana will probably play at least 40 games at first, with Lonnie Chisenall another option as well.

Jesus Aguilar is the top minor leaguer in the system right now by level (and #25 on the MLB Pipeline), but the top prospect is in essence Bobby Bradley who could be ready by 2017, but likely not until 2018. Mike Papi is another name to keep an eye on.

Mike Napoli

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

377

13

224

324

399

317

100

0.7

ZIPS

439

18

229

337

426

333

1.0

Marcel

485

18

240

338

429

Chicago White Sox

When the White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract prior to the 2014 season, they hoped they would be getting a middle-of-the-order power bat. They have more than gotten their money's worth so far. He will be just 29 this season and won't ever get to $14 million in any year of the deal. He will be backed up by Adam LaRoche and possibly Mike Olt.

With Abreu signed through the 2019 season, there is no real need for a big time prospect at this position. But they do have Corey Zangari (#21) and Keon Barnum (#27) in their MLB Pipeline. Zangari hit .316/.358/.481 in the Arizona Rookie League and Barnum hit .257/.322/.390 in High-A ball last year.

Jose Abreu

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

646

32

283

344

504

358

127

2.8

ZIPS

611

29

285

352

505

361

3.0

Marcel

540

29

294

355

524

Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera, perpetual MVP candidate, will be entering his age 33 season in 2016. He missed just over 40 games last year, which hurts his projections somewhat this year. If healthy, I expect Cabrera to outperform his projections, and with ease. It will be curious as to when that massive albatross of a contract stops befitting the Tigers. He signed an extension in the spring of 2014 to keep him in Detroit through at least 2023 and for $248M.

Victor Martinez is the primary backup for Cabrera, but Andrew Romine could also play there in a pinch. Like the Sox, there is no real need for a prospect at this position. MLB Pipeline has Dominic Ficociello at No. 26 and hit .293/.349/.425 in High-A and Double-A last year.

Miguel Cabrera

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

601

26

314

398

534

394

151

4.2

ZIPS

566

24

306

389

517

375

4.0

Marcel

524

22

316

397

530

Kansas City Royals

Eric Hosmer has had sort of an every other year thing going as well himself, with 2015 being an on year. He will be 26 this season and should be entering his prime. Hosmer signed a very team friendly deal last spring that pays him $8.25 million this year but he will be a free agent in the fall.

Kendrys Morales is the backup to Hosmer but likely won't play much, barring injury. Cheslor Cuthbert, who also plays 3B is the top prospect here, but Ryan O'Hearn, who is the No. 14 MLB Pipeline prospect is the top true 1B option. He hit .263/.339/.479 in A and High-A last year.

Eric Hosmer

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

WAR

Steamer

639

18

285

348

448

343

117

2.5

ZIPS

653

19

288

347

437

340

2.0

Marcel

588

15

288

347

442

Minnesota Twins

Back in 2010, after winning the MVP, the Twins felt it was in their best interest to sign Joe Mauer to the richest ever contract for a catcher -- eight years and $184M. He then proceeded to miss half of 2011 to injury and then moved to first base full-time in 2014. He suffered a severe concussion that season and missed 40 games. He did play almost every game last year but has not returned to the hitter he used to be.

Mauer will be 33 this season, and the numbers he provides, if back to healthy, would be pretty decent for a catcher, but as a first baseman it is less than adequate. If Mauer struggles again, there are plenty of options on the roster to fill in, including Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. Outfielder Max Kepler is ranked as the top prospect for first, the top true first baseman is Amaurys Miner. He is No. 21 in MLB Pipeline, but only hit .199/.280/.282 in Rookie ball.

Joe Mauer

PA

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

Steamer

568

9

274

355

390

323

103

1.3

ZIPS

571

8

276

356

387

318

2.0

Marcel

585

10

274

349

400

My take

I had no qualms when the front office signed Mike Napoli this offseason to take over first. However, I can't believe he would crack the top three in this position. His best shot is to overtake Mauer for fourth.

I think Abreu could finish as the best 1B his year, but will stick with Cabrera for another year or two, leaving Hosmer in third.

I'd rank them as follows:

  1. Cabrera
  2. Abreu
  3. Hosmer
  4. Mauer
  5. Napoli

Please post your rankings in the comments.

Previous entries:

Third Base

Shortstop

Second Base